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Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works   By:

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EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY EDITED BY ERNEST RHYS

POETRY AND THE DRAMA

KALIDASA TRANSLATIONS OF SHAKUNTALA & OTHER WORKS

BY ARTHUR W. RYDER

THIS IS NO. 629 OF EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY . THE PUBLISHERS WILL BE PLEASED TO SEND FREELY TO ALL APPLICANTS A LIST OF THE PUBLISHED AND PROJECTED VOLUMES ARRANGED UNDER THE FOLLOWING SECTIONS:

TRAVEL · SCIENCE · FICTION THEOLOGY & PHILOSOPHY HISTORY · CLASSICAL FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ESSAYS · ORATORY POETRY & DRAMA BIOGRAPHY REFERENCE ROMANCE

THE ORDINARY EDITION IS BOUND IN CLOTH WITH GILT DESIGN AND COLOURED TOP. THERE IS ALSO A LIBRARY EDITION IN REINFORCED CLOTH

LONDON: J.M. DENT & SONS LTD. NEW YORK: E.P. DUTTON & CO.

[Illustration: KALIDASA TRANSLATIONS of SHAKUNTALA AND OTHER WORKS, BY ARTHUR. W. RYDER. UNIVERSITY of CALIFORNIA

LONDON & TORONTO PUBLISHED BY J.M. DENT &. SONS LTD & IN NEW YORK BY E.P. DUTTON &. CO]

[Illustration: Poets are the trumpets which sing to battle poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world Shelley]

FIRST ISSUE OF THIS EDITION 1912 REPRINTED 1920, 1928

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN

INTRODUCTION

KALIDASA HIS LIFE AND WRITINGS

I

Kalidasa probably lived in the fifth century of the Christian era. This date, approximate as it is, must yet be given with considerable hesitation, and is by no means certain. No truly biographical data are preserved about the author, who nevertheless enjoyed a great popularity during his life, and whom the Hindus have ever regarded as the greatest of Sanskrit poets. We are thus confronted with one of the remarkable problems of literary history. For our ignorance is not due to neglect of Kalidasa's writings on the part of his countrymen, but to their strange blindness in regard to the interest and importance of historic fact. No European nation can compare with India in critical devotion to its own literature. During a period to be reckoned not by centuries but by millenniums, there has been in India an unbroken line of savants unselfishly dedicated to the perpetuation and exegesis of the native masterpieces. Editions, recensions, commentaries abound; poets have sought the exact phrase of appreciation for their predecessors: yet when we seek to reconstruct the life of their greatest poet, we have no materials except certain tantalising legends, and such data as we can gather from the writings of a man who hardly mentions himself.

One of these legends deserves to be recounted for its intrinsic interest, although it contains, so far as we can see, no grain of historic truth, and although it places Kalidasa in Benares, five hundred miles distant from the only city in which we certainly know that he spent a part of his life. According to this account, Kalidasa was a Brahman's child. At the age of six months he was left an orphan and was adopted by an ox driver. He grew to manhood without formal education, yet with remarkable beauty and grace of manner. Now it happened that the Princess of Benares was a blue stocking, who rejected one suitor after another, among them her father's counsellor, because they failed to reach her standard as scholars and poets. The rejected counsellor planned a cruel revenge. He took the handsome ox driver from the street, gave him the garments of a savant and a retinue of learned doctors, then introduced him to the princess, after warning him that he was under no circumstances to open his lips. The princess was struck with his beauty and smitten to the depths of her pedantic soul by his obstinate silence, which seemed to her, as indeed it was, an evidence of profound wisdom. She desired to marry Kalidasa, and together they went to the temple. But no sooner was the ceremony performed than Kalidasa perceived an image of a bull. His early training was too much for him; the secret came out, and the bride was furious... Continue reading book >>




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