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.
"Story of Lilavanti" is reprinted from India's Love Lyrics. Trans. Laurence Hope. New York: John Lane Co., 1906.




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