Verses Written at the Island of Sagur

John Leyden

In the mouth of the Ganges, in 1807

On sea-girt Sagur's desert isle,
Mantled with thickets dark and dun,
May never moon or starlight smile,
Nor ever beam the summer sun! —
Strange deeds of blood have there been done,
In mercy ne'er to be forgiven;
Deeds the far-seeing eye of heaven
Veiled his radiant orb to shun.

To glut the shark and crocodile
A mother brought her infant here:
She saw its tender playful smile,
She shed not one maternal tear; —
She threw it on a waterv bier: —
With grinding teeth sea monsters tore
The smiling infant which she bore:—
She shrunk not once its cries to hear!

Ah! mark that victim wildly drest,
His streaming beard is hoar and grey,
Around him floats a crimson vest,
Red-flowers his matted locks array.—
Heard you these brazen timbrels bray?
His heart-blood on the lotus-flower
They offer to the Evil Power;
And offering turn their eyes away.

Dark Goddess of the iron mace,*
Flesh-tearer! quaffing life-blood warm,
The terrors of thine awful face
The pulse of mortal hearts alarm. —
Grim Power! if human woes can charm,
Look to the horrors of the flood,
Where crimson'd Ganga shines in blood,
And man-devouring monsters swarm.

Skull-chaplet-wearer! whom the blood
Of man delights a thousand years,
Than whom no face, by land or flood,
More stern and pitiless appears,
Thine is the cup of human tears.
For pomp of human sacrifice
Cannot the cruel blood suffice
Of tigers, which thine island rears?

Not all blue Ganga's mountain-flood,
That rolls so proudly round thy fane,
Shall cleanse the tinge of human blood,
Nor wash dark Sagur's impious stain:
The sailor, journeying on the main,
Shall view from far the dreary isle,
And curse the ruins of the pile
Where Mercy ever sued in vain.

Sagar Island in West Bengal, India, is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus. Every year on January 14th, the day of Makar Sankranti, hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather for a swim where the sacred River Ganges enters the Bay of Bengal. They also pray at the Kapil Muni Temple.

Author's Note:
* Dark Goddess: Kali


Main Location:

Sagar Island, Ganges River Delta, West Bengal, India


Other locations:

Hindu believers take purifying swims off the island of Sagar where the sacred Ganges River flows into the Bay of Bengal