Literary Shelf

Song of the Serpent-Charmers: Edwin Arnold

Many have heard about Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia in which the poet tries to retell the story of Prince Siddhartha in verse along with other poems. As a writer, he is an interpreter of the East to the West, of Buddhism to the West.  He is also famous for The Bhagavad-Gita or The Song Celestial. 

It is startling to note how could he opine about such a topic at that time when India had been reeling under the older set-up. Even then he could take to what we took to not. The antics of the charmer are typically astonishing as for his gathering of courage and guts and also as for taking the belief in strong confidence.

The poet too toeing the line and length of the charmer tries to say the things of his own after having a tryst with the spectacle. It is but a great tamasha so fraught with risks, a deadly play which they show to, an act of daredevilry.

The charmer asks the snake to come out, the glittering, deadly naga to dance to the tunes of the music. The serpent song without any doubt in it to say is pleasing to the ear, so sweet and clear that it casts an impact of its own to be seen when played on a beaded gourd.

Invoking the Lord, praying to and commanding the snake he starts the show submissively without fearing the deadly species of it. The snake arises and awakes from the basket coiled around. Hooded and swaying to the musical melodies played, he requires it. Eggs are there to suck. Milk is for to drink. The charmer makes it show the tongue.

Resting the fangs, relish upon warm milk. Come you, naga. Fear you it not. We greet you with salaam. O it is but an image of the Serpent-god! Dance you as long as we sing and play. Finally, they pin the cobra, the angry head of the cobra to put into the basket tactfully. If it shows its notoriety, they too have the medicine of extracting the fang.

Come forth, oh, Snake! come forth, oh, glittering Snake!
Oh shining, lovely, deadly Nag! appear,
Dance to the music that we make,
This serpent-song, so sweet and clear,
Blown on the beaded gourd, so clear,
So soft and clear.

Oh, dread Lord Snake! come forth and spread thy hood,
And drink the milk and suck the eggs; and show
Thy tongue; and own the tune is good:
Hear, Maharaj! how hard we blow!
Ah, Maharaj! for thee we blow;
See how we blow!

Great Uncle Snake! creep forth and dance to-day!
This music is the music snakes love best;
Taste the warm white new milk, and play
Standing erect, with fangs at rest,
Dancing on end, sharp fangs at rest,
Fierce fangs at rest.

Ah, wise Lord Nag! thou comest!--Fear thou not!
We make salaam to thee, the Serpent-King,
Draw forth thy folds, knot after knot;
Dance, Master! while we softly sing;
Dance, Serpent! while we play and sing,
We play and sing.

Dance, dreadful King! whose kisses strike men dead;
Dance this side, mighty Snake! the milk is here!
(They seize the Cobra by the neck)
Ah, shabash! pin his angry head!
Thou fool! this nautch shall cost thee dear;
Wrench forth his fangs! this piping clear,
It costs thee dear!

14-Apr-2024

More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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