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captive in Ravan's hands. Every allurement of luxury, every temptation of ease, of pleasure, of riches, of ambition had been essayed to estrange her heart from its truth. Had Sita never yielded, never for one hour purchased peace? After long search, after hard strife, after all pain of separation and heart agony of fear—for consummation—a doubt. To seek with tears and with blood the crown of life, and having found to question if the gold be but some base metal, and the jewels but glass—such (if one may read beneath the surface the bitter philosophy of the poem) is the wont of human nature. Better were death than to live dishonoured. Rama is no Menelaus to take back a Helen. Let Sita prove her innocence, let the gods speak and give judgement! Sita's own lips challenge the ordeal; if Rama doubts, what good abides with her? The wood is gathered for the burning, the pyre is raised, the fire is kindled, and the flame, the sacred element of marriage altars, leaps up, and the people, with slander still fresh on their tongues, weep at the eleventh hour for Sita, found, saved, and sacrificed. But the gods are kind. In the flames the watching multitude sees a second figure. One, before whom their heads are bowed, stands beside her in the fire; and she comes back as arisen from the dead unscathed, to those unbelievers in love's immutable truth. No flower of her garland is withered, no hair of her head is singed, no fold of her raiment scorched. Two purities have met, the spirit of the fiery element, the spirit of the woman who has loved, and the flame which consumes has become the fire which protects.
But human joy, for the Oriental, is illusion. 'The cry, the 'incessant cry sent forth by Aryan India was that life was 'pain—pain from the body, pain from the world, pain from 'the heavens and from the gods.' And the Spirit of Fire has only befriended Sita that she may fall into the hands of fate. Rama reigns, just and righteous, in the kingdom of his fathers. But 'as the water-drop lies trembling on the 'lotus leaf so rests our fleeting life.' Unstable as the water-drop, perishable as the leaf, happiness comes but to go; peace is but a tent struck in the desert, where pilgrims tarry but a day. The doubt no miracle can dispel still dogs Sita's steps, and even in her own country ill words are spoken of her. And Rama, the just and the righteous, puts his wife from him. Once again, sad, forsaken, and alone, she lives in the far forest, and Rama's twin sons are born to her in sorrow and pain. In the forest she rears them, and the old poet hermit,' the mighty saint Valmiki,'
VOL. OXOVI. NO. CCCOII. A A
teaches them to recite the deeds and wanderings of Rama and the story of Sita's unspotted truth. So the long years pass till the day comes when, at the king's high sacrifice, Valmiki sends the two boys to sing the Ramayana in Rama's own presence. Pierced to the heart with contrition, Rama hears the song, and Sita is summoned to the palace. The scene in which the gods give final judgement between the king and the wife has no parallel in its completeness of conception. And though to English ears the English equivalent to the rhythm of the Sanscrit verse robs the words of their full power, the mere telling of the events, the portrayal of the characters, the developement of the action, produce in themselves a tragic impressiveness not easily forgotten. Rama stands in the full splendour of his royal glories. The woodland-born children are near at hand; and Sita, mother of his sons, wife of his youth, grief-worn, yet fair as of old, is face to face with him who has been the one love of life. But neither her fairness, her constancy, nor her love shall ever again avail to gladden the heart of the king. 'I have 'sinned.' Such is the drift of Rama's open confession. He had bowed his head to the voice of his people; he had held her as guilty who was innocent of all guilt, lest he should be a cause of offence to the incredulous world. Now let the gods hear him and help. Against his people he may not offend; against Sita he will not. Let her once more prove in the sight of all men her unstained honour, and the eyes which were blind shall be opened, and for him and for her sorrow shall be effaced, and the joys which were theirs of old shall be restored.
Then Sita, gentlest of women, but the wife and daughter of kings, mother of princes, looked on Rama and she looked on the assembled princes. For her is no joy left in all years of time or eternity. There are wrongs which are remediless, wounds no salve can heal; deeds are irreparable, and no payment of arrears can obliterate the days when trust failed. Denied, discrowned of hope, through no second ordeal of flame shall her feet win their way to Rama's side. Slowly and sadly she utters her litany of despair:—
'If I from birth have lived unstained in thought and deed, spare thy daughter her shame and anguish, Mother Earth, receive her.
'If in service and devotion I have laboured undefiled, thou who didst bear this woman, Mother Earth, receive her.
'If to Rama I have in truth kept faith, from the burden of life let thy Sita, Mother Earth, be released.'
And the earth parted, and a golden throne arose, and on the golden throne sat the great mother, who has borne in many lands many names, the Giver of corn, queen of the sowing-time and of the harvest; and she folded her arms about Sita, and Sita, born of the furrow, returns to the earth.
No violence of passion with its suggestion of im perma nence, no bitterness of resentment for wrong suffered in long silence, no reproach, no upbraiding, stir the deep waters which have passed over Sita's soul. The weight of a heart has been the burden too heavy to be borne of life, and it has sunk the ship in the windless night. Helen, from the arms of Paris, returned to live placid life-days with Menelaus. Brynhild, wedded to Gunnar, Sigurd, wedded to Gudrun, are reunited in death; 'we two, I and Sigurd, shall never part 'again.' But Rama, who has loved one love, and one love only, all the years of his life, sits solitary upon his throne, and Sita, whose love was truth of truth, loyalty of loyalty, passion of passion, whose life to his life was in very deed as shadow to substance—hand loosed from hand, heart broken from heart—passes alone and uncompanioned into the region where only shadows go.
Such, apart from all mystic and mythical interpretation, is, so far as Sita is concerned, the tragedy of Eastern idealism. It is for those versed in Indian literature to tell us how far Sita, as a race type, has influenced the subsequent ideals of Indian drama and Indian fiction down to the more modern school of fiction represented by the novels of Bankim Chandra Chatterji, whose work Mr. Frazer parallels with that of Pierre Loti (' outside the "Mariage de '"Loti" there is nothing comparable in Western fiction'), and those still more recent authors who have followed in his wake. In classical Western literature two figures alone stand out as in any way corresponding to the Sita ideal— the Enid, of Chrestien de Troyes' romance and of the 'Mabi'nogion' legends, and the Griselda, of which the European popularity, when the story was adopted and framed by Boccaccio, exceeded that of any other of his novelle. Both may be cited as incomplete and broken reflexions of some remote, non-Western ideal, yet they are not in any true sense type ideals accepted by their own day and generation. * Grisilde is dead and eke hir patience,' Chaucer himself tells us with an unbelieving jest at the close of his • Clerkes 'Tale'; nor is one disposed to think—in view of the majority of Decameronian heroines—the Renascence novelist was more credulous as to the veracity of the character Dione delineated. And if, as Mr. Ker* points out, the story of Enid, as told by Chrestien, 'has none of the in'eradicable falsity of the story of Griselda,' it still lacks what is the most characteristic feature of the Indian type— a certain remote dignity, the spiritual vesture and veil of a womanhood which theoretically (to borrow a phrase) 'has 'never seen the sun.' Possibly the type was incapable of Western reproduction; possibly the medieval art-doctrine which regarded the subject of wedded love as inadmissible in romance was too firmly rooted to be lightly supplanted by a type approached from a wholly different standpoint. But whether it were for one reason or for another, Griselda and Enid are practically, in European classics, companionless, and the maid-errants or the wife-errants, as the case might be, of Arthurian legends, medieval romances, and Elizabethan drama are the central women's figures of early Western imagination.
To Helen, to Brynhild, to Sita, each man will render homage according to the bent of his own emotional instincts. Argive Helen, crowned by Greek poets, re-crowned as the symbol of the Renascence in its materialistic idealism, will to the end of time hold her Western devotees captive, a faroff dream of an unrivalled perfection of beauty. Brynhild, armoured and helmed, will appeal to the sympathy of the few. Now, as in her life days, she must be loved greatly to be loved at all. Sita lives for and in the East alone. But while the East is true to itself she will remain loved and worshipped, with all that is to the East most sacred and most dear. 'I reverence thee' (so runs the hymn to Rama where 'the best of all that Hinduism holds is sublimely 'rendered't), 'the lover of the devout, the merciful, the 'tender-hearted; I worship thy lotus feet, which bestow 'upon the unsensual thine own abode in heaven. I adore 'thee, the dark and beautiful . . . the mine of felicity, the 'salvation of the saints. I worship thee, with thy spouse 'and thy brother. ... I reverently adore thee, the king of 'incomparable beauty, the lord of the earth-born Sita.' Thus Sita is remembered; and, with all reverence be it spoken, to the Madonna of the Hindu as to the Madonna of the West the angels' salutation might be humbly addressed, 'Blessed art thou, so loved and so remembered, amongst
* Ideals of Epic and Romance.
t Hymn to Rama, 'Lit. Hist.' Frazer.
Art. III.—1. Report of His Majesty's Commissioners appointed to inquire into the subject of the Administration of the Port of London and other matters connected therewith, 1902.
2. First Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Steamship Subsidies, 1901.
3. The German Empire of To-day. By ' Veritas.' London: Longmans & Co. 1902.
4. Commercial Trusts. By John R. Dos Passos. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1901.
Observers of political thought and feeling have seen in this country at the opening of the twentieth century two very differently coloured streams flowing side by side. On the one hand there has been a larger sense than ever before existed of the greatness and possible destinies of the British Empire; on the other a doubt as to the soundness of the heart of that Empire. The way in which the South African war affected the public mind is, as it were, a microcosm of a more general feeling. The national spirits were raised by the exhibition of the solidarity and resources of the different parts of the Empire, but depressed by the revelation of a military system so unprepared to meet the changes produced by new weapons that it was necessary to take costly lessons from the enemy and remodel the art of war during a campaign. The result was a feeling of vast resources inefficiently applied. It is clear to anyone who studies the writing and listens to the talk of the day that many persons well fitted to judge are haunted by a suspicion, stronger in some and weaker in others, that the British Empire may be in the position of a man who has attained to the height of power, wealth, and fame, but finds his tenure of these advantages threatened by an incipient heart disease. Like a gloomy undertone this feeling pervades discussions on military and even naval affairs, on the procedure and condition of Parliament, on the work of public offices, on statistics of population and trade, on education, on industrial methods. It breathes in the exhortation of the Prince of Wales to his fellow-countrymen to 'wake up, ' in the stress laid by Lord Rosebery on the word 'efficiency.' It is not, we think, a mere passing recrudescence of the eternal spirit of pessimism, or a fall in the moral temperature. The feeling is derived from a study of facts and figures, and from a rational comparison of ourselves with others.