The Love Song of Har Dyal

Ha dicho Borges “Los últimos relatos de Kipling fueron no menos laberínticos y angustiosos que los de Kafka o los de James, a los que sin duda superan; pero en 1885, en Lahore, había emprendido una serie de cuentos breves, escritos de manera directa, que reuniría en 1890. No pocos –In the House of Suddhoo, Beyond the Pale , The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows– son lacónicas obras maestras”, un fragmento de esa obra maestra que se llama Beyond the Pale es lo que sigue.

Then he saw that the Gully ended in a trap, and heard a little laugh from behind the grated window. It was a pretty little laugh, and Trejago, knowing that, for all practical purposes, the old Arabian Nights are good guides, went forward to the window, and whispered that verse of “The Love Song of Har Dyal” which begins:

Can a man stand upright in the face of the naked Sun;
or a Lover in the Presence of his Beloved?
If my feet fail me, O Heart of my Heart, am I to blame,
being blinded by the glimpse of your beauty?

There came the faint tchinks of a woman’s bracelets from behind the grating, and a little voice went on with the song at the fifth verse:

Alas! alas! Can the Moon tell the Lotus of her love when the
Gate of Heaven is shut and the clouds gather for the rains?
They have taken my Beloved, and driven her with the pack-horses to the North.
There are iron chains on the feet that were set on my heart.
Call to the bowman to make ready-

The voice stopped suddenly, and Trejago walked out of Amir Nath’s Gully, wondering who in the world could have capped “The Love Song of Har Dyal” so neatly.

Next morning, as he was driving to the office, an old woman threw a packet into his dog-cart. In the packet was the half of a broken glass bangle, one flower of the blood red dhak, a pinch of bhusa or cattle-food, and eleven cardamoms. That packet was a letter -not a clumsy compromising letter, but an innocent, unintelligible lover’s epistle.

Trejago knew far too much about these things, as I have said. No Englishman should be able to translate object-letters. But Trejago spread all the trifles on the lid of his office-box and began to puzzle them out.

A broken glass-bangle stands for a Hindu widow all India over; because, when her husband dies a woman’s bracelets are broken on her wrists. Trejago saw the meaning of the little bit of the glass. The flower of the dhak means diversely “desire,” “come,” “write,” or “danger,” according to the other things with it. One cardamom means “jealousy;” but when any article is duplicated in an object-letter, it loses its symbolic meaning and stands merely for one of a number indicating time, or, if incense, curds, or saffron be sent also, place. The message ran then:–“A widow dhak flower and bhusa–at eleven o’clock.” The pinch of bhusa enlightened Trejago. He saw -this kind of letter leaves much to instinctive knowledge- that the bhusa referred to the big heap of cattle-food over which he had fallen in Amir Nath’s Gully, and that the message must come from the person behind the grating; she being a widow. So the message ran then: “A widow, in the Gully in which is the heap of bhusa, desires you to come at eleven o’clock.”

Trejago threw all the rubbish into the fireplace and laughed. He knew that men in the East do not make love under windows at eleven in the forenoon, nor do women fix appointments a week in advance. So he went, that very night at eleven, into Amir Nath’s Gully, clad in a boorka, which cloaks a man as well as a woman. Directly the gongs in the City made the hour, the little voice behind the grating took up “The Love Song of Har Dyal” at the verse where the Panthan girl calls upon Har Dyal to return. The song is really pretty in the Vernacular. In English you miss the wail of it. It runs something like this:

Alone upon the housetops, to the North
I turn and watch the lightning in the sky,
The glamour of thy footsteps in the North,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!

Below my feet the still bazar is laid
Far, far below the weary camels lie,
The camels and the captives of thy raid,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!

My father’s wife is old and harsh with years,
And drudge of all my father’s house am I.
My bread is sorrow and my drink is tears,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!

As the song stopped, Trejago stepped up under the grating and whispered: “I am here.”

[Traducción al español]