Kacha and Devayani




20

Young Kacha came from Paradise to learn the secret of immortality from a
Sage who taught the Titans, and whose daughter Devayani fell in love with
him.


KACHA

The time has come for me to take leave, Devayani; I have long sat at your
father's feet, but to-day he completed his teaching. Graciously allow me to
go back to the land of the Gods whence I came.


DEVAYANI

You have, as you desired, won that rare knowledge coveted by the Gods;--but
think, do you aspire after nothing further?


KACHA

Nothing.


DEVAYANI

Nothing at all! Dive into the bottom of your heart; does no timid wish lurk
there, fearful lest it be blighted?


KACHA

For me the sun of fulfilment has risen, and the stars have faded in its
light. I have mastered the knowledge which gives life.


DEVAYANI

Then you must be the one happy being in creation. Alas! now for the first
time I feel what torture these days spent in an alien land have been to
you, though we offered you our best.


KACHA

Not so much bitterness! Smile, and give me leave to go.


DEVAYANI

Smile! But, my friend, this is not your native Paradise. Smiles are not so
cheap in this world, where thirst, like a worm in the flower, gnaws at the
heart's core; where baffled desire hovers round the desired, and memory
never ceases to sigh foolishly after vanished joy.


KACHA

Devayani, tell me how I have offended?


DEVAYANI

Is it so easy for you to leave this forest, which through long years has
lavished on you shade and song? Do you not feel how the wind wails through
these glimmering shadows, and dry leaves whirl in the air, like ghosts of
lost hope;--while you alone, who part from us, have a smile on your lips?


KACHA

This forest has been a second mother to me, for here I have been born
again. My love for it shall never dwindle.


DEVAYANI

When you had driven the cattle to graze on the lawn, yonder banyan tree
spread a hospitable shade for your tired limbs against the mid-day heat.


KACHA

I bow to thee, Lord of the Forest! Remember me, when under thy shade other
students chant their lessons to an accompaniment of bees humming and leaves
rustling.


DEVAYANI

And do not forget our Venumati, whose swift water is one stream of singing
love.


KACHA

I shall ever remember her, the dear companion of my exile, who, like a busy
village girl, smiles on her errand of ceaseless service and croons a simple
song.


DEVAYANI

But, friend, let me also remind you that you had another companion whose
thoughts were vainly busy to make you forget an exile's cares.


KACHA

The memory of her has become a part of my life.


DEVAYANI

I recall the day when, little more than a boy, you first arrived. You stood
there, near the hedge of the garden, a smile in your eyes.


KACHA

And I saw you gathering flowers--clad in white, like the dawn bathed in
radiance. And I said, "Make me proud by allowing me to help you!"


DEVAYANI

I asked in surprise who you were, and you meekly answered that you were the
son of Vrihaspati, a divine sage at the court of the God Indra, and desired
to learn from my father that secret spell which can revive the dead.


KACHA

I feared lest the Master, the teacher of the Titans, those rivals of the
Gods, should refuse to accept me for a disciple.


DEVAYANI

But he could not refuse me when I pleaded your cause, so greatly he loves
his daughter.


KACHA

Thrice had the jealous Titans slain me, and thrice you prevailed on your
father to bring me back to life; therefore my gratitude can never die.


DEVAYANI

Gratitude! Forget all--I shall not grieve. Do you only remember benefits?
Let them perish! If after the day's lessons, in the evening solitude, some
strange tremor of joy shook your heart, remember that--but not gratitude.
If, as some one passed, a snatch of song got tangled among your texts or
the swing of a robe fluttered your studies with delight, remember that when
at leisure in your Paradise. What, benefits only!--and neither beauty nor
love nor...?


KACHA

Some things are beyond the power of words.


DEVAYANI

Yes, yes, I know. My love has sounded your heart's deepest, and makes me
bold to speak in defiance of your reserve. Never leave me! remain here!
fame gives no happiness. Friend, you cannot now escape, for your secret is
mine!


KACHA

No, no, Devayani.


DEVAYANI

How "No"? Do not lie to me! Love's insight is divine. Day after day, in
raising your head, in a glance, in the motion of your hands, your love
spoke as the sea speaks through its waves. On a sudden my voice would send
your heart quivering through your limbs--have I never witnessed it? I know
you, and therefore you are my captive for ever. The very king of your Gods
shall not sever this bond.


KACHA

Was it for this, Devayani, that I toiled, away from home and kindred, all
these years?


DEVAYANI

Why not? Is only knowledge precious? Is love cheap? Lay hold on this
moment. Have the courage to own that a woman's heart is worth all as much
penance as men undergo for the sake of power, knowledge, or reputation.


KACHA

I gave my solemn promise to the Gods that I would bring them this lore of
deathless life.


DEVAYANI

But is it true you had eyes for nothing save your books? That you never
broke off your studies to pay me homage with flowers, never lay in wait for
a chance, of an evening, to help me water my flower-beds? What made you sit
by me on the grass and sing songs you brought hither from the assembly of
the stars, while darkness stooped over the river bank as love droops over
its own sad silence? Were these parts of a cruel conspiracy plotted in your
Paradise? Was all for the sake of access to my father's heart?--and after
success, were you, departing, to throw some cheap gratitude, like small
coins, to the deluded door-keeper?


KACHA

What profit were there, proud woman, in knowing the truth? If I did wrong
to serve you with a passionate devotion cherished in secret, I have had
ample punishment. This is no time to question whether my love be true or
not; my life's work awaits me. Though my heart must henceforth enclose a
red flame vainly striving to devour emptiness, still I must go back to that
Paradise which will nevermore be Paradise to me. I owe the Gods a new
divinity, hard won by my studies, before I may think of happiness. Forgive
me, Devayani, and know that my suffering is doubled by the pain I
unwillingly inflict on you.


DEVAYANI

Forgiveness! You have angered my heart till it is hard and burning like a
thunderbolt! You can go back to your work and your glory, but what is left
for me? Memory is a bed of thorns, and secret shame will gnaw at the roots
of my life. You came like a wayfarer, sat through the sunny hours in the
shade of my garden, and to while time away you plucked all its flowers and
wove them into a chain. And now, parting, you snap the thread and let the
flowers drop on the dust! Accursed be that great knowledge you have
earned!--a burden that, though others share equally with you, will never be
lightened. For lack of love may it ever remain as foreign to your life as
the cold stars are to the un-espoused darkness of virgin Night!



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