The Law Of Death
The song of Kilvani: fairest she
by John Hay
In all the land of Savatthi.
She had one child, as sweet and gay
And dear to her as the light of day.
She was so young, and he so fair,
The same bright eyes and the same dark hair;
To see them by the blossomy way,
They seemed two children at their play.
There came a death-dart from the sky,
Kilvani saw her darling die.
The glimmering shade his eyes invades,
Out of his cheek the red bloom fades;
His warm heart feels the icy chill,
The round limbs shudder, and are still.
And yet Kilvani held him fast
Long after life's last pulse was past,
As if her kisses could restore
The smile gone out forevermore.
But when she saw her child was dead,
She scattered ashes on her head,
And seized the small corpse, pale and sweet,
And rushing wildly through the street,
She sobbing fell at Buddha's feet.
"Master, all-helpful, help me now!
Here at thy feet I humbly bow;
Have mercy, Buddha, help me now!"
She groveled on the marble floor,
And kissed the dead child o'er and o'er.
And suddenly upon the air
There fell the answer to her prayer:
"Bring me to-night a lotus tied
With thread from a house where none has died."
She rose, and laughed with thankful joy,
Sure that the god would save the boy.
She found a lotus by the stream;
She plucked it from its noonday dream.
And then from door to door she fared,
To ask what house by Death was spared.
Her heart grew cold to see the eyes
Of all dilate with slow surprise:
"Kilvani, thou hast lost thy head;
Nothing can help a child that's dead.
There stands not by the Ganges' side
A house where none hath ever died."
Thus, through the long and weary day,
From every door she bore away
Within her heart, and on her arm,
A heavier load, a deeper harm.
By gates of gold and ivory,
By wattled huts of poverty,
The same refrain heard poor Kilvani,
The living are few, the dead are many.
The evening came so still and fleet
And overtook her hurrying feet.
And, heartsick, by the sacred lane
She fell, and prayed the god again.
She sobbed and beat her bursting breast:
"Ah, thou hast mocked me, Mightiest!
Lo I have wandered far and wide;
There stands no house where none hath died."
And Buddha answered, in a tone
Soft as a flute at twilight blown,
But grand as heaven and strong as death
To him who hears with ears of faith:
"Child, thou art answered. Murmur not!
Bow, and accept the common lot."
Kilvani heard with reverence meet,
And laid her child at Buddha's feet.