RV 10.34 The Gambler's Lament
(slightly adapted from Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty)
1. The trembling hazelnut eardrops of the great tree, born in a hurricane, intoxicate me as they roll on the furrowed board. The dice seem to me like a drink of Soma from Mount Mu:javant, keeping me awake and excited.
2. She did not quarrel with me or get angry; she was kind to my friends and to me. Because of a losing throw of the dice I have driven away a devoted wife.
3. My wife's mother hates me, and my wife pushes me away; the man in trouble gets no-one's sympathy. They all say, 'I find a gambler as useless as an old horse that someone wants to sell.'
4. Other men fondle the wife of a man whose possessions have been coveted by the plundering dice. His father, mother, and brothers all say of him, 'We do not know him. Tie him up and take him away.'
5. When I swear, 'I will not play with them', I am left behind by my friends as they depart. But when the brown dice raise their voice as they are thrown down, I run at once to the rendezvous with them, like a woman to her lover.
6. The gambler goes to the meeting-hall, asking himself, 'Will I win?' and trembling with hope. But the dice cross him and counter his desire, giving the winning throws to his opponent.
7. The dice goad like hooks and sting like whips; they enslave, deceive, and torment. They give presents as children do, striking back at the winners. They are coated with honey - an irresistible power over the gambler.
8. Their army, three bands of fifty, plays by rules as immutable as those of the god Savitr. They do not bow even to the wrath of those whose power is terrifying; the king himself bows down before them.
9. Down they roll, and up they spring. Handless, they master him that has hands. Unearthly coals thrown down on the gaming board, though they are themselves cold they burn out the heart.
10. The deserted wife of the gambler grieves, and the mother grieves for her son who wanders anywhere, nowhere. In debt and in need of money, frightened, he goes at night to the houses of other men.
11. It torments the gambler to see his wife become the woman of other men, in their comfortable rooms. But he yoked the brown horses (the dice) in the early morning, and at evening he fell down by the fire, no longer a man.
12. [To the dice:] To the general (the losing throw?) of your great army, the first king of your band, to him I hold out my ten fingers (ie, my empty hands) and swear: 'I am holding back no money.'
13. This is what the noble Savitr shows me: 'Play no longer with the dice, but till your field; enjoy what you possess, and value it highly. There are your cattle, and there is your wife, O gambler.'
14. [To the dice:] Grant us your friendship; have pity on us. Do not bewitch us with the force of your terrible sorcery. Lay to rest your anger, your hatred. Let someone else fall into the trap of the brown dice.
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