STORY OF LILAVANTI
translated into English by: Laurence Hope (1865-1904)
- HEY lay the slender body down
- With all its wealth of wetted hair,
- Only a daughter of the town,
- But very young and slight and fair.
- The eyes, whose light one cannot see,
- Are sombre doubtless, like the tresses,
- The mouth's soft curving seems to be
- A roseate series of caresses.
- And where the skin has all but dried
- (The air is sultry in the room)
- Upon her breast and either side,
- It shows a soft and amber bloom.
- By women here, who knew her life,
- A leper husband, I am told,
- Took all this loveliness to wife
- When it was barely ten years old.
- And when the child in shocked dismay
- Fled from the hated husband's care
- He caught and tied her, so they say,
- Down to his bedside by her hair.
- To some low quarter of the town,
- Escaped a second time, she flew;
- Her beauty brought her great renown
- And many lovers here she knew,
- When, as the mystic Eastern night
- With purple shadow filled the air,
- Behind her window framed in light,
- She sat with jasmin in her hair.
- At last she loved a youth, who chose
- To keep this wild flower for his own,
- He in his garden set his rose
- Where it might bloom for him alone.
- Cholera came; her lover died,
- Want drove her to the streets again,
- And women found her there, who tried
- To turn her beauty into gain.
- But she who in those garden ways
- Had learnt of Love, would now no more
- Be bartered in the market place
- For silver, as in days before.
- That former life she strove to change;
- She sold the silver off her arms,
- While all the world grew cold and strange
- To broken health and fading charms.
- Till, finding lovers, but no friend,
- Nor any place to rest or hide,
- She grew despairing at the end,
- Slipped softly down a well and died.
- And yet, how short, when all is said,
- This little life of love and tears!
- Her age, they say, beside her bed,
- To-day is only fifteen years.
POEMS BY LAURENCE HOPE
|"Story of Lilavanti" is reprinted from India's Love Lyrics. Trans. Laurence Hope. New York: John Lane Co., 1906.