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The Tryst

From The Birmingham Age Herald, August 25, 1913. By Rabindranath Tagore.

Upagupta, the disciple of Buddha, lay asleep on the dust by the city wall of Mathura.
Lamps were all out, doors were shut in the town, and stars were hidden in clouds in the murky sky of August.
Whose feet were those tinkling with anklets, touching his breast of a sudden?
He woke up starting, and the rude light from the woman’s lamp struck his forgiving eyes.
It was the dancing girl, drunk with the wine of her youth, starred with jewels and clouded with a pale blue mantle.
She lowered her lamp and saw the young face, austerely beautiful.
“Forgive me, young ascetic,” said the woman, “graciously come to my house. The dusty earth is not a fit bed for you.”
The ascetic answered, “Go on your way, fair woman. When the time is ripe I will come and see you.”
Suddenly, the black night showed its teeth in a flash of lightning.
The storm growled from the corner of the sky, and the woman trembled in fear.


The new year had not begun yet.
The wind was wild. The branches of the wayside trees were aching with blossoms.
Gay notes of the flute came floating in the warm spring air from afar.
The citizens had gone to the woods, to the festival of flowers.
From the mid-sky smiled the full moon on the shadows of the silent town.
The young ascetic was walking in the lonely city road, while overhead the lovesick koels urged from the mango branches their sleepless plaints.
Upagupta passed through the city gates, and stood at the base of the rampart.
What woman was it lying on the earth in the shadow of the wall at his feet?
Struck with the black pestilence, her body spotted with sores, she was driven away from the town with haste for fear of her fatal touch.
The ascetic sat by her side, taking her head on his knees, and moistened her lips with water and smeared her body with balm.
“Who are you, kind angel of mercy?” asked the woman.
“The time, at last, has come for me to visit you, and I have come,” replied the young ascetic.

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