Kisagotami and the Buddha
A woman -- dove-eyed, young, with tearful face
And lifted hands -- saluted, bending low:
"Lord! thou art he", she said, "who yesterday
Had pity on me in the fig-grove here,
Where I live lone and reared my child; but he
Straying amid the blossoms found a snake,
Which twined about his wrist, whilst he did laugh
And tease the quick forked tongue and opened mouth
Of that cold playmate. But, alas! ere long
He turned so pale and still, I could not think
Why he should cease to play, and let my breast
Fall from his lips. And one said, 'He is sick
Of poison'; and another, 'He will die.'
But I, who could not lose my precious boy,
Prayed of them physic, which might bring the light
Back to his eyes; it was so very small
That kiss-mark of the serpent, and I think
It could not hate him, gracious as he was,
Nor hurt him in his sport. And some one said,
'There is a holy man upon the hill --
Lo! now he passeth in the yellow robe --
Ask of the Rishi if there be a cure
For that which ails thy son.' Whereon I came
Trembling to thee, whose brow is like a god's,
And wept and drew the face-cloth from my babe,
Praying thee tell what simples might be good.
And thou, great sir! didst spurn me not, but gaze
With gentle eyes and touch with patient hand;
Then draw the face-cloth back, saying to me,
'Yea! little sister, there is that might heal
Thee first, and him, if thou couldst fetch the thing;
For they who seek physicians bring to them
What is ordained. Therefore, I pray thee, find
Black mustard seed, a tola; only mark
Thou take it not from any hand or house
Where father, mother, child, or slave hath died:
It shall be well if thou canst find such seed.'
Thus didst thou speak, my Lord!"
Exceeding tenderly. "Yea! I spake thus,
Dear Kisagotami! But didst thou find
"I went, Lord, clasping to my breast
The babe, grown colder, asking at each hut --
Here in the jungle and towards the town --
'I pray you, give me mustard, of your grace,
A tola -- black'; and each who had it gave,
For all the poor are piteous to the poor;
But when I asked, 'In my friend's household here
Hath any peradventure ever died --
Husband or wife, or child, or slave?' they said:
'O Sister! what is this you ask? the dead
Are very many, and the living few!'
So with sad thanks I gave the mustard back,
And prayed of others; but the others said,
'Here is the seed, but we have lost our slave!'
'Here is the seed, but our good man is dead!'
'Here is some seed, but he that sowed it died
Between the rain time and the harvesting!'
Ah, sir! I could not find a single house
Where there was mustard seed and none had died!
Therefore I left my child -- who would not suck
Nor smile -- beneath the wild vines by the stream,
To seek thy face and kiss thy feet, and pray
Where I might find this seed and find no death,
If now, indeed, my baby be not dead,
As I do fear, and as they said to me."
"My sister! thou hast found," the Master said,
"Searching for what none finds -- that bitter balm
I had to give thee. He thou lovedst slept
Dead on thy bosom yesterday: today
Thou know'st the whole wide world weeps with thy woe:
The grief which all hearts share grows less for one.
Lo! I would pour my blood if it could stay
Thy tears and win the secret of that curse
Which makes sweet love our anguish, and which drives
O'er flowers and pastures to the sacrifice --
As these dumb beasts are driven -- men their lords.
I seek that secret: bury thou thy child!"
from The Light of Asia, Book the Fifth by Sir Edwin Arnold