The Poriade or Adventures of Porus
Dedicated to Mrs. E. Lock, Authoress of “Leisure Hours”, etc. etc. This book is most respectfully inscribed by her obliged and obedient servant, the Author.
It has often been observed that this is the age of facts and not of poetry; that men are more willing to follow the doctrines of Bentham than to amuse themselves with the beauties of Shakespeare. This remark has very little foundation after all. For, notwithstanding their tendency to useful objects, people are ever disposed to lend their listening ears to the gentle voice of the Muse. This consideration, however, leads me to publish this little book of poem with a view to obtain the encouragment of the public which will enable me to give the other parts to the world. To please men at their leisure hours is not the only object of my work, but some historic importance will no doubt be attached to it. The life of Pooroo (with somewhat of a poetic license of course) and his war with Alexander will be described at length.
— K.N. Dutt
The poet laments the fate of his Country—Invokes the Muse—Sindus the king of Taxilus—He being childless requests his priests to find the day when he will have a child—After consulting their rules of foretelling they presage the birth of Pooroo—Pooroo takes his birth—His Satara—His boyhood—He goes to play on the Sutledge bank—There he kills a hind—Serious reflections—He goes out to travel in the dress of a hermit—The king hears of his disappearance—The queen mourns—The priests pray—Pooroo stands on a hill and sees the stars and the moon—He sleeps in a grot—The vision appears and advises him to go to China.
Alas! the days of glory are no more,
When Hindu fame rang out from shore to shore;
When Asak’s* arms encompassed distant lands,
And Grecia trembled at our martial bands!
*Asak (Ashok) was a great Indian potentate and is known to have been the conqueror of almost whole of Asia and some parts of Europe. He was the grandson of Chandragupta or Sandrocotus of the Greeks. His exploits are all recorded in the pages of the Boodha works.
Alas! no Rama bends his massive bow,
To give a tyrant a destructive blow.
No more his pon’drous club a Bhima* wields,
Nor from savage foes, this his country shields.
*Bhima was the second son of Koonti, the wife of Pandoo, and was a hero in the war recorded in the Mahavarata. He was a very skilful wrestler and was placed at the head of the army of the Pandavas. Vyasha relates a story concerning him, which it is hoped, will please the readers both native and outlandish. When all the Kings of India as well as other parts of Asia were united in Panchal against Bhima, then in the disguise of a Brahmin, he with a large bamboo in his hand beat them all away. He is said to have killed a very dreadful giant called Hiramba in a duel which was followed by his marriage with the sister of his dead antagonist, by whom he had a son named Ghuttothkoch.
Those days are gone, those suns appear no more,
Dark, dark is now our once so sunny shore!
Our sun is bright, but we do never shine,
Since bearded hero passed Himalah-line.
Now for the blood, our tears alone are shed!
We tell a tale that such a hero bled.
Our shames are these, and those the glories were!
To these we cling, toward those we never stir!
Ah! rise my fellow men, attention pay
To this poor song, which I before you lay!
Come down, O Goddess fair, from mountain’s top,
In his uncommon flight, the poet prop,
Oh! strengthen his daring wings and let him soar
Above the clouds, and the pure Truth explore.
The man who met the master of the earth
By fair Taxila’s bank, his death, his birth,
His private life, oh Heavenly Goddess sing,
In numbers sweet, as old Castalia’s spring!
A realm there was in western part of Ind
Ruled by a king—the formidable Sind.
Its name Taxilus, and its air was fine,
And rich it was with many a golden mine.
Full oft the grisly trans-Himalan king
Would rain his hordes and gong of battle ring.
To save fair Ind from such invasions dread,
They placed the martial Sindus at the head.
High on his throne the famous monarch stands;
A golden sceptre dignifies his hands.
He calls his Brahmin priests, and fain would know
When God a son on him will sure bestow.
“Oh friends of mine and parents of my good,
Presage the time when this pure Khettria blood
Of mine shall run in other veins. Relate,
What power provoked has caused my childless state.”
Acharyas gravely sit with chalk in hand,*
And ‘gin to scratch upon the plates with sand.
*The Hindu astrologers are called Acharyas.
At last they find the day, the king address,
In orient strains, and thus the fate express:
“O potent King, the brighter days are now
To dawn upon thy fortune’s charming brow,
Three times the sun the scorpion grim shall meet
Ere you, and your beloved a son may greet,
And time shall see your future martial heir,
Upon the hugest beast to wars repair,
A mighty ‘shoor shall once invade our land,
And fiercely march destroying sword in hand;
A check he’ll meet with from your son at last
By which he shall be back on Persia east,
Though mountains fall, and the still earth uprise,
Our word as sure as* Bhishma’s arrow flies.”
*Bhishma was the son of Shantonoo and Gunga. It is said of him that he killed two heavenly beings with his arrow in their way upwards. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Kooroos in the first battle fought between them and the Pandavas, who were headed by the famous Bhima. Bhishma was never married on account of the promise he made when his father was wedded to Shuttobutty. After ten days’ continual action, the Pandavas, without any hope of success, had recourse to a foul means to kill their antagonist. An impotent man was placed before him, in consequence of which Bhishma threw away his bow and arrows, as the sight of such a creature was considered as a very bad omen. Thus disarmed, the great Bhishma was run through by Arjoon.
Thus told the sage foretellers of the fate;
And to his queen the king with joy elate.
The stated time expires, the son is born,
His bright complexion does the hall adorn.
The eyes of cheerful Sind express delight,
His mind grows big with joy at ev’ry sight.
Day after day they see the son to grow,
And ‘clipse the charming grace of all below.
The sixth day comes, the joyful maids prepare
The things required for satara-affair.
A goat is kept just by the nursery door,
A pen—a palm leaf are placed on the floor;
For Brahmah* will that night from heaven descend,
And write the fate of child from birth to end.
*Brahma is one of the Hindu Triad, and is said to have created the material world by order of the Supreme Being—Brahman, whose origin is not known to man.
For him a wooden plank is placed aright,
On which the God will sit the fate to write;
The queen herself with her surrounding maids,
Keep up the night in hand the iron blades.
Now when the dismal darkness of the night
Beyond the western main doth make its flight.
Pursued by fierce rays of the darting sun,
Who rears his head on east, as it doth run;
At such a time the queen, her maidens fair,
Forsake the room, and then to bathe repair;
Ablutions finished, come they home again,
Bow down their heads to Shusty’s* holy fane.
*Shusty is the goddess who presides over the children, and resembles the mistress of NUMA in all other respects but love.
A month passed on, the Gods now have their rites,
The moony face of child the king delights.
Six signs the Day-God doth now keep behind,
The child does learn to walk on knees they find.
Thus much, O Muse! now let my harp repose,
Throw not thy sweets on themes becoming prose,
The days of childhood suit no longer thee,
On themes sublimer let thy fingers free;
Pass o’er the barren track of Pooroo’s life;
Now sing his manhood and relate his strife;
Do justice to his might and truly say,
With what great skill the potent king did sway.
The sceptre of a realm extending wide,
From Hymalya’s chain to Ocean’s side!
Now comes the son of king to youthful age
And doth to science and arts his mind engage,
Learns every book and leaves no branch unknown,
Till on the top of learning’s hill he shone;
Now counts the stars, the planet’s path descries,
Then sees the map to find where Lanka lies;
Now tries to find the class that goose enrols,
Then learns the branch that treats of stones and coals;
Now reads and writes and learns to work a sum,
Then sings and rings and beats the stately drum;
Thus goes his time. The lovely prince one day,
Upon the Sutledge banks begins to play
With all his comrades, all supremely good;
And gazing at the streamlet’s scene they stood.
Now when his friends are charmed by nature’s grace,
The youthful prince doth seek another place,
Where trees unnumbered stand in grand array,
And hungry beasts do roam in search of prey;
To such a place th’ undaunted prince alone
Resorts with bow and arrow—sling and stone;
Now kills a goat with his unerring dart,
Then wounds a deer with admirable art;
As when his jolly friends a gambler eyes,
To bring his cards with over haste he tries;
But if the cards he does not quickly find,
Exceeding wrath disturbs his peaceful mind;
So was the prince; when he did find at last,
His quiver empty, and his arrows cast.
There lies a lake where ends this thick-grown wood,
By side of which a stately yew tree stood,
Haunts there the stag when urged by midday heat,
To quench its thirst and cool its burning feet;
Now there the prince pursued an ancient hind,
And cast at it at last his shaft unkind,
Dead fell the beast: a sigh with pathos warm
Attracts the prince’s mind profaned with harm.
He leaves his bow and pointed shafts behind,
And goes in haste where groans the dying hind.
Now sad reflection clouds his mental realm,
And questions past our thought his heart o’erwhelm:
“From whom is life? And whence this frame of man?
What mighty power has formed this mighty plan?
Why live we here? And why desire and feel?
For what we turn with time’s revolving wheel?
I eat, and live, and sleep, and spend the day
But never think of these!—my life is gay!
From this awaking hour I let my eyes
Select my way, led by the guiding Skies.
This day I leave my ever-gorgeous vest.
To visit lands, extending in the west.
Ye woods! be witness, I my country leave
And come not back until my end achieve.”
This said, the prince now throws his dress aside,
And wears the tiger’s thickly spotted hide.
A trident graced his powerful, strong right hand,
The other one supports a threatening wand;
Now that our hero moves with hasty strides
And comes where old renowned Hydaspes glides;
Passes it o’er and sees the scenes around,
And hears the waterfall’s refreshing sound;
The distant mountain shows its snowy crest
and grandly standing doth invite its guest;
It was the time when Eve her gloomy shades
Diffused on woods and mountains, vales and glades;
It was the time when that e’er-shining star
Began to shoot her light on earth afar;
Now lo! the demon Gloom doth spread his wings
O’er all that bear the name of earthly things.
Now here on Sutlege banks the prince’s mates
Suppose their friend is gone to palace gates.
Hasten they home and seek him everywhere,
But wonder, still they cannot find him there;
But wonder ceased to tease their peaceless brain
When found the prince was not to come again;
They searched the woods, the river banks they sought
But to their grief, alas! they met him not!
At last they wept aloud, the king now hears
The sad event, and sheds his bitter tears.
Somehow or other, Sindus seems to know
The mystery yet unsolved to all below;
He calls his men and thus imparts his thought—
“O mighty men, your common aid has brought
Me to the sovereignty of this land;
O my much-valued chiefs—my martial band!
To you I say with my deep-wounded mind
Go, go wher’er my lovely son you find;
Within the bounds of Asia’s land of yore
O where extends Europa’s barb’rous shore;
Where’er you see my son, go, meet him there
To bring him home no melting words you spare;
My splendour vain—my throne I want no more;
Go, go and seek my son on distant shore.”
Commanded thus they run with lightning haste,
And pass o’er fields and woods and sandy waste:
Some toward the east are moving with a speed
Resembling that of th’ strong Arabian steed;
The rising sun they face as if to catch
That glittering orb, for his neglected watch;
While others move along the mountain-chain
That fences on the west their king’s domain;
Some seek the southern lands of gloomy dread,
While others plod to north, of cold afraid;
In all directions thus the men are sent;
And priests employed, to God, their prayers now vent;—
“Almighty Sire, our feeble prayers oh hear!
Thy holy name destroys the gloom of fear;
How oft we asked thy aid, and not in vain!
How oft thy name dispelled our sorrow’s train!
Thy might hath wrought this world, thou dost protect;
Thy lash of ruin its vices shall correct;
Our tongues are poor indeed our words are few,
We scarce can say, O sire, what’s due to you,
But lend thy listening ears, if ears thou hast,
To us: and thy eyes gracious once more cast;
Thy power has placed our Sindus on the throne,
And blest him with a son, to goodness prone:
But ah! Sire, that innocent royal bud
Is lost—The palace fair shall turn to mud!
Thy sacred laws, no doubt, shall make a room
For Anarchy’s unconquerable gloom!
If Pooroo’s dead, Father, then all is gone!
And gloomy Death will reign on earth alone!!”
Thus when the minds of men were low with fears;
The pensive news now runs to Rani’s ears,
Her rosy cheeks are marked with drops of silent tears.
Now the brave Pooroo here ascends a hill,
Along which glides a soft retiring rill,
Thereon th’ undaunted prince doth stand aright
And cast his gentle eyes upon the sight;
It was a cheering night, the starry dome
Displayed the page of th’ astronomer’s tome;
The* sea-born Phoebe’s brighter, softer beam
Was lighting Nature’s face with sleeping gleam;
*It is said in the Hindu mythology that the moon rose out of the sea at the time when Ramchundra the son of Dashorath was five years of age. At this period the Hindus learnt how to calculate solar and lunar eclipses.
Lo there! that distant, passing northern star
Is beckoning the sea-man from afar!
And lo! the Pleides sit together there
To make nocturnal club for man’s affair,
Behold that demon star doth stand on high
As if commanded thus to guard the sky!
His starry sword now glittering hangs below,
His belts (of what we know not) brightly glow!
The prince’s hungry eyes were fixed on these
Enchanting scenes that ‘gan his mind to please;
As when in golden days remoter far
The well-known* Gupta and our Narsapur
* Brahmagupta and Narsapur were the two great Hindu astronomers of the ancient days.
Stood on the hills to read the opened page
Of Nature’s works and thus their minds engage.
When through the astronomic eyes they viewed
The lunar orb; their joy, their strength renewed;
So now our prince with his unaided eye
Looks at the starry realm above the sky;
Satiety o’ercomes his curious mind;
He casts his eyes abroad, around, behind;
The fruitful trees invite his sweeping eyes
The streamlet’s crystal beauty he descries,
The grassy vale o’ergrown with leafy plants,
Th’ untravelled mind of Pooroo Raj enchants;
There in a nook a silent grot he sees,
Bedecked with crystal grace the guest to please;
Where steals with hasty steps the lunar light,
And makes the grot an ever-cheering sight;
Now Pooroo moves toward these with princely air
Enters the place delightful, choice and fair,
There lies he down to sell a part of time
For rest, that seeketh man in every clime;
When gentle sleep’s intoxicating power
O’ercame his animal force at midnight hour,
A vision (sterner than Atrides met—’
While Troy’s walls stood undemolished yet)
A vision stern appeared before his eyes
Whose stature long the tall Tal tree defies,
Whose hands were much more than enow to break
A thousand like the famous Titan a neck;
Courage doth fly before his mighty breast,
His head o’er tops the mountain’s snowy crest;
Such a fierce sight appeared in Pooroo’s view;
His clothes were coloured with a various hue;
He at the prince’s face began to pout;
These broken words his shivering lips gave out:—
“Thou thoughtless boy, why are thou here tonight?
Go seek another place with hasty flight!
I know thy name, thy house is known to me,
Thou art the son of Shindhoo Raj I see;
I was a king before, but now no more,
My name resound the bounds of every shore,
Like yours my days were past in mazy thought,
Like you I sought this solitary grot,
But days went on, and Yoma’s darkest jaws
Fell close upon my neck like tiger’s claws;
I will not tell my name nor let you know
The place to which at daybreak I shall go;
But go, my silly boy, remain not here,
Where China’s realms extend, without a fear,
There shalt thou see a man of twice-two score
With hoary beards that measure cubits four.”
This said, he vanished from the prince’s sight;
Th’ approach of morn dispelled the dismal sight.
End of the first book.