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Mind of mine, why art thou so afraid? Why, O why, art thou so afraid? When thou seest the tempest, have no fear, for tempest it is not. Embark in Durgā's name and sail away. If, as thou goest, the [52]watchman[133] sayeth aught to thee, then cry to him that thou art child of Śyāmā, thy Mother.

Prasād says: O mind beside thyself, whom dost thou fear? My body I have sold to Dakshiṇā,[134] a slave to her service.


[133] Chaukidār, the village watchman. This class of men have a bad reputation. The chaukidār might try to stop Rāmprasād, in hope of a bribe.

[134] 'The favourable one' (Kālī). The word literally means 'of the south,' the region from which spring breezes come.


Beware, beware, the boat is sinking!

Ah, my careless mind, the days are passing, and thou hast not worshipped the Queen of Ruin.[135] Thou hast weighed down thy boat with vain goods of thy traffic, thy buying and selling. All day thou hast waited at the ghāt, and now with evening thou wouldst cross the stream.[136] Thou hast made thine old boat heavy with sins. If thou wouldst pass over the ocean of the world, make the Lord[137] thy helmsman. Seeing the leaping waves, the Six Boatmen[138] have fled. Mind, now trust thine all with thy teacher,[139] he will be thy helmsman.


[135] 'Queen of Hara' ('He who takes away').

[136] To the Hindu, life is more often a river than a road, and salvation is a ferrying across the stream of the world.

[137] Śrīnāth; literally, Lord of Śrī or Lakshmī (i. e. Vishṇu). But Rāmprasād almost certainly means 'Trust—and obey—your spiritual guide, Śrīnāth (Datta).' The teacher is idealised into a revelation, almost an incarnation, of the Deity.

[138] The Five 'Senses' of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling; and the Mind. All of them are distinguished from the Ātman or soul. The boat is the body, the organic vehicle of the soul.

[139] Literally, 'Thy teacher-Brahmā'; 'Thy teacher-god.'


This is the usual judgment of the Mother! For the one who day and night calls upon Durgā's name misfortune is decreed.


Within thine august presence, Mother, I am come, and stand with folded hands[140] before thee. When will my case be heard, that I may be freed from my dilemma?

What answers can I give to questionings? No understanding is there in this earthen pot.[141] Mother, my single hope is in the word of Śiva, which is one with what the Vedas and Āgamas[142] have declared.

Rāmprasād says: Mother, through fear of death I would escape and haste from here. So may, I, with my latest breath call upon Durgā's name, and on the banks of Jāhnavī's[143] stream forsake this earthly life!

The first of a group of poems which show that Bengali life was as full of litigation in the eighteenth century as it is today. They are packed with technical legal terms.


[140] The attitude of an accused person in an Indian court.

[141] See p. 59, note 7. When the 'life-giving' ceremony of an idol takes place, the deity to whom it is dedicated is supposed to enter it. But a pot of water is placed beside the idol, for the reception of other deities than the one to whom the image belongs. Rāmprasād means that he is a pot that has failed to obtain the life-giving spirit.

[142] Another name for the Tantras.

[143] The Ganges. She interrupted the meditations of the Saint Jahnu, who drank up all waters, but discharged them again from his ear, when besought by the gods not to detain the holy stream. She is called Jāhnavī ('Jahnu's daughter').


No weakling, child untimely-born,[144] am I, O Tārā. Though angry eyes flash fire at me, I do not fear. Those blood-stained Feet that rest on Śiva's lotus-breast, in them is my prosperity. Mother, if I would look upon this wealth[145] of mine, what troubles must I endure! Yet is my title safe within my heart, a deed [54]that bears Śiva's signature and seal. Now will I make my plaint before my lord,[146] and I shall win the verdict[147] with one question.[148] When I appeal in court, then will I show what sort of child I am, and at the trial bring as evidence the deed my guru gave me.[149]

Says Rāmprasād: It is no paltry suit that I thy child would institute against thee, Mother, nor will I cease to urge my case till thou dost take me to thy arms and grant me peace.


[144] Literally, a child of the eighth month. A variant reading is, 'a child twenty-eight days old.'

[145] Kālī's feet.

[146] Kālī is capricious, and he threatens to lodge a suit against her in Śiva's court.

[147] Rāmprasād uses the English word decree. It would be interesting to know if there is any earlier occurrence of an English word in a Bengali text. Clearly, this poem must be one of his latest, when the English law-courts were well established in Calcutta.

[148] Presumably, the question, 'Have you acted as your guru instructed you?'

[149] Every Hindu is supposed to have a spiritual preceptor, who teaches him maṇtras or texts. Rāmprasād will show that he has received orthodox teaching. It will be remembered that Śrīnāth Datta was his preceptor.

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