Fragrance in Literature 12-Sir Edwin Arnold




Sir Edwin Arnold(June 10, 1832 – March 24, 1904) was an English author and translator of Asian literature. He was principal of the British government college in Pune, India, then joined the staff of the London Daily Telegraph in 1861, becoming chief editor in 1873. His epic poem, The Light of Asia (1879), recounts the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha. His other writings include poetry and travel books. He was knighted in 1888.
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From Light of Asia

In love and silence at that bower's gate;
For there beyond the gate the chamber was,
Beautiful, sweet; a wonder of the world!
Soft light from perfumed lamps through windows fell
Of nakre and stained stars of lucent film
On golden cloths outspread, and silken beds,
And heavy splendour of the purdah's fringe,
Lifted to take only the loveliest in.

Lamps of chased silver swinging from the roof
In silver chains, and fed with perfumed oils,
Made with the moonbeams tender lights and shades....
Fragrant with blooms and jewelled thick with stars,
And cool with mountain airs sighing adown
From snow-flats on Himala high-outspread;
For the moon swung above the eastern peaks,
Climbing the spangled vault, and lighting clear
Robini's ripples and the hills and plains,....

"Oh, flowerets of the field!" Siddartha said,
"Who turn your tender faces to the sun—
Glad of the light, and grateful with sweet breath
Of fragrance and these robes of reverence donned
Silver and gold and purple—none of ye
Miss perfect living, none of ye despoil
Your happy beauty....

So witching, that it seemed the night stood still
To hear them, and the listening stars and moon,
Paused in their orbits while these hymned to Buddh
Of lost delights, and how a mortal man
Findeth nought dearer in the three wide worlds
Than are the yielded loving fragrant breasts
Of Beauty and the rosy breast-blossoms,...

Soft are its slopes and cool its fragrant shades,
And holy all the spirit of the spot
Unto this time: the breath of eve comes hushed
Over the tangled thickets, and high heaps
Of carved red stones cloven by root and stem
Of creeping fig, and clad with waving veil
Of leaf and grass. ...

Queen Maya stood at noon, her days fulfilled,
Under a Palsa in the Palace-grounds,
A stately trunk, straight as a temple-shaft,
With crown of glossy leaves and fragrant blooms;
And, knowing the time some—for all things knew—
The conscious tree bent down its boughs to make
A bower above Queen Maya's majesty....

Then on his neck she hung the fragrant wreath,
And on his breast she laid her perfect head,
And stooped to touch his feet with proud glad eyes,
Saying, "Dear Prince, behold me, who am thine!"

The King gave order that his town should keep
High festival; therefore the ways were swept,
Rose-odours sprinkled in the street, the trees
Were hung with lamps and flags, while merry crowds
Gaped on the sword-players and posturers,
The jugglers, charmers, swingers, rope-walkers,
The nautch-girls in their spangled skirts and bells
That chime light laughter round their restless feet;

This is that Blossom on our human tree
Which opens once in many myriad years—
But opened, fills the world with Wisdom's scent
And Love's dropped honey; from thy royal root
A Heavenly Lotus springs: Ah, happy House!

So flocked
Kapilavastu's maidens to the gate,
Each with her dark hair newly smoothed and bound,
Eyelashes lustred with the soorma-stick,
Fresh-bathed and scented; all in shawls and cloths
Of gayest; slender hands and feet new-stained
With crimson, and the tilka-spots stamped bright.

And down the sides, and all about the frames
Wherein were set the fretted lattices,
Through which there breathed, with moonlight and
     cool airs,
Scents from the shell-flowers and the jasmine sprays;
Not bringing thither grace or tenderness
Sweeter than shed from those fair presences
Within the place—the beauteous Sakya Prince,
And hers, the stately, bright Yasodhara.

Lo! as ye lie asleep so must ye lie
A-dead; and when the rose dies where are gone
Its scent and splendour? when the lamp is drained
Whither is fled the flame? Press heavy, Night!

Then, lightly treading where those sleepers lay,
Into the night Siddartha passed: its eyes,
The watchful stars, looked love on him: its breath,
The wandering wind, kissed his robe's fluttered fringe;
The garden-blossoms, folded for the dawn,
Opened their velvet hearts to waft him scents
From pink and purple censers: o'er the land,
From Himalay unto the Indian Sea,...

The King stood in his hall of offering.
On either hand, the white-robed Brahmans ranged
Muttered their mantras, feeding still the fire
Which roared upon the midmost altar. There
From scented woods flickered bright tongues of flame,
Hissing and curling as they licked the gifts
Of ghee and spices and the soma juice,
The joy of Iudra.

Whom—as he passed into its ample shade,
Cloistered with columned dropping stems, and roofed
With vaults of glistening green—the conscious earth
Worshipped with waving grass and sudden flush
Of flowers about his feet. The forest-boughs
Bent down to shade him; from the river sighed
Cool wafts of wind laden with lotus-scents
Breathed by the water-gods.

Look! like a bee
Winged for the hive, who sees the mogras spread
And scents their utter sweetness on the air,
If he be honey-filled, it matters not;
If night be nigh, or rain, he will not heed;
Needs must he light on those delicious blooms
And drain their nectar; so these messengers
One with another, hearing Buddha's words,
Let go the purpose of their speed, and mixed,
Heedless of all, amid the Master's train.

Also the roads were laid with scented boughs
Of neem and mango, and full mussuks shed
Sandal and jasmine on the dust, and flags
Fluttered; and on the day when he should come
It was ordained how many elephants—
With silver howdahs and their tusks gold-tipped—
Should wait beyond the ford, and where the drums
Should boom "Siddartha cometh!"