Scene II

A hall in the palace at Cowsambie.

Yougundharayan, Roomunwath.

I see his strength lie covered sleeping in flowers;
Yet is a greatness hidden in his years.

Nourish not such large hopes.

I know too well
The gliding bane that these young fertile soils
Cherish in their green darkness; and my cares
Watch to prohibit the nether snake who writhes
Sweet-poisoned, perilous in the rich grass,
Lust with the jewel love upon his hood,
Who by his own crown must be charmed, seized, changed
Into a warm great god. I seek a bride
For Vuthsa

Wisely; but whom?

One only lives
So absolute in her charm that she can keep
His senses from all straying, the child far-famed
For girls and beauty, flower by magic fate
On a fierce iron stock.

Avunthie’s golden princess! Hope not to mate
These opposite godheads. Follow Nature’s prompting,
Nor with thy human policy pervert
Her simple ends.

Nature must flower into art
And science, or else wherefore are we men?
Man out of Nature wakes to God’s complexities,
Takes her crude simple stuff and by his still
Turns things impossible into daily miracles.

This thing is difficult, and what the gain?

It gives us a long sunlit time for growth;
For we shall raise in her a tender shield
Against that iron victor in the west,
The father’s heart taking our hard defence
Forbid the king-brain in that dangerous man
Then when he’s gone, we are his greatness’ heirs
In spite of his bold Titan sons.

He must
Have fallen from his proud spirit to consent,

Another strong defeat and she is ours.

Blow then the conchs for battle.

I await
Occasion and to feel the gods inclined.

to Vuthsa entering

my son, thou comest early from thy breezes.

The dawn has spent her glories and I seek
Alurca and Vasuntha for the harp
With chanted verse and lyric ease until
The golden silences of noon arrive.
See this strange flower I plucked below the stream!
Each petal is a thought.

And the State’s cares,
King of Cowsambie?

Are they not for thee,
My mind’s wise father? Chide me not. See now,
It is thy fault for being great and wise.
What thou canst fashion sovereignly and well,
Why should I do much worse?

And when I pass?

Thy passing I forbid.

Vuthsa, thou art
Cowsambie’s king, not time’s, nor death’s.

O then,
The gods shall keep thee at my strong demand
To be the aged minister of my sons.
This they must hear. Of what use are the gods
If they crown not our just desires on earth?

Well, play thy time. Thou art a royal child,
And though young Nature in thee dallies long,
I trust her dumb and wiser brain that sees
What our loud thoughts can never reason out,
Not thinking life. She has her secret calls
And works divinely behind play and sleep,
Shaping her infant powers.

I may then go
And listen to Alurca with his harp?

Thy will
In small things train, Udayan, in the great
Make it a wrestler with the dangerous earth.

My will is for delight. They are not beautiful,
This State, these schemings. War is beautiful
And the bright ranks of armoured men and steel
That singing kisses steel and the white flocking
Of arrows that are homing birds of war.
When shall we fight again?

When battle ripens.
And what of marriage? Is it not desired?

O no, not yet! At least I think, not yet.
I’ll tell thee a strange thing, my father. I shudder,
I know it is with rapture, at the thought
Of women’s arms, and yet I dare not pluck
The joy. I think, because desire’s so sweet
That the mere joy might seem quite crude and poor
And spoil the sweetness. My father, is it so?

Perhaps, Thou hast desire for women then?

It is for every woman and for none.

One day perhaps thou shalt join war with wedlock
And pluck out from her guarded nest by force
The wonder of Avunthie, Vasavadutta.

A name of leaping sweetness I have heard!
One day I shall behold a marvellous face
And hear heaven’s harps defeated by a voice.
Do the gods whisper it? Dream are best awhile.

These things we shall consider.

PARINACA entering
Hail, Majesty!
A high-browed wanderer at the portals seeks
Admittance. Tarnished is he with the road,
Alone, yet seems a mighty price’s son.

Bring him with honour in. Such guests I love.

We should know first what soul is this abroad
And why he comes.

We’ll learn that from his lips.

Hope not to hear truth often in royal courts.
Truth! Seldom with her bright and burning wand
She touches the unwilling lips of men
Who lust and hope and fear. The gods alone
Possess her. Even our profoundest thoughts
Are crooked to avoid her and from her touch
Crawl hurt into their twilight, often hating her
Too bright for them as for our eyes the sun.
If she dwells here, it is with souls apart.

All men were not created from the mud.

See not a son of heaven in every worm.
Look round and thou wilt see a world on guard.
All life here armoured walks, shut in. Thou too
Keep, Vuthsa, a defence before thy heart.

Parinaca brings in Gopalaca.

Which is Udayan, great Cowsambie’s king?

He stands here. What’s thy need from Vuthsa? Speak.

Roomunwath, look with care upon this face.

Hail, then, Cowsambie’s majesty, well borne
Though in a young and lovely vessel! Hail!

Thou art some great one surely of this earth
Who com’st to me to live guest, comrade, friend,
Perhaps much more.

I have fought against thee, king.

The better! I am sure thou hast fought well.
Com’st thou in peace or strife?

In peace, O king,
And as thy suppliant.

Ask: I long to give.

Know first my name.

They eyes, thy face I know.

I am Gopalaca, Avunthie’s son,
Once thy most dangerous enemy held on earth.

A mighty name thou speakest, prince, nor one
To supplications tuned. Yet ask and have.

Thou heard’st me well? I am thy foeman’s son.

And therefore welcome more to Vuthsa’s heart.
Foeman! They are our playmates in the fight
And should be dear as friends who share our hours
Of closeness and desire. Why should they keep
Themselves so distant? Thou the noblest of them all,
The bravest. I have played with thee, O prince,
In the great pastime.

This was Vuthsa then!

And wherefore seeks the son of Mahasegn
Hostile Cowsambie? Or why suppliant comes
To his chief enemy?

I should know that brow.
This is thy great wise minister? That is well,
I seek a refuge.

And thou sayst thou art
Avunthie’s son?

Because I am his son.
My father casts me from him and no spot,
Once thought my own, will suffer now my tread.
Therefore I come. Vuthsa Udayan, king,
Grant me some hut, some cave upon thy soil,
Some meanest refuge for my wandering head.
But if thy heart can dwell with fear, as do
The natures of this age, or feed the snake
Suspicion, over gloomier borders send
My broken life.

Vuthsa, beware. His words
Strive to conceal their naked cunning.

What thou demand’st and more than thou demand’st,
Is without question thine. Now, if thou wilt,
Reveal the cause of thy great father’s wrath,
But only if thou wilt.

Because his bidding
Remained undone, my exile was embraced.

More plainly.

Ask me not. I am ashamed.
Nor should a son unveil his father’s fault.
They, even when they tyrannise, remain
Most dear and reverend still, who gave us birth.
This, Vuthsa, know; against thee I was aimed,
A secret arrow.

Keep thy father’s counsel.
If he shoot arrows and thou art that shaft,
I’ll welcome thee into my throbbing breast.
What thou hast asked, I sue to thee to take.
Thou seek’st a refuge, thou shalt find a home:
Thou fleest a father, here a brother waits
To clasp thee in his arms.

Too frank, too noble!

Come closer. Child of Mahasegn, wilt thou
Be king Udayan’s brother and his friend?
This proud grace wilt thou fling on the bare boon
That I have given thee? Is it much to ask?

To be thy brother was my heart’s desire.
Shod with that hope I come.

Clasp then our hands.
Gopalaca, my play, my couch, my board,
My serious labour and my trifling hours
Share henceforth, govern. All I have is thine.

Thine is the noblest soul on all the earth.

Frown not, my father. I obey my heart
Which leaped up in me when I saw his face.
Be sure my heart is wise. Gopalaca,
The sentinel love in man ever imagines
Strange perils for its object. So my minister
Expects from thee some harm. Wilt thou not then
Assure his love and pardon it the doubt?

He is a wise deep-seeing statesman, king,
And shows that wisdom now. But I will swear,
But I will prove to thee, thou noble man,
That dearest friendship is my will to him
Thou serv’st and to work on him proudest love.
Is it enough?

My father, hast thou heard?
A son of kings swears not to lying oaths.

It is enough.

Then come, Gopalaca,
Into my palace and my heart.
He goes into the palace with Gopalaca.

O life
Besieged of kings! What snare is this? What charm?
There was a falsehood in the Avunthian’s eyes.

He has given himself into his foemen’s hands
And he has sworn. He is a prince’s son.

Yes, by his sire; but the pale queen Ungarica
Was to a strange inhuman father born
And from dim shades her victor dragged her forth.

There’s here no remedy. Vuthsa is ensnared
As with a sudden charm.

I’ll watch his steps,
Keep thou such bows wherever these two walk
As never yet have missed their fleeing mark.

Yet was this nobly done on Vuthsa’s part.

O, such nobility in godlike times
Was wisdom, but not to our fall belongs.
Sweet virtue now is mother defeat
And baser, fiercer souls inherit earth.