The World’s Best English Epic Poetry – Southey’s The Curse of Kehama

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The world’s best English epic and narrative poetry includes Southey‘s The Curse of Kehama.

When Kehama – a corrupted, Brahmin priest – becomes seduced by the siren call of power to expand his mastery over the black magic arts: his cursing of a hapless peasant is merely an expression of his occultic puissance. The peasant thus cursed – Ladurlad – was guilty of protecting a beautiful low-caste maiden – Kailyal – from the forced attentions of Arvalan: Kehama’s son, and an arrogant nobleman unused to having his will crossed – in anything.

Ladurlad’s curse acts to separate him from the natural world: neither wind, nor water, nor fire, nor poison, nor death can touch him; until the curse is lifted. Ironically, Kehama’s curse works all too well: endowing the humble Ladurlad with formidable superpowers, which allow him to become an extraordinarily capable guardian for the abandoned Kailyal – whose low societal status leaves her open for exploitation by the wealthy and powerful members of higher castes.

Yet as far as Kehama is concerned, Ladurlad is merely a forgettable nuisance: as are his worthless son’s petty schemes for revenge. Kehama leaves them both behind to focus upon augmenting his powers: in a calculated bid for godhood and immortality. When he is ready, Kehama launches an audacious invasion of the upper celestial regions: where it so happens that Ladurlad and Kailyal have found a  temporary refuge. Ladurlad and Kailyal prepare again to flee: before they again cross paths with the malevolent sorcerer. But Kehama proves difficult to elude: and now his powers extend even to the celestial regions!

  • Kehama’s increasing powers allow him to subdue the lower celestial levels: so what will stop him from also invading the underworld to recruit himself an army of damned souls to redouble his assault upon the high heavens?
  • Ladurlad is now a superhuman: yet can even he defend Kailyal against the redoubled assaults of Arvalan – now returned as a reincarnated demon-lord?

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Yama Hindu god of death

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