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An Essence of the Dusk, 5th Edition   By: (1863-1940)

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Love turns venom, now I see, Flouted Beauties vipers be.






More generally known, perhaps, than any other Hindoo legend, is the story of the demon, RÁHU, who brings about ECLIPSES, by devouring the Sun and Moon. For when the gods had upchurned the nectar, the delectable Butter of the Brine, Ráhu's mouth watered at the very sight of it: and "in the guise of a god" he mingled unperceived among them, to partake. But the Sun and Moon, the watchful Eyes of Night and Day, detected him, and told Wishnu, who cast at him his discus, and cut his body from his head: but not until the nectar was on the way down his throat. Hence, though the body died, the head became immortal: and ever since, a thing unique, "no body and all head," a byword among philosophers, he takes revenge on Sun and Moon, the great Taletellers, by "gripping" them in his horrid jaws, and holding on, till he is tired, or can be persuaded to let go. Hence, in some parts of India, the doleful shout of the country people at eclipses: Chor do! chor do[1]! and hence, also, the primary and surface meaning of our title: A Digit of the Moon in the Demon's grip : in plain English, an eclipse of the moon . And yet, legend though it be, there is something in the old mythological way of putting the case, which describes the situation in eclipses, far better than our arid scientific prose. I shall not easily forget, how, as we slid like ghosts at midnight, through the middle of the desert, along the Suez Canal[2], I watched the ghastly pallor of the wan unhappy moon, as the horrible shadow crept slowly over her face, stealing away her beauty, and turning the lone and level sands that stretched away below to a weird and ashy blue, as though covering the earth with a sepulchral sympathetic pall. For we caught the "griesly terror," Ráhu, at his horrid work, towards the end of May, four years ago.

[1] Let go! let go!

[2] Though nothing can be less romantic than a canal, gliding through that of Suez is a strange experience at night. Your great ship seems to move, swift and noiseless, through the very sand: and if only you could get there without knowing where you were, you would think that you were dreaming.

But our title has yet another meaning underneath the first, for Ahi , the name employed for Ráhu (like all other figures in Indian mythology, he is known by many names), also means a snake . Beauty persecuted by a snake is the subject of the story. That story will presently explain itself: but the relation between Ráhu , or eclipses, and a snake is so curiously illustrated by a little insignificant occurrence that happened to myself, that the reader will doubtless forgive me for making him acquainted with it.

Being at Delhi, not many years ago, I seized the opportunity to visit the Kutub Minár. There was famine in the land. At every station I had passed upon the way were piled the hides of bullocks, and from the train you might see their skeletons lying, each one bleaching where it died for want of fodder, scattered here and there on the brown and burning earth; for even every river bed was waterless, and not a single blade of green could you descry, for many hundred miles. And hence it came about, that as I gazed upon the two emaciated hacks that were to pull me from the station, a dozen miles out, and as many more back, I could bring myself to sit behind them only by the thought that thereby I should save them from a load far greater than my own, that would have been their fate on my refusal. Therefore we started, and did ultimately arrive, in the very blaze of noon.

The Kutub Minár is a needle of red stone, that rises from a plain as flat as paper to a height of two hundred and fifty feet; and you might compare it, as you catch, approaching, glimpses of it at a distance, to a colossal chimney, a Pharos, or an Efreet of the Jinn... Continue reading book >>

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