Primitive Love and Love-Stories
by Henry Theophilus Finck
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No. 40: "O you pitiless man! You who are afraid of your wife and difficult to catch sight of! You who resemble (in bitterness) a nimba worm—and yet who are the delight of the village women! For does not the (whole) village grow thin (longing) for you?"

No. 44: "The sweetheart will not fail to come back into his heart even though he caress another girl, whether he see in her the same charms or not."

No. 83: "This young farmer, O beautiful girl, though he already has a beautiful wife, has nevertheless become so reduced that his own jealous wife has consented to deliver this message to you."

The last two poems hint at the ease with which feminine jealousy is suppressed in India, of which we have had some instances before and shall have others presently. Coyness seems to be not much more developed, at least among those who need it most:

No. 465: "By being kind to him again at first sight you deprived yourself, you foolish girl, of many pleasures—his prostration at your feet and his eager robbing of a kiss."

No. 45: "Since youth (rolls on) like the rapids of a river, the days speed away and the nights cannot be checked—my daughter! what means this accursed, proud reserve?"

No. 139: "On the pretext that the descent to the Goda (river) is difficult, she threw herself in his arms. And he clasped her tightly without thereby incurring any reproach." (See also No. 108.)

No. 121: "Though disconsolate at the death of her relatives, the captive girl looked lovingly upon the young kidnapper, because he appeared to her to be a perfect (hero). Who can remain sulky in the face of virtues?"

Such love as these women felt is fickle and transient:

No. 240: "Through being out of sight, my child, in course of time the love dwindles away even of those who were firmly joined in tender union, as water runs from the hollow of the hand."

No. 106: "O heart that, like a long piece of wood which is being carried down the rapids of a small stream is caught at every place, your fate is nevertheless to be burnt by some one!"

No. 80: "By being out of sight love goes away; by seeing too often it goes away; also by the gossip of malicious persons it goes away; yes, it also goes away by itself."

"If the bee, eager to sip, always seeks the juices of new growths, this is the fault of the sapless flowers, not of the bee."

Where love is merely sensual and shallow lovers' quarrels do not fan the flame, but put it out:

"Love which, once dissolved, is united again, after unpleasant things have been revealed, tastes flat, like water that has been boiled."

The commercial element is conspicuous in this kind of love; it cannot persist without a succession of presents:

No. 67: "When the festival is over nothing gives pleasure. So also with the full moon late in the morning—and of love, which at last becomes insipid—and with gratification, that does not manifest itself in the form of presents."

The illicit, impure aspect of Oriental love is hinted at in many of the poems collected by Hala. There are frequent allusions to rendezvous in temples, which are so quiet that the pigeons are scared by the footsteps of the lovers; or in the high grain of the harvest fields; or on the river banks, so deserted that the monkeys there fill their paunches with mustard leaves undisturbed.

No. 19: "When he comes what shall I do? What shall I say and what will come of this? Her heart beats as, with these thoughts, the girl goes out on her first rendezvous." (Cf. also Nos. 223 and 491.)

No. 628: "O summer time! you who give good opportunities for rendezvous by drying the small ditches and covering the trees with a dense abundance of leaves! you test-plate of the gold of love-happiness, you must not fade away yet for a long time."

No. 553: "Aunt, why don't you remove the parrot from this bed-chamber? He betrays all the caressing words to others."

Hindoo poets have the faculty, which they share with the Japanese, of bringing a whole scene or episode vividly before the eyes with a sentence or two, as all the foregoing selections show. Sometimes a whole story is thus condensed, as in the following:

"'Master! He came to implore our protection. Save him!' thus speaking, she very slyly hastened to turn over her paramour to her suddenly entering husband." (See also No. 305 and Hitopadesa, p. 88.)


Since Hindoo women, in spite of their altruistic training, are prevented by their lack of culture or virtue (the domestic virtuous women have no culture and the cultured bayaderes have no virtue) from rising to the heights of sentimental love, it would be hopeless to expect the amazingly selfish, unsympathetic and cruel men to do so, despite their intellectual culture. Among all the seven hundred poems culled by Hala there are only two or three which even hint at the higher phases of love in masculine bosoms. Inasmuch as No. 383 tells us that even "the male elephant, though tormented by great hunger, thinking of his beloved wife, allows the juicy lotos-stalk to wither in his trunk," one could hardly expect of man less than the sentiment expressed in No. 576: "He who has a faithful love considers himself contented even in misfortune, whereas without his love he is unhappy though he possess the earth." Another poem indicating that Hindoo men may share with women a strong feeling of amorous monopolism is No. 498:

"He regards only her countenance, and she, too, is quite intoxicated at sight of him. Both of them, satisfied with one another, act as if in the whole world there were no other women or men."

But as a rule the men are depicted as being fickle, even more so than the women. A frequent complaint of the girls is that the men forget whom they happen to be caressing and call them by another girl's name. More frequent still are the complaints of neglect or desertion. One of these, No. 46, suggests the praises of night sung in the mediaeval legend of Tristan and Isolde:

"To-morrow morning, my beloved, the hard-hearted goes away—so people say. O sacred night! do lengthen so that there will be no morning for him."

At first sight the most surprising and important of Hala's seven hundred poems seems to be No. 567:

"Only over me, the iron-hearted, thunder, O cloud, and with all your might; be sure that you do not kill my poor one with the hanging locks."

Here, for once, we have the idea of self-sacrifice—only the idea, it is true, and not the act; but it indicates a very exceptional and exalted state for a Hindoo even to think of such a thing. The self-reproach of "iron-hearted" tells us, however, that the man has been behaving selfishly and cruelly toward his sweetheart or wife, and is feeling sorry for a moment. In such moments a Hindoo not infrequently becomes human, especially if he expects new favors of the maltreated woman, which she is only too willing to grant:

No. 85: "While with the breath of his mouth he cooled one of my hands, swollen from the effect of his blow, I put the other one laughingly around his neck."

No. 191: "By untangling the hair of her prostrate lover from the notches of her spangles in which it had been caught, she shows him that her heart has ceased to be sulky."

References to such prostrations to secure forgiveness for inconstancy or cruelty are frequent in Hindoo poems and dramas, and it is needless to say that they are a very different thing from the disinterested prostrations and homage of modern gallantry. True gallantry being one of the altruistic ingredients of love, it would be useless to seek for it among the Hindoos. Not so with hyperbole, which being simply a magnifying of one's own sensations and an expression of extravagant feeling of any kind, forms, as we know, a phase of sensual as well as of sentimental love. The eager desire for a girl's favor makes her breath and all her attributes seem delicious not only to man but to inanimate things. The following, with the finishing touches applied by the German translator, approaches modern poetic sentiment more closely than any other of Hala's songs:

No. 13: "O you who are skilled in cooking! Do not be angry (that the fire fails to burn). The fire does not burn, smokes only, in order to drink in (long) the breath of (your) mouth, perfumed like red patela blossoms."

In the use of hyperbole it is very difficult to avoid the step from the sublime to the ridiculous. The author of No. 153 had a happy thought when he sang that his beloved was so perfect a beauty that no one had ever been able to see her whole body because the eye refused to leave whatever part it first alighted on. This pretty notion is turned into unconscious burlesque by the author of No. 274, who complains,

"How can I describe her from whose limbs the eyes that see them cannot tear themselves away, like a weak cow from the mud she is sticking in."

Hardly less grotesque to our Western taste is the favorite boast (No. 211 et passim) that the moon is making vain efforts to shine as brightly as the beloved's face. It is easier for us to sympathize with the Hindoo poets when they express their raptures over the eyes or locks of their beloved:

No. 470: "Other beauties too have in their faces beautiful wide black eyes, with long lashes, but they cannot cast such glances as you do."

No. 77: "I think of her countenance with her locks floating loosely about it as she shook her head when I seized her lip—like unto a lotos flower surrounded by a swarm of (black) bees attracted by its fragrance."

Yet even these two references to personal beauty are not purely esthetic, and in all the others the sensual aspect is more emphasized:

No. 556: "The brown girl's hair, which had succeeded in touching her hips, weeps drops of water, as it were, now that she comes out of the bath, as if from fear of now being tied up again."

No. 128: "As by a miracle, as by a treasure, as in heaven, as a kingdom, as a drink of ambrosia, was I affected when I (first) saw her without any clothing."

No. 473: "For the sake of the dark-eyed girls whose hips and thighs are visible through their wet dresses when they bathe in the afternoon, does Kama [the god of love] wield his bow."

Again and again the poets express their raptures over exaggerated busts and hips, often in disgustingly coarse comparisons—lines which cannot be quoted here.[275]


In his History of Indian Literature (209), Weber says that

"the erotic lyric commences for us with certain of the poems attributed to Kalidasa." "The later Kavyas are to be ranked with the erotic poems rather than with the epic. In general this love-poetry is of the most unbridled and extravagantly sensual description; yet examples of deep and truly romantic tenderness are not wanting."

Inasmuch as he attributes the same qualities to some of the Hala poems in which we have been unable to find them, it is obvious that his conception of "deep and truly romantic tenderness" is different from ours, and it is useless to quarrel about words. Hala's collection, being an anthology of the best love-songs of many poets, is much more representative and valuable than if the verses were all by the same poet. If Hindoo bards and bayaderes had a capacity for true altruistic love-sentiment, these seven hundred songs could hardly have failed to reveal it. But to make doubly sure that we are not misrepresenting a phase of the history of civilization, let us examine the Hindoo dramas most noted as love-stories, especially those of Kalidasa, whose Sakuntala in particular was triumphantly held up by some of my critics as a refutation of my theory that none of the ancient civilized nations knew romantic love. I shall first briefly summarize the love-stories told in these dramas, and then point out what they reveal in regard to the Hindoo conception of love as based, presumably, on their experiences.


Once upon a time there lived on the banks of the Gautami River a hermit named Kaucika. He was of royal blood and had made so much progress with his saintly exercises of penitence that he was on the point of being able to defy the laws of Nature, and the gods themselves began to fear his power. To deprive him of it they sent down a beautiful apsara (celestial bayaderes) to tempt him. He could not resist her charms, and broke his vows. A daughter was born who received the name of Sakuntala, and was given in charge of another saint, named Kanva, who brought her up lovingly as if she had been his own daughter. She has grown up to be a maiden of more than human beauty, when one day she is seen by the king, who, while hunting, has strayed within the sacred precincts while the saint is away on a holy errand. He is at once fascinated by her beauty—a beauty, as he says to himself, such as is seldom found in royal chambers—a wild vine more lovely than any garden-plant—and she, too, confesses to her companions that since she has seen him she is overcome by a feeling which seems out of place in this abode of penitence.

The king cannot bear the idea of returning to his palace, but encamps near the grove of the penitents. He fears that he may not be able to win the girl's love, and she is tortured by the same doubt regarding him. "Did Brahma first paint her and then infuse life into her, or did he in his spirit fashion her out of a number of spirits?" he exclaims. He wonders what excuse he can have for lingering in the grove. His companion suggests gathering the tithe, but the king retorts: "What I get for protecting her is to be esteemed higher than piles of jewels." He now feels an aversion to hunting. "I would not be able to shoot this arrow at the gazelles who have lived with her, and who taught the beloved to gaze so innocently." He grows thin from loss of sleep. Unable to keep his feelings locked up in his bosom, he reveals them to his companion, the jester, but afterward, fearing he might tell his wives about this love-affair, he says to him:

"Of course there is no truth in the notion that I coveted this girl Sakuntala. Just think! how could we suit one another, a girl who knows nothing of love and has grown up perfectly wild with the young gazelles? No, my friend, you must not take a joke seriously."

But all the time he grows thinner from longing—so thin that his bracelet, whose jewels have lost all their lustre from his tears, falls constantly from his arm and has to be replaced.

In the meantime Sakuntala, without lacking the reserve and timidity proper to the girls of penitents, has done several things that encouraged the king to hope. While she avoided looking straight at him (as etiquette prescribed), there was a loving expression on her face, and once, when about to go away with her companions, she pretended that her foot had been cut by a blade of kusagrass—but it was merely an excuse for turning her face. Thus, while her love is not frankly discovered, it is not covered either. She doubts whether the king loves her, and her agony throws her into a feverish state which her companions try in vain to allay by fanning her with lotos leaves. The king is convinced that the sun's heat alone could not have affected her thus. He sees that she has grown emaciated and seems ill. "Her cheeks," he says,

"have grown thin, her bosom has lost its firm tension, her body has grown attenuated, her shoulders stoop, and pale is her face. Tortured by love, the girl presents an aspect as pitiable as it is lovable; she resembles the vine Madhavi when it is blighted by the hot breath of a leaf-desiccating wind."

He is watching her, unseen himself, as she reclines in an arbor with her friends, who are fanning her. He hears her say: "Since the hour when he came before my eyes ... the royal sage, ah, since that hour I have become as you see me—from longing for him;" and he wonders, "how could she fear to have any difficulty in winning her lover?" "The little hairs on her cheek reveal her passion by becoming erect," he adds as he sees her writing something with her nails on a lotos leaf. She reads to her companions what she has written: "Your heart I know not; me love burns day and night, you cruel one, because I think of you alone."[276] Encouraged by this confession, the king steps from his place of concealment and exclaims: "Slender girl, the glowing heat of love only burns you, but me it consumes, and incessant is the great torture." Sakuntala tries to rise, but is too weak, and the king bids her dispense with ceremony. While he expresses his happiness at having found his love reciprocated, one of the companions mutters something about "Kings having many loves," and Sakuntala herself exclaims: "Why do you detain the royal sage? He is quite unhappy because he is separated from his wives at court." But the king protests that though he has many women at court, his heart belongs to no other but her. Left alone with Sakuntala, he exclaims:

"Be not alarmed! For am not I, who brings you adoring homage, at your side? Shall I fan you with the cooling petals of these water-lilies? Or shall I place your lotos feet on my lap and fondle them to my heart's content, you round-hipped maiden?"

"God forbid that I should be so indiscreet with a man that commands respect," replies Sakuntala. She tries to escape, and when the king holds her, she says: "Son of Puru! Observe the laws of propriety and custom! I am, indeed, inflamed by love, but I cannot dispose of myself." The king urges her not to fear her foster father. Many girls, he says, have freely given themselves to kings without incurring parental disapproval; and he tries to kiss her. A voice warns them that night approaches, and, hearing her friends returning, Sakuntala urges the king to conceal himself in the bushes.

Sakuntala now belongs to the king; they are united according to one of the eight forms of Hindoo marriage known as that of free choice. After remaining with her a short time the king returns to his other wives at court. Before leaving he puts a seal ring on her finger and tells her how she can count the days till a messenger shall arrive to bring her to his palace. But month after month passes and no messenger arrives. "The king has acted abominably toward Sakuntala," says one of her friends; "he has deceived an inexperienced girl who put faith in him. He has not even written her a letter, and she will soon be a mother." She feels convinced, however, that the king's neglect is due to the action of a saint who had cursed Sakuntala because she had not waited on him promptly. "Like a drunkard, her lover shall forget what has happened," was his curse. Relenting somewhat, he added afterward that the force of the curse could be broken by bringing to the king some ornament that he might have left as a souvenir. Sakuntala has her ring, and relying on that she departs with a retinue for the royal abode. On the way, in crossing a river, she loses the ring, and when she confronts the king he fails to remember her and dismisses her ignominiously. A fisherman afterward finds the ring in the stomach of a fish, and it gets into the hands of the king, who, at sight of it, remembers Sakuntala and is heartbroken at his cruel conduct toward her. But he cannot at once make amends, as he has chased her away, and it is not till some years later, and with supernatural aid, that they are reunited.


The saint Narayana had spent so many years in solitude, addicted to prayers and ascetic practices, that the gods dreaded his growing power, which was making him like unto them, and to break it they sent down to him some of the seductive apsaras. But the saint held a flower-stalk to his loins, and Urvasi was born, a girl more beautiful than the celestial bayaderes who had been sent to tempt him. He gave this girl to the apsaras to take as a present to the god Indra, whose entertainers they were. She soon became the special ornament of heaven and Indra used her to bring the saints to fall.

One day King Pururavas, while out driving, hears female voices calling for help. Five apsaras appear and implore him, if he can drive through the air, to come to the assistance of their companion Urvasi, who has been seized and carried away, northward, by a demon. The king forthwith orders his charioteer to steer in that direction, and erelong he returns victorious, with the captured maiden on his chariot. She is still overcome with terror, her eyes are closed, and as the king gazes at her he doubts that she can be the daughter of a cold and learned hermit; the moon must have created her, or the god of love himself. As the chariot descends, Urvasi, frightened, leans against the king's shoulder, and the little hairs on his body stand up straight, so much is he pleased thereat. He brings her back to the other apsaras, who are on a mountain-top awaiting their return. Urvasi, too much overcome to thank him for her rescue, begs one of her friends to do it for her, whereupon the apsaras, bidding him good-by, rise into the air. Urvasi lingers a moment on the pretence that her pearl necklace has got entangled in a vine, but in reality to get another peep at the king, who addresses fervent words of thanks to the bush for having thus given him another chance to look on her face. "Rising into the air," he exclaims, "this girl tears my heart from my body and carries it away with her."

The queen soon notices that his heart has gone away with another. She complains of this estrangement to her maid, to whom she sets the task of discovering the secret of it. The maid goes at it slyly. Addressing the king's viduschaka (confidential adviser), she informs him that the queen is very unhappy because the king addressed her by the name of the girl he longs for. "What?" retorts the viduschaka—"the king himself has revealed the secret? He called her Urvasi?" "And who, your honor, is Urvasi?" says the maid. "She is one of the apsaras," he says. "The sight of her has infatuated the king's senses so that he tortures not only the queen but me, the Brahman, too, for he no longer thinks of eating." But he expresses his conviction that the folly will not last long, and the maid departs.

Urvasi, tortured, like the king, by love and doubt, suppresses her bashfulness and asks one of her friends to go with her to get her pearl necklace which she had left entangled in the vine. "Then you are hurrying down, surely, to see Pururavas, the king?" says the friend; "and whom have you sent in advance?" "My heart," replied Urvasi. So they fly down to the earth, invisible to mortals, and when they see the king, Urvasi declares that he seems to her even more beautiful than at their first meeting. They listen to the conversation between him and the viduschaka. The latter advises his master to seek consolation by dreaming of a union with his love, or by painting her picture, but the king answers that dreams cannot come to a man who is unable to sleep, nor would a picture be able to stop his flood of tears. "The god of love has pierced my heart and now he tortures me by denying my wish." Encouraged by these words, but unwilling to make herself visible, Urvasi takes a piece of birch-bark, writes on it a message, and throws it down. The king sees it fall, picks it up and reads:

"I love you, O master; you did not know, nor I, that you burn with love for me. No longer do I find rest on my coral couch, and the air of the celestial grove burns me like fire."

"What will he say to that?" wonders Urvasi, and her friend replies, "Is there not an answer in his limbs, which have become like withered lotos stalks?" The king declares to his friend that the message on the leaf has made him as happy as if he had seen his beloved's face. Fearing that the perspiration on his hand (the sign of violent love) might wash away the message, he gives the birch-bark to the viduschaka. Urvasi's friend now makes herself visible to the king, who welcomes her, but adds that the sight of her delights him not as it did when Urvasi was with her. "Urvasi bows before you," the apsara answers, "and sends this message: 'You were my protector, O master, when a demon offered me violence. Since I saw you, god Kama has tortured me violently; therefore you must sometime take pity on me, great king!'" And the king retorts: "The ardor of love is here equally great on either side. It is proper that hot iron be welded with hot iron." After this Urvasi makes herself visible, too, but the king has hardly had time to greet her, when a celestial messenger arrives to summon her hastily back to heaven, to her own great distress and the king's.

Left alone, the king wants to seek consolation in the message written on the birch-bark. But to their consternation, they cannot find it. It had dropped from the viduschaka's hand and the wind had carried it off. "O wind of Malaya," laments the king,

"you are welcome to all the fragrance breathing from the flowers, but of what use to you is the love-letter you have stolen from me? Know you not that a hundred such consolers may save the life of a love-sick man who cannot hope soon to attain the goal of his desires?"

In the meantime the queen and her maid have appeared in the background. They come across the birch-bark, see the message on it, and the maid reads it aloud. "With this gift of the celestial girl let us now meet her lover," says the queen, and stepping forward, she confronts the king with the words: "Here is the bark, my husband. You need not search for it longer." Denial is useless; the king prostrates himself at her feet, confessing his guilt and begging her not to be angry at her slave. But she turns her back and leaves him. "I cannot blame her," says the king; "homage to a woman leaves her cold unless it is inspired by love, as an artificial jewel leaves an expert who knows the fire of genuine stones." "Though Urvasi has my heart," he adds, "yet I highly esteem the queen. Of course, I shall meet her with firmness, since she has disdained my prostration at her feet."

The reason why Urvasi had been summoned back to heaven so suddenly was that Indra wanted to hear a play which the celestial manager had rehearsed with the apsaras. Urvasi takes her part, but her thoughts are so incessantly with the king that she blunders repeatedly. She puts passion into lines which do not call for it, and once, when she is called on to answer the question, "To whom does her heart incline?" she utters the name of her own lover instead of the one of similar sound called for in the play. For these mistakes her teacher curses her and forbids her remaining in heaven any longer. Then Indra says to the abashed maiden: "I must do a favor to the king whom you love and who aids me in battle. Go and remain with him at your will, until you have borne him a son."

Ignorant of the happiness in store for him, the king meanwhile continues to give utterance to his longings and laments. "The day has not passed so very sadly; there was something to do, no time for longing. But how shall I spend the long night, for which there is no pastime?" The viduschaka counsels hope, and the king grants that even the tortures of love have their advantage; for, as the force of the torrent is increased a hundredfold if a rock is interposed, so is the power of love if obstacles retard the blissful union. The twitching of his right arm (a favorable sign) augments his hope. At the moment when he remarks: "The anguish of love increases at night," Urvasi and her friend came down from the air and hover about him. "Nothing can cool the flame of my love," he continues,

"neither a bed of fresh flowers, nor moonlight, nor strings of pearls, nor sandal ointment applied to the whole body. The only part of my body that has attained its goal is this shoulder, which touched her in the chariot."

At these words Urvasi boldly steps before the king, but he pays no attention to her. "The great king," she complains to her friend, "remains cold though I stand before him." "Impetuous girl," is the answer, "you are still wearing your magic veil; he cannot see you."

At this moment voices are heard and the queen appears with her retinue. She had already sent a message to the king to inform him that she was no longer angry and had made a vow to fast and wear no finery until the moon had entered the constellation of Rohini, in order to express her penitence and conciliate her husband. The king, greeting her, expresses sorrow that she should weaken her body, delicate as lotos root, by thus fasting. "What?" he adds, "you yourself conciliate the slave who ardently longs to be with you and who is anxious to win your indulgence!" "What great esteem he shows her!" exclaims Urvasi, with a confused smile; but her companion retorts: "You foolish girl, a man of the world is most polite when he loves another woman." "The power of my vow," says the queen, "is revealed in his solicitude for me." Then she folds her hands, and, bowing reverently, says:

"I call to witness these two gods, the Moon and his Rohini, that I beg my husband's pardon. Henceforth may he, unhindered, associate with the woman whom he loves and who is glad to be his companion."

"Is he indifferent to you?" asks the viduschaka. "Fool!" she replies; "I desire only my husband's happiness, and give up my own for that. Judge for yourself whether I love him."

When the queen has left, the king once more abandons himself to his yearning for his beloved. "Would that she came from behind and put her lotos hands over my eyes." Urvasi hears the words and fulfils his wish. He knows who it is, for every little hair on his body stands up straight. "Do not consider me forward if now I embrace his body," says Urvasi to her friend; "for the queen has given him to me." "You take my body as the queen's present," says the king; "but who, you thief, allowed you before that to steal my heart?" "It shall always be yours and I your slave alone," he continues. "When I took possession of the throne I did not feel so near my goal as now when I begin my service at your feet." "The moon's rays which formerly tortured me now refresh my body, and welcome are Kama's arrows which used to wound me." "Did my delaying do you harm?" asks Urvasi, and he replies: "Oh, no! Joy is sweeter when it follows distress. He who has been exposed to the sun is cooled by the tree's shade more than others;" and he ends the same with the words: "A night seemed to consist of a hundred nights ere my wish was fulfilled; may it be the same now that I am with you, O beauty! how glad I should be!"

Absorbed by his happy love, the king hands over the reins of government to his ministers and retires with Urvasi to a forest. One day he looks for a moment thoughtfully at another girl, whereat Urvasi gets so jealous that she refuses to accept his apology, and in her anger forgets that no woman must walk into the forest of the war-god. Hardly has she entered when she is changed into a vine. The king goes out of his mind from grief; he roams all over the forest, alternately fainting and raving, calling upon peacock and cuckoo, bee, swan, and elephant, antelope, mountain, and river to give him tidings of his beloved, her with the antelope eyes and the big breasts, and the hips so broad that she can only walk slowly. At last he sees in a cleft a large red jewel and picks it up. It is the stone of union which enables lovers to find one another. An impulse leads him to embrace the vine before him and it changes to Urvasi. A son is afterward born to her, but she sends him away before the king knows about it, and has him brought up secretly lest she be compelled to return at once to heaven. But Indra sends a messenger to bring her permission to remain with the king as long as he lives.


Queen Dharini, the head wife of King Agnimitra, has received from her brother a young girl named Malavika, whom he has rescued from robbers. The queen is just having a large painting made of herself and her retinue, and Malavika finds a place on it at her side. The king sees the picture and eagerly inquires: "Who is that beautiful maiden?" The suspicious queen does not answer his question, but takes measures to have the girl carefully concealed from him and kept busy with dancing lessons. But the king accidentally hears Malavika's name and makes up his mind that he must have her. "Arrange some stratagem," he says to his viduschaka, "so I may see her bodily whose picture I beheld accidentally." The viduschaka promptly stirs up a dispute between the two dancing-masters, which is to be settled by an exhibition of their pupils before the king. The queen sees through the trick too late to prevent its execution and the king's desire is gratified. He sees Malavika, and finds her more beautiful even than her picture—her face like the harvest moon, her bosom firm and swelling, her waist small enough to span with the hand, her hips big, her toes beautifully curved. She has never seen the king, yet loves him passionately. Her left eye twitches—a favorable sign—and she sings: "I must obey the will of others, but my heart desires you; I cannot conceal it." "She uses her song as a means of offering herself to you," says the viduschaka to the king, who replies: "In the presence of the queen her love saw no other way." "The Creator made her the poisoned arrow of the god of love," he continues to his friend after the performance is over and they are alone. "Apply your mind and think out other plans for meeting her." "You remind me," says the viduschaka, "of a vulture that hovers over a butcher's shop, filled with greed for meat but also with fear. I believe the eagerness to have your will has made you ill." "How were it possible to remain well?" the king retorts. "My heart no longer desires intimacies with any woman in all my harem. To her with the beautiful eyes, alone shall my love be devoted henceforth."

In the royal gardens stands an asoka tree whose bloom is retarded. To hasten it, the tree must be touched by the decorated foot of a beautiful woman. The queen was to have done this, but an accident has injured her foot and she has asked Malavika to take her place. While the king and his adviser are walking in the garden they see Malavika all alone. Her love has made her wither like a jasmine wreath blighted by frost. "How long," she laments, "will the god of love make me endure this anguish, from which there is no relief?" One of the queen's maids presently arrives with the paints and rings for decorating Malavika's feet. The king watches the proceeding, and after the maiden has touched the tree with her left foot he steps forward, to the confusion of the two women. He tells Malavika that he, like the tree, has long had no occasion to bloom, and begs her to make him also, who loves only her, happy with the nectar of her touch. Unluckily this whole scene has also been secretly witnessed by Iravati, the second of the king's wives, who steps forward at this moment and sarcastically tells Malavika to do his bidding. The viduschaka tries to help out his confused master by pretending that the meeting was accidental, and the king humbly calls himself her loving husband, her slave, asks her pardon, and prostrates himself; but she exclaims: "These are not the feet of Malavika whose touch you desire to still your longing," and departs. The king feels quite hurt by her action. "How unjust," he exclaims,

"is love! My heart belongs to the dear girl, therefore Iravati did me a service by not accepting my prostration. And yet it was love that led her to do that! Therefore I must not overlook her anger, but try to conciliate her."

Iravati goes straight to the first queen to report on their common husband's new escapade. When the king hears of this he is astonished at "such persistent anger," and dismayed on learning further that Malavika is now confined in a dungeon, under lock and key, which cannot be opened unless a messenger arrives with the queen's own seal ring. But once more the viduschaka devises a ruse which puts him in possession of the seal ring. The maiden is liberated and brought to the water-house, whither the king hastens to meet her with the viduschaka, who soon finds an excuse for going outside with the girl's companion, leaving the lovers alone. "Why do you still hesitate, O beauty, to unite yourself with one who has so long longed for your love?" exclaims the king; and Malavika answers: "What I should like to do I dare not; I fear the queen." "You need not fear her." "Did I not see the master himself seized with fear when he saw the queen?" "Oh, that," replies the king, "was only a matter of good breeding, as becomes princes. But you, with the long eyes, I love so much that my life depends on the hope that you love me too. Take me, take me, who long have loved you." With these words he embraces her, while she tries to resist. "How charming is the coyness of young girls!" he exclaims.

"Trembling, she tries to restrain my hand, which is busy with her girdle; while I embrace her ardently she puts up her own hands to protect her bosom; her countenance with the beautiful eyelashes she turns aside when I try to raise it for a kiss; by thus struggling she affords me the same delight as if I had attained what I desire."

Again the second queen and her maid appear unexpectedly and disturb the king's bliss. Her object is to go to the king's picture in the water-house and beg its pardon for having been disrespectful, this being better, in her opinion, than appearing before the king himself, since he has given his heart to another, while in that picture he has eyes for her alone (as Malavika, too, had noticed when she entered the water-house). The viduschaka has proved an unreliable sentinel; he has fallen asleep at the door of the house. The queen's maid perceives this and, to tease him, touches him with a crooked staff. He awakes crying that a snake has bitten him. The king runs out and is confronted again by Iravati. "Well, well!" she exclaims, "this couple meet in broad daylight and without hindrance to gratify their wishes!" "An unheard-of greeting is this, my dear," said the king. "You are mistaken; I see no cause for anger. I merely liberated the two girls because this is a holiday, on which servants must not be confined, and they came here to thank me." But he is glad to escape when a messenger arrives opportunely to announce that a yellow ape has frightened the princess.

"My heart trembles when I think of the queen," says Malavika, left alone with her companion. "What will become of me now?" But the queen knows her duty, according to Hindoo custom. She makes her maids array Malavika in marriage dress, and then sends a message to the king saying that she awaits him with Malavika and her attendants. The girl does not know why she has been so richly attired, and when the king beholds her he says to himself: "We are so near and yet apart. I seem to myself like the bird Tschakravaka;[277] and the name of the night which does not allow me to be united with my love is Dharini." At that moment two captive girls are brought before the assemblage, and to everyone's surprise they greet Malavika as "Princess." A princess she proves to be, on inquiry, and the queen now carries out the plan she had had in her mind, with the consent also of the second queen, who sends her apologies at the same time. "Take her," says Dharini to the king, and at a hint of the viduschaka she takes a veil and by putting it on the new bride makes her a queen and spouse of equal rank with herself. And the king answers:

"I am not surprised at your magnanimity. If women are faithful and kind to their husbands, they even bring, by way of serving him, new wives to him, like unto the rivers which provide that the water of other streams also is carried to the ocean. I have now but one more wish; be hereafter always, irascible queen, prepared to do me homage. I wish this for the sake of the other women."


King Asvapati, though an honest, virtuous, pious man, was not blessed with offspring, and this made him unhappy.[278] He curbed all his appetites and for eighteen years lived a life of devotion to his religious duties. At the expiration of these years Savitri, the daughter of the sun-god, appeared to him and offered to reward him by granting a favor. "Sons I crave, many sons, O goddess, sons to preserve my family," he answered. But Savitri promised him a daughter; and she was born to him by his oldest wife and was named after the goddess Savitri. She grew up to be so beautiful, so broad-hipped, like a golden statue, that she seemed of divine origin, and, abashed, none of the men came to choose her as his wife. This saddened her father and he said:

"Daughter, it is time for you to marry, but no one comes to ask me for you. Go and seek your own husband, a man your equal in worth. And when you have chosen, you must let me know. Then I will consider him, and betroth you. For, according to the laws, a father who does not give his daughter in marriage is blameworthy."

And Savitri went on a golden chariot with a royal retinue, and she visited all the groves of the saints and at last found a man after her heart, whose name was Satyavant. Then she returned to her father—who was just conversing with the divine sage Narada—and told him of her choice. But Narada exclaimed: "Woe and alas, you have chosen one who is, indeed, endowed with all the virtues, but who is doomed to die a year from this day." Thereupon the king begged Savitri to choose another for her husband, but she replied: "May his life be long or short, may he have merits or no merits, I have selected him as my husband, and a second I shall not choose." Then the king and Narada agreed not to oppose her, and she went with her father to the grove where she had seen Satyavant, the man of her choice. The king spoke to this man's father and said: "Here, O royal saint, is my lovely daughter, Savitri; take her as your daughter-in-law in accordance with your duty as friend." And the saint replied: "Long have I desired such a bond of relationship; but I have lost my royal dignity, and how could your daughter endure the hardships of life in the forest?" But the king replied that they heeded not such things and their mind was made up. So all the Brahmans were called together and the king gave his daughter to Satyavant, who was pleased to win a wife endowed with so many virtues.

When her father had departed, Savitri put away all her ornaments and assumed the plain garb of the saints. She was modest, self-contained, and strove to make herself useful and to fulfil the wishes of all. But she counted the days, and the time came when she had to say to herself, "In three days he must die." And she made a vow and stood in one place three days and nights; on the following day he was to die. In the afternoon her husband took his axe on his shoulder and went into the primeval forest to get some wood and fruits. For the first time she asked to go with him. "The way is too difficult for you," said he, but she persisted; and her heart was consumed by the flames of sadness. He called her attention, as they walked on, to the limpid rivers and noble trees decked with flowers of many colors, but she had eyes only for him, following his every movement; for she looked on him as a dead man from that hour. He was filling his basket with fruits when suddenly he was seized with violent headache and longing for sleep. She took his head on her lap and awaited his last moment.

All at once she saw a man, in red attire, of fearful aspect, with a rope in his hand. And she said: "Who are you?" "You," he replied, "are a woman faithful to your husband and of good deeds, therefore will I answer you. I am Yama, and I have come to take away your husband, whose life has reached its goal." And with a mighty jerk he drew from the husband's body his spirit, the size of a thumb, and forthwith the breath of life departed from the body. Having carefully tied the soul, Yama departed toward the south. Savitri, tortured by anguish, followed him. "Turn back, Savitri," he said; "you owe your husband nothing further, and you have gone as far as you can go." "Wherever my husband goes or is taken, there I must go; that is an eternal duty." Thereupon Yama offered to grant any favor she might ask—except the life of her husband. "Restore the sight of the blind king, my father-in-law," she said; and he answered: "It is done already." He offered a second favor and she said: "Restore his kingdom to my father-in-law;" and it was granted, as was also the third wish: "Grant one hundred sons to my father, who has none." Her fourth wish, too, he agreed to: that she herself might have a hundred sons; and as he made the fifth and last wish unconditional, she said:

"Let Satyavant return to life; for, bereft of him, I desire not happiness; bereft of him I desire not heaven; I desire not to live bereft of him. A hundred sons you have promised me, yet you take away my husband? I desire this as a favor; let Satyavant live!"

"So be it!" answered the god of death as he untied the string.

"Your husband is released to you, blessed one, pride of your race. Sound and well you shall take him home, live with him four hundred years, beget one hundred sons, and all of them shall be mighty kings."

With these words he went his way. Life returned to the body of Satyavant, and his first feeling was distress lest his parents grieve over his absence. Thinking him too weak to walk, Savitri wanted to sleep in the forest, surrounded by a fire to keep off wild beasts, but he replied:

"My father and mother are distressed even in the daytime when I am away. Without them I could not live. As long as they live I live only for them. Rather than let anything happen to them, I give up my own life, you woman with the beautiful hips; truly I shall kill myself sooner."

So she helped him to rise, and they returned that very night, to the great joy of their parents and friends; and all the promises of Yama were fulfilled.


Once upon a time there was a king by the name of Nala, a man handsome as the god of love, endowed with all the virtues, a favorite of men and women. There was also another king, named Bhima, the Terrible. He was renowned as a warrior and endowed with many virtues; yet he was discontented, for he had no offspring. But it happened that he was visited by a saint, whom he entertained so hospitably that the Brahman granted him in return a favor: a daughter and three sons were born to him. The daughter, who received the name of Damayanti, soon became famed for her beauty, her dignity, and her gracious manners. She seemed, amid her companions, like lightning born in a rain-cloud. Her beauty was so much vaunted in the hearing of King Nala, and his merits were so much extolled in her presence, that the two conceived an ardent passion for one another, though they had never met. Nala could hardly endure his yearnings of love; near the apartments of the women there was a forest; into that he retired, living in solitude. One day he came across some gold-decked geese. He caught one of them and she said to him: "Spare my life and I promise to praise you in Damayanti's presence in such a way that she shall never think of any other man." He did so, and the goose flew to Damayanti and said: "There is a man named Nala; he is like the celestial knights; no human being equals him. Yes, if you could become his wife, it would be worth while that you were born and became so beautiful. You are the pearl among women, but Nala, too, is the best of men." Damayanti begged the goose to go and speak to Nala similarly about her, and the goose said "Yes" and flew away.

From that moment Damayanti was always in spirit with Kala. Sunk in reverie, sad, with pale face, she visibly wasted away, and sighing was her only, her favorite, occupation. If anyone saw her gazing upward, absorbed in her thoughts, he might have almost fancied her intoxicated. Often of a sudden her whole face turned pale; in short, it was plain that love-longing held her senses captive. Lying in bed, sitting, eating, everything is distasteful to her; neither at night nor by day does sleep come to her. Ah and alas! thus her wails resound, and over and over again she begins to weep.

Her companions noted these symptoms and they said to the king: "Damayanti is not at all well." The king reflected, "Why is my daughter no longer well?" and it occurred to him that she had reached the marriageable age, and it became clear to him that he must without delay give her a chance to choose a husband. So he invited all the kings to assemble at his court for that purpose on a certain day. Soon the roads were filled with kings, princes, elephants, horses, wagons, and warriors, for she, the pearl of the world, was desired of men above all other women. King Nala also had received the message and set out on his journey hopefully. Like the god of love incarnate he looked. Even the ruling gods heard of the great event and went to join the worldly rulers. As they approached the earth's surface they beheld King Nala. Pleased with his looks, they accosted him and said: "We are immortals journeying on account of Darnayanti. As for you, go you and bring Damayanti this message: 'The four gods, Indra, Agni, Yama, Varuna, desire to have you for a wife. Choose one of these four gods as your wedded husband.'"

Folding his hands humbly, Nala replied:

"The very same affair has induced me to make this journey: therefore you must not send me on this errand. For how could a man who himself feels the longing of love woo the same woman for another?"

But the gods ordered him to go at once, because he had promised to serve them before he knew what they wanted. They endowed him with power to enter the carefully guarded apartments of the princess, and presently he found himself in her presence. Her lovely face, her charmingly moulded limbs, her slender body, her beautiful eyes, diffused a splendor that mocked the light of the moon and increased his pangs of love; but he resolved to keep his promise. When the young maidens beheld him they could not utter a word; they were dazed by the splendor of his appearance, and abashed, the beautiful virgins. At last the astonished Damayanti began to speak and said with a sweet smile:

"Who are you, you with the faultless form, who increase the yearnings of my love? Like an immortal you came here, O hero! I would like to know you better, noble, good man. Closely guarded is my house, however, and most strict in his orders is the king."

"My name, gracious maiden, is Nala," he replied.

"As messenger of the gods have I come. Four of them—Indra, Agni, Varuna, Yama—would like you as bride, therefore choose one of them as husband, O beauty! That I entered unseen is the result, too, of their power. Now you have heard all; act as seems proper to you."

As he spoke the names of the gods Damayanti bowed humbly; then she laughed merrily and said:

"Follow you the inclination of your heart and be kind to me. What can I do to please you? Myself and all that is mine belongs to you. Lay aside all diffidence, my master and husband! Alas, the entire speech of the gold-swans, my prince, was to me a real firebrand. It was for your sake, O hero, that all these kings were in reality called together so hastily. Should you ever, O my pride, be able to scorn me, who is so devoted to you, I shall resort on your account to poison, fire, water, rope."

"How can you," retorted Nala,

"when gods are present in person, direct your desires toward a mortal? Not so! Let your inclination dwell with them, the creators of the world. Remember, too, that a mortal who does something to displease the gods is doomed to death. Therefore, you with the faultless limbs, save me by choosing the most worthy of the gods. Hesitate no longer. Your husband must be one of the gods."

Then said Damayanti, while her eyes were diffused with anguish-born tears: "My reverence to the gods! As husband I choose you, mighty ruler on earth. What I say to you is immutable truth." "I am here now as messenger of the gods, and cannot, therefore, plead my own cause. Later I shall have a chance to speak for myself," said Nala; and Damayanti said, smiling, while tears choked her voice:

"I shall arrange that you as well as the gods are present on the day of my husband-choice. Then I shall choose you in the presence of the immortals. In that way no blame can fall on anyone."

Returning to the gods, Nala told them just what happened, not omitting her promise that she would choose him in presence of the gods. The day now was approaching when the kings, who, urged by love-longings, had assembled, were to appear before the maiden. With their beautiful hair, noses, eyes, and brows, these royal personages shone like the stars in heaven. They fixed their gaze on the maiden's limbs, and wherever the eyes first rested there they remained fixed immovably. But the four gods had all assumed the exact form and appearance of Nala, and when Damayanti was about to choose him she saw five men all alike. How could she tell which of them was the king, her beloved? After a moment's thought she uttered an invocation to the gods calling upon them to assume the characteristics by which they differ from mortals. The gods, moved by her anguish, her faith in the power of truth, her intelligence and passionate devotion, heard her prayer and forthwith they appeared to her free from perspiration, with fixed gaze, ever fresh wreath, free from dust; and none of them, while standing, touched the floor; whereas King Nala betrayed himself by throwing a shadow, by having dust and perspiration on his body, a withered wreath, and eyelids that winked.

Thereupon the big-eyed maiden timidly seized him by the hem of his garment and put a beautiful wreath on his shoulders. Thus did she choose him to be her husband; and the gods granted them special favors.[279]

According to Schroeder, the Hindoos are "the romantic nation" among the ancients, as the Germans are among the moderns; and Albrecht Weber says that when, a little more than a century ago, Europe first became acquainted with Sanscrit literature, it was noticed that in the amorous poetry of India in particular the sentimental qualities of modern verse were traced in a much higher degree than they had been found in Greek and Roman literature. All this is doubtless true. The Hindoos appear to have been the only ancient people that took delight in forests, rivers, and mountains as we do; in reading their descriptions of Nature we are sometimes affected by a mysterious feeling of awe, like a reminiscence of the time when our ancestors lived in India. Their amorous hyperbole, too, despite its frequent grotesqueness, affects us perhaps more sympathetically than that of the Greeks. And yet the essentials of what we call romantic love are so entirely absent from ancient Hindoo literature that such amorous symptoms as are noted therein can all be readily brought under the three heads of artificiality, sensuality, and selfishness.


Commenting on the directions for caressing given in the Kama Soutra, Lamairesse remarks (56):

"All these practices and caresses are conventional rather than natural, like everything the Hindoos do. A bayaderes straying to Paris and making use of them would be a curiosity so extraordinary that she would certainly enjoy a succes de vogue pour rire."

Nail-marks on various parts of the body, blows, bites, meaningless exclamations are prescribed or described in the diverse love-scenes. In Hindoo dramas several of the artificial symptoms—pure figments of the poetic fancy—are incessantly referred to. One of the most ludicrous of them is the drops of perspiration on the cheeks or other parts of the body, which are regarded as an infallible and inevitable sign of love. Urvasi's royal lover is afraid to take her birch-bark message in his hand lest his perspiration wipe away the letters. In Bhavabhuti's drama, Malati and Madhava, the heroine's feet perspire so profusely from excess of longing, that the lacquer of her couch is melted; and one of the stage directions in the same drama is: "Perspiration appears on Madayantika, with other things indicating love."

Another of these grotesque symptoms is the notion that the touch or mere thought of the beloved makes the small hairs all over the body stand erect. No love-scene seems to be complete without this detail. The drama just referred to, in different scenes, makes the hairs on the cheeks, on the arms, all over the body, rise "splendidly," the author says in one line.[280] A Hindoo lover always has twitching of the right or left arm or eye to indicate what kind of luck he is going to have; and she is equally favored. Usually the love is mutual and at first sight—nay, preferably before first sight. The mere hearsay that a certain man or maiden is very beautiful suffices, as we saw in the story of Nala and Damayanti, to banish sleep and appetite, and to make the lover pale and wan and most wretched. Sakuntala's royal lover wastes away so rapidly that in a few days his bracelet falls from his attenuated arm, and Sakuntala herself becomes so weak that she cannot rise, and is supposed to have sunstroke! Malati dwindles until her form resembles the moon in its last quarter; her face is as pale as the moon at morning dawn. Always both the lovers, though he be a king—as he generally is—and she a goddess, are diffident at first, fearing failure, even after the most unmistakable signs of fondness, in the betrayal of which the girls are anything but coy. All these symptoms the poets prescribe as regularly as a physician makes out a prescription for an apothecary.

A peculiar stare—which must be sidelong, not direct at the beloved—is another conventional characteristic of Hindoo amorous fiction. The gait becomes languid, the breathing difficult, the heart stops beating or is paralyzed with joy; the limbs or the whole body wither like flower-stalks after a frost; the mind is lamed, the memory weakened; cold shivers run down the limbs and fever shakes the body; the arms hang limp at the side, the breast heaves, words stick in the throat; pastimes no longer entertain; the perfumed Malayan wind crazes the mind; the eyelids are motionless, sighs give vent to anguish, which may end in a swoon, and if things take an unfavorable turn the thought of suicide is not distant. Attempts to cure this ardent love are futile; Madhava tries snow, and moonlight, and camphor, and lotos roots, and pearls, and sandal oil rubbed on his skin, but all in vain.


Quite as artificial and unsentimental as the notions of the Hindoos concerning the symptoms of love is their conception of their god of love, Kama, the husband of Lust. His bow is made of sugar-cane, its string a row of bees, and his arrow-tips are red flower-buds. Spring is his bosom friend, and he rides on a parrot or the sea-monster Makara. He is also called Ananga—the bodiless—because Siwa once burned him up with the fire that flashed from his third eye for disturbing him in his devotions by awakening in him love for Parwati. Sakuntala's lover wails that Kama's arrows are "not flowers, but hard as diamond." Agnimitra declares that the Creator made his beloved "the poison-steeped arrow of the God of Love;" and again, he says: "The softest and the sharpest things are united in you, O Kama." Urvasi's royal lover complains that his "heart is pierced by Kama's arrow," and in Malati and Madhava we are told that "a cruel god no doubt is Kama;" while No. 329 of Ilala's love-poems declares:

"The arrows of Kama are most diverse in their effects—though made of flowers, very hard; though not coming into direct contact, insufferably hot; and though piercing, yet causing delight."

Our familiarity with Greek and Roman literature has made us so accustomed to the idea of a Cupid awakening love by shooting arrows that we fail to realize how entirely fanciful, not to say whimsical, this conceit is. It would be odd, indeed, if the Hindoo poets had happened on the same fancy as the Greeks of their own accord; but there is no reason to suppose that they did. Kama is one of the later gods of the Indian Pantheon, and there is every reason to believe that the Hindoos borrowed him from the Greeks, as the Romans did. In Sakuntala (27) there is a reference to the Greek women who form the king's body-guard; in Urvasi (70) to a slave of Greek descent; and there are many things in the Hindoo drama that betray Greek influence.

Besides being artificial and borrowed, Kama is entirely sensual. Kama means "gratification of the senses,"[281] and of all the epithets bestowed on their god of love by the Hindoos none rises distinctly above sensual ideas. Dowson (147) has collated these epithets; they are: "the beautiful," "the inflamer," "lustful," "desirous," "the happy," "the gay, or wanton," "deluder," "the lamp of honey, or of spring," "the bewilderer," "the crackling fire," "the stalk of passion," "the weapon of beauty," "the voluptuary," "remembrance," "fire," "the handsome."[282]

The same disregard of sentimental, devotional, and altruistic elements is shown in the Ten Stages of Love-Sickness as conceived by the Hindoos: (1) desire; (2) thinking of her (his) beauty; (3) reminiscent revery; (4) boasting of her (his) excellence; (5) excitement; (6) lamentations; (7) distraction; (8) illness; (9) insensibility; (10) death.[283]


The notion that the fever of love may become so severe as to lead to death plays an important role in Hindoo amorous sophistry. "Hindoo casuists," says Lamairesse (151, 179), "always have a peremptory reason, in their own eyes, for dispensing with all scruples in love-affairs: the necessity of not dying for love." "It is permissible," says the author of Kama Soutra, "to seduce another man's wife if one is in danger of dying from love for her;" upon which Lamairesse comments:

"This principle, liberally interpreted by those interested, excuses all intrigues; in theory it is capable of accommodating itself to all cases, and in the practice of the Hindoos it does thus accommodate itself. It is based on the belief that the souls of men who die of ungratified desires flit about a long time as manes before transmigrating."

Thus did the wily priests invoke the aid even of superstition to foster that national licentiousness by which they themselves profited most. Small wonder that the Hitopadesa declared (92) that "there is perhaps in all the world not a man who covets not his neighbor's wife;" or that the same collection of wise stories and maxims should take an equally low view of feminine morals (39, 40, 41, 54, 88); e.g. (in substance): "Then only is a wife faithful to her husband, when no other man covets her." "Seek chastity in those women only who have no opportunity to meet a lover." "A woman's lust can no more be satisfied than a fire's greed for wood, the ocean's thirst for rivers, death's desire for victims." Another verse in the Hitopadesa (13) declares frankly that of the six good things in the world two of them are a caressing wife and a devoted sweetheart beside her—upon which the editor, Johannes Hertel, comments: "To a Hindoo there is nothing objectionable in such a sentiment."


The Hindoo's inability to rise above sensuality also manifests itself in his admiration of personal beauty, which is purely carnal. No. 217 of Hala's anthology declares:

"Her face resembles the moon, the juice of her mouth nectar; but wherewith shall I compare (my delight) when I seize her, amid violent struggles, by the head and kiss her?"

Apart from such grotesque comparisons of the face to the moon, or of the teeth to the lotos, there is nothing in the amorous hyperbole of Hindoo poets that rises above the voluptuous into the neighborhood of esthetic admiration. Hindoo statues embodying the poets' ideal of women's waists so narrow that they can be spanned by the hand, show how infinitely inferior the Hindoos were to the Greeks in their appreciation of human beauty. The Hindoo poet's ideal of feminine beauty is a wasp-waist and grossly exaggerated bust and hips. Bhavabhuti allows his heroine Malati to be thus addressed (by a girl!):

"The wind, sandal-cool, refreshes your moon-face, in which nectar-like drops of perspiration appear from your walking, during which you lifted your feet but slowly, as they wavered under the weight of your thighs, which are strong as those of an elephant."

Usually, of course, these grotesquely coarse compliments are paid by the enamored men. Kalidasa makes King Pururavas, crazed by the loss of Urvasi, exclaim:

"Have you seen the divine beauty, who is compelled by the weight of her hips to walk slowly, and who never sees the flight of youth, whose bosom is high and swelling, whose gait is as the swan's?"

In another place he refers to her footsteps "pressed in deeper behind by the weight of the beloved's hips," Satyavant has no other epithet for Savitri than "beautiful-hipped." It is the same with Sakuntala's lover (who has been held up as an ancient embodiment of modern ethereal sentiment). What does he admire in Sakuntala? "Here," he says, "in the yellow sand are a number of fresh footsteps; they are higher in front, but depressed behind by the weight of her hips." "How slow was her gait—and naturally so, considering the weight of her hips." Compare also the poet's remarks on her bodily charms when the king first sees her.[284] Among all of the king's hyperbolic compliments and remarks there is not one that shows him to be fascinated by anything but the purely bodily charms of the young girl, charms of a coarse, voluptuous kind, calculated to increase his pleasure should he succeed in winning her, while there is not a trace of a desire on his part to make her happy. Nor is there anything in Sakuntala's symptoms rising above selfish distress at her uncertainty, or selfish longing to possess her lover. In a word, there is no romantic love, in our sense of the word, in the dramas of the most romantic poet of the most romantic nation of antiquity.[285]


It might be maintained that the symptoms of true affection—altruistic devotion to the verge of self-sacrifice—are revealed, at any rate, in the conjugal love of Savitri and of Damayanti. Savitri follows the god of death as he carries away her husband's spirit, and by her devotion and entreaties persuades Yama to restore him to life; while Damayanti (whose story we did not finish) follows her husband, after he has gambled away all his kingdom, into the forest to suffer with him. One night, while she sleeps, he steals half of her only garment and deserts her. Left alone in the terrible forest with tigers and snakes, she sobs aloud and repeatedly faints away from fear. "Yet I do not weep for myself," she exclaims; "my only thought is, how will you fare, my royal master, being left thus all alone?" She is seized by a huge snake, which coils its body around her; yet "even in this situation she thinks not so much of herself as she bewails the fate of the king." A hunter saves her and proceeds to make improper advances, but she, faithful to her lord, curses the hunter and he falls dead before her. Then she resumes her solitary roaming in the gloomy forest, "distressed by grief for her husband's fate," unmindful of his cruelty, or of her own sad plight.

It is needless to continue the tale; the reader cannot be so obtuse as not to notice the moral of it. The stories of Savitri and of Damayanti, far from exemplifying Hindoo conjugal devotion, simply afford fresh proof of the hoggish selfishness of the male Hindoo. They are intended to be object-lessons to wives, teaching them—like the laws of Manu and the custom of widow burning—that they do not exist for their own sakes, but for their husbands. Reading the stories in the light of this remark, we cannot fail to note everywhere the subtle craft of the sly men who invented them. If further evidence were needed to sustain my view it would be found in the fact related by F. Reuleaux, that to this day the priests arrange an annual "prayer-festival" of Hindoo women at which the wife must in every way show her subjection to her husband and master. She must wash his feet, dry them, put a wreath around his neck, and bring offerings to the gods, praying that he may prosper and live long. Then follows a meal for which she has prepared all his favorite dishes. And as a climax, the story of Savitri is read, a story in which the wife lives only for the husband, while he, as he rudely tells her—after all her devotion—lives only for his parents!

If these stories were anything else than slyly planned object-lessons calculated to impress and subjugate the women, why is it that the husband is never chosen to act the self-sacrificing part? He does, indeed, sometimes indulge in frantic outbursts of grief and maudlin sentimentality, but that is because he has lost the young woman who pleased his senses. There is no sign of soul-love here; the husband never dreams of devoting his life to her, of sacrificing it for her sake, as she is constantly exhorted to do for his sake. In a word, masculine selfishness is the keynote of Hindoo life. "When in danger, never hesitate to sacrifice your goods and your wife to save your life," we read in the Hitopadesa (25); and No. 4112 of Boehtlingk's Hindu Maxims declares bluntly that a wife exists for the purpose of bearing sons, and a son for the purpose of offering sacrifices after his father's death. There we have masculine selfishness in a nutshell. Another maxim declares that a wife can atone for her lack or loss of beauty by faithful subjection to her husband. And in return for all the devotion expected of her she is utterly despised—considered unworthy of an education, unfit even to profess virginity—in a word, looked on "as scarcely forming a part of the human species." In the most important event in her life—marriage—her choice is never consulted. The matter is, as we have seen, left to the family barber, or to the parents, to whom questions of caste and wealth are of infinitely more importance than personal preferences. When those matters are arranged the man satisfies himself concerning the inclinations of the chosen girl's kindred, and when assured that he will not "suffer the affront of a refusal" from them he proceeds with the offer and the bargaining. "To marry or to buy a girl are synonymous terms in this country," says Dubois (I., 198); and he proceeds, to give an account of the bargaining and the disgraceful quarrels this leads to.


Under such circumstances the Hindoo playwrights must have found themselves in a curious dilemma. They were sufficiently versed in the poetic art to build up a plot; but what chance for an amorous plot was there in a country where there was no courtship, where women were sold, ignored, maltreated, and despised? Perforce the poets had to neglect realism, give up all idea of mirroring respectable domestic life, and take refuge in the realms of tradition, fancy, or liaisons. It is interesting to note how they got around the difficulty. They either made their heroines bayaderes, or princesses, or girls willing to be married in a way allowing them their own choice, but not reputed respectable. Bayaderes, though not permitted to marry, were at liberty to choose their temporary companions. Cudraka indulges in the poetic license of making Vasantasena superior to other bayaderes and rewarding her in the end by a regular marriage as the hero's wife number two. By way of securing variety, apsaras, or celestial bayaderes, were brought on the scene, as in Kalidasa's Urvasi, permitting the poet to indulge in still bolder flights of fancy. Princesses, again, were favorite heroines, for various reasons, one of which was the tradition concerning the custom called Svayamvara or "Maiden's Choice"—a princess being "permitted," after a tournament, to "choose" the victor. The story of Nala and Damayanti has made us familiar with a similar meeting of kings, at which the princess chooses the lover she has determined on beforehand, though she has never seen him. Apart from the fantasticality of this episode, it is obvious that even if the Svayamvara was once a custom in royal circles it did not really insure to the princesses free choice of a rational kind. Brought up in strict seclusion, a king's daughter could never have seen any of the men competing for her. The victor might be the least sympathetic to her of all, and even if she had a large number of suitors to choose from, her selection could not be based on anything but the momentary and superficial judgment; of the eye. But for dramatic purposes the Svayamvara was useful.


In Sakuntala, Kalidasa resorts to the third of the expedients I have mentioned. The king weds the girl whom he finds in the grove of the saints in accordance with a form which was not regarded as respectable—marriage based on mutual inclination, without the knowledge of the parents. The laws of Mann (III., 20-134) recognized eight kinds of marriage:

(1) gift of a daughter to a man learned in the Vedas, (2) gift of a daughter to a priest; (3) gift of a daughter in return for presents of cows, etc.; (4) gift of a daughter, with a dress. In these four the father gives away his daughter as he chooses. In (5) the groom buys the girl with presents to her kinsmen or herself; (6) is voluntary union; (7) forcible abduction (in war); (8) rape of a girl asleep, or drunk, or imbecile.

In other words, of the eight kinds of marriage recognized by Hindoo law and custom only one is based on free choice, and of that Mann says: "The voluntary connection of a maiden and a man is to be known as a Gandharva union, which arises from lust." It is classed among the blamable marriages. Even this appears not to have been a legal form before Mann. It is blamable because contracted without the consent or knowledge of the parents, and because, unless the sacred fire has been obtained from a Brahman to sanctify it, such a marriage is merely a temporary union. Gandharvas, after whom it is named, are singers and other musicians in Indra's heaven, who, like the apsaras, enter into unions that are not intended to be enduring, but are dissoluble at will. Such marriages (liaisons we call them) are frequently mentioned in Hindoo literature (e.g., Hitopadesa, p. 85). Malati (30) chides her friend for advising her to make a secret marriage, and later on exclaims (75): "I am lost! What a girl must not do, my friend counsels me." The orthodox view is unfolded by the Buddhist nun Kamandaki(33): "We hear of Duschyanta loving Sakuntala, of Pururavas loving Urvasi ... but these cases look like arbitrary action and cannot be commended as models." In Sakuntala, too, the king feels it incumbent on him to apologize to the girl he covets, when she bids him not to transgress the laws of propriety, by exclaiming that many other girls have thus been taken by kings without incurring parental disapproval. The directions for this form of courtship given in the Kama Soutra indicate that Sakuntala had every reason to appeal to the rules of propriety, social and moral. Kalidasa spares us the details.

The king's desertion of Sakuntala after he had obtained his self-indulgent object was quite in accordance with the spirit of a Gandharva marriage. Kalidasa, for dramatic purposes, makes it a result of a saint's curse, which enables him to continue his story interestingly. A poet has a right to such license, even though it takes him out of the realm of realism. Hindoo poets, like others, know how to rise above sordid reality into a more ideal sphere, and for this reason, even if we had found in the dramas of India a portrayal of true love, it would not prove that it existed outside of a poet's glowing and prophetic fancy. There is a Hindoo saying, "Do not strike a woman, even with a flower;" but we have seen that these Hindoos often do physically abuse their wives most cruelly, besides subjecting them to indescribable mental anguish, and mental anguish is much more painful and more prolonged than bodily torture. Fine words do not make fine feelings. From this point of view Dalton was perhaps right when he asserted that the wild tribes of India come closer to us in their love-affairs than the more cultured Hindoos, with their "unromantic heart-schooling." We have seen that Albrecht Weber's high estimate of the Hindoo's romantic sentiment does not bear the test of a close psychological analysis.

The Hindoo may have fewer uncultivated traits of emotion than the wild tribesmen, but they are in the same field. Hindoo civilization rose to splendid heights, in some respects, and even the great moral principle of altruism was cultivated; but it was not applied to the relations between the sexes, and thus we see once more that the refinement of the affections—especially the sexual affections—comes last in the evolution of civilization. Masculine selfishness and sensuality have prevented the Hindoo from entering the Elysian fields of romantic love. He has always allowed, and still allows, the minds of women to lie fallow, being contented with their bodily charms, and unaware that the most delightful of all sexual differences are those of mind and character. To quote once more the Abbe Dubois (I., 271), the most minute and philosophic observer of Indian manners and morals:

"The Hindoos are nurtured in the belief that there can be nothing disinterested or innocent in the intercourse between a man and a woman; and however Platonic the attachment might be between two persons of different sex, it would be infallibly set down to sensual love."


My assertion that there are no cases of romantic love recorded in the Bible naturally aroused opposition, and not a few critics lifted up their voices in loud protest against such ignorant audacity. The case for the defence was well summed up in the Rochester Post-Express:

"The ordinary reader will find many love-stories in the Scriptures, What are we to think, for instance, of this passage from the twenty-ninth chapter of Genesis: 'And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender-eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well-favored. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had for her,' It may be said that after marriage Jacob's love was not of the modern conjugal type; but certainly his pre-matrimonial passion was self-sacrificing, enduring, and hopeful enough for a mediaeval romance. The courtship of Ruth and Boaz is a bold and pretty love-story, which details the scheme of an old widow and a young widow for the capture of a wealthy kinsman. The Song of Solomon is, on the surface, a wonderful love-poem. But it is needless to multiply illustrations from this source."

A Chicago critic declared that it would be easy to show that from the moment when Adam said,

"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh"

—from that moment unto this day "that which it pleases our author to call romantic love has been substantially one and the same thing.... Has this writer never heard of Isaac and Rebekah; of Jacob and Rachel?" A Philadelphia reviewer doubted whether I believed in my own theory because I ignored in my chapter on love among the Hebrews "the story of Jacob and Rachel and other similar instances of what deserves to be called romantic love among the Hebrews." Professor H.O. Trumbull emphatically repudiates my theory in his Studies in Oriental Social Life (62-63); proceeding:

"Yet in the very first book of the Old Testament narrative there appears the story of young Jacob's romantic love for Rachel, a love which was inspired by their first meeting [Gen. 29: 10-18] and which was afresh and tender memory in the patriarch Jacob's mind when long years after he had buried her in Canaan [Gen. 35: 16-20] he was on his deathbed in Egypt [Gen. 48: 1-7]. In all the literature of romantic love in all the ages there can be found no more touching exhibit of the true-hearted fidelity of a romantic lover than that which is given of Jacob in the words: 'And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days for the love he had to her.' And the entire story confirms the abiding force of that sentiment. There are, certainly, gleams of romantic love from out of the clouds of degraded human passion in the ancient East, in the Bible stories of Shechem and Dinah [Gen. 34: 1-31], of Samson and the damsel of Timnath [Judg. 14: 1-3], of David and Abigail [I. Sam. 25: 1-42], of Adonijah and Abishag [I. Kings 2: 13-17], and other men and women of whom the Scriptures tell us."

Cenac Moncaut, who begins his Histoire de l'Amour dans l'Antiquite with Adam and Eve, declares (28-31) that the episode of Jacob and Rachel marks the birth of perfect love in the world, the beginning of its triumph, followed, however, by relapses in days of darkness and degradation. If all these writers are correct then my theory falls to the ground and romantic love must be conceded to be at least four thousand years old, instead of less than one thousand. But let us look at the facts in detail and see whether there is really no difference between ancient Hebrew and modern Christian love.

The Rev. Stopford Brooke has remarked:

"Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph may have existed as real men, and played their part in the founding of the Jewish race, but their stories, as we have them, are as entirely legendary as those of Arthur or Siegfried, of Agamemnon or Charlemagne."

This consideration would bring the date of the story from the time when Jacob is supposed to have lived down to the much later time when the legend was elaborated. I have no desire, however, to seek refuge behind such chronological uncertainties, nor to reassert that my theory is a question of evolution rather than of dates, and that, therefore, if Jacob and Rachel, during their prolonged courtship, had the qualities of mind and character to feel the exalted sentiment of romantic love, we might concede in their case an exception which, by its striking isolation, would only prove the rule. I need no such refuge, for I can see no reason whatever for accepting the story of Jacob and Rachel as an exceptional instance of romantic love.


Nothing could be more charmingly poetic than this story as told by the old Hebrew chronicler. The language is so simple yet so pictorial that we fancy we can actually see Jacob as he accosts the shepherds at the well to ask after his uncle Laban, and they reply "Behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep." We see him as he rolls the stone from the well's mouth and waters his uncle's flocks; we see him as he kisses Rachel and lifts up his voice and weeps. He kisses her of course by right of being a relative, and not as a lover; for we cannot suppose that even an Oriental shepherd girl could have been so devoid of maidenly prudence and coyness as to give a love-kiss to a stranger at their first meeting. Though apparently her cousin (Gen. 28: 2; 29:10), Jacob tells her he is her uncle; "and Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother."[286] There was the less impropriety in his kissing her, as she was probably a girl of fifteen or sixteen and he old enough to be her grandfather, or even great-grandfather, his age at the time of meeting her being seventy-seven.[287] But as men are reported to have aged slowly in those days, this did not prevent him from desiring to marry Rachel, for whose sake he was willing to serve her father. Strange to say, the words "And Jacob served seven years for Rachel" have been accepted as proof of self-sacrifice by several writers, including Dr. Abel, who cites those words as indicating that the ancient Hebrews knew "the devotion of love, which gladly serves the beloved and shuns no toil in her behalf." In reality Jacob's seven years of service have nothing whatever to do with self-sacrifice. He did not "serve his beloved" but her father; did not toil "in her behalf" but on his own behalf. He was simply doing that very unromantic thing, paying for his wife by working a stipulated time for her father, in accordance with a custom prevalent among primitive peoples the world over. Our text is very explicit on the subject; after Jacob had been with his relative a month Laban had said unto him: "Because thou art my brother shouldst thou therefore serve me for naught? tell me what shall thy wages be?" And Jacob had chosen Rachel for his wages. Rachel and Leah themselves quite understood the commercial nature of the matrimonial arrangement; for when, years afterward, they are prepared to leave their father they say: "Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house? Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath also quite devoured the price paid for us."

Instead of the sentimental self-sacrifice of a devoted lover for his mistress we have here, therefore, simply an example of a prosaic, mercenary marriage custom familiar to all students of anthropology. But how about the second half of that sentence, which declares that Jacob's seven years of service "seemed to him but a few days for the love he had for her?" Is not this the language of an expert in love? Many of my critics, to my surprise, seemed to think so, but I am convinced that none of them can have ever been in love or they would have known that a lover is so impatient and eager to call his beloved irrevocably his own, so afraid that someone else might steal away her affection from him, that Jacob's seven years, instead of shrinking to a few days, would have seemed to him like seven times seven years.

A minute examination of the story of Jacob and Rachel thus reveals world-wide differences between the ancient Hebrew and the modern Christian conceptions of love, corresponding, we have no reason to doubt, to differences in actual feeling. And as we proceed, these differences become more and more striking:

"And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.... And it came to pass, in the morning that, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou has done unto me? Did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? And Laban said, It is not so done in our place, to give the younger before the first-born. Fulfil the week of this one, and we will give thee the other also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week; and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife."

Surely it would be difficult to condense into so few lines more facts and conditions abhorrent to the Christian conception of the sanctity of love than is done in this passage. Can anyone deny that in a modern Christian country Laban's breach of contract with Jacob, his fraudulent substitution of the wrong daughter, and Jacob's meek acceptance of two wives in eight days would not only arouse a storm of moral indignation, but would land both these men in a police court and in jail? I say this not in a flippant spirit, but merely to bring out as vividly as possible the difference between the ancient Hebrew and modern Christian ideals of love. Furthermore, what an utter ignorance or disregard of the rights of personal preference, sympathy, and all the higher ingredients of love, is revealed in Laban's remark that it was not customary to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older had been disposed of! And how utterly opposed to the modern conception of love is the sequel of the story, in which we are told that "because" Leah was hated by her husband "therefore" she was made fruitful, and she bore him four sons, while the beloved Rachel remained barren! Was personal preference thus not only to be repressed by marrying off girls according to their age, but even punished? No doubt it was, according to the Hebrew notion; in their patriarchal mode of life the father was the absolute tyrant in the household, who reserved the right to select spouses for both his sons and daughters, and felt aggrieved if his plans were interfered with. The object of marriage was not to make a happy, sympathetic couple, but to raise sons; wherefore the hated Leah naturally exclaims, after she has borne Reuben, her first son, "Now my husband will love me." That is not the kind of love we look for in our marriages. We expect a man to love his wife for her own sake.

This notion, that the birth of sons is the one object of marriage, and the source of conjugal love, is so preponderant in the minds of these women that it crowds out all traces of monopoly or jealousy. Leah and Rachel not only submit to Laban's fraudulent substitution on the wedding-night, but each one meekly accepts her half of Jacob's attentions. The utter absence of jealousy is strikingly revealed in this passage:

"And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and she said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; that she may bear upon my knees, and I also may obtain children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. And Bilhah conceived and bare Jacob a son.... And Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid, conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.... When Leah saw she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her handmaid, and gave her to Jacob to wife. And Zilpah Leah's handmaid bare Jacob a son.... And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob a fifth son. And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I gave my handmaid to my husband."

Thus polygamy and concubinage are treated not only as a matter of course, but as a cause for divine reward! It might be said that there does exist a sort of jealousy between Leah and Rachel: a rivalry as to which of the two shall bear their husband the more sons, either by herself or by proxy. But how utterly different this rivalry is from the jealousy of a modern Christian wife, the very essence of which lies in the imperative insistence on the exclusive affection and chaste fidelity of her husband! And as modern Christian jealousy differs from ancient Hebrew jealousy, so does modern romantic love in general differ from Hebrew love. There is not a line in the story of Jacob and Rachel indicating the existence of monopoly, jealousy, coyness, hyperbole, mixed moods, pride, sympathy, gallantry, self-sacrifice, adoration, purity. Of the thirteen essential ingredients of romantic love only two are implied—individual preference and admiration of personal beauty. Jacob preferred Rachel to Leah, and this preference was based on her bodily charms: she was "beautiful and well-favored." Of the higher mental phases of personal beauty not a word is said.

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