[A DRAMATIC FRAGMENT.]
Lucifer, March, 1891
1. Ghost of Kâlidâsa (the Court-poet of King Vikramâditya).
2. Professor M.M. (Orientalist).
3. Smith (a plebeian).
Scene. Kâlidâsa’s Cave, in the Râjmahal Hills. On either side, carved stone columns, disappearing in the gloom.
On the walls, dimly-seen sculptures of Râma, and the nine-headed Râvanna. In the background, the inner cave, where lies the body of Kâlidâsa.
Outside, the scorching sun beats down on the red plains.
A metallic rustle among the palm-leaves.
A yellow- breasted oriole gurgles among the glossy leafage of a mango-tree.
Enter, from the Inner-cave, the Ghost of Kâlidâsa. Shuddering sensation.
Smith falls back R.
Professor M.M. retreats L.
Ghost of Kâlidâsa (with solemnity).—I awake from my sleep-of-a-crore-of-moons, as the cobra, sacred-to-Kâli, from the sun-beaten plains of Bharata;—I Kâlidâsa, the sweet-voiced Koil wailing-of-love-to-the-moon, adorer-of-the-lotus that sleeps on the still tank, bathed-in-by-holy-Brahmans. I Kâlidâsa who warbled lays equal-to-Nârada-the-flute-player-of-the-Devas, at the Court of King Vikramâditya, the great-sun-of-unconquerability, whose piercing rays blinded his slaves grovelling-on-the-earth-and-offering-up-prayers, like the musical-cicalas-at-the-moonrise-in-the forest. (Seeing that he is not alone.) What ho! strangers!
Smith (to Professor M.M.).—My word! ‘e did give me a turn! Wat’s the old bloke gassin’ about?
Professor M.M. (to Smith).—He is talking Sanskrit—the oldest branch of the Indogermanische Ursprache. (To the Ghost of Kâlidâsa.) Your pronunciation is doubtful, and you are mistaken in believing yourself to have been a contemporary of the great Vikramâditya. There were several Vikramâdityas, the earliest about 56 B.C. Your date is probably several centuries later.
Smith (to Professor M.M.).—Wy Prof., ‘ow you talk! ‘Ullo! ‘e’s goin’ on again!
Ghost of Kâlidâsa (magniloquently to Professor M.M.).—Is the Land of Bharata still rich in nightingale-tongued poets, like the rare blossoms of poesy, fragrant-as-the-Kûsa-grass, that bloomed in the beams of the-Sun-of-Splendour?
Smith (aside).—“That bloomed in the sun, tra-la.”
Professor M.M. (to Ghost of Kâlidâsa).—I consider the poetry of your age, especially the much over-praised Sakuntala, that Goethe made such a fuss about, an exotic, probably of Græco-Bactrian origin. I regret to say that modern versifiers copy your floridity and umschreibung circumlocution, while they lack your genius.
Smith (to Professor M.M.). I aren’t so sure about that, Prof.! Some of ours got a chappy in the bazaar the other day and made him jolly tight. ‘E did sing us some songs, my eye! ‘E was a genius!
Ghost of Kâlidâsa (benevolently, to Professor M.M.).—Nine Jewels of Wisdom gemmed the moon-bright brow of Vikramâditya, whose arm-chair was-adorned-with the emblem of the-thirty-two-deities: of these Nine, I Kâlidâsa was the mildly-radiant pearl. Then came Dhanvantari-whose-face-beamed-like-the carbuncle, the Healer of the children of Bharata.
Professor M.M. (severely to Ghost of Kâlidâsa).—I and Gottfried have determined that Indian medical science was the merest empiricism—Quack-sal berei, as we say in Germany, and—
Smith (deprecatingly).—Break it gently to ‘im, Prof!
Ghost of Kâlidâsa (slightly disconcerted).—Are my beloved Vetâla Bhatta, whose-eyes-twinkled-like-the-emerald, and the diamond-gleaming Vararuchi, nearer-and-dearer-to-me-than-a-brother——?
Professor M.M. (interrupting).—Pardon me, you are mistaken in considering Vararuchi to be a real person. Vara means saffron, and also best, while ruchi means ray; evidently a myth of the Dawn-vide my Chips passim!
Smith (admiringly).—’It ‘m again! ‘e’s no relation!
Ghost of Kâlidâsa (rebukingly).—And the renowned Kshapânaka, the shining Shanku, and the silver-lipped Ghatta Karpara——?
Professor M.M. (aside).—This is really very provoking! very! Bless me, I’ve quite forgotten who the gentlemen were. Wish I’d brought my History of Sanskrit Literature with me. (To Ghost of Kâlidâsa.) Quite so! Mr. Kâlidâsa; quite so!
Smith retires L. and sniggers audibly.
Ghost of Kâlidâsa (doubtfully).—And the star-seeker Varâha Mihira, and Amara Sinha, the Immortal-Lion-of-grammar-and-syntax, second only to Pânini——?
Professor M.M. (visibly recovering).—As to the Sanskrit Grammarians, my dear Sir, they were all very well two thousand years ago (patronisingly). In fact, my dear Sir, Pânini has done very fairly, considering his benighted condition of unilluminated illiteracy. Very fairly indeed! But they aren’t quite up to the mark of the nineteenth century! Nowadays, my dear Sir, we only study Benfey, and the great Germans. (Modestly) If you want a good Sanskrit Grammar, now, there is my “Grammar for Beginners”. (aside) Wish Whitney had heard that!
Smith (rubbing his hands).—Bully for you, Prof! Wade in, Sanitary!
(A Silence: then—)
The Ghost of Kâlidâsa (gloomily).—The glory of the Twice Born is fled, and the land of Bharata is delivered into the hand of the Mlecchas! Woe is me! woe is me!
Ghost of Kâlidâsa fades slowly away into the gloom of the inner cave. Professor M.M. and Smith swoon in each other’s arms.
Professor M.M. (sitting up).—Blitzen! Strange! Very! Collective Hallucination, I should say!
Smith (encouragingly).—Right you are, Prof! Is things what they seem, or is visions about? (Shakespeare!) Professor——!????
Professor M.M. (brightening).—Very thoughtful indeed, Mr. Smith. Thank you, Sir, but after you, Sir!!!
The setting sun casts on the eastern wall of the cave two shadows seated on the ground and swearing Bruderschaft. Outside, a metallic rustle among the palm-leaves. A yellow-breasted oriole gurgles amongst the gloomy leafage of a mango-tree.