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´╗┐Title: The Cycle of Spring
Author: Tagore, Rabindranath, 1861-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cycle of Spring" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

       The Table of Contents is not part of the original book.



                                 THE

                           CYCLE OF SPRING



                                  BY

                       SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE



                      MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

                     ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON

                                 1919



                              COPYRIGHT

                    _First Edition February 1917_

                     _Reprinted March 1917, 1919_

       *       *       *       *       *



CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION
ACT I
ACT II
ACT III
ACT IV

       *       *       *       *       *



    The greater part of the introductory portion of this drama
    was translated from the original Bengali by Mr. C. F. Andrews
    and Prof. Nishikanta Sen, and revised by the Author.

       *       *       *       *       *



I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
TO MY BOYS OF THE SHANTINIKETAN
WHO HAVE FREED
THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
HIDDEN IN THE HEART OF THIS OLD POET
AND TO DINENDRANATH
WHO IS
THE GUIDE OF THESE BOYS IN THEIR FESTIVALS
AND TREASURE-HOUSE OF ALL MY SONGS

       *       *       *       *       *



INTRODUCTION


_Characters of the Prelude_

KING, VIZIER, GENERAL (BIJOY VARMA)

CHINESE AMBASSADOR, PUNDIT (SRUTI-BHUSHAN)

POET (KABI-SHEKHAR), GUARDS, COURTIERS, HERALD

_The stage is on two levels: the higher, at the back, for the
Song-preludes alone, concealed by a purple curtain; the lower
only being discovered when the drop goes up. Diagonally across
the extreme left of the lower stage, is arranged the king's
court, with various platforms, for the various dignitaries
ascending to the canopied throne. The body of the stage is left
free for the "Play" when that develops._

(_Enter some_ COURTIERS.)

[The names of the speakers are not given in the margin, as they
can easily be guessed.]

Hush! Hush!

What is the matter?

The King is in great distress.

How dreadful!

Who is that over there, playing on his flute?

Why? What's the matter?

The King is greatly disturbed.

How dreadful!

What are those wild children doing, making so much noise?

They are the Mandal family.

Then tell the Mandal family to keep their children quiet.

Where can that Vizier have gone to?

Here I am. What's the matter?

Haven't you heard the news?

No, what?

The King is greatly troubled in his mind.

Well, I've got some very important news about the frontier war.

War we may have, but not the news.

Then the Chinese Ambassador is waiting to see His Majesty.

Let him wait. Anyhow he can't see the King.

Can't see the King?--Ah, here is the King at last. Look at him
coming this way, with a mirror in his hand. "Long live the King.
Long live the King."

If it please Your Majesty, it is time to go to the Court.

Time to go? Yes, time to go, but not to the Court.

What does Your Majesty mean?

Haven't you heard? The bell has just been rung to dismiss the
Court.

When? What bell? We haven't heard any bell.

How could you hear? They have rung it in my ears alone.

Oh, Sire. No one can have had the impertinence to do that.

Vizier! They are ringing it now.

Pardon me, Sire, if I am very stupid; but I cannot understand.

Look at this, Vizier, look at this.

Your Majesty's hair----

Can't you see there's a bell-ringer there?

Oh, Your Majesty. Are you playing a joke?

The joke is not mine, but His, who has got the whole world by the
ear, and is having His jest. Last night, when the Queen was
putting a garland of jasmines round my neck, she cried out with
alarm, "King, what is this? Here are two grey hairs behind your
ear."

Oh, please, Sire, don't worry so much about a little thing like
that. Why! The royal physician----

Vizier! The founder of our dynasty had his royal physician, too.
But what could he do? Death has left his card of invitation
behind my ear. The Queen wanted, then and there, to pluck out the
grey hairs. But I said, "Queen, what's the use? You may remove
Death's invitation, but can you remove Death, the Inviter?" So,
for the present----

Yes, Sire, for the present, let us attend to business.

Business, Vizier! I have no time for business. Send for the
Pundit. Send for Sruti-bhushan.

But, Sire, the General----

The General?--No, no, not the General. Send for the Pundit.

But, the news from the frontier----

Vizier, the news has come to me from the last great frontier of
all, the frontier of Death. Send for the Pundit.

But if Your Majesty will give me one moment, the Ambassador from
the great Emperor of China----

Vizier, a greater Emperor has sent his embassy to me. Call
Sruti-bhushan.

Very well, Sire. But your father-in-law----

It is not my father-in-law whom I want now. Send for the Pundit.

But, if it please you to hear me this once. The poet,
Kabi-shekhar, is waiting with his new book called the _Garden of
Poesy_.

Let your poet disport himself, jumping about on the topmost
branches of his Garden of Poesy, but send for the Pundit.

Very well, Sire. I will send for him at once.

Tell him to bring his book of devotions with him, called the
_Ocean of Renunciation_.

Yes, Sire.

But, Vizier. Who are those outside making all that noise? Go out
and stop them at once. I must have peace.

If it please Your Majesty, there is a famine in Nagapatam and the
headmen of the villages are praying to be allowed to see your
face.

My time is short, Vizier. I must have peace.

They say their time is shorter. They are at death's door. They,
too, want peace,--peace from the burning of hunger.

Vizier! The burning of hunger is quenched at last on the funeral
pyre.

Then these wretched people----

Wretched!--Listen to the advice of a wretched King to his
wretched subjects. It is futile to be impatient, and try to break
through the net of the inexorable Fisherman. Sooner or later,
Death the Fisherman will have his haul.

Well then?

Let me have the Pundit, and his _Book of Renunciation_.

And in this scarcity----

Vizier! The real scarcity is of time, and not of food. We are all
suffering from starvation of time. None of us has enough of it,
neither the King, nor his people.

Then----

Then know, that our petitions for more time will all go to the
last fire of doom. So why strain our voice in prayer?--Ah, here
is Sruti-bhushan at last. My reverence to you.

Pundit, do tell the King that the Goddess of Fortune deserts him
who gives way to melancholy.

Sruti-bhushan, what is my Vizier whispering to you?

He tells me, King, to instruct you in the ways of fortune.

What instruction can you give?

There is a verse in my book of devotions which runs as follows:

    _Fortune, as fickle as lotus-flower,
     Closes her favours when comes the hour.
     Oh, foolish man, how can you trust her,
     Who comes of a sudden, and goes in a fluster?_

Ah, Pundit. One breath of your teaching blows out the false flame
of ambition. Our teacher has said:

    "Teeth fall out, hair grows grey;
     Yet man clings to hope that plays him false."

Well, King, now that you have introduced the subject of hope, let
me give you another verse from the _Ocean of Renunciation_. It
runs as follows:

    _That fetters are binding, all are aware;
     But fetters of hope are strange, I declare.
     Hope's captive is tossed in the whirlpool's wake,
     And only grows still when the fetters break._

Ah, Pundit. Your words are priceless. Vizier, give him a hundred
gold sequins at once. What's that noise outside?

It is the famine-stricken people.

Tell them to hold their peace.

Let Sruti-bhushan, with his book of devotions, go and try to
bring them peace; and, in the meanwhile, Your Majesty might
discuss war matters----

No, no. Let the war matters come later. I can't let Sruti-bhushan
go yet.

King, you said something to me, a moment ago, about a gift of
gold. Now mere gold, by itself, does not confer any permanent
benefit. It is said in my book of devotions, called the _Ocean of
Renunciation_:

    _He who gives gold, gives only pain;
     When the gold is spent grief comes again.
     When a lakh, or crore, of gold is spent,
     Grief only remains in the empty tent._

Ah, Pundit. How exquisite. So you don't want any gold, my Master?

No, King, I don't want gold, but something more permanent, which
would make your merit permanent also. I should be quite content,
if you gave me the living of Kanchanpur. For it is said in the
_Renunciation_----

No, Pundit, I quite understand. You needn't quote scripture to
support your claim. I understand quite well--Vizier!

Yes, Your Majesty.

See that the rich province of Kanchanpur is settled on the
Pundit.--What's the matter now outside there? What are they
crying for?

If it please Your Majesty, it is the people.

Why do they cry so repeatedly?

Their cry is repeated, I admit, but the reason remains most
monotonously the same. They are starving.

But, King, I must tell you before I forget it. It is the one
desire of my wife to make her whole body jingle, from head to
foot, in praise of your munificence; but, alas, the sound is too
feeble for want of proper ornaments.

I understand you, Pundit. Vizier! Order ornaments from the Court
Jeweller for Sruti-bhushan's wife immediately.

And, King, while he is about it, would you tell the Vizier, that
we are both of us distracted in our devotions by house-repairs.
Let him ask the royal masons to put up a thoroughly well-built
house, where we can practise our devotions in peace.

Very well, Pundit.--Vizier!

Yes, Your Majesty.

Give the order at once.

Sire, your treasury is empty. Funds are wanting.

Pooh! That's an old story. I hear that every year. It is your
business to increase the funds, and mine to increase the wants.
What do you say, Sruti-bhushan?

King, I cannot blame the Vizier. He is looking after your
treasures in this world. We are looking after your treasures in
the next. So where he sees want, we see wealth. Now, if you
would only let me dive deep once more into the _Ocean of
Renunciation_ you will find it written as follows:

    _That King's coffers are well stored,
     Where wealth alone on worth is poured._

Pundit, your company is most valuable.

Your Majesty, Sruti-bhushan knows its value to a farthing. Come,
Sruti-bhushan, make haste. Let us collect all the wealth you need
for your Treasury of Devotion. For wealth has the ugly habit of
diminishing fast. If we are not quick about it, little will
remain to enable us to observe our renunciation with all
splendour.

Yes, Vizier, let us go at once. (_To the King._) When he is
making such a fuss about a tiny matter like this, it is best to
pacify him first and then return to you afterwards.

Pundit, I am afraid that, some day, you will leave my royal
protection altogether, and retire to the forest.

King, so long as I find contentment in a King's palace, it is as
good as a hermitage for my peace of mind. I must now leave you,
King. Vizier, let us go.

[_The Vizier and Pundit go out._

Oh, dear me! Whatever shall I do? Here's the Poet coming. I am
afraid he'll make me break all my good resolutions.--Oh, my grey
hairs, cover my ears, so that the Poet's allurements may not
enter.

Why, King, what's the matter? I hear you want to send away your
Poet.

What have I to do with poets, when poetry brings me this parting
message?

What parting message?

Look at this behind my ear. Don't you see it?

See what? Grey hairs? Why, King, don't you worry about that.

Poet, Nature is trying to rub out the green of youth, and to
paint everything white.

No, no, King. You haven't understood the artist. On that white
ground, Nature will paint new colours.

I don't see any sign of colours yet.

They are all within. In the heart of the white dwell all the
colours of the rainbow.

Oh, Poet, do be quiet. You disturb me when you talk like that.

King, if this youth fades, let it fade. Another Queen of Youth is
coming. And she is putting a garland of pure white jasmines round
your head, in order to be your bride. The wedding festival is
being made ready, behind the scene.

Oh, dear, Poet. You will undo everything. Do go away. Ho there,
Guard. Go at once and call Sruti-bhushan.

What will you do with him, King, when he comes?

I will compose my mind, and practise my renunciation.

Ah, King, when I heard that news, I came at once. For I can be
your companion in this practice of renunciation.

You?

Yes, I, King. We Poets exist for this very purpose. We set men
free from their desires.

I don't understand you. You talk in riddles.

What? You don't understand me? And yet you have been reading my
poems all this while!--There is renunciation in our words,
renunciation in the metre, renunciation in our music. That is why
fortune always forsakes us; and we, in turn always forsake
fortune. We go about, all day long, initiating the youths in the
sacred cult of fortune-forsaking.

What does it say to us?

It says:

    _"Ah, brothers, don't cling to your goods and chattels,
      And sit ever in the corner of your room.
      Come out, come out into the open world.
      Come out into the highways of life.
      Come out, ye youthful Renouncers."_

But, Poet, do you really mean to say that the highway of the open
world is the pathway of renunciation?

Why not, King? In the open world all is change, all is life, all
is movement. And he who ever moves and journeys with this
life-movement, dancing and playing on his flute as he goes, he is
the true Renouncer. He is the true disciple of the minstrel Poet.

But how then can I get peace? I must have peace.

Oh, King, we haven't the least desire for peace. We are the
Renouncers.

But ought we not to get that treasure, which is said to be
never-changing?

No, we don't covet any never-changing treasures. We are the
Renouncers.

What do you mean? Oh, dear, Poet, you will undo everything, if
you talk like that. You are destroying my peace of mind. Call
Sruti-bhushan. Let some one call the Pundit.

What I mean, King, is this. We are the true Renouncers, because
change is our very secret. We lose, in order to find. We have no
faith in the never-changing.

What do you mean?

Haven't you noticed the detachment of the rushing river, as it
runs splashing from its mountain cave? It gives itself away so
swiftly, and only thus it finds itself. What is never-changing,
for the river, is the desert sand, where it loses its course.

Ah, but listen, Poet--listen to those cries there outside. That
is your world. How do you deal with that?

King, they are your starving people.

My people, Poet? Why do you call them that? They are the world's
people, not mine. Have I created their miseries? What can your
youthful Poet Renouncers do to relieve sufferings like theirs?
Tell me that.

King, it is we alone who can truly bear those sufferings, because
we are like the river that flows on in gladness, thus lightening
our burden, and the burden of the world. But the hard, metalled
road is fixed and never-changing. And so it makes the burden more
burdensome. The heavy loads groan and creak along it, and cut
deep gashes in its breast. We Poets call to every one to carry
all their joys and sorrows lightly, in a rhythmic measure. Our
call is the Renouncers' call.

Ah, Poet, now I don't care a straw for Sruti-bhushan. Let the
Pundit go hang. But, do you know what my trouble is now? Though I
can't, for the life of me, understand your words, the music
haunts me. Now, it's just the other way round with the Pundit.
His words are clear enough, and they obey the rules of syntax
quite correctly. But the tune!--No, it's no use telling you any
further.

King, our words don't speak, they sing.

Well, Poet, what do you want to do now?

King, I'm going to have a race through those cries, which are
rising outside your gate.

What do you mean? Famine relief is for men of business. Poets
oughtn't to have anything to do with things like that.

King, business men always make their business so out of tune.
That is why we Poets hasten to tune it.

Now come, my dear Poet, do speak in plainer language.

King, they work, because they must. We work, because we are in
love with life. That is why they condemn us as unpractical, and
we condemn them as lifeless.

But who is right, Poet? Who wins? You, or they?

We, King, we. We always win.

But, Poet, your proof----

King, the greatest things in the world disdain proof. But if you
could for a time wipe out all the poets and all their poetry from
the world, then you would soon discover, by their very absence,
where the men of action got their energy from, and who really
supplied the life-sap to their harvest-field. It is not those who
have plunged deep down into the Pundit's _Ocean of Renunciation_,
nor those who are always clinging to their possessions; it is not
those who have become adepts in turning out quantities of work,
nor those who are ever telling the dry beads of duty,--it is not
these who win at last. But it is those who love, because they
live. These truly win, for they truly surrender. They accept pain
with all their strength and with all their strength they remove
pain. It is they who create, because they know the secret of true
joy, which is the secret of detachment.

Well then, Poet, if that be so, what do you ask me to do now?

I ask you, King, to rise up and move. That cry outside yonder is
the cry of life to life. And if the life within you is not
stirred, in response to that call without, then there is cause
for anxiety indeed,--not because duty has been neglected, but
because you are dying.

But, Poet, surely we must die, sooner or later?

No, King, that's a lie. When we feel for certain that we are
alive, then we know for certain that we shall go on living. Those
who have never put life to the test, in all possible ways, these
keep on crying out:

    _Life is fleeting, Life is waning,
       Life is like a dew-drop on a lotus leaf._

But, isn't life inconstant?

Only because its movement is unceasing. The moment you stop this
movement, that moment you begin to play the drama of Death.

Poet, are you speaking the truth? Shall we really go on living?

Yes, we shall really go on living.

Then, Poet, if we are going to go on living, we must make our
life worth its eternity. Is not that so?

Yes, indeed.

Ho, Guard.

Yes, Your Royal Highness.

Call the Vizier at once.

Yes, Your Royal Highness.

(_Vizier enters._)

What is Your Majesty's pleasure?

Vizier! Why on earth have you kept me waiting so long?

I was very busy, Your Majesty.

Busy? What were you busy about?

I was dismissing the General.

Why should you dismiss the General? We have got to discuss war
matters with him.

And arrangements had to be made for the state-departure of the
Chinese Ambassador.

What do you mean by his state-departure?

If it please Your Majesty, you did not grant him an interview. So
he----

Vizier! You surprise me. Is this the way you manage state
affairs? What has happened to you? Have you lost your senses?

Then, again. Sire, I was trying to find a way to pull down the
Poet's house. At first, no one would undertake it. Then, at last,
all the Pundits of the Royal School of Grammar and Logic came up
with their proper tools and set to work.

Vizier! Are you mad this morning? Pull down the Poet's house?
Why, you might as well kill all the birds in the garden and make
them up into a pie.

If it please Your Majesty, you need not be annoyed. We shan't have to
pull down the house after all; for the moment Sruti-bhushan heard it
was to be demolished, he decided to take possession of it himself.

What, Vizier! That's worse still. Why! The Goddess of Music would
break her harp in pieces against my head, if she even heard of
such a thing. No, that can't be.

Then, Your Majesty, there was another thing to be got through. We
had to deliver over the province of Kanchanpur to the Pundit.

No, Vizier! What a mess you are making. That must go to our Poet.

To me, King? No. My poetry never accepts reward.

Well, well. Let the Pundit have it.

And, last of all, Sire. I have issued orders to the soldiers to
disperse the crowd of famine-stricken people.

Vizier, you are doing nothing but blunder. The best way to
disperse the famished people is with food, not force.

(_Guard enters._)

May it please Your Royal Highness.

What's the matter, Guard?

May it please Your Royal Highness, here is Sruti-bhushan, the
Pundit, coming back with his _Book of Devotions_.

Oh, stop him, Vizier, stop him. He will undo everything. Don't
let him come upon me unawares like this. In a moment of weakness,
I may suddenly find myself out of my depths in the _Ocean of
Renunciation_. Poet! Don't give me time for that. Do something.
Do anything. Have you got anything ready to hand? Any play
toward? Any poem? Any masque? Any----

Yes, King. I have got the very thing. But whether it is a drama,
or a poem, or a play, or a masque, I cannot say.

Shall I be able to understand the sense of what you have written?

No, King, what a poet writes is not meant to have any sense.

What then?

To have the tune itself.

What do you mean? Is there no philosophy in it?

No, none at all, thank goodness.

What does it say, then?

King, it says "I exist." Don't you know the meaning of the first
cry of the new-born child? The child, when it is born, hears at
once the cries of the earth and water and sky, which surround
him,--and they all cry to him, "We exist," and his tiny little
heart responds, and cries out in its turn, "I exist." My poetry
is like the cry of that new-born child. It is a response to the
cry of the Universe.

Is it nothing more than that, Poet?

No, nothing more. There is life in my song, which cries, "In joy
and in sorrow, in work and in rest, in life and in death, in
victory and in defeat, in this world and in the next, all hail to
the 'I exist.'"

Well, Poet, I can assure you, if your play hasn't got any
philosophy in it, it won't pass muster in these days.

That's true, King. The newer people, of this modern age, are more
eager to amass than to realize. They are, in their generation,
wiser than the children of light.

Whom shall we ask, then, for an audience? Shall we ask the young
students of our royal school?

No, King, they cut up poetry with their logic. They are like the
young-horned deer trying their new horns on the flower-beds.

Whom should I ask, then?

Ask those whose hair is turning grey.

What do you mean, Poet?

The youth of these middle-aged people is a youth of detachment.
They have just crossed the waters of pleasure, and are in sight
of the land of pure gladness. They don't want to eat fruit, but
to produce it.

I, at least, have now reached that age of discretion, and ought
to be able to appreciate your songs. Shall I ask the General?

Yes, ask him.

And the Chinese Ambassador?

Yes, ask him too.

I hear my father-in-law has come.

Well, ask him too, but I have my doubts about his youthful sons.

But don't forget his daughter.

Don't worry about her. She won't let herself be forgotten.

And Sruti-bhushan? Shall I ask him?

No, King, no. Decidedly, no. I have no grudge against him. Why
should I inflict this on him?

Very well, Poet. Off with you. Make your stage preparations.

No, King. We are going to act this play without any special
preparations. Truth looks tawdry when she is overdressed.

But, Poet, there must be some canvas for a background.

No. Our only background is the mind. On that we shall summon up
a picture with the magic wand of music.

Are there any songs in the play?

Yes, King. The door of each act will be opened by the key of
song.

What is the subject of the songs?

The Disrobing of Winter.

But, Poet, we haven't read about that in any Mythology.

In the world-myth this song comes round in its turn. In the play
of the seasons, each year, the mask of the Old Man, Winter, is
pulled off, and the form of Spring is revealed in all its beauty.
Thus we see that the old is ever new.

Well, Poet, so much for the songs: but what about the remainder?

Oh, that is all about life.

Life? What is life?

This is how it runs: A band of young companions has run off in
pursuit of one Old Man. They have taken a vow to catch him. They
enter into a cave; they take hold of him, and then----

Then, what? What did they see?

Ah. That will be told in its own good time.

But, I haven't understood one thing. Your drama and your
songs,--have they different subjects, or the same?

The same, King. The play of Spring in nature is the counterpart
of the play of Youth in our lives. It is simply from the lyrical
drama of the World Poet that I have stolen this plot.

Who, then, are the chief characters?

One is called the Leader.

Who is he, Poet?

He is the guiding impulse in our life. Another is Chandra.

Who is he?

He who makes life dear to us.

And who else?

Then there is Dada, to whom duty is the essence of life, not joy.

Is there any one else?

Yes, the blind Minstrel.

Blind?

Because he does not see with his eyes, therefore he sees with his
whole body and mind and soul.

Who else is there, in your play, among the chief actors?

You are there, King.

I?

Yes, you, King. For if you stayed out of it, instead of coming
into it, then the King would begin to abuse the Poet and send
for Sruti-bhushan again. And then there would be no hope of
salvation for him. For the World Poet himself would be defeated.
And the South Wind of Spring would have to retire, without
receiving its homage.



ACT I

_The Heralds of Spring are abroad. There are songs in the
rustling bamboo leaves, in birds' nests, and in blossoming
branches._


SONG-PRELUDE

_The purple secondary curtain[1] goes up, disclosing the elevated
rear stage with a skyey background of dark blue, on which appear
the horn of the crescent moon and the silver points of stars.
Trees in the foreground, with two rope swings entwined with
garlands of flowers. Flowers everywhere in profusion. On the
extreme left the mouth of a dark cavern dimly seen. Boys
representing the "Bamboo" disclosed, swinging._

[Footnote 1: Neither the secondary curtain nor the drop is again
used during the play. The action is continuous, either on the
front stage, or on the rear stage, the latter being darkened when
not actually in use.]


SONG OF THE BAMBOO

   _O South Wind, the Wanderer, come and rock me,
      Rouse me into the rapture of new leaves.
    I am the wayside bamboo tree, waiting for your breath
      To tingle life into my branches._

   _O South Wind, the Wanderer, my dwelling is in the end of the lane.
      I know your wayfaring, and the language of your footsteps.
        Your least touch thrills me out of my slumber,
        Your whisper gleans my secrets._

(_Enter a troop of girls, dancing, representing birds._)


SONG OF THE BIRD

   _The sky pours its light into our hearts,
      We fill the sky with songs in answer.
    We pelt the air with our notes
      When the air stirs our wings with its madness.
        O Flame of the Forest,
      All your flower-torches are ablaze;
      You have kissed our songs red with  the passion of your youth.
      In the spring breeze the mango-blossoms launch their messages to the
        unknown
      And the new leaves dream aloud all day.
      O Sirish, you have cast your perfume-net round our hearts,
        Drawing them out in songs._

(_Disclosed among the branches of trees, suddenly lighted up,
boys representing champak blossoms._)


SONG OF THE BLOSSOMING CHAMPAK

   _My shadow dances in your waves, everflowing river,
    I, the blossoming champak, stand unmoved on the bank, with my
       flower-vigils.
    My movement dwells in the stillness of my depth,
        In the delicious birth of new leaves,
          In flood of flowers,
        In unseen urge of new life towards the light.
    Its stirring thrills the sky, and the silence of the dawn is moved._

_Morning_

[_The rear stage is now darkened. On the main stage, bright,
enter a band of youths whose number may be anything between three
and thirty. They sing._]

   _The fire of April leaps from forest to forest,
      Flashing up in leaves and flowers from all nooks and corners.
    The sky is thriftless with colours,
      The air delirious with songs.
    The wind-tost branches of the woodland
        Spread their unrest in our blood.
    The air is filled with bewilderment of mirth;
      And the breeze rushes from flower to flower, asking their names._

[In the following dialogue only the names of the principal
characters are given. Wherever the name is not given the speaker
is one or other of the Youths.]

April pulls hard, brother, April pulls very hard.

How do you know that?

If he didn't, he would never have pulled Dada outside his den.

Well, I declare. Here is Dada, our cargo-boat of moral-maxims,
towed against the current of his own pen and ink.

_Chandra_

But you mustn't give April all the credit for that. For I,
Chandra, have hidden the yellow leaves of his manuscript book
among the young buds of the _pial_ forest, and Dada is out
looking for it.

The manuscript book banished! What a good riddance!

We ought to strip off Dada's grey philosopher's cloak also.

_Chandra_

Yes, the very dust of the earth is tingling with youth, and yet
there's not a single touch of Spring in the whole of Dada's
body.

_Dada_

Oh, do stop this fooling. What a nuisance you are making of
yourselves! We aren't children any longer.

_Chandra_

Dada, the age of this earth is scarcely less than yours; and yet
it is not ashamed to look fresh.

Dada, you are always struggling with those quatrains of yours,
full of advice that is as old as death, while the earth and the
water are ever striving to be new.

Dada, how in the world can you go on writing verses like that,
sitting in your den?

_Dada_

Well, you see, I don't cultivate poetry, as an amateur gardener
cultivates flowers. _My_ poems have substance and weight in
them.

Yes, they are like the turnips, which cling to the ground.

_Dada_

Well, then, listen to me----

How awful! Here's Dada going to run amuck with his quatrains.

Oh dear, oh dear! The quatrains are let loose. There's no holding
them in.

To all passers-by I give notice that Dada's quatrains have gone
mad, and are running amuck.

_Chandra_

Dada! Don't take any notice of their fun. Go on with your
reading. If no one else can survive it, I think I can. I am not a
coward like these fellows.

Come on, then, Dada. We won't be cowards. We will keep our
ground, and not yield an inch, but only listen.

We will receive the spear-thrusts of the quatrains on our breast,
not on our back.

But for pity's sake, Dada, give us only one--not more.

_Dada_

Very well. Now listen:

   _If bamboos were made only into flutes,
    They would droop and die with very shame,
    They hold their heads high in the sky,
    Because they are variously useful._

Please, gentlemen, don't laugh. Have patience while I explain.
The meaning is----

The meaning?

What? Must the infantry charge of meaning follow the cannonading
of your quatrains, to complete the rout?

_Dada_

Just one word to make you understand. It means, that if the
bamboos were no better than those noisy instruments----

No, Dada, we must not understand.

I defy you to make us understand.

Dada, if you use force to make us understand we shall use force
to force ourselves not to understand.

_Dada_

The gist of the quatrain is this, that if we do no good to the
world, then----

Then the world will be very greatly relieved.

_Dada_

There is another verse that makes it clearer:

   _There are numerous stars in the midnight sky,
    Which hang in the air for no purpose;
    If they would only come down to earth,
    For the street lighting they might be useful._

I see we must make clearer our meaning. Catch him. Let's raise
him up, shoulder high, and take him back to his den.

_Dada_

Why are you so excited to-day? Have you any particular business
to do?

Yes, we have very urgent business,--very urgent indeed.

_Dada_

What is your business about?

We are out to seek a play for our Spring festival.

_Dada_

Play! Day and night, play!

(_They sing._)

   _We are free, my friends, from the fear of work,
      For we know that work is play,--the play of life.
    It is Play, to fight and toss, between life and death;
    It is Play that flashes in the laughter of light in the infinite
        heart;
      It roars in the wind, and surges in the sea._

Oh, here comes our Leader. Brothers--our Leader, our Leader.

_Leader_

Hallo! What a noise you make!

Was it that which made you come out of doors?

_Leader_

Yes.

Well, we did it for that very purpose.

_Leader_

You don't want me to remain indoors?

Why remain indoors? This outer world has been made with a lavish
expenditure of sun and moon and stars. Let us enjoy it, and then
we can save God's face for indulging in such extravagance.

_Leader_

What were you discussing?

This:

(_They sing_.)

   _Play blooms in flower and ripens in fruit
    In the sunshine of eternal youth.
    Play bursts up in the blood-red fire, and licks into ashes the
        decaying and the dead._

Our Dada's objection was about this play.

_Dada_

Shall I tell you the reason why?

Yes, Dada, you may tell us, but we shan't promise to listen.

_Dada_

Here it is:

   _Time is the capital of work,
    And Play is its defalcation.
    Play rifles the house, and then wastes its spoil,
    Therefore the wise call it worse than useless._

_Chandra_

But surely, Dada, you are talking nonsense. Time itself is Play.
Its only object is Pas-time.

_Dada_

Then what is Work?

_Chandra_

Work is the dust raised by the passing of Time.

_Dada_

Leader, you must give us your answers.

_Leader_

No. I never give answers. I lead on from one question to another.
That is my leadership.

_Dada_

Everything else has its limits, but your childishness is
absolutely unbounded.

Do you know the reason? It is because we are really nothing but
children. And everything else has its limitations except the
child.

_Dada_

Won't you ever attain Age?

No, we shall never attain Age.

We shall die old, but never attain Age.

_Chandra_

When we meet Age, we shall shave his head, and put him on a
donkey, and send him across the river.

Oh, you can save yourself the trouble of shaving his head for Age
is bald.

(_They sing_.)

   _Our hair shall never turn grey,
      Never.
    There is no blank in this world for us, no break in our road,
    It may be an illusion that we follow,
    But it shall never play us false,
      Never._

(_The Leader sings_.)

   _Our hair shall never turn grey,
      Never.
    We will never doubt the world and shut our eyes to ponder.
      Never.
    We will not grope in the maze of our mind.
    We flow with the flood of things, from the mountain to the sea,
    We will never be lost in the desert sand,
      Never._

We can tell, by his looks, that Dada will some day go to that Old
Man, to receive his lessons.

_Leader_

Which Old Man?

The Old Man of the line of Adam.

He dwells in a cave, and never thinks of dying.

_Leader_

Where did you learn about him?

Oh, every one talks about him, And it is in the books also.

_Leader_

What does he look like?

Some say he is white, like the skull of a dead man. And some say
he is dark, like the socket of a skeleton's eye.

But haven't you heard any news of him, Leader?

_Leader_

I don't believe in him at all.

Well, that goes entirely against current opinion. That Old Man is
more existent than anything else. He lives within the ribs of
creation.

According to our Pundit, it is we who have no existence. You
can't be certain whether we are, or are not.

_Chandra_

We? Oh, we are too brand new altogether. We haven't yet got our
credentials to prove that we exist.

_Leader_

Have you really gone and opened communication with the Pundits?

Why? What harm is there in that, Leader?

_Leader_

You will become pale, like the white mist in autumn. Even the
least colour of blood will disappear from your mind. I have a
suggestion.

What, Leader? What?

_Leader_

You were looking out for a play?

Yes, yes, we got quite frantic about it.

We thought it over so vigorously, that people had to run to the
King's court to lodge a complaint.

_Leader_

Well, I can suggest a play which will be new.

What?--What?--Tell us.

_Leader_

Go and capture the Old Man.

That is new, no doubt, but we very much doubt if it's a play.

_Leader_

I am sure you won't be able to do it.

Not do it? We shall.

_Leader_

No, never.

Well then, suppose we do capture him, what will you give us?

_Leader_

I shall accept you as my preceptor.

Preceptor! You want to make us grey, and cold, and old, before
our time.

_Leader_

Then, what do you want me to do?

If we capture him, then we shall take away your leadership.

_Leader_

That will be a great relief to me. You have made all my bones out
of joint already. Very well, then it's all settled?

Yes, settled. We shall bring him to you by the next full moon of
Spring.

But what are we going to do with him?

_Leader_

You shall let him join in your Spring Festival.

Oh no, that will be outrageous. Then the mango flowers will run
to seed at once.

And all the cuckoos will become owls.

And the bees will go about reciting Sanskrit verses, making the
air hum with m's and n's.

_Leader_

And your skull will be so top-heavy with prudence, that it will
be difficult for you to keep on your feet.

How awful!

_Leader_

And you will have rheumatics in all your joints.

How awful!

_Leader_

And you will become your own elder brothers, pulling your own
ears to set yourselves right.

How awful!

_Leader_

And----

No more "ands." We are ready to surrender.

We will abandon our game of capturing the Old Man.

We will put it off till the cold weather. In this Springtime,
your company will be enough for us.

_Leader_

Ah, I see! You have already got the chill of the Old Man in your
bones.

Why? What are the symptoms?

_Leader_

You have no enthusiasm. You back out at the very start. Why
don't you make a trial?

Very well. Agreed. Come on.

Let us go after the Old Man. We will pluck him out, like a grey
hair, wherever we find him.

_Leader_

But the Old Man is an adept in the business of plucking out. His
best weapon is the hoe.

You needn't try to frighten us like that. When we are out for
adventure, we must leave behind all fears, all quatrains, all
Pundits, and all Scriptures.

(_They sing_.)

   _We are out on our way
      And we fear not the Robber, the Old Man.
    Our path is straight, it is broad,
      Our burden is light, for our pocket is bare,
    Who can rob us of our folly?
      For us there is no rest, nor ease, nor praise, nor success,
    We dance in the measure of fortune's rise and fall,
      We play our game, or win or lose,
        And we fear not the Robber._



ACT II


SONG-PRELUDE

[_Spring's Heralds try to rob Winter of his outfit of age._]

_Rear stage lighted up, disclosing Old Winter teased by the boys
and girls representing Spring's Heralds._


SONG OF THE HERALDS OF SPRING

   _We seek our playmates,
      Waking them up from all corners before it is morning.
    We call them in bird songs,
      Beckon them in nodding branches.
    We spread our spell for them in the splendour of clouds._

   _We laugh at solemn Death
      Till he joins in our laughter.
    We tear open Time's purse,
      Taking back his plunder from him.
    You shall lose your heart to us, O Winter.
      It will gleam in the trembling leaves
        And break into flowers._


SONG OF WINTER

       _Leave me, let me go.
    I sail for the bleak North, for the peace of the frozen shore.
      Your laughter is untimely, my friends.
    You turn my farewell tunes into the welcome song of the Newcomer,
      And all things draw me back again into the dancing ring of their
          hearts._


SONG OF THE HERALDS OF SPRING

   _Life's spies are we, lurking in ambush everywhere.
    We wait to rob you of your last savings of withered hours to scatter
         them in the wayward winds.
    We shall bind you in flower chains where Spring keeps his captives,
    For we know you carry your jewels of youth hidden in your grey rags._

(_Noon_)

[_The rear stage is darkened. The band of Youths enters on the
main stage. No actual change in the scenery is necessary--this
being left to the imagination of the audience._]

Ferryman! Ferryman! Open your door.

_Ferryman_

What do you want?

We want the Old Man.

_Ferryman_

Which old man?

Not which old man. We want _the_ Old Man.

_Ferryman_

Who is he?

The true and original Old Man.

_Ferryman_

Oh! I understand. What do you want him for?

For our Spring Festival.

_Ferryman_

For your Spring Festival? Are you become mad?

Not a sudden becoming. We have been like this from the beginning.

And we shall go on like this to the end.

(_They sing._)

   _The Piper pipes in the centre, hidden from sight.
    And we become frantic, we dance.
    The March wind, seized with frenzy,
    Runs and reels, and sways with noisy branches.
    The sun and stars are drawn in the whirl of rapture._

Now, Ferryman, give us news of the Old Man.

You ply your boat from one landing stage to another. Surely you
know where----

_Ferryman_

My business is limited only to the path. But whose path it is,
and what it means, I have no occasion to enquire. For my goal is
the landing-stage, not the house.

Very well. Let us go, let us try all the ways. _(They sing.)_

   _The Piper pipes in the centre, hidden from sight.
        Ah, the turbulent tune, to whose time the oceans dance,
          And dance our heaving hearts.
    Fling away all burdens and cares, brother,
      Do not be doubtful of your path,
    For the path wakes up of itself
      Under the dancing steps of freedom._

_Ferryman_

There comes the Watchman. Ask him. I know about the way; but he
knows about the wayfarers.

_Watchman_

Who are you?

We are just what you see. That's our only description.

_Watchman_

But what do you want?

We want the Old Man.

_Watchman_

Which old man?

That eternal Old Man.

_Watchman_

How absurd! While you are seeking him, he is after you.

Why?

_Watchman_

He is fond of warming his cold blood with the wine of hot youth.

We'll give him a warm enough reception. All we want is to see
him. Have you seen him?

_Watchman_

My watch is at night. I see my people, but don't know their
features. But, look here, every one knows that he is the great
kidnapper; and you want to kidnap him! It's midsummer madness.

The secret is out. It doesn't take long to discover that we are
mad.

_Watchman_

I am the Watchman. The people I see passing along the road are
all very much alike. Therefore, when I see anything queer, it
always strikes me.

Just listen to him. All the respectable people of our
neighbourhood say just the same thing--that we are queer.

Yes, we're queer. There's no mistake about that.

_Watchman_

But all this is utter childishness.

Do you hear that? It's exactly what our Dada says.

We have been going on with our childishness through unremembered
ages.

And now we have become confirmed children.

And we have a leader, who is a perfect veteran in childhood. He
rushes along so recklessly, that he drops off his age at every
step he runs.

_Watchman_

And who are you?

We are butterflies, freed from the cocoon of Age.

_Watchman_

[_Aside._] Mad. Raving mad.

_Ferryman_

Then what will you all do now?

_Chandra_

We shall go----

_Watchman_

Where?

_Chandra_

That we haven't decided.

_Watchman_

You have decided to go, but not where to go?

_Chandra_

Yes, that will be settled as we go along.

_Watchman_

What does that mean?

_Chandra_

It means this song.

(_They sing._)

   _We move and move without rest,
    We move while the wanderers' stars shine in the sky and fade.
      We play the tune of the road
    While our limbs scatter away the laughter of movement,
      And our many-coloured mantle of youth flutters about in the air._

_Watchman_

Is it your custom to answer questions by songs?

_Chandra_

Yes, otherwise the answer becomes too unintelligible.

_Watchman_

Then you think your songs intelligible?

_Chandra_

Yes, quite, because they contain music. (_They sing._)

   _We move and move without rest.
      World, the Rover, loves his comrades of the road.
    His call comes across the sky.
      The seasons lead the way, strewing the path with flowers._

_Watchman_

No ordinary being ever breaks out singing, like this, in the
middle of talking.

_Chandra_

Again we are found out. We are no ordinary beings.

_Watchman_

Have you got no work to do?

_Chandra_

No, we are on a holiday.

_Watchman_

Why?

_Chandra_

Lest our time should all be wasted.

_Watchman_

I don't quite understand you.

_Chandra_

Then we shall be obliged to sing again.

_Watchman_

No, no. There's no need to do that. I don't hope to understand
you any better, even if you do sing.

_Chandra_

Everybody has given up the hope of understanding us.

_Watchman_

But how can things get on with you, if you behave like this?

_Chandra_

Oh, there's no need for things to get on with us, so long as we
ourselves get on.

_Watchman_

Mad! Quite mad! Raving mad!

_Chandra_

Why, here comes our Dada.

Dada, what made you lag behind?

_Chandra_

Don't you know? We are free as the wind, because we have no
substance in us. But Dada is like the rain-cloud of August. He
must stop, every now and then, to unburden himself.

_Dada_

Who are you?

_Ferryman_

I am the Ferryman.

_Dada_

And who are you?

_Watchman_

I am the Watchman.

_Dada_

I am delighted to see you. I want to read you something that I
have written. It contains nothing frivolous, but only the most
important lessons.

_Ferryman_

Very good. Let us have it then.

_Watchman_

Our master used to tell us that there are plenty of men to say
good things, but very few to listen. That requires strength of
mind. Now, go on, Sir, go on.

_Dada_

I saw, in the street, one of the King's officers dragging along a
merchant. The King had made up a false charge, in order to get
his money. This gave me an inspiration. You must know that I
never write a single line which is not inspired by some actual
fact. You can put my verses to the test in the open streets and
markets----

_Ferryman_

Please, Sir, do let us hear what you have written.

_Dada_

   _The sugar-cane filling itself with juice
    Is chewed and sucked dry by all beggars.
    O foolish men, take your lesson from this;
    Those trees are saved, which are fruitful._

You will understand that the sugar-cane gets into trouble, simply
because it tries to keep its juice. But nobody is so foolish as
to kill the tree that freely gives fruit.

_Watchman_

What splendid writing, Ferryman!

_Ferryman_

Yes, Watchman, it contains great lessons for us.

_Watchman_

It gives me food for thought. If only I had here our neighbour,
the Scribe! I should like to take this down. Do send round to
tell the people of the place to assemble.

_Chandra_

But, Ferryman, you promised to come out with us. Yet, if once
Dada begins to quote his quatrains, there will be----

_Ferryman_

Go along with you. None of your madness here. We are fortunate
now in having met our master. Let us improve the occasion with
good words. We are all of us getting old. Who knows when we shall
die?

All the more reason why you should cultivate our company.

_Chandra_

You can always find another Dada. But when once we are dead, God
will never repeat the blunder of another absurdity like us again.

(_Enter Oilman._)

_Oilman_

Ho! Watchman.

_Watchman_

Who is there? Is that the Oilman?

_Oilman_

The child I was bringing up was kidnapped last night.

_Watchman_

By whom?

_Oilman_

By the Old Man.

_Youths_

[_Together._] Old Man? You don't mean it. Old Man?

_Oilman_

Yes, Sirs, the Old Man; what makes you so glad?

Oh, that's a bad habit of ours. We become glad for no reason
whatever.

_Watchman_

[_Aside._] Mad! Raving mad! Have you seen the Old Man?

_Oilman_

I think I saw him in the distance last night.

_First Youth_

What did he look like?

_Oilman_

Black. More black than our brother here, the Watchman. Black as
night, with two eyes on his breast shining like two glow-worms.

That won't suit us. That would be awkward for our Spring
Festival.

_Chandra_

We shall have to change our date from the full moon to the dark
moon. For the dark moon has no end of eyes on her breast.

_Watchman_

But I warn you, my friends, you are not doing wisely.

No, we are not.

We are found out again. We never do anything wisely. It is
contrary to our habit.

_Watchman_

Do you take this to be a joke? I warn you, my friends, it is
dangerous.

Dangerous? That's the best joke of all.

(_They sing._)

   _We are neither too good nor wise,
      That is all the merit we have.
    Our calumny spreads from land to land,
      And danger dogs our steps.
    We take great care to forget what is taught us,
    We say things different from the book,
      Bringing upon us trouble,
        And rebuke from the learned._

_Watchman_

Ah, Sir, you spoke about some Leader. Where is he? He could have
kept you in order, if he were with you.

He never stays with us, lest he should have to keep us in order.

He simply launches us on our way, and then slips off.

_Watchman_

That's a poor idea of leadership.

_Chandra_

He is never concerned about his leadership. That is why we
recognize him as our Leader.

_Watchman_

Then he has got a very easy task.

_Chandra_

It is no easy task to lead men. But it is easy enough to drive
them.

(_They sing._)

   _We are not too good nor wise,
      That is all the merit we have.
    In a luckless moment we were born,
      When the star of wisdom was the dimmest.
    We can hope for no profit from our adventures,
        We move on, because we must._

Dada, come on. Let us go.

_Watchman_

No, no, Sir. Don't you get yourself into mischief in their
company.

_Ferryman_

You read your verses, Sir, to us. Our neighbours will be here
soon. They will be greatly profited.

_Dada_

No. I'm not going to move a step from here.

Then let us move. The men in the street can't bear us.

That's because we rattle them too much.

You hear the hum of human bees, they smell the honey of Dada's
quatrains.

_Youths_

[_Together._] They come! They come!

(_Enter Village folk._)

_Villager_

Is it true that there is going to be a reading?

Who are you? Are _you_ going to read?

No. We commit all kinds of atrocities, but not that. This one
merit will bring us salvation.

_Villager_

What do they say? They seem to be talking in riddles.

_Chandra_

We only say things which we perfectly understand ourselves, and
they are riddles to you. Dada repeats to you things which you
understand perfectly and these sound to you the very essence of
wisdom.

(_Boy enters._)

_Boy_

I couldn't catch him.

Whom?

_Boy_

The Old Man, whom you are seeking.

Have you seen him?

_Boy_

Yes, I thought I saw him going by in a car.

Where? In what direction?

_Boy_

I couldn't make out exactly. The dust raised by his wheels is
still whirling in the air.

Then let us go.

He has filled the sky with dead leaves.

[_They go out._

_Watchman_

They are mad! Quite mad! Raving mad!



ACT III

SONG-PRELUDE


[_Winter is being unmasked--his hidden youth about to be
disclosed._]

_The rear stage lighted up, disclosing Winter and the Heralds of
Spring._


SONG OF THE HERALDS OF SPRING

   _How grave he looks, how laughably old,
    How solemnly quiet among death preparations!
    Come, friends, help him to find himself before he reaches home.
    Change his pilgrim's robe into the dress of the singing youth,
    Snatch away his bag of dead things
        And confound his calculations._

(_Another group sings._)

   _The time comes when the world shall know that you're not banished in
         your own shadows;
    Your heart shall burst in torrents
      Out of the clasp of the ice;
    And your North wind turn its face
      Against the haunts of the flitting phantoms.
    There sounds the magician's drum,
    And the sun waits with laughter in his glance,
      To see your grey turn into green._

(_Evening_)

[_The rear stage is darkened; the light on the main stage dimmed
to the greyness of dark._]

_Band of Youths_

They all cry, "There, there," and when we look for it, we find
nothing but dust and dry leaves.

I thought I had a glimpse of the flag on his car through the
cloud.

It is difficult to follow his track. Now it seems East: now it
seems West.

And so we are tired, chasing shadows all day long. And the day
has been lost.

I tell you the truth. Fear comes more and more into my mind, as
the day passes.

We have made a mistake. The morning light whispered in our ears,
"Bravo, march on." And now, the evening light is mocking us for
that.

I am afraid we have been deceived. I am beginning to feel greater
respect for Dada's quatrains than before. We shall all be soon
sitting down on the ground composing quatrains.

And then the whole neighbourhood will come, swarming round us.
And they will get such immense benefit from our wisdom that they
will never leave us.

And we shall settle down like a great big boulder, cold and
immovable.

And they will cling to us, as we sit there, like a thick fog.

What would our Leader think of us, I wonder, if he could hear us
now?

I am sure it is our Leader, who has led us astray. He makes us
toil for nothing, while he himself remains idle.

Let us go back and fight with him. We will tell him that we won't
move a step further, but sit with our legs tucked under us. These
legs are wretched vagabonds. They are always trudging the road.

We will keep our hands fast behind our backs.

There is no mischief in the back; all the trouble is in the
front.

Of all our limbs, the back is the most truthful. It says to us,
"Lie down."

When we are young, that braggart breast is a great swell; but, in
the end, we can only rely on our back.

The little stream that flows past our village comes to my mind.
That morning we thought that it said to us, "Forward! Forward!"
But what it really said was, "False! False!" The world is all
false.

Our Pundit used to tell us that.

We shall go straight to the Pundit, when we get back.

We shall never stir one step outside the limit of the Pundit's
Scriptures.

What a mistake we made. We thought that moving itself was
something heroic.

But really not to move, that is heroic, because it is defying the
whole moving world.

Brave rebels that we are, we shall _not_ move. We shall have the
audacity to sit still, and never move an inch.

"Life and youth are fleeting," the Scripture says. Let life and
youth go to the dogs, we shall not move.

"Our minds and wealth are fleeting," adds the Scripture. "Give
them up and sit still," say we.

Let us go back to the point from which we started.

But that would be to move.

What then?

There sit down, where we have come to.

And let us imagine that there we had been before we ever came
there.

Yes, yes, that will keep our minds still. If we know that we have
come from somewhere else, then the mind longs for that somewhere
else.

That land of somewhere else is a very dangerous place.

There the ground moves, and also the roads. But as for us----

(_They sing._)

   _We cling to our seats and never stir,
    We allow our flowers to fade in peace, and avoid the trouble of
        bearing fruit.
    Let the starlights blazon their eternal folly,
      We quench our flames.
    Let the forest rustle and the ocean roar,
      We sit mute.
    Let the call of the flood-tide come from the sea,
      We remain still._

Do you hear that laughter?

Yes, yes, it is laughter.

What a relief! We have never heard that sound for an age.

We had been choking, for want of the breath of laughter.

This laughter comes to us like the April rain.

Whose is it?

Cannot you guess? It is our Chandra.

What a marvellous gift of laughter he has! It is like a
waterfall. It dashes all the black stones out of the path.

It is like sunlight. It cuts the mist to pieces with its sword.

Now all danger of quatrain fever is over. Let us get up.

From this moment there will be nothing but work for us. As the
Scripture says, "Everything in this world is fleeting, and he
only lives who does his duty and achieves fame."

Why are you quoting that? Are you still suffering from the
quatrain fever?

What do you mean by fame? Does the river take any heed of its
foam? Fame is that foam on life's stream.

(_Enter Chandra with a blind Minstrel._)

Well, Chandra, what makes you so glad?

_Chandra_

I have got the track of the Old Man.

From whom?

_Chandra_

From this old Minstrel.

He seems to be blind.

_Chandra_

Yes, that is why he has not got to seek the road.

What do you say? Shall you be able to lead us right?

_Minstrel_

Yes.

But how?

_Minstrel_

Because I can hear the footsteps.

We also have ears, but----

_Minstrel_

I hear with my whole being.

_Chandra_

They all started up with fear, when I asked about the Old Man.
Only this Minstrel seemed to have no fear. I suppose because he
cannot see, he is not afraid.

_Minstrel_

Do you know why I have no fear? When the sun of my life set, and
I became blind, the dark night revealed all its lights, and, from
that day forward, I have been no more afraid of the dark.

Then let us go. The evening star is up.

_Minstrel_

Let me sing, and walk on as I sing, and you follow me. I cannot
find my way, if I do not sing.

What do you mean?

_Minstrel_

My songs precede, I follow.

(_He sings._)

   _Gently, my friend, gently walk to your silent chamber.
      I know not the way, I have not the light,
        Dark is my life and my world.
    I have only the sound of your steps to guide me in this wilderness._

   _Gently, my friend, gently walk along the dark shore.
      Let the hint of the way come in whisper,
    Through the night, in the April breeze.
      I have only the scent of your garland to guide me in this
          wilderness._



ACT IV

SONG-PRELUDE


[_There enter a troupe of young things, and they introduce
themselves in a song as follows:_]


THE SONG OF RETURNING YOUTH

   _Again and again we say "Good-bye,"
      To come back again and again.
    Oh, who are you?
    I am the flower vakul.
    And who are you?
    I am the flower parul.
    And who are these?
    We are mango blossoms landed on the shore of light.
      We laugh and take leave when the time beckons us.
    We rush into the arms of the ever-returning.
      But who are you?
      I am the flower shimul.
      And who are you?
      I am the kamini bunch,
    And who are these?
    We are the jostling crowd of new leaves._

[_Winter is revealed as Spring and answers to the questions put
by the chorus of young things._]


THE SONG OF BURDENS DROPPED

   _Do you own defeat at the hand of youth?
        Yes.
    Have you met at last the ageless Old, who ever grows new?
        Yes.
    Have you come out of the walls that crumble and bury those whom they
       shelter?
        Yes._

(_Another group sings._)

   _Do you own defeat at the hands of life?
      Yes.
    Have you passed through death to stand at last face to face with the
        Deathless?
      Yes.
    Have you dealt the blow to the demon dust, that swallows your city
        Immortal?
      Yes._

(_Spring's flowers surround him and sing._)


THE SONG OF FRESH BEAUTY

   _We waited by the wayside counting moments till you appeared in the
         April morning.
    You come as a soldier-boy winning life at death's gate,--
        Oh, the wonder of it.
    We listen amazed at the music of your young voice.
      Your mantle is blown in the wind like the fragrance of the Spring.
    The white spray of_ malati _flowers in your hair shines like
        star-clusters.
      A fire burns through the veil of your smile,--
        Oh, the wonder of it.
      And who knows where your arrows are hidden which smite death?_

(_Night_)

[_The rear stage is darkened, and the light on the main stage
dimmed to the heavy purple blackness of mourning._]

(_Enter the Band of Youths._)

Chandra has gone away again, leaving us behind.

It is difficult to keep him still.

We get our rest by sitting down, but he gets his by walking on.

He has gone across the river with the blind minstrel, in whose
depth of blindness Chandra is seeking the invisible light.

That is why our Leader calls him the Diver.

Our life becomes utterly empty, when Chandra is away.

Do you feel as though something was in the air?

The sky seems to be looking into our face, like a friend bidding
farewell.

This little stream of water is trickling through the _casuarina_
grove. It seems like the tears of midnight.

We have never gazed upon the earth before with such intentness.

When we run forward at full speed, our eyes keep gazing in front
of us, and we see nothing on either side of us.

If things did not move on and vanish, we should see no beauty
anywhere.

If youth had only the heat of movement, it would get parched and
withered. But there is ever the hidden tear, which keeps it
fresh.

The cry of the world is not only "I have," but also "I give." In
the first dawning light of creation, "I have" was wedded to "I
give." If this bond of union were to snap, then everything would
go to ruin.

I don't know where that blind Minstrel has landed us at last.

It seems as though these stars in the sky above us are the
gazing of countless eyes we met in all forgotten ages. It seems
as if, through the flowers, there came the whisper of those we
have forgotten, saying Remember us.

Our hearts will break if we do not sing.

(_They sing._)

   _Did you leave behind you your love, my heart, and miss peace through
        all your days?
    And is the path you followed lost and forgotten, making your return
        hopeless?
    I go roaming listening to brooks' babble, to the rustle of leaves.
    And it seems to me that I shall find the way, that reaches the land of
        lost love beyond the evening stars._

What a strange tune is this, that comes out of the music of
Spring.

It seems like the tune of yellow leaves.

Spring has stored up its tears in secret for us all this while.

It was afraid we should not understand it, because we were so
youthful.

It wanted to beguile us with smiles.

But we shall sleep our hearts tonight in the sadness of the other
shore.

Ah, the dear earth! The beautiful earth! She wants all that we
have--the touch of our hands, the song of our hearts.

She wants to draw out from us all that is within, hidden even
from ourselves.

This is her sorrow, that she finds out some things only to know
that she has not found all. She loses before she attains.

Ah, the dear earth! We shall never deceive you.

(_They sing._)

   _I shall crown you with my garland, before I take leave.
    You ever spoke to me in all my joys and sorrows.
      And now, at the end of the day, my own heart will break in speech.
      Words came to me, but not the tune, and the song that I never sang
          to you remains hidden behind my tears._

Brother, did you notice that some one seemed to have passed by?

The only thing you feel is this passing by.

I felt the touch of the mantle of some wayfarer.

We came out to capture somebody, but now we feel the longing to
be captured ourselves.

Ah, here comes the Minstrel. Where have you brought us? The
breath of the wayfaring world touches us here,--the breath of the
starry sky.

We came seeking a new form of play. But now we have forgotten
what play it was.

We wanted to catch the Old Man.

And everybody said that he was terrifying, a bodiless head, a
gaping mouth, a dragon eager to swallow the moon of the youth of
the world. But now we are no longer afraid. The flowers go, the
leaves go, the waves in the river go, and we shall also follow
them. Ah, blind Minstrel, strike your lute and sing to us. Who
knows what is the hour of the night?

(_The Minstrel sings._)

   _Let me give my all to him, before I am asked, whom the world offers
         its all.
    When I came to him for my gifts, I was not afraid;
      And I will not fear, when I come to him, to give up what I have.
    The morning accepts his gold with songs, the evening pays him back the
        debt of gold and is glad.
    The joy of the blooming flower comes to fruit with shedding of its
        leaves.
    Hasten, my heart, and spend yourself in love, before the day is done._

Minstrel, why is Chandra still absent?

_Minstrel_

Don't you know that he has gone?

Gone?--Where?

_Minstrel_

He said, I shall go and conquer him.

Whom?

_Minstrel_

The One who is feared by all. He said, "Why else am I young?"

Ah, that was fine.--Dada goes to read his quatrains to the
village people, and Chandra has disappeared,--for what purpose
nobody knows.

_Minstrel_

He said, "Men have always been fighting for a cause. It is the
shock of that, which ruffles the breeze of this Spring."

The shock?

_Minstrel_

Yes, the message that man's fight is not yet over.

Is this the message of Spring?

_Minstrel_

Yes. Those, who have been made immortal by death, have sent their
message in these fresh leaves of Spring. It said, "We never
doubted the way. We never counted the cost: we rushed out: we
blossomed. If we had sat down to debate, then where would be the
Spring?"

Has that made Chandra mad?

_Minstrel_

He said----

(_The Minstrel sings._)

   _The Spring flowers have woven my wreath of victory,
      The South wind breathes its breath of fire in my blood.
    The voice of the house-corner wails in vain from behind.
      Death stands before me, offering its crown.
    The tempest of youth sweeps the skyharp with its fingers;
          My heart dances in its wild rhythm.
    Gathering and storing are not for me,
      I spend and scatter.
    And prudence and comfort bid me adieu in despair._

But where has he gone to?

_Minstrel_

He said, "I cannot keep waiting by the wayside any longer. I must
go and meet him, and conquer him."

But which way did he take?

_Minstrel_

He has entered the cave.

How is that? It is so fearfully dark. Did he, without making any
enquiries----

_Minstrel_

Yes, he went in to make enquiries himself.

When will he come back?

I don't believe he will ever come back.

But if Chandra leaves us, then life is not worth living.

What shall we say to our Leader?

The Leader also will leave us.

Didn't he leave any message for us before he disappeared?

_Minstrel_

He said, "Wait for me. I shall return."

Return? How are we to know it?

_Minstrel_

He said, "I will conquer, and then come back again."

Then we shall wait for him all night.

But, Minstrel, where have we got to wait for him?

_Minstrel_

Before that cave, from whence the stream of water comes flowing
out.

Which way did he go to get there?

The darkness there is like a dark sword.

_Minstrel_

He followed the sound of the night-bird's wings.

Why did you not go with him?

_Minstrel_

He left me behind to give you hope.

When did he go?

_Minstrel_

In the first hour of the watch.

Now the third hour has passed, I think. The air is chilly.

I dreamt that three women, with their hair hanging loose----

Oh, leave off your dream-women. I am sick of your dreams.

Everything appears darkly ominous. I didn't notice before the
hooting of the owl. But now----

Do you hear that dog whining on the far bank of the river?

It seems as though a witch were riding upon him and lashing him.

Surely, if it had been possible, Chandra would have come back by
now.

How I wish this night were over.

Do you hear the woman's cry?

Oh, the women, the women. They are ever crying and weeping. But
they cannot turn those back, who must go forward.

It is getting unbearable to sit still like this. Men imagine all
sorts of things when they sit still. Let us go also. As soon as
we are started on our way fear will leave us.

But who will show us the way?

There is the blind Minstrel.

What do you say, Minstrel? Can you show us the way?

_Minstrel_

Yes.

But we can hardly believe you. How can you find out the path by
simply singing?

If Chandra never comes back, you shall.

We never knew that we loved Chandra so intensely. We made light
of him all these days.

When we are in the playing mood, we become so intent on the play,
that we neglect the playmate.

But, if he once comes back, we shall never neglect him any more.

I am afraid that we have often given him pain.

Yet his love rose above all that. We never knew how beautiful he
was, when we could see him every day.

(_They sing._)

   _When there was light in my world
      You stood outside my eyes.
    Now that there is none,
      You come into my heart.
    When there were dolls for me, I played;
      You smiled and watched from the door.
    Now that the dolls have crumbled to dust,
      You come and sit by me.
    And I have only my heart for my music,
      When my lute-strings have broken._

That Minstrel sits so still and silent. I don't like it.

He looks ominous,--like the lowering autumn cloud.

Let us dismiss him.

No, no. It gives us heart, when he sits there.

Don't you see that there is no sign of fear in his face?

It seems as if some messages were striking his forehead. His body
appears to espy some one in the distance. There seem to be eyes
on the tips of his fingers.

Simply by watching him, we can see that some one is coming
through the dark.

Look. He is standing up. He is turning towards the East, and
making his obeisance.

Yet there is nothing to be seen, not even a streak of light.

Why not ask him what it is that he sees?

No, don't disturb him.

Do you know, it seems to me that the morning has dawned in him.

As if the ferry-boat of light had reached the shore of his
forehead.

His mind is still, like the morning sky.

The storm of birds' songs will burst out presently.

He is striking his lute. His heart is singing.

Hush. He is singing.

(_The Minstrel sings._)

   _Victory to thee, victory for ever,
      O brave heart.
    Victory to life, to joy, to love,
      To eternal light.
    The night shall wane, the darkness shall vanish,
      Have faith, brave heart.
    Wake up from sleep, from languor of despair,
      Receive the light of new dawn with a song._

(_A ray of light hovers before the cavern._)

Ah! There he is. Chandra! Chandra!

Hush. Don't make any noise. I cannot see him distinctly.

Ah! It cannot be any other than Chandra.

Oh, what joy!

Chandra! Come!

Chandra! How could you leave us for so long?

Have you been able to capture the Old Man?

_Chandra_

Yes, I have.

But we don't see him.

_Chandra_

He is coming.

But what did you see in the cave? Tell us.

_Chandra_

No, I cannot tell you.

Why?

_Chandra_

If my mind were a voice, then I could tell you.

But could you see him, whom you captured? Was he the Old Man of
the World?

The Old Man who would like to drink up the sea of youth in his
insatiable thirst.

Was it the One who is like the dark night, whose eyes are fixed
on his breast, whose feet are turned the wrong way round, who
walks backwards?

Was it the One who wears the garland of skulls, and lives in the
burning-ground of the dead?

_Chandra_

I do not know, I cannot say. But he is coming. You shall see him.

_Minstrel_

Yes, I see him.

[_The light strengthens and gradually throughout the scene grows
to a culminating brilliance at the close._]

Where?

_Minstrel_

Here.

He is coming out of the cave.--Some one is coming out of the
cave.

How wonderful.

_Chandra_

Why, it is you!

Our Leader!

Our Leader!

Our Leader!

Where is the Old Man?

_Leader_

He is nowhere.

Nowhere?

_Leader_

Yes, nowhere.

Then what is he?

_Leader_

He is a dream.

Then you are the real?

_Leader_

Yes.

And we are the real?

_Leader_

Yes.

Those who saw you from behind imagined you in all kinds of
shapes.

We didn't recognize you through the dust.

You seemed old.

And then you came out of the cave,--and now you look like a boy.

It seems just as if we had seen you for the first time.

_Chandra_

You are first every time. You are first over and over again.

_Leader_

Chandra! You must own your defeat. You couldn't catch the Old
Man.

_Chandra_

Let our festival begin. The sun is up.

Minstrel, if you keep so still, you will swoon away. Sing
something.

(_The Minstrel sings._)

   _I lose thee, to find thee back again and again,
        My beloved.
    Thou leavest me, that I may receive thee all the more, when thou
        returnest.
    Thou canst vanish behind the moment's screen
      Only because thou art mine for evermore,
        My beloved.
    When I go in search of thee, my heart trembles, spreading ripples
        across my love.
    Thou smilest through thy disguise of utter absence, and my tears
        sweeten thy smile._

Do you hear the hum?

Yes.

They are not bees, but the people of the place.

Then Dada must be near at hand with his quatrains.

_Dada_

Is this the Leader?

Yes, Dada.

_Dada_

Oh, I am so glad you have come. I must read my collection of
quatrains.

No. No. Not the whole collection, but only one.

_Dada_

Very well. One will do.

    The sun is at the gate of the East, his drum of victory sounding in
        the sky.
    The Night says I am blessed, my death is bliss.
    He receives his alms of gold, filling his wallet,--and departs.

That is to say----

No. We don't want your that is to say.

_Dada_

It means----

Whatever it means, we are determined not to know it.

_Dada_

What makes you so desperate?

It is our festival day.

_Dada_

Ah! Is that so? Then let me go to all the neighbours----

No, you mustn't go there.

_Dada_

But is there any need for me here?

Yes.

Then my quatrains----

_Chandra_

We shall colour your quatrains with such a thick brush, that no
one will know whether they have any meaning at all.

And then you will be without any means.

The neighbourhood will desert you.

The Watchman will take you to be a fool.

And the Pundit will take you to be a blockhead.

And your own people will consider you to be useless.

And the outside people will consider you queer.

_Chandra_

But we shall crown you, Dada, with a crown of new leaves.

We shall put a garland of jasmine round your neck.

And there will be no one else except ourselves who will know your
true worth.


THE SONG OF THE FESTIVAL OF SPRING

[_In which all the persons of the drama, not excepting
Sruti-bhushan, unite on the main stage in the dance of Spring._]

    _Come and rejoice, for April is awake.
    Fling yourselves into the flood of being, bursting the bondage of
        the past.
      April is awake.
    Life's shoreless sea is heaving in the sun before you.
    All the losses are lost, and death is drowned in its waves.
    Plunge into the deep without fear, with the gladness of April in
        your heart._

       *       *       *       *       *





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