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The Bird of Time/Songs of the Springtime/Vasant Panchami

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Vasant Panchami
Lilavati's Lament at the Feast of Spring

Go, dragon-fly, fold up your purple wing,
Why will you bring me tidings of the spring?
O lilting koels, hush your rapturous notes,
O dhadikulas, still your passionate throats,
Or seek some further garden for your nest . . .
Your songs are poisoned arrows in my breast.

O quench your flame, ye crimson gulmohors,
That flaunt your dazzling bloom across my doors,
Furl your white bells, sweet champa buds that call
Wild bees to your ambrosial festival,
And hold your breath, O dear sirisha trees . . .
You slay my heart with bitter memories.

O joyous girls who rise at break of morn
With sandal-soil your thresholds to adorn,
Ye brides who streamward bear on jewelled feet
Your gifts of silver lamps and new-blown wheat,
I pray you dim your voices when you sing
Your radiant salutations to the spring.

Hai! what have I to do with nesting birds,
With lotus-honey, corn and ivory curds,
With plantain blossom and pomegranate fruit,
Or rose-wreathed lintels and rose-scented lute,
With lighted shrines and fragrant altar-fires
Where happy women breathe their hearts' desires?

For my sad life is doomed to be, alas,
Ruined and sere like sorrow-trodden grass,
My heart hath grown, plucked by the wind of grief,
Akin to fallen flower and faded leaf,

Akin to every lone and withered thing
That hath foregone the kisses of the spring.

The Vasant Panchami is the spring festival when Hindu girls and married women carry gifts of lighted lamps and new-grown corn as offerings to the goddess of the spring and set them afloat on the face of the waters. Hindu widows cannot take part in any festive ceremonials. Their portion is sorrow and austerity.