The King falls in love with a beautiful woodland maiden, marries her in secret, but is magically cursed to forget her. She cannot stay in the Palace, or return home to her father’s religious retreat, abandoned and pregnant. Can the curse ever be lifted?
Classical Sanskrit poet and playwright Kalidasa has been praised for centuries; but his works survive only in various altered editions. My edition used the Bengal version, as published in the Penguin Classic translated by Chandra Rajan (ISBN 0140455213), and included his poems, Rtusamharam (The Gathering of the Seasons), and Meghadutam (The Cloud Messenger)
My thoughts: A little bit Shakespeare, a little bit Grimm’s Fairy Tale, set in lush and exotic ancient India. It took me several starts to get into the story, partly because the preceding poems did not grip me despite some beautiful passages. But it has been a while since I read a play and I was eager to enjoy this one.
Like Western melodramas, stock characters like the Jester and the Chamberlain appear – I liked the Jester in particular as he complains over being dragged about on horseback through forests as the King indulges in hunting deer, yet remains his true friend.
Not that the poems were without merit. The Rtusamharam (Gathering of the seasons) showed the beauties of Nature and young women, images entangled and interwoven in short poetic picture images collected together to describe the six seasons ; Summer, Rains, Autumn, Frosts, Winter and Spring. Peaceful and yet erotic. My earlier read of the Kama Sutra proved useful in explaining the abundance of nail marks on breasts and bruised and bitten bottom lips. 😊
Gazing all night longingly
On the faces of lovely women sleeping happy
On terraces of sparkling white mansions
The moon pales at dawn struck by guilty shame
With girdles of golden bells dangling at their waists
Strings of pearls clinging to their breasts
Slender women, soft and yielding from the flames of love
Accompanied by the sweet symphony
Of bees and cuckoos in honied spring
Ravish the hearts of men
In the Meghadutam (The Cloud Messenger), a woodland spirit who neglected his duties is banished far away from his wife for a year. He begs a passing cloud to visit her and give a message of his love and devotion to her, enticing the cloud with descriptions of the beautiful landscapes and opportunities the cloud himself may enjoy along the way.
Personal rating: The Recognition of Sakuntula gets 6/10, but the poetry only a 4.
Kimmy’s rating: Kimmy asked me out for a walk to enjoy real nature on a balmy Summer evening, then sat at my feet while I read. Now that’s true love.
Other reading: The Dry. Australian crime novel by first time author Jane Harper. I had heard many good things about this one both from the bookshop customers and also other bloggers. Descriptions of rural Australia largely ring true, although the town bullies are a little like the Clantons from the OK Corral shootout. I actually pieced together the identity and motive of the murderer about halfway through, but suspects were eliminated throughout the course of the story so perhaps not that much of an achievement. Definitely worth a read.