Madame A. Christina Albers

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The Four Signs

Siddhārtha felt anew His life’s great mission,
Expressed a wish to see the world outside,
Then were the roads made bright by royal mandate,
Garlands and waving flags welcomed the Prince.
But in celestial hall the gods held counsel,
And well disguised appeared upon the road
An aged man feeble and palsy stricken
He cried in agony, held trembling hand,
Pleading for alms to still his gnawing hunger,
Scarce could he speak, his voice was choked by cough.
Then driving on beneath the swaying garlands,
They saw beside the road a writhing form
In pain and agony, weeping and groaning.
‘Help’, cried he feebly, ‘help me, Oh good Prince,
Or I shall die ere dawns another morning.’
Shuddered the Prince at the woe-stricken sights,
And ever more felt all the world’s deep sorrow
And asked He sadly of His charioteer,
‘When ills and weakness can hold out no longer,
What follows then?’ ‘Then follows death, my Lord.
The final which awaits all living beings.
‘And what is death? I never heard that word.’
But soon He saw, a group of weeping mourners,
Lamenting and bemoaning bitter fate,
Came down the country road in slow procession.
And at their head walked four, with solemn step
Bearing a cot decked with a snow-white cover.
‘And who lies there so still that sheet beneath?’
‘That is a corpse, my Lord, stiff, cold and lifeless,
An empty shell from which the soul has fled.’
A ghastly flame, that gleamed by the near river
Soon told the tale: the end, the end of all.
The Lord looked at the gruesome scene and questioned,
‘Is there no way then out of all this woe?’
‘Ah, no my Lord, from this there is no rescue.’
Then driving home, they met upon the road,
One, calm and stately, peace upon his features.
‘And Channa, who is this,’ thus asked the Prince
‘Upon whose face rests such a deep contentment?’
‘That is a monk, who did forsake the world,
And found his peace within the realm of silence.’
Then knew the Prince of men His time was ripe.
The great world called Him and He could not linger.