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Anashuya and Vijaya by W.B. Yeats

I do not know it nor can say if anybody in English wrote such a poem of a mythical debate and discussion centring round human psyche and its chastity, feminine sensibility and its thinking, the notion of keeping of heart and soul dedicated and devoted with full loyalty banishing infidelity and toeing along the classical lines. The purity of heart, thought and idea how did it hold its sway over, how the human idea of the chastity of thought? These were but classical discussions which kept us engaged for as for purging the human soul. But psychology is something different, the layers of consciousness, if delved deep something other will come out and the things are not so as we think it to be. The crude things will remain crude, the core stuffs core. Anashuya’s devotion and dedication we admire and appreciate it, her satihood, the state of purity and chastity upholding feminine dignity and verve. But which is whose here?

We do not know the story as somebody can it that Yeats might have Anashuya on the model of Shakuntala and Vijaya on that of Dushyanta, but what to say it about, nothing sure of? Had Yeats been, we would have for an explanation as none can explain as the poet can himself and is the best critic of his poetry rather than anyone else doing the criticism. Anashuya is but a much debated character and whose character is it here we do not know.

W.B.Yeats is perhaps dreaming like Lawrence thinking about the daughters of Frieda in The Virgin and the Gypsy. Or, maybe it that he is trying to write a mini Abhijnanshakuntalam on a lyrico-dramatic format, trying his utmost best to take it further the side characters after assigning them roles and remodelling on that format.

It is the love of a rishi-kanya, a sati-sadhvi, how to feel it? How to feel the fragrance of the flower blooming in the forest tract as Gray says it in Elegy? An adorer of love, a worshipper of heart and soul in reality as such has been delineated and portrayed herein. How do the celestial ladies love? How do the royals and classicists? A classical and purist version of love and romance seen through the devotional framework of attachment and loyalty, serenity and calm is the thing of deliberation.. The flower of love, how to feel it, how to feel its fragrance? How the flora of classicism and the Vedic hermitage?

Pavitra prem, pavitra manna, sacred love, sacred inner heart, how to conceive it? How to dispel the images of others from the manna, the inner mind and heart? Niscchal prem, guileless love, how many of us take it to? Here we find Dushyanta forgetting Shakuntala, but such a thing has also happened in British history when Edward VIII abdicated his throne as for in relationship with an American divorcee.

How the Temple of Love? How the flight of imagination? How the ashramite maids in love in the midst of exotic flora and fauna? How the classical version of love story? How the royal story of love? Here the flamingos of love flying? Where the swans showing serenity? How to dispel it guile from the innocence of heart? Who is whose lover? Of the heart or the body? Why does the mind think in a suspicious way?

What it crosses over the heart of Anashuya and what does she take to, how the state of her mind and feeling, how to say it all that? How does Vijaya take to her love? The Cottage of Love and how the worshippers of it?

Anashuya and Vijaya

A little Indian temple in the Golden Age. Around it a garden; around that the forest. Anashuya, the young priestess, kneeling within the temple.


Send peace on all the lands and flickering corn.—
O, may tranquillity walk by his elbow
When wandering in the forest, if he love
No other.—Hear, and may the indolent flocks
Be plentiful.—And if he love another,
May panthers end him.—Hear, and load our king
With wisdom hour by hour.—May we two stand,
When we are dead, beyond the setting suns,
A little from the other shades apart,
With mingling hair, and play upon one lute.

Vijaya [entering and throwing a lily at her]

Hail! hail, my Anashuya.


No: be still.
I, priestess of this temple, offer up
Prayers for the land.


I will wait here, Amrita.


By mighty Brahma's ever rustling robe,
Who is Amrita? Sorrow of all sorrows!
Another fills your mind.


My mother's name.

Anashuya [sings, coming out of the temple]

A sad, sad thought went by me slowly:
Sigh, O you little stars! O, sigh and shake your blue apparel!
The sad, sad thought has gone from me now wholly:
Sing, O you little stars! O, sing and raise your rapturous carol
To mighty Brahma, he who made you many as the sands,
And laid you on the gates of evening with his quiet hands.

[Sits down on the steps of the temple.]

Vijaya, I have brought my evening rice;
The sun has laid his chin on the gray wood,
Weary, with all his poppies gathered round him.


The hour when Kama, full of sleepy laughter,
Rises, and showers abroad his fragrant arrows,
Piercing the twilight with their murmuring barbs.


See how the sacred old flamingoes come,
Painting with shadow all the marble steps:
Aged and wise, they seek their wonted perches
Within the temple, devious walking, made
To wander by their melancholy minds.
Yon tall one eyes my supper; swiftly chase him
Far, far away. I named him after you.
He is a famous fisher; hour by hour
He ruffles with his bill the minnowed streams.
Ah! there he snaps my rice. I told you so.
Now cuff him off. He's off! A kiss for you,
Because you saved my rice. Have you no thanks?

Vijaya [sings]

Sing you of her, O first few stars,
Whom Brahma, touching with his finger, praises, for you hold
The van of wandering quiet; ere you be too calm and old,
Sing, turning in your cars,
Sing, till you raise your hands and sigh, and from your car heads peer,
With all your whirling hair, and drop many an azure tear.


What know the pilots of the stars of tears?


Their faces are all worn, and in their eyes
Flashes the fire of sadness, for they see
The icicles that famish all the north,
Where men lie frozen in the glimmering snow;
And in the flaming forests cower the lion
And lioness, with all their whimpering cubs;
And, ever pacing on the verge of things,
The phantom, Beauty, in a mist of tears;
While we alone have round us woven woods,
And feel the softness of each other's hand,
Amrita, while——

Anashuya [going away from him]

Ah me, you love another,

[Bursting into tears.]

And may some dreadful ill befall her quick!


I loved another; now I love no other.
Among the mouldering of ancient woods
You live, and on the village border she,
With her old father the blind wood-cutter;
I saw her standing in her door but now.


Vijaya, swear to love her never more,


Ay, ay.


Swear by the parents of the gods,
Dread oath, who dwell on sacred Himalay,
On the far Golden Peak; enormous shapes,
Who still were old when the great sea was young
On their vast faces mystery and dreams;
Their hair along the mountains rolled and filled
From year to year by the unnumbered nests
Of aweless birds, and round their stirless feet
The joyous flocks of deer and antelope,
Who never hear the unforgiving hound.


By the parents of the gods, I swear.

Anashuya [sings]

I have forgiven, O new star!
Maybe you have not heard of us, you have come forth so newly,
You hunter of the fields afar!
Ah, you will know my loved one by his hunter's arrows truly,
Shoot on him shafts of quietness, that he may ever keep
An inner laughter, and may kiss his hands to me in sleep.

Farewell, Vijaya. Nay, no word, no word;
I, priestess of this temple, offer up
Prayers for the land.

[Vijaya goes.]

O Brahma, guard in sleep
The merry lambs and the complacent kine,
The flies below the leaves, and the young mice
In the tree roots, and all the sacred flocks
Of red flamingo; and my love, Vijaya;
And may no restless fay with fidget finger
Trouble his sleeping: give him dreams of me.

What sort of king is it who cannot recognize even his wife? Is love for to be forgotten; a thing of forgetfulness? But against the backdrop of it, Anashuya cannot let Vijaya go and talk otherwise. Yeats’ poem is a study of celestial love. Here immortal hearts burning with the immortal flame of love are at dialogue with each other. Two hearts in love are chatting dramatically.

I do not know who Anashuya? Who Vijaya? But Yeats knew it Anashuya. How did he come to know about them? An Anglo-Irish poet from across the saat samudras, how could he have? From which pundita did he hear the story? How did he hear the lore of ancient India? How could Yeats think of writing a poem on Anashuya, the talk of the Hindu household? Mostly the Hindu women talk about the name whatever be the denomination. The feminine chastity, virginity is the crux of the matter as shown in the character of Anashuya is also a thing discussed from ancient times. But our self, can it be so purer and stainless? Is suspicion not present in the mind of man? Can jealousy be expelled really? Can one dispel the thoughts of the consciousness layers? The poem is dramatic and the dialogues are lively no doubt. There is some internal action going on in the poem. Some sort of dialogue between the selves has been carried it forward. Something of the personality split has been inculcated in.

Yeats wrote about Anashuya. The story of feminine chastity and purity would have charmed him on finding Gonne contradictory. Would have been in the know of Samson’s Delilah. Keats’ Lamia would have definitely stricken him. Even though we talk of celibacy and austerity, can we banish the carnal desires from our self? Even nuns cannot, fathers cannot, great rishis and munis cannot get victory over human charm, fascination, infatuation with and temptation. What did it happen to Vishwamitra and Menaka?

Yeats would have definitely begun Anashuya And Vijay in a dialogue format, but for some reason he failed to complete the poem centring round the chaste character of Anashuya and the other self at criss-crosses so lucidly. Anashuya is just an archetype, a motif, a symbol, a representation. There is something of the old classical times, but classicism cannot be golden all the times. What it is morality; didacticism has always a base rooted into the soil. Classicism though is based on a set of rules and regulations, a set of moral nomenclature and protocol, but everything is not in austerity, rigidity, and hardening of heart. The ‘papa’ is but inherent in human ‘manna’ and man cannot banish it. Jealousy is but a part of our nature; it is in our heart. So, how to be pure? To be loyal, chaste, devoted and dedicated is good. To be noble, obedient, orderly and meek is the thing. But the Sati story can mislead it all in the absence of some strong reason.

Anashuya is here just for character delineation and so is Vijaya, but the two like twins as contrasts in studies, as the two divided selves at dialogue with each other arguing and reasoning, submitting and contradicting one by one with their thesis and anti-thesis. To read Anashuya is to be reminded of Aurobondo’s Savitri. To read her is to be reminded of Menaka, Rambha, Urvasie and so on.

The Brahminical order always in search of purity, chastity and virginity, mystery, miracle and morality encourages such a characterization, but can it be possible all the times? Situations and circumstances too play a role n assigning a character. Those who talk of purity, are they pure and chaste from their within? Whatever be that, Anashuya is a link in Savitri, Sati and so on from the ancient point of view. But the case is different from Abhijnanshakuntalam point of view. How to keep if things are adverse, if situations force one? We should try our utmost best to keep our hearts chaste.

People talk of devotional and divine Mira, lost in Krishnite love, but she faced stiff criticism for her royal lineage, for her yogan attire. It is said, the royals came to offer her a cup of poison and she took it. Sita had to pass the test of the fire ordeal.

But Anashuya is it here, one of Kalidasa and his Abhijnanshakuntalam? The poet draws and derives from. What it is not in Kalidasa’ Anashuya, that is in Yeats who intends on delineating her a bit. But Primyamvada’s part has been assigned to some other as the creation of Yeats.

Actually, he had wished to take two women with one lover, two hearts appearing to be one with one soul in them and they compromising them.

Anashuya And Vijaya is a poem based on the duality of the self, the duality of the heart. The other thing is this that Yeats gave his heart to one, adored her, but she in return gave to another.

Yeats wrote the poem before even when he had not met anyone as Indian allusions and anecdotes to be elaborated and referred to. It was his inward inclination which drew him close to Vedic, Upanishadic and Puranic vision; it was his inner yearning which drew solace from.

Is the discussion a self-to-self talk or a replication of the dialogue in between Anashuya and Priyamvada? The psychology of mind, the purity of feeling, the devotion of heart, what to say it about? How to keep ‘manna’ niscchal manna? How to keep the ‘manna’ free from ‘papa’? How to be chaste and pure from our within? What to say about Anashuya’s love for Vijaya and the romantic ‘manna’ diverting, digressing, transgressing and she checking the supposition and proposition it not with what it may be right or wrong, so whimsical and notion-flirted?

We do not know what does Yeats intend on saying in this poem? Which tale of Anashuya is it herein? The sense of purity, what is it in it? The sense of loyalty, what is it in it? Where does the love of heart take to? How the wings of imagination? Where does the manna go to?


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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