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Title: Asneha, the legend of the opal
Author: Carlo De Fornaro, - To be updated
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.

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



                                 ASNEHA
                                   THE
                           Legend of the Opal

                        ILLUSTRATIONS AND TEXT BY
                            CARLO DE FORNARO

                        PUBLISHED BY MARCUS & CO.
                                JEWELERS
                            544 FIFTH AVENUE
                                NEW YORK

                           Copyright, 1902, by
                            CARLO DE FORNARO


    _J’aspire, volupté divine!_
    _Hymne profond, délicieux!_
    _Tous les sanglots de ta poitrine,_
    _Et crois que ton coeur s’illumine_
    _Des perles que versent tes yeux!_

                     —_C. Baudelaire._

[Illustration]


    Utter a powerful song to Indra, which will be as sweet as
    butter and honey.

                                                    —Rig Veda.

Once upon a time, in the land of Kasi, there lived a poor musician, who
was also a poet and a most imaginative storyteller. He had lost his flute
in a village brawl, and being too poor to buy a new instrument had to
content himself in relating wonderful legends concerning the gods, and
stirring tales about the jungle people.

One morning, feeling the necessity of communing with his spirit in quiet
and solitude, he wandered into the jungle under a favorite cluster of
bamboos.

[Illustration]

His soaring imagination was checked in its flight by a song of so
extraordinary a tune, so novel and strange to his ears that he fancied
he had been carried up by unknown favor to Indra’s heaven. The heavenly
singer was only a small bird with feathers like old gold, two eyes green
as emeralds, and the beak and legs of the same color.

And the Golden Bird spoke to him: “Asneha! thou hast acquired great merit
by thy devotion to matters spiritual, by thy kindness to animals and to
human beings. Therefore, if thou wilt cut a reed within these woods they
shall repeat my songs to thee.

“But have a care, thou must remain pure and not suffer to be deluded by
the love of woman, and thou shalt conquer the world.”

He cut a flute in haste and pressed his lips to it to utter a song from
it. And verily the music which flowed from its opening was divine and
golden beyond description. Sometimes it sang softly as the moonbeam plays
on a silent lake of emerald, dancing and trembling with so gentle a
rhythm that only the soul of a poet could hear its melody; at other times
it swelled its notes to the power of the roaring Maruts smiting against
the unmovable Himalayas, as the wrath of Kali with the shiver of the cold
snows from the eternal summits. Again, its melody dripped sweetly as the
whitest of honey with the scent of a thousand flowers, of innumerable
forms and shadings the most delicate. It wept, also, a song of despair
and misery, so sadly, so pitifully, that it caused the tears to surge as
readily as the Fountain of all the Sorrows.

[Illustration]

So he incised on his flute this motto:

    “Once upon a time the Golden Bird sang to me,
    Now I shall sing a golden song to the gods.”

He went from village to village, from city to city, playing with the
generosity of an inspired poet, followed by man, woman, child and beast
alike, whenever he put his flute to his lips. They offered him their
homes, their riches, their dearest possessions, but he scorned all,
accepting only a little rice with spices, partaking of shelter with the
humblest when the tempest-beaten jungle forbade his sleeping out of doors.

[Illustration]

Quickly his fame had spread, and reached the ears of the Maharajah,
who bade him appear at the palace, to vie with the court musicians,
who were the most famous in the land. The court musicians, in their
ignorance, eyed the half-naked poet with a defiant leer, as one by one
they began playing, while nearby sat the Maharajah with his daughter, the
fair Mahismati, and the courtiers around, all fairly laden with gems,
appearing as enormous glistening scarabei.

They sang and drummed, they scratched their fiddles and twanged their
guitars, they played the harps and clanked the cymbals to the admiring
assemblage of noblemen, who wondered how this miserable, half-starved
vagabond dared to compete with his wretched little instrument.

[Illustration]

When the musicians had ended, Asneha got up, announcing the Song of Songs.

It began imperceptibly, but as insinuatingly as the language of a couple
of loving eyes whispers to another loved pair; so indistinct to the ear
that it was as the incipient melody in the mind of the composer.

Then it continued, soothing and muffled as the patter of small naked
feet dancing the nautch on the marble flooring; rattled speedily as an
incessant cascade of rubies, diamonds, sapphires, pearls and emeralds
on a basin of gold. Steadily it flowed, like a Song of Desire and
Voluptuousness, filling the hall with a scarlet inundation of light;
heavy and numbing as the exhalation of soporific flowers.

But now it ascended to healthier altitudes like a Song of Victory and
Exultation, direct and concise, in a blast of crystal trumpets, higher,
slowly, in the manner of the eagle.

[Illustration]

It rang forth agitated and sonorous as a gong, yet farther, solitary,
inaccessible.

Then as if it had grown in magnitude by the ascent, it roared like
a planet as it shoots into space to restore the equilibrium of the
Universe, and suddenly, unexpectedly, in the fashion of the shooting
star, it stopped short, carrying in its wake the exhausted assemblage of
listeners to the floor as a mass of inert flesh.

One by one, as do the reeds after the violent gust of wind has blown
over, they raised themselves, but not quite so erect as before. The
musicians approached him humbly, and breaking their instruments, threw
them at his feet, salaaming and promising never to play again from that
day on.

Then Rajah Nila spoke: “Oh Asneha! Thou art indeed a great musician,
and thou shalt be rewarded as befits a king; my riches, my kingdom, my
daughter, are thine for thy choosing!”

“Oh, Rajah!” answered Asneha, “I am only a poor man and a musician by
divine grace, but I am not a beggar, and have no desire for thy kingly
gifts and thy fair daughter!”

The astonished Nila replied: “Assuredly thou art richer than am I, for
thou art freed of all desires! But let me be a beggar for once, and
entreat thee for another song!”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: PAVANA]

One day Pavana, the messenger of the gods, appeared to Asneha mounted
on his white antelope, a flag in one hand, in the other an arrow, with
a command from Indra to present himself immediately to the gods. So he
mounted the antelope, and in less time than it takes to think it, he was
carried to the eastern spur of the great Mount Meru, which is Swargra, in
the City of Asmaravati, the heaven of Indra. All the gods had assembled
there. Above all towered the great and mighty Indra, the Ruler of the
gods and Lord of the Firmament, mounted on his elephant Airavata, at his
right his dog Surana, and at his left his wife Indrani. Farther to the
left was Surya, the god of the Sun, on his winged horse Tarkshya. Agni,
the god of Fire, on a blue ram, and Varuna, the god of Waters, on his
terrible Makara.

[Illustration: VARUNA

KUVERA]

At Indra’s right was Yama, the god of Death, on a blue buffalo, with his
twin sisters, the Yamunis, at their feet, the Sarameyas, their faithful
watchdogs.

On Yama’s right was Kuvera, the god of Wealth, with his sister Kuveri, in
their aerial car of jeweled lapis-lazuli.

Then Soma, the god of the Moon, on a white antelope, and Mangala, the god
of War.

Also the goddess of Love, Radha, and all the lesser gods in magnificent
array, in all their splendor, in all their beauty and power, watching
silently Asneha.

[Illustration: AGNI]

Indra patted Airavata, and then spoke:

“Oh Asneha! Thou hast conquered the world with thy songs, and thou hast
boasted to conquer the gods too! Now make thy boast good, or thou shalt
go into the keeping of Yama!”

Asneha looked around, a little dazed by this gathering of Immortals; he
then shook his long black hair, as if to conquer timidity, and then began
his Golden Song.

Pure and exquisite as the breath of woman with teeth like pearls, as
fragrant as the rose of Cashmere, it sang, now jocund, now sad, as the
moods of love-sick Radha; plaintively yearning as an appeal to love in
the stillness of the starless night; joyous and eager as the meeting of
desirous lips; languishing as the woman’s heart fainting under the first
kiss of the loved; it redoubled powerful, passionate as the march of the
conquering male who has subdued. Abruptly it altered the rhythm as if
awakening in readiness for battle, with the clamor of an army lusting
for carnage, with the clank of swords, the discordant clash of shields,
armors and spears, the dull thud of shattered bones and skulls, vehement
imprecations, deep blasphemies, full of rancor, hatred and vengeance.

[Illustration: YAMA]

Then succeeded a silence, heavy, full of terrible signs, as of a silent
flapping of wings, of a roaming of untold shadows, blacker than the night.

It repeated the death-song of the jackal and the hyena, with its
harassing, fiendish chorus, pursuing in a mad dance with strange rhythms,
the lively reel of the black scavengers on the silent and pale corpses.
Then it died out, purling and gurgling as life ebbs out of a tortured
body from a deep and crimson wound.

Pity and compassion returned to the song, gently, caressingly, as if
nursing multiple wounds, infusing sympathy and life, like the wind, which
laden with coolness and fragrance, sweeps over an arid and desolate
valley.

It broke into a chant, strong and overwhelming, and so irresistible that
it was as a strain of Perfect Joy; persevered tenfold, omnipotent, with
a note so true, so deep and so infinite that it was like a sip of the
Amrita, blissful and oblivious.

All the gods encircled Asneha, instinctively, irresistibly, as the cobras
surround the snake-charmer when he plays to them his captivating melody.

[Illustration]

They stared at him fixedly as if to get the sound from its original
source, and when he had ended they stood one instant stock-still, dumb,
overflowing with admiration and ecstasy. Then they all pressed around
him, speaking and shouting confusedly like ordinary mortals. But a
hush fell over the assemblage as the great Indra slowly made his way
to Asneha, and for a while stood absorbed and pensive, looking at the
musician.

He then spoke with his clear, sonorous voice: “Asneha! Verily thou hast
made thy daring boast good, therefore thou shalt become immortal too!

“I cannot offer thee what is earthly, for thou canst acquire all earthly
things with thy song. But I have created a gem which comprises all the
harmonies, all the melodies of music in color. It is ever changing, ever
beautiful and imperishable as are your songs. Take it, and delight with
it the mortals!”

To the kneeling Asneha he extended his palm, where scintillated, luminous
and irradiating as a perfect song, the Opal.

[Illustration]





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