Letter – Nikola Vaptsarov


Francesca Labore

Fernandéz is killed!
is dead and buried
lieas in the fields
on the outskirts
of Madrid.

He was such a good man, tell me –
why did they cut short his life?
Through my Fernandéz has perished
they shall still go out and fight.

Mother, there is only you
to whom I can my grief unfold.
You know how it is in war,
and how many tears do flow.

I look for signs of sympathy
in other women’s eyes,
but there too I find bitter grief
and tears, fresh tears arise…

Perhaps a piece of bursing shell
a loved one killed on duty,
perhaps a piece of bursting shell
has ravished youthful beauty.

perhaps like me she’s vainly hoping
and some news awaits,
but the moist earth already holds him
in her strong embrace…

Mother, you should not reproach him
that he went away to fight.
Now I even think that we
were sinning. Fernandéz was right.

He alone of us perceived
the single truth in life –
that it is best a man should die
than live the life of beasts.

Bread we had. A single loaf
was enough for two.
But for the son who will be born,
Mother, will it do?

And there’s another thing – somehow
it’s hard to understand.
They go and fight together. Why?
Is bread the only bond?
Today there was a funeral
for those trapped in a shelter.
With my own eyes I saw it all
but can’t find words to tell you.

How strange a sight it seemed to me,
how curious it was,
for on the people buried there
a wondrous radiance shone. –

I saw them only for an instant
in between the coffin planks,
through the coffin boards I saw them
stretching out their hands.

In their death they fuse together,
as one man they lie,
and the flames of happy death
burn brightly in their eyes…

All at once I understood
he had to go to war.
Fernandéz died in the battle –
I’ll see him no more.

Mother, Fernandéz has perished!
Mother, Fernandéz has gone,
Fernandéz is dead and buried!
Weep, because he died so young.

But to the old man say nothing! –
Sorrow will be his undoing.
Hide yourself somewhere, cry softly
and say nothing, nothing.

If somehow he realizes,
if somehow he should suspect it,
say that both of us are well,
and a baby is expected.

You may say to him: Dolores
is now learning fairy tales,
she and Fernandéz write asking
would you like a boy or girl.

To write you any more, dear mother,
would but cause me further sorrow.
Greeting from your loving daughter,
Dolores Maria Goya.

Description of Mihirakula

Then, when the land was overrun by the Mleccha hordes, his son Mihirakula of violent deeds, who was comparable to the god of destruction, became king. To the South belongs the god of Death; the northern direction, eager through rivalry to vanquish it, found an excuse and in him brought forth another god of death. His approach became known by the sight of vultures, crows and the like, eager to feed on those being massacred by his encircling army, to the population fleeing before him. Day and night surrounded by thousands of slaughtered human beings, this royal Vetala lived even in his pleasure palaces. Pity for children, clemency towards women, or respect for the aged, this enemy of humanity of terrible appearance had none while he massacred.

He, on one occasion, having noticed that the queen was wearing a blouse of stuff made in Ceylon, which had footmarks on the breasts worked in gold, was inflamed with rage. “In Ceylon cloth is manufactured bearing the mark of the king’s foot”, — thus he was told by the Chamberlain who had been questioned whereupon he gave orders to march. Having obtained union with the stream of liquid rut from the temples of the elephants of his army, the southern ocean secured the delight of an embrace with the Yamuna. Together with the king of Ceylon he, by an impetuous attack, rooted out his rage originating in the sight of footmarks on his beloved.

From a distance on sighting his various forces from the palaces of Lanka the Titans, apprehending a repetition of the activities of Rama, trembled. Having installed there another king he, with his fierce puissance, carried away cloth known as Yamusadeva, marked with the figure of the sun. Turning back, he dispersed the rulers of Cola, Karnata and Lata just as by his very smell the tusker in rut scatters the elephants. After his departure, the cities with the shattered battlements which were their girdles, complained of the rape to the ruling princes who had returned.

When he reached the gate of Kashmir, on hearing the distressful trumpeting of a tusker who had fallen down a precipice, his hair stood on end with delight. In his excitement to hear this, the perverse-minded man, who was in raptures, had a hundred mighty elephants forcibly hurled down.

The various wicked acts of this king have not been narrated. The touch of the sinful is pollution for the limbs, so would it be for speech to describe them; hence his other inhumanities have not been mentioned. Who can understand the acts of men of amazing activities and vulgar minds, since even he took to piety for the purpose of acquiring merit? For in Srinagari the foul-minded man founded the temple of Mihiresvara and in Holada a big city named Mihirapura. The Brahmans of Gandhara accepted from him gifts of Agraharas; they no doubt, too, were of similar character as his own and were the meanest Brahmans. The advent of clouds with the gathering darkness gladdens the peacock whereas the wild goose is happy with the clear skies of autumn; for the attraction of the donor and the donee towards each other there has to be a very close similarity of tastes.

For seventy years having enjoyed the earth, this Bhairava on earth when his body was afflicted with several diseases entered the flames.

“Here is this slayer of three crores liberated who even towards himself had been pitiless”— thus had a voice, at the time when he relinquished the body, announced from the firmament.

Thus those who say this, in their view he alone is the liberal donor who had broken through cruelty by Agraharas and such other works.

“When overrun by the impious Dards, Bhauttas and Mlecchas this country had lost religion, he had promulgated the observance of religious conduct by setting the people from the land of the Aryas; having determined on a terrible penance he had made the burning of his own body an act of atonement; for this very reason he had given one thousand Agraharas in gift to the Brahmans born in the Gandhara country at Vijayesvara; then eventually upon an iron platform studded with razors, swords and knives, red hot with fire, he had boldly given up his own body — thus others state, on account of this unadulterated popular tradition, that the cruelty of that lion-like man is irreproachable. When upon the burning of the city by the wrath of the Naga the Khaks had become dominant, there occurred for their destruction the incidents narrated above — so say others.

While he was diverting the river Candrakulya, a rock in midstream which was found impossible to remove, caused obstruction. Then to the king, who had practised penance, the gods spoke in a dream: “a mighty Yaksa who is a Brahmacari resides here in the rock; were a chaste woman to touch the rock the Yaksa would not be able to obstruct. The following day he caused to be done what he was told in the dream. After numerous ladies of high family had endeavoured in vain, on being eventually touched by a potter woman named Candravati the mighty boulder moved. For this sin the wrathful king had thereupon slaughtered, together with their husbands, brothers and sons, three crores of women of high families. This legend is true according to some; nevertheless the slaughter of living beings on a large scale, even though for a cause, is a felony.

Thus although wicked that the king had not been assassinated by the people in an uprising, was because he was protected by the very gods who had urged him to do that act. When owing to the dawn of the superior merit of the subjects’ good actions the king at last perished, his son, Baka the righteous, was crowned king by the citizens.

Rajatarangini I – 289-311


Clash of Civilizations – The Discussion between Meghavahana, the King of Kashmir and a Sabara Chief

Taken from Rajatarangini, the background of the story is thus. Meghavahana while in conquests, comes across a Sabara sacrificing a person. The king stops him and the Sabara says, to save his infant son, he needs to sacrifice this man to Chandika. The king offers himself in place of the victim. Below is what transpired between the surprised Sabara  and the king.

Sabara: While you strive after over-much tenderness, O lord of the earth! some sort of error of judgement arises in your mind. That which deserves to be safeguarded unhesitatingly, even at the cost of life in the three worlds, your body— how is it that you so easily ignore it, which is nobly fitted for enjoyments on earth? Neither honour, nor reputation nor wealth nor even wives nor relatives; neither the law nor sons do kings safeguard in their thirst for life. Therefore grant this favour O protector of the subjects! do not extend your mercy to this victim and may the boy and all those subjects flourish while you live.

Meghavahana: How can the taste for righteous conduct, which is like ambrosia, interest you denizens of the jungle? The joy of plunging in the Ganga is not known to those who reside in sandy deserts. When with the body which surely is perishable I am preparing to purchase imperishable glory thou, O fool! art waxing obstinate to wash out my aim. Say nothing more! if thou hast an aversion to strike, is not my own sword capable of achieve the purpose?

It’s a simple but interesting discussion. The one who is less civilized thinks material comfort is the most important thing, while the other thinks material life is nothing.

Sanskrit Original

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Defining a Slave – Choe Manri’s Opposition to Hangul

Well, I don’t know how a person can be such anti-nationalistic. Even though the king proposes to introduce a new script, this guy vehemently opposes it stating we will b shamed if we don’t imitate the great and venerable Chinese. Well, the story is not as plain as it looks. This guy, Choe Manri is a Confucian scholar and if people stop learning Chinese where the whole of Confucian canon is, he and his way of life will lose prominence in Korea. He is just trying to make a living by opposing change, that’s all.

Choe Manri, Deputy Minister for Education in the Privy Council, and others make this submission: We humbly believe that the invention of the Korean script is a work of divine creation unparalleled in history. There are, however, some questionable issues we wish to raise for Your Majesty’s consideration.

  1. Ever since the founding of the dynasty, our court has pursued the policy of respecting the senior state with utmost sincerity and has consistently tried to follow the Chinese system of government. As we share with China at present the same writing and the same institutions, we are startled to learn of the invention of the Korean script. Some claim that the Korean script is based on old writings and is not a new alphabet at all. Although the letter shapes are similar to the old seal letters, the use of letters for phonetic value violates ancient practice and has no valid ground. If this becomes known to China and anyone argues against it, it would shame our policy of respecting China.
  2. Although winds and soils vary from region to region, there has been no separate writing system for local dialects. Only barbarian peoples as the Mongolians, Tanguts, Jurchens, Japanese, and Tibetans have their own writings. But this is a matter that involves the barbarians and is unworthy of our concern. It has been said that the barbarians are transformed only by means of adopting the Chinese ways; we have never heard of the Chinese ways being transformed by the barbarians. Historically, China has always regarded our country as the state that has maintained the virtuous customs bequeathed by the sage-king Kija and has viewed our literature, rituals, and music as similar to its own. Now, however, our country is devising a Korean script separately in order to discard the Chinese, and thus we are willingly being reduced to the status of barbarians. This is like abandoning the fragrance of storax in favor of the obnoxious odor of mantis. Is this not a great embarrassment to the enlightened civilization?
  3. Although the idu writing devised by Sol Chong of Silla is vulgar and rustic, it uses the graphs widely used in China as auxiliaries to our tongue, and hence the graphs are not different from the Chinese. Therefore, even the clerks and the servants sincerely want to study the Chinese graphs. At first they read several books to acquire a rough understanding of the Chinese graphs; only then are they able to use the idu. Those who use the idu must depend upon the Chinese graphs to communicate their ideas, and a number of people become literate through the use of the idu writing. Therefore, the idu is a useful aid in stimulating learning. If the Korean script is widely used, the cleric officials will study it exclusively and neglect scholarly literature. If they discover that knowledge of the twenty-(eight) letter Korean script is sufficient for them to advance in their official careers, why would they go through agony and pain to study the principles of Neo-Confucianism? If such a situation lasts several decades, then surely the people who understand the Chinese graphs would be reduced to a very small number. Perhaps they could manage their clerical affairs using the Korean script, but if they do not know the writings of the sages, they will become ignorant and unable to distinguish right from wrong.

This Korean script is nothing more than a novelty. Though this script could be beneficial, it is only one of the six arts for an accomplished scholar, and has nothing to do with the political art of governance. Spending too much thought and effort on this is a waste of time, detrimental to the timely pursuit of scholarship. No matter how one looks at it, one cannot find any good in it.