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* Translator’s note: The passages featured in the chapter titled “Soothing songs for the elephant” would have been used in the post-capture procedures, or more officially in the ceremonies following the successful capture of wild elephants. The most likely date that these passages were ‘published’, if one can use such a label to describe public distribution, is 1660 (Christian calendar), which was during the reign of King Narai of the Ayutthaya Dynasty. The following is the second verse in the chapter “Soothing songs…” of the “Gaja-karma” (คชกรรม) manual for the capture and training of elephants.

In this passage of poetry sung during the post-capture ceremonies, there is mention of the captured elephant entering into a new life of growth and refinement. At the same time, the poem contains expressions of the highest respect for the wild home from which the elephant was taken, especially since descriptions of some length are dedicated to the elephant’s previous environment in the wild — descriptions that show recognition of the forests and mountains as sacred, abundant, and governed by gods whose permission is always needed, by way of signs and signals that would occur over the course of the rites of passage, before any mission of elephant capture could be carried out. But even with such recognition, the captured elephant is constantly encouraged to let go of his wild home through the presentation of domesticity as a better lifestyle option. Line 38, for example, clearly shows that, as the king’s elephant, the bull has a ‘private pool’ (complete with an arrangement of floating lotus flowers!) organised especially for him!

As the second verse in the “Soothing songs…”, this passage of poetry is assigned the name “Wasanta Dilok”, even though this name is not the actual title of the poem itself. The name Wasanta Dilok refers to a general category of poetry; and within this category, the subjects are quite varied, with no requirement that the poem in question must specifically be about elephants. The term “wasan” (วสันต์) means spring, as in the season of spring, or more specifically, the season in which new flowers and leaves emerge. “Wasan” is associated with budding and early development. The term “dilok” (ดิลก) means supreme, associated with ideas of being the best or of the highest quality. So, “Wasanta Dilok” can be translated as the ‘poetry of concentrated potentiality’ whose artistry and qualities are as plant buds that contain the delicate, tender structures for new floral growth.

Elephants selected for the royal stables are referred to as ‘important elephants’ (ช้างสำคัญ) as well as ‘white elephants’ (ช้างเผือก). (The term ‘white elephants’ may indeed be a mistranslation on the part of English-speaking travellers and settlers who arrived on these shores many centuries ago, because elephants falling under the category of ‘white elephants’ are not actually white in colour. Even the term ‘albino’ would have been inaccurate. But due to the fact that the term ‘white elephants’ has always been used in English-language documentation ever since the label was first assigned all those hundreds of years ago, it is not the translator’s place to invent an entirely new English-language label.) These are highly specialised categories of elephants; some may even say they are ‘elephant royalty’ and ‘elephant aristocracy’, and therefore, the chances of successfully capturing them from the wild would have been slim, and as always, believed to be the will of the gods if one were to get caught in the capture team’s rope. Apart from such rare and exclusive captures believed to be supported by divine forces, the capture team would shepherd as many wild-caught elephants as they could manage — elephants possessing the range of desirable properties, both physically and mentally. This passage of Wasanta Dilok poetry would have been sung to a bull elephant, or perhaps even an entire collection of bulls, since it is addressed to “Ar Paw” (อ้าพ่อ) which technically translates to “my dear man”.

 

วสันตดิลก ฉันท์ ๑๔ Wasanta Dilok 14

 

๒๐

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดแก่ชนนี แลชนกในกลางไพร

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดภคินีใน พนสณฑสึงสถาน

20.) Ar Paw, may you no longer think of your parents and guardians in the wild.

Ar Paw, may you no longer think of your matriarchal herd in the forests and mountains.

 

๒๑

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดคชผู้บุตร อันเสน่หนงพาล

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดคชผู้หลาน เหลนหลื้อลืดแลพงศ์พันธุ์

21.) Ar Paw, may you no longer think of the calves you had fathered with the females of the wild.

Ar Paw, may you no longer think of your descendants and potential descendants who will remain in the home you left behind.

 

๒๒

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดพนสรนุกนิ สุขเล่นพนาวัน

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดสุขในบรร พตห้วยฉทึงธาร

22.) Ar Paw, may you no longer think of old times of pleasure in the wild.

Ar Paw, may you no longer think of how you used to play in the mountain rivers and streams.

 

๒๓

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดสุขในป่ง ดในป่าพฤกษาศาล

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดแก่บริพาร อ้นเปนเพื่อนในไพรพนม

23.) Ar Paw, may you no longer think of the salt licks and marshlands where you had gone to indulge in nutrients from the abundance of mineral deposits.

Ar Paw, may you no longer think of your previous companions, as those friends belong to the forests and mountains.

 

๒๔

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดคชสุคน ธอันเคยภิรมย์ชม

ดอกไม้อันหอมคชผทม ขจรกลิ่นวังเวงใจ

24.) Ar Paw, may you no longer think of the pleasant smells from other elephants to whom you had once been attracted.

Please leave behind the fragrance of flowers that had once soothed you to sleep. Leave the climbing plants of the wild to release their aromas, for wherever those aromas are transported, your trunk will no longer be their destination.

 

๒๕

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดผลผลา ภักษหญ้าอันมีใน

ธารนํ้าอันไหลพิสุทธใส แลมาเลี้ยงแก่ตนเอง

25.) Ar Paw, may you no longer think of the landscape of rock formations and your previous sources of food.

Release memories of the purity of the flowing waters in which you had bathed and from which you had once sought nourishment.

 

๒๖

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดทุกขบัดนี้ ทุกขหลังบุราณเพรง

อ้าพ่ออย่าคิดทุกขวังเวง เลยนะพ่อจงฟังครู

26.) Ar Paw, may you no longer think in sorrow, for you must leave all sadness in the wild past.

Ar Paw, may you not be lonely, for we are now your teachers.

 

๒๗

ต้องบาศเรานี้กูนะพ่อ เพราะเสน่หแห่งกู

ฟังพลายอันใดกลดำรู ก็จะเลี้ยงจะล่ามสงวน

27.) It is our powers of enchantment that had drawn you to our rope.

Any bull elephant captured by our superior strategies, we will tether and reserve in a spirit of nurturing sustenance.

 

๒๘

อ้าพ่อจงเสียพยศอันร้าย แลอย่าขึ้งทรหึงหวล

หล่อหลอนอย่าทำกิจ บ ควร แลอย่าถีบอย่าฉัดแทง

28.) Ar Paw, may you lose your instincts of aggression. Please forsake your anger and loudness, and bear no ill will.

May you not shake off those who ride you, and may you not kick nor use your tusks to cause harm.

 

๒๙

อ้าพ่ออย่าเสียพยศอันเปลื้อง แลอย่าเลื่อมคำแหงแรง

พ่อจำอันสอนจิตรอย่าแคลง แลจงรักฟังนายควาญ

29.) Ar Paw, once you have acquired new knowledge and skills, may you not lose that acquired state; but what must be continually soothed are your aggressive tendencies.

May you remember the new teachings without doubting the intentions of your human guardians. From now onwards, it is your mahout whom you must love and listen to.

 

๓๐

จงมีจริตสุทธอันงาม สงบเสงี่ยมแลเสี่ยมสาร

พวกพ้องอเนกบริพาร บริรักษรักษา

30.) May your manners be purified, so that you may exhibit refined beauty and peaceful temperament.

Now, you are in the care and guardianship of many.

 

๓๑

อ้าพ่ออย่าโศกอย่าทุกขเลย แลอย่าเศร้าอย่าโศกา

อย่าไห้พิลาปจิตรอา ดุรเลยจงฟังยิน

31.) Ar Paw, please do not be sad.

Please do not indulge in your longings for times past, for it is us now whom you must listen to.

 

๓๒

อ้าพ่ออย่าโทษบิดรมา ดรโทษอันเพื่อนกิน

อ้าพ่ออย่าโทษนรนรินทร์ ทังนี้ย่อมอำเภอกรรม์

32.) Ar Paw, please do not blame us who are your new fathers, for blaming us would be as to blame your own companions.

Ar Paw, please do not blame the king himself, for it is karma that has brought you to us.

 

๓๓

อ้าพ่ออย่าโทษชนผู้ใด แลพระพรหมหากสรรค์

มาเปนชำนินรนิรัน ดรเลี้ยงบำเรอหใน

33.) Ar Paw, please do not blame us humans, nor should you blame the gods who willed this to be.

May you become the king’s elephant, for the one who rides you will nurture you in supreme sustenance.

 

๓๔

จงพ่ออย่าได้ทุกขทุกขา ดุรเดือดระลึกไพร

จักนำยังโรงรัตนประไพ จิตรจงสำราญรมย์

34.) Please do not be sad in your longings for your forest home.

We will take you to a beautiful stable where you will live happily ever after.

 

๓๕

หนึ่งโสดสมเด็จบรมหง สคือองคพระพรหม

รังสฤษดิสรรคพ่อมาสม เปนวรพ่าหภูเบนทร์

35.) There is one king, and he himself is a divine incarnation.

The will of the gods and lifetimes of collected merit have delivered you here to become the king’s elephant.

 

๓๖

อย่าโทษพ่อแม่คณะพี่น้อง แลจงคิดคำนึงเหน

โทษกรรมเองก็ บ มิเว้น บ มิแวะจะหลีกกรรม์

36.) Please do not blame even your parents and herd members.

Your higher self also willed this to be, for none on earth can escape the law of karma.

 

๓๗

จงตั้งมโนชญ์ที่จะไป บุรีรมยหฤหรรษ์

จักเห็นสระน้ำกุสุมพรร ณสนุกนิชื่นชม

37.) May you look forward to your destination, which is a town of exciting sights and sounds.

You will see beautiful pools and flower rituals designed and assembled to welcome you to your new home.

 

๓๘

มีบัวบุษปบานอุบลจง กลนีก็สรรพสม

ใบบัทมแบ่งแลก็สลม ก็สลอนทังสระศรี

38.) An abundance of lotus flowers awaits you.

There are lotus leaves that look like they keep multiplying on the surface of the pool designed especially for your blessing.

 

๓๙

ตั้งใจราพ่อคชจงเนา สุขในพระบูรี

อย่าคิดลำเนาพนอันมี คชเคยทรเหหวล

39.) Please dedicate your heart to being happy in the royal kingdom.

May you no longer think of your wild home where your previous family reside.

 

๔๐

พ่อแม่พี่น้องอันเปนเสน่ หทังนั้นอย่าแครงครวญ

จงพ่อมาเสียพยศยวล จิตรโดยดูสมพอง ฯ

40.) As for your wild family that still have a hold over you, please do not roar and cry for them.

Once you lose your aggression and find gentleness in your ways, that is where your true growth will begin.

 

(Authors unknown. Translated from the literary Thai by Lalipa Nilubol.)

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