Toss and Drift

If you live in Eastern US or even if you have spent good vacation time there, you are very likely to have visited some part of Hiawatha country. This Indian chief owes a lot fof his popularity to the 19th century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, parts of whose long narrative poem bearing the Chief’s name used to be prescribed for study in colleges in India some fifty years ago!

p>Can you guess the name of one other  Indian chief, or more strictly Indian king of whom this poet had something to say?


No? Well, this king was not just Indian. He belonged to the country India, our country, and his tale forms part of the Ramayana epic, as one of its numerous  upakathas. 

I shall quote from Longfellow’s collection of assorted short poems known as Birds of Passage, Flight number 5.

King Trisanku

Viswamitra the Magician,
  By his spells and incantations,
Up to Indra’s realms elysian
  Raised Trisanku, king of nations. 

Indra and the gods offended
  Hurled him downward, and descending
In the air he hung suspended,
  With these equal powers contending. 

Thus by aspirations lifted,
  By misgivings downward driven,
Human hearts are tossed and drifted
  Midway between earth and heaven.

The American poet has a complete product, with a moral of the story in the last stanza! What difference would it have made to him to know who Sage Viswamitra really was? 


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