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Mahabharata, Book V - Overtaken by Fate
Twelve-month in the darksome forest by her true and chosen lord,
Sweet Savitri served his parents by her thought and deed and word,
Bark of tree supplied her garments draped upon her bosom fair,
Or the red cloth as in asrams holy women love to wear.
And the aged queen she tended with a fond and filial pride,
Served the old and sightless monarch like a daughter by his side,
And with love and gentle sweetness pleased her husband and her lord,
But in secret, night and morning, pondered still on Narad's word!
Nearer came the fatal morning by the holy Narad told,
Fair Savitri reckoned daily and her heart was still and cold,
Three short days remaining only! and she took a vow severe
Of triratra, three nights' penance, holy fasts and vigils drear.
Of Savitri's rigid penance heard the king with anxious woe,
Spake to her in loving accents, so the vow she might forgo:
'Hard the penance, gentle daughter, and thy woman's limbs are frail,
After three nights' fasts and vigils sure thy tender health may fail,'
'Be not anxious, loving father,' meekly this Savitri prayed,
'Penance I have undertaken, will unto the gods be made.'
Much misdoubting then the monarch gave his sad and slow assent.
Pale with fast and unseen tear-drops, lonesome nights Savitri spent,
Nearer came the fatal morning, and to-morrow he shall die,
Dark, lone hours of nightly silence! Tearless, sleepless is her eye!
Dawns that dread and fated morning! ' said Savitri, bloodless, brave,
Prayed her fervent prayers in silence, to the Fire oblations gave,
Bowed unto the forest Brahmans, to the parents kind and good,
Joined her hands in salutation and in reverent silence stood.
With the usual morning blessing, 'Widow may'st thou never be,'
Anchorites and agéd Brahmans blessed Savitri fervently,
O! that blessing fell upon her like the rain on thirsty air,
Struggling hope inspired her bosom as she drank those accents fair,
But returned the dark remembrance of the rishi Narad's word,
Pale she watched the creeping sunbeams, mused upon. her fated lord!
'Daughter, now thy fast is over,' so the loving parents said,
'Take thy diet after penance, for thy morning prayers are prayed,'
'Pardon, father,' said Savitri, 'let this other day be done,'
Unshed tear-drops filled her eyelids, glistened in the morning sun!
Satyavan, sedate and stately, ponderous axe on shoulder hung,
For the distant darksome jungle issued forth serene and strong,
But unto him came Savitri and in sweetest accents prayed,
As upon his manly bosom gently she her forehead laid:
'Long I wished to see the jungle where steals not the solar ray,
Take me to the darksome forest, husband, let me go to-day! '
'Come not, love,' he sweetly answered with a loving husband's care,
'Thou art all unused to labour, forest paths thou may'st not dare,
And with recent fasts and vigils pale and bloodless is thy face,
And thy steps are weak and feeble, jungle paths thou may'st not trace.'
'Fasts and vigils make me stronger,' said the wife with wifely pride,
'Toil I shall not feel nor languor when my lord is by my side,
For I feel a woman's longing with my lord to trace the way,
Grant me, husband ever gracious, with thee let me go to-day!
Answered then the loving husband, as his hands in hers he wove,
'Ask permission from my parents in the trackless woods to rove,'
Then Savitri to the monarch urged her longing strange request,
After duteous salutation thus her humble prayer addrest.
'To the jungle goes my husband, fuel and the fruit to seek,
I would follow if my mother and my loving father speak,
Twelve-month from this narrow ashram hath Savitri stepped nor strayed,
In this cottage true and faithful ever hath Savitri stayed,
For the sacrificial fuel wends my lord his lonesome way,
Please my kind and loving parents, I would follow him to-day.'
'Never since her wedding morning,' so the loving king replied,
'Wish or thought Savitri whispered, for a boon or object sighed,
Daughter, thy request is granted, safely in the forest roam,
Safely with thy lord and husband seek again thy cottage home.'
Bowing to her loving parents did the fair Savitri part,
Smile upon her pallid features, anguish in her inmost heart,
Round her sylvan greenwoods blossomed 'neath a cloudless Indian sky,
Flocks of pea-fowls gorgeous plumaged flew before her wondering eye,
Woodland rills and crystal nullahs gently roll'd o'er rocky bed,
Flower-decked hills in dewy brightness towering glittered overhead,
Birds of song and beauteous feather trilled a note in every grove,
Sweeter accents fell upon her, from her husband's lips of love!
Still with thoughtful eye Savitri watched her dear and fated lord,
Flail of grief was in her bosom but her pale lips shaped no word,
And she listened to her husband still on anxious thought intent,
Cleft in two her throbbing bosom as in silence still she went!
Gaily with the gathered wild-fruits did the prince his basket fill,
Hewed the interlacéd branches with his might and practised skill,
Till the drops stood on his forehead, weary was his aching head,
Faint he came unto Savitri and in faltering accents said:
Cruel ache is on my forehead, fond and ever faithful wife,
And I feel a hundred needles pierce me and torment my life,
And my feeble footsteps falter and my senses seem to reel,
Fain would I beside thee linger for a sleep doth o'er me steal.'
With a wild and speechless terror pale Savitri held her lord,
On her lap his head she rested as she laid him on the sward,
Narad's fatal words remembered as she watched her husband's head,
Burning lip and pallid forehead and the dark and creeping shade,
Clasped him in her beating bosom, kissed his lips with panting breath,
Darker grew the lonesome forest, and he slept the sleep of death!