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Poem by Edwin Arnold

The Season of Heat

With fierce noons beaming, moons of glory gleaming,
Full conduits streaming, where fair bathers lie,
With sunsets splendid, when the strong day, ended,
Melts into peace, like a tired lover's sigh--
So cometh summer nigh.

And nights of ebon blackness, laced with lustres
From starry clusters; courts of calm retreat,
Where wan rills warble over glistening marble;
Cold jewels, and the sandal, moist and sweet--
These for the time are meet

Of 'Suchi,' dear one of the bright days, bringing
Love songs for singing which all hearts enthrall,
Wine cups that sparkle at the lips of lovers,
Odors and pleasures in the palace hall:
In 'Suchi' these befall.

For then, with wide hips richly girt, and bosoms
Fragrant with blossoms, and with pearl strings gay,
Their new-laved hair unbound, and spreading round
Faint scents, the palace maids in tender play
The ardent heats allay

Of princely playmates. Through the gates their feet,
With lac-dye rosy and neat, and anklets ringing,
In music trip along, echoing the song
Of wild swans, all men's hearts by subtle singing
To Kama's service bringing;

For who, their sandal-scented breasts perceiving,
Their white pearls--weaving with the saffron stars
Girdles and diadems--their gold and gems
Linked upon waist and thigh, in Love's soft snares
Is not caught unawares?

Then lay they by their robes--no longer light
For the warm midnight--and their beauty cover
With woven veil too airy to conceal
Its dew-pearled softness; so, with youth clad over,
Each seeks her eager lover.

And sweet airs winnowed from the sandal fans,
Faint balm that nests between those gem-bound breasts,
Voices of stream and bird, and clear notes heard
From vina strings amid the songs' unrests,
Wake passion. With light jests,

And sidelong glances, and coy smiles and dances,
Each maid enhances newly sprung delight;
Quick leaps the fire of Love's divine desire,
So kindled in the season when the Night
With broadest moons is bright;

Till on the silvered terraces, sleep-sunken,
With Love's draughts drunken, those close lovers lie;
And--all for sorrow there shall come To-morrow--
The Moon, who watched them, pales in the gray sky,
While the still Night doth die.

* * * * *

Then breaks fierce Day! The whirling dust is driven
O'er earth and heaven, until the sun-scorched plain
Its road scarce shows for dazzling heat to those
Who, far from home and love, journey in pain,
Longing to rest again.

Panting and parched, with muzzles dry and burning,
For cool streams yearning, herds of antelope
Haste where the brassy sky, banked black and high,
Hath clouded promise. 'There will be'--they hope--
'Water beyond the tope!'

Sick with the glare, his hooded terrors failing,
His slow coils trailing o'er the fiery dust,
The cobra glides to nighest shade, and hides
His head beneath the peacock's train: he must
His ancient foeman trust!

The purple peafowl, wholly overmastered
By the red morning, droop with weary cries;
No stroke they make to slay that gliding snake
Who creeps for shelter underneath the eyes
Of their spread jewelries!

The jungle lord, the kingly tiger, prowling,
For fierce thirst howling, orbs a-stare and red,
Sees without heed the elephants pass by him,
Lolls his lank tongue, and hangs his bloody head,
His mighty forces fled.

Nor heed the elephants that tiger, plucking
Green leaves, and sucking with a dry trunk dew;
Tormented by the blazing day, they wander,
And, nowhere finding water, still renew
Their search--a woful crew!

With restless snout rooting the dark morasses,
Where reeds and grasses on the soft slime grow,
The wild-boars, grunting ill-content and anger,
Dig lairs to shield them from the torturing glow,
Deep, deep as they can go.

The frog, for misery of his pool departing--
'Neath that flame-darting ball--and waters drained
Down to their mud, crawls croaking forth, to cower
Under the black-snake's coils, where there is gained
A little shade; and, strained

To patience by such heat, scorching the jewel
Gleaming so cruel on his venomous head,
That worm, whose tongue, as the blast burns along,
Licks it for coolness--all discomfited--
Strikes not his strange friend dead!

The pool, with tender-growing cups of lotus
Once brightly blowing, hath no blossoms more!
Its fish are dead, its fearful cranes are fled,
And crowding elephants its flowery shore
Tramp to a miry floor.

With foam-strings roping from his jowls, and dropping
From dried drawn lips, horns laid aback, and eyes
Mad with the drouth, and thirst-tormented mouth,
Down-thundering from his mountain cavern flies
The bison in wild wise,

Questing a water channel. Bare and scrannel
The trees droop, where the crows sit in a row
With beaks agape. The hot baboon and ape
Climb chattering to the bush. The buffalo
Bellows. And locusts go

Choking the wells. Far o'er the hills and dells
Wanders th' affrighted eye, beholding blasted
The pleasant grass: the forest's leafy mass
Wilted; its waters waned; its grace exhausted;
Its creatures wasted.

Then leaps to view--blood-red and bright of hue--
As blooms sprung new on the Kusumbha-Tree--
The wild-fire's tongue, fanned by the wind, and flung
Furiously forth; the palms, canes, brakes, you see
Wrapped in one agony

Of lurid death! The conflagration, driven
In fiery levin, roars from jungle caves;
Hisses and blusters through the bamboo clusters,
Crackles across the curling grass, and drives
Into the river waves

The forest folk! Dreadful that flame to see
Coil from the cotton-tree--a snake of gold--
Violently break from root and trunk, to take
The bending boughs and leaves in deadly hold
Then passing--to enfold

New spoils! In herds, elephants, jackals, pards,
For anguish of such fate their enmity
Laying aside, burst for the river wide
Which flows between fair isles: in company
As friends they madly flee!

* * * * *

But Thee, my Best Beloved! may 'Suchi' visit fair
With songs of secret waters cooling the quiet air,
Under blue buds of lotus beds, and patalas which shed
Fragrance and balm, while Moonlight weaves over thy happy head
Its silvery veil! So Nights and Days of Summer pass for thee
Amid the pleasure-palaces, with love and melody! 

Edwin Arnold

Edwin Arnold's other poems:
  1. The Rhine and The Moselle
  2. The Division of Poland
  3. With a Bracelet in the Form of a Snake
  4. The Marriage
  5. The Falcon-Feast

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