Part 5 out of 10
Sons whom his prayers have begged in vain,'
I have repeated, sire, thus far,
The words of old Sanatkumar,
In order as he spoke them then
Amid the crowd of holy men."
Then Dasaratha cried with joy,
"Say how they brought the hermit boy."
The wise Sumantra, thus addressed,
Unfolded at the King's behest
The plan the lords in council laid
To draw the hermit from the shade.
The priest, amid the lordly crowd,
To Lomapad thus spoke aloud:--
"Hear, King, the plot our thoughts have framed,
A harmless trick by all unblamed.
Far from the world that hermit's child
Lives lonely in the distant wild:
A stranger to the joys of sense,
His bliss is pain and abstinence;
And all unknown are women yet
To him, a holy anchoret.
The gentle passions we will wake
That with resistless influence shake
The hearts of men; and he
Drawn by enchantment strong and sweet
Shall follow from his lone retreat,
And come and visit thee.
Let ships be formed with utmost care
That artificial trees may bear,
And sweet fruit deftly made;
Let goodly raiment, rich and rare,
And flowers, and many a bird be there
Beneath the leafy shade.
Upon the ships thus decked a band
Of young and lovely girls shall stand,
Rich in each charm that wakes desire,
And eyes that burn with amorous fire;
Well skilled to sing, and play, and dance,
And ply their trade with smile and glance.
Let these, attired in hermits' dress,
Betake them to the wilderness,
And bring the boy of life austere
A voluntary captive here,"
He ended; and the King agreed,
By the priest's counsel won,
And all the ministers took heed
To see his bidding done.
In ships with wondrous art prepared
Away the lovely women fared,
And soon beneath the shade they stood
Of the wild, lonely, dreary wood.
And there the leafy cot they found
Where dwelt the devotee.
And looked with eager eyes around
The hermit's son to see.
Still, of Vibhandak sore afraid,
They hid behind the creeper's shade.
But when by careful watch they knew
The elder saint was far from view,
With bolder steps they ventured nigh
To catch the youthful hermit's eye.
Then all the damsels blithe and gay,
At various games began to play.
They tossed the flying ball about
With dance and song and merry shout,
And moved, their scented tresses bound
With wreaths, in mazy motions round.
Some girls as if by love possessed,
Sank to the earth in feigned unrest,
Up-starting quickly to pursue
Their intermitted game anew.
It was a lovely sight to see
Those fair ones, as they played,
While fragrant robes were floating free,
And bracelets clashing in their glee
A pleasant tinkling made.
The anklet's chime, the Koil's cry
With music filled the place,
As 'twere some city in the sky;
Which heavenly minstrels grace.
With each voluptuous art they strove
To win the tenant of the grove,
And with their graceful forms inspire
His modest soul with soft desire.
With arch of brow, with beck and smile,
With every passion-waking wile
Of glance and lotus hand,
With all enticements that excite
The longing for unknown delight
Which boys in vain withstand.
Forth came the hermit's son to view
The wondrous sight to him so new,
And gazed in rapt surprise
For from his natal hour till then
On woman or the sons of men
He ne'er had cast his eyes.
He saw them with their waists so slim,
With fairest shape and faultless limb,
In variegated robes arrayed,
And sweetly singing as they played.
Near and more near the hermit drew,
And watched them at their game,
And stronger still the impulse grew
To question whence they came.
They marked the young ascetic gaze
With curious eye and wild amaze,
And sweet the long-eyed damsels sang,
And shrill their merry laughter rang.
Then came they nearer to his side,
And languishing with passion cried:--
"Whose son, O youth, and who art thou,
Come suddenly to join us now?
And why dost thou all lonely dwell
In the wild wood? We pray thee, tell.
We wish to know thee, gentle youth;
Come, tell us, if thou wilt, the truth,"
He gazed upon that sight he ne'er
Had seen before, of girls so fair,
And out of love a longing rose
His sire and lineage to disclose:--
"My father," thus he made reply,
"Is Kasyap's son, a saint most high,
Vibhandak styled; from him I came,
And Rishyasring he calls my name.
Our hermit cot is near this place:--
Come thither, O ye fair of face;
There be it mine, with honor due,
Ye gentle youths, to welcome you."
They heard his speech, and gave consent,
And gladly to his cottage went.
Vibhandak's son received them well
Beneath the shelter of his cell--
With guest-gift, water for their feet,
And woodland fruit and roots to eat.
They smiled and spoke sweet words like these.
Delighted with his courtesies:--
"We too have goodly fruit in store,
Grown on the trees that shade our door;
Come, if thou wilt, kind Hermit, haste
The produce of our grove to taste;
And let, O good Ascetic, first
This holy water quench thy thirst."
They spoke, and gave him comfits sweet
Prepared ripe fruits to counterfeit;
And many a dainty cate beside,
And luscious mead their stores supplied.
The seeming fruits, in taste and look,
The unsuspecting hermit took,
For, strange to him, their form beguiled
The dweller in the lonely wild.
Then round his neck fair arms were flung,
And there the laughing damsels clung,
And pressing nearer and more near
With sweet lips whispered at his ear;
While rounded limb and swelling breast
The youthful hermit softly pressed.
The pleasing charm of that strange bowl,
The touch of a tender limb,
Over his yielding spirit stole
And sweetly vanquished him--
But vows, they said, must now be paid;
They bade the boy farewell,
And of the aged saint afraid,
Prepared to leave the dell.
With ready guile they told him where
Their hermit dwelling lay;
Then, lest the sire should find them there,
Sped by wild paths away.
They fled and left him there alone
By longing love possessed;
And with a heart no more his own
He roamed about distressed.
The aged saint came home, to find
The hermit boy distraught,
Revolving in his troubled mind
One solitary thought.
"Why dost thou not, my son," he cried,
"Thy due obeisance pay?
Why do I see thee in the tide
Of whelming thought to-day?
A devotee should never wear
A mien so sad and strange.
Come, quickly, dearest child, declare
The reason of the change."
And Rishyasring, when questioned thus,
Made answer in this wise:--
"O sire, there came to visit us
Some men with lovely eyes.
About my neck soft arms they wound
And kept me tightly held
To tender breasts so soft and round,
That strangely heaved and swelled.
They sing more sweetly as they dance
Than e'er I heard till now,
And play with many a sidelong glance
And arching of the brow."
"My son," said he, "thus giants roam
Where holy hermits are,
And wander round their peaceful home
Their rites austere to mar.
I charge thee, thou must never lay
Thy trust in them, dear boy:--
They seek thee only to betray,
And woo but to destroy."
Thus having warned him of his foes
That night at home he spent,
And when the morrow's sun arose
Forth to the forest went.
But Rishyasring with eager pace
Sped forth and hurried to the place
Where he those visitants had seen
Of dainty waist and charming mien.
When from afar they saw the son
Of Saint Vibhandak toward them run,
To meet the hermit boy they hied,
And hailed him with a smile, and cried:--
"O come, we pray, dear lord, behold
Our lovely home of which we told:--
Due honor there to thee we'll pay,
And speed thee on thy homeward way."
Pleased with the gracious words they said
He followed where the damsels led.
As with his guides his steps he bent,
That Brahman high of worth,
A flood of rain from heaven sent
That gladdened all the earth.
Vibhandak took his homeward road,
And wearied by the heavy load
Of roots and woodland fruit he bore
Entered at last his cottage door.
Fain for his son he looked around,
But desolate the cell he found.
He stayed not then to bathe his feet,
Though fainting with the toil and heat,
But hurried forth and roamed about
Calling the boy with cry and shout.
He searched the wood, but all in vain;
Nor tidings of his son could gain.
One day beyond the forest's bound
The wandering saint a village found,
And asked the swains and neatherds there
Who owned the land so rich and fair,
With all the hamlets of the plain,
And herds of kine and fields of grain.
They listened to the hermit's words,
And all the guardians of the herds,
With suppliant hands together pressed,
This answer to the saint addressed:--
"The Angas' lord who bears the name
Of Lomapad, renowned by fame,
Bestowed these hamlets with their kine
And all their riches, as a sign
Of grace, on Rishyasring; and he
Vibhandak's son is said to be."
The hermit with exulting breast
The mighty will of fate confessed,
By meditation's eye discerned;
And cheerful to his home returned.
A stately ship, at early morn,
The hermit's son away had borne.
Loud roared the clouds, as on he sped,
The sky grew blacker overhead;
Till, as he reached the royal town,
A mighty flood of rain came down.
By the great rain the monarch's mind
The coming of his guest divined.
To meet the honored youth he went,
And low to earth his head he bent.
With his own priest to lead the train,
He gave the gift high guests obtain,
And sought, with all who dwelt within
The city walls, his grace to win.
He fed him with the daintiest fare,
He served him with unceasing care,
And ministered with anxious eyes
Lest anger in his breast should rise;
And gave to be the Brahman's bride
His own fair daughter, lotus-eyed.
Thus loved and honored by the King,
The glorious Brahman Rishyasring
Passed in that royal town his life
With Santa his beloved wife.
"Again, O best of Kings, give ear:--
My saving words attentive hear,
And listen to the tale of old
By that illustrious Brahman told.
'Of famed Ikshvaku's line shall spring
('Twas thus he spoke) a pious king,
Named Dasaratha, good and great,
True to his word and fortunate.
He with the Angas' mighty lord
Shall ever live in sweet accord,
And his a daughter fair shall be,
Santa of happy destiny.
But Lomapad, the Angas' chief,
Still pining in his childless grief,
To Dasaratha thus shall say:--
"Give me thy daughter, friend, I pray,
Thy Santa of the tranquil mind,
The noblest one of womankind."
The father, swift to feel for woe,
Shall on his friend his child bestow;
And he shall take her and depart
To his own town with joyous heart.
The maiden home in triumph led,
To Rishyasring the King shall wed.
And he with loving joy and pride
Shall take her for his honored bride.
And Dasaratha to a rite
That best of Brahmans shall invite
With supplicating prayer
To celebrate the sacrifice
To win him sons and Paradise,
That he will fain prepare.
From him the lord of men at length
The boon he seeks shall gain,
And see four sons of boundless strength
His royal line maintain,
Thus did the godlike saint of old
The will of fate declare,
And all that should befall unfold
Amid the sages there.
O Prince, supreme of men, go thou,
Consult thy holy guide,
And win, to aid thee in thy vow,
This Brahman to thy side."
Sumantra's counsel, wise and good,
King Dasaratha heard,
Then by Vasishtha's side he stood
And thus with him conferred:--
"Sumantra counsels thus:--do thou
My priestly guide, the plan allow."
Vasishtha gave his glad consent,
And forth the happy monarch went
With lords and servants on the road
That led to Rishyasring's abode.
Forests and rivers duly past,
He reached the distant town at last--
Of Lomapad the Angas' King,
And entered it with welcoming.
On through the crowded streets he came,
And, radiant as the kindled flame,
He saw within the monarch's house
The hermit's son, most glorious.
There Lomapad, with joyful breast,
To him all honor paid,
For friendship for his royal guest
His faithful bosom swayed.
Thus entertained with utmost care
Seven days, or eight, he tarried there,
And then that best of men thus broke
His purpose to the King, and spoke:--
"O King of men, mine ancient friend,
(Thus Dasaratha prayed),
Thy Santa with her husband send
My sacrifice to aid."
Said he who ruled the Angas, "Yea,"
And his consent was won:--
And then at once he turned away
To warn the hermit's son.
He told him of their ties beyond
Their old affection's faithful bond:--
"This King," he said, "from days of old
A well beloved friend I hold.
To me this pearl of dames he gave
From childless woe mine age to save,
The daughter whom he loved so much,
Moved by compassion's gentle touch.
In him thy Santa's father see:--
As I am, even so is he.
For sons the childless monarch yearns,
To thee alone for help he turns.
Go thou, the sacred rite ordain
To win the sons he prays to gain:--
Go, with thy wife thy succor lend,
And give his vows a blissful end."
The hermit's son with quick accord
Obeyed the Angas' mighty lord,
And with fair Santa at his side
To Dasaratha's city hied.
Each king, with suppliant hands upheld,
Gazed on the other's face:--
And then by mutual love impelled
Met in a close embrace.
Then Dasaratha's thoughtful care,
Before he parted thence,
Bade trusty servants homeward bear
The glad intelligence:--
"Let all the town be bright and gay,
With burning incense sweet;
Let banners wave, and water lay
The dust in every street."
Glad were the citizens to learn
The tidings of their lord's return,
And through the city every man
Obediently his task began.
And fair and bright Ayodhya showed,
As following his guest he rode
Through the full streets, where shell and drum
Proclaimed aloud the King was come.
And all the people with delight
Kept gazing on their king,
Attended by that youth so bright,
The glorious Rishyasring.
When to his home the King had brought
The hermit's saintly son,
He deemed that all his task was wrought,
And all he prayed for won.
And lords who saw the stranger dame
So beautiful to view,
Rejoiced within their hearts, and came
And paid her honor, too.
There Rishyasring passed blissful days,
Graced like the King with love and praise,
And shone in glorious light with her,
Sweet Santa for his minister,
As Brahma's son Vasishtha, he
Who wedded Saint Arundhati.
THE SACRIFICE DECREED
The Dewy Season came and went;
The spring returned again--
Then would the King, with mind intent,
His sacrifice ordain.
He came to Rishyasring, and bowed
To him of look divine,
And bade him aid his offering vowed
For heirs, to save his line.
Nor would the youth his aid deny,
He spake the monarch fair,
And prayed him for that rite so high
All requisites prepare.
The King to wise Sumantra cried
Who stood aye ready near;
"Go summon quick, each holy guide,
To counsel and to hear,"
Obedient to his lord's behest
Away Sumantra sped,
And brought Vasishtha and the rest,
In Scripture deeply read.
Suyajna, Vamadeva came,
Javali, Kasyap's son,
And old Vasishtha, dear to fame,
Obedient, every one.
King Dasaratha met them there
And duly honored each,
And spoke in pleasant words his fair
And salutary speech:--
"In childless longing doomed to pine,
No happiness, O lords, is mine.
So have I for this cause decreed
To slay the sacrificial steed.
Fain would I pay that offering high
Wherein the horse is doomed to die,
With Rishyasring his aid to lend,
And with your glory to befriend."
With loud applause each holy man
Received his speech, approved the plan,
And, by the wise Vasishtha led,
Gave praises to the King, and said:--
"The sons thou cravest shalt thou see,
Of fairest glory, born to thee,
Whose holy feelings bid thee take
This righteous course for offspring's sake."
Cheered by the ready praise of those
Whose aid he sought, his spirits rose--
And thus the King his speech renewed
With looks of joy and gratitude:--
"Let what the coming rites require
Be ready, as the priests desire,
And let the horse, ordained to bleed,
With fitting guard and priest, be freed.
Yonder on Sarju's northern side
The sacrificial ground provide;
And let the saving rites, that nought
Ill-omened may occur, be wrought.
The offering I announce to-day
Each lord of earth may claim to pay,
Provided that his care can guard
The holy rite by flaws unmarred.
For wandering fiends, whose watchful spite
Waits eagerly to spoil each rite--
Hunting with keenest eye detect
The slightest slip, the least neglect;
And when the sacred work is crossed
The workman is that moment lost.
Let preparation due be made,
Your powers the charge can meet,
That so the noble rite be paid
In every point complete."
And all the Brahmans answered, "Yea,"
His mandate honoring,
And gladly promised to obey
The order of the King.
They cried with voices raised aloud:--
"Success attend thine aim!"
Then bade farewell, and lowly bowed,
And hastened whence they came.
King Dasaratha went within,
His well-loved wives to see--
And said: "Your lustral rites begin,
For these shall prosper me.
A glorious offering I prepare
That precious fruit of sons may bear."
Their lily faces brightened fast
Those pleasant words to hear,
As lilies, when the winter's past,
In lovelier hues appear.
THE SACRIFICE BEGUN
Again the spring with genial heat
Returning made the year complete.
To win him sons, without delay
His vow the King resolved to pay--
And to Vasishtha, saintly man,
In modest words this speech began:--
"Prepare the rite with all things fit
As is ordained in Holy Writ,
And keep with utmost care afar
Whate'er its sacred forms might mar.
Thou art, my lord, my trustiest guide,
Kind-hearted, and my friend beside;
So is it meet thou undertake
This heavy task for duty's sake."
Then he, of twice-born men the best,
His glad assent at once expressed:--
"Fain will I do whatever may be
Desired, O honored King, by thee."
To ancient priests he spoke, who, trained
In holy rites, deep skill had gained:--
"Here guards be stationed, good and sage,
Religious men of trusted age.
And various workmen send and call,
Who frame the door and build the wall--
With men of every art and trade,
Who read the stars and ply the spade,
And mimes and minstrels hither bring,
And damsels trained to dance and sing."
Then to the learned men he said,
In many a page of Scripture read:--
"Be yours each rite performed to see
According to the King's decree.
And stranger Brahmans quickly call
To this great rite that welcomes all.
Pavilions for the princes, decked
With art and ornament, erect,
And handsome booths by thousands made
The Brahman visitors to shade--
Arranged in order side by side,
With meat and drink and all supplied.
And ample stables we shall need
For many an elephant and steed--
And chambers where the men may lie,
And vast apartments, broad and high,
Fit to receive the countless bands
Of warriors come from distant lands.
For our own people too provide
Sufficient tents, extended wide,
And stores of meat and drink prepare,
And all that can be needed there.
And food in plenty must be found
For guests from all the country round.
Of various viands presents make,
For honor, not for pity's sake,
That fit regard and worship be
Paid to each caste in due degree.
And let not wish or wrath excite
Your hearts the meanest guest to slight;
But still observe with special grace
Those who obtain the foremost place,
Whether for happier skill in art
Or bearing in the rite their part
Do you, I pray, with friendly mind
Perform the task to you assigned,
And work the rite, as bids the law,
Without omission, slip, or flaw."
They answered: "As thou seest fit
So will we do and nought omit."
The sage Vasishtha then addressed
Sumantra, called at his behest:--
"The princes of the earth invite,
And famous lords who guard the rite,
Priest, Warrior, Merchant, lowly thrall,
In countless thousands summon all.
Where'er their home be, far or near,
Gather the good with honor here.
And Janak, whose imperial sway
The men of Mithila obey,
The firm of vow, the dread of foes,
Who all the lore of Scripture knows,
Invite him here with honor high,
King Dasaratha's old ally.
And Kasi's lord of gentle speech,
Who finds a pleasant word for each--
In length of days our monarch's peer,
Illustrious King, invite him here.
The father of our ruler's bride,
Known for his virtues far and wide,
The King whom Kekaya's realms obey,
Him with his son invite, I pray.
And Lomapad, the Angas King,
True to his vows and godlike, bring.
Far be thine invitations sent
To west and south and orient.
Call those who rule Surashtra's land,
Suvira's realm and Sindhu's strand,
And all the kings of earth beside
In friendship's bonds with us allied:--
Invite them all to hasten in
With retinue and kith and kin."
Vasishtha's speech without delay
Sumantra bent him to obey,
And sent his trusty envoys forth
Eastward and westward, south and north.
Obedient to the saint's request
Himself he hurried forth, and pressed
Each nobler chief and lord and king
To hasten to the gathering.
Before the saint Vasishtha stood
All those who wrought with stone and wood,
And showed the work which every one
In furtherance of the rite had done.
Rejoiced their ready zeal to see,
Thus to the craftsmen all said he:--
"I charge ye, masters, see to this,
That there be nothing done amiss.
And this, I pray, in mind be borne,
That not one gift ye give in scorn;
Whenever scorn a gift attends
Great sin is his who thus offends."
And now some days and nights had passed,
And Kings began to gather fast,
And precious gems in liberal store
As gifts to Dasaratha bore.
Then joy thrilled through Vasishtha's breast
As thus the monarch he addressed:--
"Obedient to thy high decree
The Kings, my lord, are come to thee.
And it has been my care to greet
And honor all with reverence meet.
Thy servants' task is ended quite,
And all is ready for the rite.
Come forth then to the sacred ground
Where all in order will be found."
Then Rishyasring confirmed the tale:--
Nor did their words to move him fail.
The stars propitious influence lent
When forth the world's great ruler went.
Then by the sage Vasishtha led,
The priest began to speed
Those glorious rites wherein is shed
The lifeblood of the steed.
THE SACRIFICE FINISHED
The circling year had filled its course,
And back was brought the wandering horse:--
Then upon Sarju's northern strand
Began the rite the King had planned.
With Rishyasring the forms to guide,
The Brahmans to their task applied,
At that great offering of the steed
Their lofty-minded King decreed.
The priests, who all the Scripture knew,
Performed their part in order due,
And circled round in solemn train
As precepts of the law ordain.
Pravargya rites were duly sped:--
For Upasads the flames were fed.
Then from the plant the juice was squeezed,
And those high saints, with minds well pleased,
Performed the mystic rites begun
With bathing ere the rise of sun.
They gave the portion, Indra's claim,
And hymned the King whom none can blame.
The mid-day bathing followed next,
Observed as bids the holy text.
Then the good priests with utmost care,
In form that Scripture's rules declare,
For the third time pure water shed
On high-souled Dasaratha's head.
Then Rishyasring and all the rest
To Indra and the Gods addressed
Their sweet-toned hymn of praise and prayer,
And called them in the rite to share.
With sweetest song and hymn intoned
They gave the Gods in heaven enthroned,
As duty bids, the gifts they claim,
The holy oil that feeds the flame.
And many an offering there was paid,
And not one slip in all was made.
For with most careful heed they saw
That all was done by Veda law.
None, all those days, was seen oppressed
By hunger or by toil distressed.
Why speak of human kind? No beast
Was there that lacked an ample feast.
For there was store for all who came,
For orphan child and lonely dame;
The old and young were well supplied,
The poor and hungry satisfied.
Throughout the day ascetics fed,
And those who roam to beg their bread:--
While all around the cry was still,
"Give forth, give forth," and "Eat your fill."
"Give forth with liberal hand the meal,
And various robes in largess deal."
Urged by these cries on every side
Unweariedly their task they plied,
And heaps of food like hills in size
In boundless plenty met the eyes:--
And lakes of sauce, each day renewed,
Refreshed the weary multitude.
And strangers there from distant lands,
And women folk in crowded bands
The best of food and drink obtained
At the great rite the King ordained.
Apart from all, the Brahmans there,
Thousands on thousands, took their share
Of various dainties sweet to taste,
On plates of gold and silver placed--
All ready set, as, when they willed,
The twice-born men their places filled.
And servants in fair garments dressed
Waited upon each Brahman guest.
Of cheerful mind and mien were they,
With gold and jewelled ear-rings gay.
The best of Brahmans praised the fare
Of countless sorts, of flavor rare--
And thus to Raghu's son they cried:--
"We bless thee, and are satisfied."
Between the rites some Brahmans spent
The time in learned argument,
With ready flow of speech, sedate,
And keen to vanquish in debate.
There day by day the holy train
Performed all rites as rules ordain.
No priest in all that host was found
But kept the vows that held him bound;
None, but the holy Vedas knew,
And all their sixfold science too.
No Brahman there was found unfit
To speak with eloquence and wit.
And now the appointed time came near
The sacrificial posts to rear.
They brought them, and prepared to fix
Of Bel and Khadir six and six;
Six, made of the Palasa-tree,
Of Fig-wood one, apart to be--
Of Sleshmat and of Devadar
One column each, the mightiest far:--
So thick the two the arms of man
Their ample girth would fail to span.
All these with utmost care were wrought
By hand of priests in Scripture taught,
And all with gold were gilded bright
To add new splendor to the rite;
Twenty-and-one those stakes in all,
Each one-and-twenty cubits tall:--
And one-and-twenty ribbons there
Hung on the pillars bright and fair.
Firm in the earth they stood at last,
Where cunning craftsmen fixed them fast;
And there unshaken each remained,
Octagonal and smoothly planed.
Then ribbons over all were hung,
And flowers and scent around them flung.
Thus decked they cast a glory forth
Like the great saints who star the north.
The sacrificial altar then
Was raised by skilful twice-born men--
In shape and figure to behold
An eagle with his wings of gold,
With twice nine pits and formed threefold.
Each for some special God, beside
The pillars were the victims tied;
The birds that roam the wood, the air,
The water, and the land were there,
And snakes and things of reptile birth,
And healing herbs that spring from earth:--
As texts prescribe, in Scripture found,
Three hundred victims there were bound.
The steed devoted to the host
Of Gods, the gem they honor most,
Was duly sprinkled. Then the Queen
Kausalya, with delighted mien,
With reverent steps around him paced,
And with sweet wreaths the victim graced;
Then with three swords in order due
She smote the steed with joy, and slew.
That night the queen, a son to gain,
With calm and steady heart was fain
By the dead charger's side to stay
From evening till the break of day.
Then came three priests, their care to lead
The other queens to touch the steed--
Upon Kausalya to attend,
Their company and aid to lend.
As by the horse she still reclined,
With happy mien and cheerful mind,
With Rishyasring the twice-born came
And praised and blessed the royal dame.
The priest who well his duty knew,
And every sense could well subdue,
From out the bony chambers freed
And boiled the marrow of the steed.
Above the steam the monarch bent,
And, as he smelt the fragrant scent,
In time and order drove afar
All error, that his hopes could mar.
Then sixteen priests together came,
And cast into the sacred flame
The severed members of the horse,
Made ready all in ordered course.
On piles of holy Fig-tree raised
The meaner victims' bodies blazed:--
The steed, of all the creatures slain,
Alone required a pile of cane.
Three days, as is by law decreed,
Lasted that Offering of the Steed.
The Chatushtom began the rite,
And when the sun renewed his light,
The Ukthya followed--after came
The Atiratra's holy flame.
These were the rites, and many more,
Arranged by light of holy lore,
The Aptoryam of mighty power,
And, each performed in proper hour,
The Abhijit and Visvajit
With every form and service fit;
And with the sacrifice at night
The Jyotishtom and Ayus rite.
The task was done, as laws prescribe:--
The monarch, glory of his tribe,
Bestowed the land in liberal grants
Upon the sacred ministrants.
He gave the region of the east,
His conquest, to the Hotri priest.
The west the celebrant obtained,
The south the priest presiding gained--
The northern region was the share
Of him who chanted forth the prayer.
Thus did each priest obtain his meed
At the great Slaughter of the Steed,
Ordained, the best of all to be,
By self-existent deity.
Ikshvaku's son, with joyful mind,
This noble fee to each assigned--
But all the priests with one accord
Addressed that unpolluted lord:--
"'Tis thine alone to keep the whole
Of this broad earth in firm control.
No gift of lands from thee we seek,
To guard these realms our hands were weak.
On sacred lore our days are spent,
Let other gifts our wants content."
The chief of old Ikshvaku's line
Gave them ten hundred thousand kine,
A hundred millions of fine gold,
The same in silver four times told.
But every priest in presence there
With one accord resigned his share.
To Saint Vasishtha, high of soul,
And Rishyasring they gave the whole.
That largess pleased those Brahmans well,
Who bade the prince his wishes tell.
Then Dasaratha, mighty King,
Made answer thus to Rishyasring:--
"O holy Hermit, of thy grace,
Vouchsafe the increase of my race."
He spoke; nor was his prayer denied--
The best of Brahmans thus replied:--
"Four sons, O Monarch, shall be thine,
Upholders of thy royal line."
The saint, well-read in holy lore,
Pondered awhile his answer o'er,
And thus again addressed the King,
His wandering thoughts regathering:--
"Another rite will I begin
Which shall the sons thou cravest win,
Where all things shall be duly sped
And first Atharva texts be read."
Then by Vibhandak's gentle son
Was that high sacrifice begun,
The King's advantage seeking still
And zealous to perform his will.
Now all the Gods had gathered there,
Each one for his allotted share--
Brahma, the ruler of the sky,
Sthanu, Narayan, Lord most high,
And holy Indra men might view
With Maruts for his retinue;
The heavenly chorister, and saint,
And spirit pure from earthly taint,
With one accord had sought the place
The high-souled monarch's rite to grace,
Then to the Gods who came to take
Their proper share, the hermit spake:--
"For you has Dasaratha slain
The votive steed, a son to gain;
Stern penance-rites the King has tried,
And in firm faith on you relied,
And now with undiminished care
A second rite would fain prepare.
But, O ye Gods, consent to grant
The longing of your supplicant.
For him beseeching hands I lift,
And pray you all to grant the gift,
That four fair sons of high renown
The offerings of the King may crown."
They to the hermit's son replied:--
"His longing shall be gratified.
For, Brahman, in most high degree
We love the King and honor thee."
These words the Gods in answer said,
And vanished thence, by Indra led.
Thus to the Lord, the worlds who made,
The Immortals all assembled prayed:--
"O Brahma, mighty by thy grace,
Ravan, who rules the giant race,
Torments us in his senseless pride,
And penance-loving saints beside.
For thou well pleased in days of old
Gavest the boon that makes him bold,
That God nor demon e'er should kill
His charmed life, for so thy will.
We, honoring that high behest,
Bear all his rage though sore distressed.
That lord of giants fierce and fell
Scourges the earth and heaven and hell.
Mad with thy boon, his impious rage
Smites saint and bard and God and sage.
The sun himself withholds his glow,
The wind in fear forbears to blow;
The fire restrains his wonted heat
Where stand the dreaded Ravan's feet,
And, necklaced with the wandering wave,
The sea before him fears to rave.
Kuvera's self in sad defeat
Is driven from his blissful seat.
We see, we feel the giant's might,
And woe comes o'er us and affright.
To thee, O Lord, thy suppliants pray
To find some cure this plague to stay."
Thus by the gathered Gods addressed
He pondered in his secret breast,
And said: "One only way I find
To slay this fiend of evil mind.
He prayed me once his life to guard
From demon, God, and heavenly bard,
And spirits of the earth and air,
And I consenting heard his prayer.
But the proud giant in his scorn
Recked not of man of woman born.
None else may take his life away,
But only man the fiend may slay."
The Gods, with Indra at their head,
Rejoiced to hear the words he said.
Then, crowned with glory like a flame,
Lord Vishnu to the council came;
His hands shell, mace, and discus bore,
And saffron were the robes he wore.
Riding his eagle through the crowd,
As the sun rides upon a cloud,
With bracelets of fine gold, he came,
Loud welcomed by the Gods' acclaim.
His praise they sang with one consent,
And cried, in lowly reverence bent:--
"O Lord whose hand fierce Madhu slew,
Be thou our refuge, firm and true;
Friend of the suffering worlds art thou,
We pray thee help thy suppliants now."
Then Vishnu spake: "Ye Gods, declare,
What may I do to grant your prayer?"
"King Dasaratha," thus cried they,
"Fervent in penance many a day,
The sacrificial steed has slain,
Longing for sons, but all in vain.
Now, at the cry of us forlorn,
Incarnate as his seed be born.
Three queens has he--each lovely dame
Like Beauty, Modesty, or Fame.
Divide thyself in four, and be
His offspring by these noble three.
Man's nature take, and slay in fight
Ravan who laughs at heavenly might--
This common scourge, this rankling thorn
Whom the three worlds too long have borne.
For Ravan, in the senseless pride
Of might unequalled, has defied
The host of heaven, and plagues with woe
Angel and bard and saint below,
Crushing each spirit and each maid
Who plays in Nandan's heavenly shade.
O conquering Lord, to thee we bow;
Our surest hope and trust art thou.
Regard the world of men below,
And slay the God's tremendous foe."
When thus the suppliant Gods had prayed,
His wise reply Narayan made:--
"What task demands my presence there,
And when this dread, ye Gods declare."
The Gods replied: "We fear, O Lord,
Fierce Ravan, ravener abhorred.
Be thine the glorious task, we pray,
In human form this fiend to slay.
By thee of all the Blest alone
This sinner may be overthrown.
He gained by penance long and dire
The favor of the mighty Sire.
Then He who every gift bestows
Guarded the fiend from heavenly foes,
And gave a pledge his life that kept
From all things living, man except.
On him thus armed no other foe
Than man may deal the deadly blow.
Assume, O King, a mortal birth,
And strike the demon to the earth."
Then Vishnu, God of Gods, the Lord
Supreme by all the worlds adored,
To Brahma and the suppliants spake:--
"Dismiss your fear: for your dear sake
In battle will I smite him dead,
The cruel fiend, the Immortal's dread.
And lords and ministers and all
His kith and kin with him shall fall.
Then, in the world of mortal men,
Ten thousand years and hundreds ten
I as a human King will reign,
And guard the earth as my domain."
God, saint, and nymph, and minstrel throng
With heavenly voices raised their song
In hymns of triumph to the God
Whose conquering feet on Madhu trod:---
"Champion of Gods, as man appear,
This cruel Ravan slay,
The thorn that saints and hermits fear,
The plague that none can stay.
In savage fury uncontrolled
His pride forever grows--
He dares the Lord of Gods to hold
Among his deadly foes."
When wisest Vishnu thus had given
His promise to the Gods of heaven,
He pondered in his secret mind
A suited place of birth to find.
Then he decreed, the lotus-eyed,
In four his being to divide,
And Dasaratha, gracious King,
He chose as sire from whom to spring.
That childless prince, of high renown,
Who smote in war his foemen down,
At that same time with utmost care
Prepared the rite that wins an heir.
Then Vishnu, fain on earth to dwell,
Bade the Almighty Sire farewell,
And vanished while a reverent crowd
Of Gods and saints in worship bowed.
The monarch watched the sacred rite,
When a vast form of awful might,
Of matchless splendor, strength and size
Was manifest before his eyes.
From forth the sacrificial flame,
Dark, robed in red, the being came.
His voice was drumlike, loud and low,
His face suffused with rosy glow.
Like a huge lion's mane appeared
The long locks of his hair and beard.
He shone with many a lucky sign,
And many an ornament divine;
A towering mountain in his height,
A tiger in his gait and might.
No precious mine more rich could be,
No burning flame more bright than he.
His arms embraced in loving hold,
Like a dear wife, a vase of gold
Whose silver lining held a draught
Of nectar as in heaven is quaffed--
A vase so vast, so bright to view,
They scarce could count the vision true.
Upon the King his eyes he bent,
And said: "The Lord of life has sent
His servant down, O Prince, to be
A messenger from heaven to thee."
The King with all his nobles by
Raised reverent hands and made reply:--
"Welcome, O glorious being! Say
How can my care thy grace repay,"
Envoy of Him whom all adore,
Thus to the King he spake once more:--
"The Gods accept thy worship--they
Give thee the blessed fruit to-day.
Approach and take, O glorious King,
This heavenly nectar which I bring,
For it shall give thee sons and wealth,
And bless thee with a store of health.
Give it to those fair queens of thine,
And bid them quaff the drink divine--
And they the princely sons shall bear
Long sought by sacrifice and prayer."
"Yea, O my lord," the monarch said,
And took the vase upon his head,
The gift of Gods, of fine gold wrought,
With store of heavenly liquor fraught.
He honored, filled with transport new,
That wondrous being, fair to view,
As round the envoy of the God
With reverential steps he trod.
His errand done, that form of light
Arose and vanished from the sight.
High rapture filled the monarch's soul,
Possessed of that celestial bowl,
As when a man by want distressed
With unexpected wealth is blest.
And rays of transport seemed to fall
Illuminating bower and hall,
As when the autumn moon rides high,
And floods with lovely light the sky.
Quick to the ladies' bower he sped,
And thus to Queen Kausalya said:--
"This genial nectar take and quaff,"
He spoke, and gave the lady half.
Part of the nectar that remained
Sumitra from his hand obtained.
He gave, to make her fruitful too,
Kaikeyi half the residue.
A portion yet remaining there,
He paused awhile to think,
Then gave Sumitra, with her share,
The remnant of the drink.
Thus on each queen of those fair three
A part the King bestowed,
And with sweet hope a child to see
Their yearning bosoms glowed.
The heavenly bowl the King supplied
Their longing souls relieved,
And soon, with rapture and with pride,
Each royal dame conceived.
He gazed upon each lady's face,
And triumphed as he gazed.
As Indra in his royal place
By Gods and spirits praised.
When Vishnu thus had gone on earth,
From the great King to take his birth,
The self-existent Lord of all
Addressed the Gods who heard his call:--
"For Vishnu's sake, the strong and true,
Who seeks the good of all of you,
Make helps, in war to lend him aid,
In forms that change at will, arrayed,
Of wizard skill and hero might,
Outstrippers of the wind in flight,
Skilled in the arts of counsel, wise,
And Vishnu's peers in bold emprise;
With heavenly arts and prudence fraught,
By no devices to be caught;
Skilled in all weapons' lore and use
As they who drink the immortal juice.
And let the nymphs supreme in grace,
And maidens of the minstrel race,
Monkeys and snakes, and those who rove
Free spirits of the hill and grove,
And wandering Daughters of the Air,
In monkey form brave children bear.
So erst the lord of bears I shaped,
Born from my mouth as wide I gaped."
Thus by the mighty Sire addressed
They all obeyed his high behest,
And thus begot in countless swarms
Brave sons disguised in sylvan forms.
Each God, each sage became a sire,
Each minstrel of the heavenly choir.
Each faun, of children strong and good
Whose feet should roam the hill and wood.
Snakes, bards, and spirits, serpents bold
Had sons too numerous to be told.
Bali, the woodland hosts who led,
High as Mahendra's lofty head,
Was Indra's child. That noblest fire,
The Sun, was great Sugriva's sire.
Tara, the mighty monkey, he
Was offspring of Vrihaspati--
Tara the matchless chieftain, boast
For wisdom of the Vanar host.
Of Gandhamadan brave and bold
The father was the Lord of Gold.
Nala the mighty, dear to fame,
Of skilful Visvakarma came.
From Agni, Nila bright as flame,
Who in his splendor, might, and worth,
Surpassed the sire who gave him birth.
The heavenly Asvins, swift and fair,
Were fathers of a noble pair,
Who, Dwivida and Mainda named,
For beauty like their sires were famed.
Varun was father of Sushen,
Of Sarabh, he who sends the rain.
Hanuman, best of monkey kind,
Was son of him who breathes the wind--
Like thunderbolt in frame was he,
And swift as Garud's self could flee.
These thousands did the Gods create
Endowed with might that none could mate,
In monkey forms that changed at will--
So strong their wish the fiend to kill.
In mountain size, like lions thewed,
Up-sprang the wondrous multitude,
Auxiliar hosts in every shape,
Monkey and bear and highland ape.
In each the strength, the might, the mien
Of his own parent God were seen.
Some chiefs of Vanar mothers came,
Some of she-bear and minstrel dame,
Skilled in all arms in battle's shock,
The brandished tree, the loosened rock;
And prompt, should other weapons fail,
To fight and slay with tooth and nail.
Their strength could shake the hills amain.
And rend the rooted trees in twain,
Disturb with their impetuous sweep
The Rivers' Lord, the Ocean deep,
Rend with their feet the seated ground,
And pass wide floods with airy bound--
Or forcing through the sky their way
The very clouds by force could stay.
Mad elephants that wander through
The forest wilds, could they subdue,
And with their furious shout could scare
Dead upon earth the birds of air.
So were the sylvan chieftains formed;
Thousands on thousands still they swarmed.
These were the leaders honored most,
The captains of the Vanar host,
And to each lord and chief and guide
Was monkey offspring born beside.
Then by the bears' great monarch stood
The other roamers of the wood,
And turned, their pathless homes to seek,
To forest and to mountain peak.
The leaders of the monkey band
By the two brothers took their stand,
Sugriva, offspring of the Sun,
And Bali, Indra's mighty one.
They both endowed with Garud's might,
And skilled in all the arts of fight,
Wandered in arms the forest through,
And lions, snakes, and tigers, slew.
But every monkey, ape, and bear
Ever was Bali's special care;
With his vast strength and mighty arm
He kept them from all scathe and harm.
And so the earth with hill, wood, seas,
Was filled with mighty ones like these--
Of various shape and race and kind,
With proper homes to each assigned.
With Rama's champions fierce and strong
The earth was overspread,
High as the hills and clouds, a throng
With bodies vast and dread.
Now when the high-souled monarch's rite,
The Asvamedh, was finished quite,
Their sacrificial dues obtained,
The Gods their heavenly homes regained.
The lofty-minded saints withdrew,
Each to his place, with honor due,
And kings and chieftains, one and all,
Who came to grace the festival.
And Dasaratha, ere they went,
Addressed them thus benevolent:--
"Now may you, each with joyful heart,
To your own realms, O Kings, depart.
Peace and good luck attend you there,
And blessing, is my friendly prayer;
Let cares of state each mind engage
To guard his royal heritage.
A monarch from his throne expelled
No better than the dead is held.
So he who cares for power and might
Must guard his realm and royal right.
Such care a meed in heaven will bring
Better than rites and offering.
Such care a king his country owes
As man upon himself bestows,
When for his body he provides
Raiment and every need besides.
For future days should kings foresee,
And keep the present error-free."
Thus did the King the kings exhort--
They heard, and turned them from the court,
And, each to each in friendship bound,
Went forth to all the realms around.
The rites were o'er, the guests were sped,
The train the best of Brahmans led--
In which the King with joyful soul,
With his dear wives, and with the whole
Of his imperial host and train
Of cars and servants turned again,
And, as a monarch dear to fame,
Within his royal city came.
Next, Rishyasring, well-honored sage,
And Santa, sought their hermitage.
The King himself, of prudent mind,
Attended him, with troops behind,
And all her men the town outpoured
With Saint Vasishtha and their lord.
High mounted on a car of state,
O'ercanopied fair Santa sate,
Drawn by white oxen, while a band
Of servants marched on either hand.
Great gifts of countless price she bore,
With sheep and goats and gems in store.
Like Beauty's self the lady shone
With all the jewels she had on,
As, happy in her sweet content,
Peerless amid the fair she went.
Not Queen Paulomi's self could be
More loving to her lord than she.
She who had lived in happy ease,
Honored with all her heart could please,
While dames and kinsfolk ever vied
To see her wishes gratified--
Soon as she knew her husband's will
Again to seek the forest, still
Was ready for the hermit's cot,
Nor murmured at her altered lot.
The King attended to the wild
That hermit and his own dear child,
And in the centre of a throng
Of noble courtiers rode along.
The sage's son had let prepare
A lodge within the wood, and there
Awhile they lingered blithe and gay,
Then, duly honored, went their way.
The glorious hermit Rishyasring
Drew near and thus besought the King:--
"Return, my honored lord, I pray,
Return, upon thy homeward way."
The monarch, with the waiting crowd,
Lifted his voice and wept aloud,
And with eyes dripping still to each
Of his good queens he spake this speech:--
"Kausalya and Sumitra dear,
And thou, my sweet Kaikeyi, hear--
All upon Santa feast your gaze,
The last time for a length of days."
To 'Santa's side the ladies leapt,
And hung about her neck and wept,
And cried, "O, happy be the life
Of this great Brahman and his wife.
The Wind, the Fire, the Moon on high,
The Earth, the Streams, the circling Sky,
Preserve thee in the wood, true spouse,
Devoted to thy husband's vows.
And O dear Santa, ne'er neglect
To pay the dues of meek respect
To the great saint, thy husband's sire,
With all observance and with fire.
And, sweet one, pure of spot and blame.
Forget not thou thy husband's claim;
In every change, in good and ill,
Let thy sweet words delight him still,
And let thy worship constant be--
Her lord is woman's deity.
To learn thy welfare, dearest friend,
The King will many a Brahman send.
Let happy thoughts thy spirit cheer,
And be not troubled, daughter dear."
These soothing words the ladies said,
And pressed their lips upon her head,
Each gave with sighs her last adieu,
Then at the King's command withdrew.
The King around the hermit went
With circling footsteps reverent,
And placed at Rishyasring's command
Some soldiers of his royal band.
The Brahman bowed in turn and cried,
"May fortune never leave thy side.
O mighty King, with justice reign,
And still thy people's love retain."
He spoke, and turned away his face,
And, as the hermit went,
The monarch, rooted to the place,
Pursued with eyes intent.
But when the sage had passed from view
King Dasaratha turned him too,
Still fixing on his friend each thought,
With such deep love his breast was fraught.
Amid his people's loud acclaim
Home to his royal seat he came,
And lived delighted there--
Expecting when each queenly dame,
Upholder of his ancient fame,
Her promised son should bear.
The glorious sage his way pursued
Till close before his eyes he viewed
Sweet Champa, Lomapad's fair town,
Wreathed with her Champac's leafy crown.
Soon as the saint's approach he knew,
The King, to yield him honor due,
Went forth to meet him with a band
Of priests and nobles of the land:--
"Hail, Sage," he cried, "O joy to me!
What bliss it is, my lord, to see
Thee with thy wife and all thy train
Returning to my town again.
Thy father, honored Sage, is well,
Who hither from his woodland cell
Has sent full many a messenger
For tidings both of thee and her."
Then joyfully, for due respect,
The monarch bade the town be decked.
The King and Rishyasring elate
Entered the royal city's gate--
In front the chaplain rode.
Then, loved and honored with all care
By monarch and by courtier, there
The glorious saint abode.
The monarch called a Brahman near
And said, "Now speed away
To Kasyap's son, the mighty seer,
And with all reverence say--
The holy child he holds so dear,
The hermit of the noble mind,
Whose equal it were hard to find,
Returned, is dwelling here.
Go, and instead of me do thou
Before that best of hermits bow,
That still he may for his dear son,
Show me the favor I have won."
Soon as the King these words had said,
To Kasyap's son the Brahman sped.
Before the hermit low he bent
And did obeisance, reverent;
Then with meek words his grace to crave
The message of his lord he gave:--
"The high-souled father of his bride
Had called thy son his rites to guide--
Those rites are o'er, the steed is slain;
Thy noble child is come again."
Soon as the saint that speech had heard
His spirit with desire was stirred
To seek the city of the King
And to his cot his son to bring.
With young disciples at his side
Forth on his way the hermit hied,
While peasants from their hamlets ran
To reverence the holy man.
Each with his little gift of food,
Forth came the village multitude,
And, as they humbly bowed the head,
"What may we do for thee?" they said.
Then he, of Brahmans first and best,
The gathered people thus addressed:--
"Now tell me, for I fain would know,
Why is it I am honored so?"
They to the high-souled saint replied:--
"Our ruler is with thee allied.
Our master's order we fulfil;
O Brahman, let thy mind be still."
With joy the saintly hermit heard
Each pleasant and delightful word,
And poured a benediction down
On King and ministers and town.
Glad at the words of that high saint
Some servants hastened to acquaint
Their King, rejoicing to impart
The tidings that would cheer his heart.
Soon as the joyful tale he knew
To meet the saint the monarch flew,
The guest-gift in his hand he brought,
And bowed before him and besought:--
"This day by seeing thee I gain
Not to have lived my life in vain.
Now be not wroth with me, I pray,
Because I wiled thy son away."
The best of Brahmans answer made:--
"Be not, great lord of Kings, afraid.
Thy virtues have not failed to win
My favor, O thou pure of sin."
Then in the front the saint was placed,
The King came next in joyous haste,
And with him entered his abode,
'Mid glad acclaim as on they rode.
To greet the sage the reverent crowd
Raised suppliant hands and humbly bowed.
Then from the palace many a dame
Following well-dressed Santa came,
Stood by the mighty saint and cried:--
"See, honor's source, thy son's dear bride."
The saint, who every virtue knew,
His arms around his daughter threw,
And with a father's rapture pressed
The lady to his wondering breast.
Arising from the saint's embrace
She bowed her low before his face,
And then, with palm to palm applied,
Stood by her hermit father's side.
He for his son, as laws ordain,
Performed the rite that frees from stain,
And, honored by the wise and good,
With him departed to the wood.
THE BIRTH OF THE PRINCES
The seasons six, in rapid flight,
Had circled since that glorious rite.
Eleven months had passed away--
'Twas Chaitra's ninth returning day.
The moon within that mansion shone
Which Aditi looks so kindly on.
Raised to their apex in the sky
Five brilliant planets beamed on high.
Shone with the moon, in Cancer's sign,
Vrihaspati with light divine.
Kausalya bore an infant blest
With heavenly marks of grace impressed;
Rama, the universe's lord,
A prince by all the worlds adored.
New glory Queen Kausalya won
Reflected from her splendid son.
So Aditi shone more and more,
The Mother of the Gods, when she
The King of the Immortals bore,
The thunder-wielding deity.
The lotus-eyed, the beauteous boy,
He came fierce Ravan to destroy;
From half of Vishnu's vigor born,
He came to help the worlds forlorn.
And Queen Kaikeyi bore a child
Of truest valor, Bharat styled,
With every princely virtue blest,
One-fourth of Vishnu manifest.
Sumitra too a noble pair,
Called Lakshman and Satrughna, bare,
Of high emprise, devoted, true,
Sharers in Vishnu's essence too.
'Neath Pushya's mansion, Mina's sign,
Was Bharat born, of soul benign.
The sun had reached the Crab at morn
When Queen Sumitra's babes were born,
What time the moon had gone to make
His nightly dwelling with the Snake.
The high-souled monarch's consorts bore
At different times those glorious four,
Like to himself and virtuous, bright
As Proshthapada's fourfold light.
Then danced the nymphs' celestial throng,
The minstrels raised their strain;
The drums of heaven pealed loud and long,
And flowers came down in rain.
Within Ayodhya, blithe and gay,
All kept the joyous holiday.
The spacious square, the ample road
With mimes and dancers overflowed,
And with the voice of music rang
Where minstrels played and singers sang--
And shone, a wonder to behold,
With dazzling show of gems and gold.
Nor did the King his largess spare,
For minstrel, driver, bard, to share;
Much wealth the Brahmans bore away,
And many thousand kine that day.
Soon as each babe was twelve days old
Twas time the naming rite to hold,
When Saint Vasishtha, rapt with joy,
Assigned a name to every boy.
Rama, to him the high-souled heir,
Bharat, to him Kaikeyi bare--
Of Queen Sumitra one fair son
Was Lakshman, and Satrughna one.
Rama, his sire's supreme delight,
Like some proud banner cheered his sight,
And to all creatures seemed to be
The self-existent deity.
All heroes, versed in holy lore,
To all mankind great love they bore.
Fair stores of wisdom all possessed,
With princely graces all were blest.
But mid those youths of high descent,
With lordly light preeminent,
Like the full moon unclouded shone
Rama, the world's dear paragon.
He best the elephant could guide,
Urge the fleet car, the charger ride--
A master he of bowman's skill,
Joying to do his father's will.
The world's delight and darling, he
Loved Lakshman best from infancy;
And Lakshman, lord of lofty fate,
Upon his elder joyed to wait,
Striving his second self to please
With friendship's sweet observances.
His limbs the hero ne'er would rest
Unless the couch his brother pressed;
Except beloved Rama shared
He could not taste the meal prepared.
When Rama, pride of Raghu's race,
Sprang on his steed to urge the chase,
Behind him Lakshman loved to go
And guard him with his trusty bow.
As Rama was to Lakshman dear
More than his life and ever near,
So fond Satrughna prized above
His very life his Bharat's love.
Illustrious heroes, nobly kind
In mutual love they all combined,
And gave their royal sire delight
With modest grace and warrior might;
Supported by the glorious four
Shone Dasaratha more and more,
As though, with every guardian God
Who keeps the land and skies,
The Father of all creatures trod
The earth before men's eyes.
NOW Dasaratha's pious mind
Meet wedlock for his sons designed;
With priests and friends the King began
To counsel and prepare his plan.
Such thoughts engaged his bosom, when,
To see Ayodhya's lord of men,
A mighty saint of glorious fame,
The hermit Visvamitra came.
For evil fiends that roam by night
Disturbed him in each holy rite,
And in their strength and frantic rage
Assailed with witcheries the sage.
He came to seek the monarch's aid
To guard the rites the demons stayed,
Unable to a close to bring
One unpolluted offering.
Seeking the King in this dire strait
He said to those who kept the gate:--
"Haste, warders, to your master run,
And say that here stands Gadhi's son."
Soon as they heard the holy man,
To the King's chamber swift they ran
With minds disordered all, and spurred
To wildest zeal by what they heard.
On to the royal hall they sped,
There stood and lowly bowed the head,
And made the lord of men aware
That the great saint was waiting there.
The King with priest and peer arose
And ran the sage to meet,
As Indra from his palace goes
Lord Brahma's self to greet.
When glowing with celestial light
The pious hermit was in sight,
The King, whose mien his transport showed,
The honored gift for guests bestowed.
Nor did the saint that gift despise,
Offered as holy texts advise;
He kindly asked the earth's great King
How all with him was prospering.
The son of Kusik bade him tell
If all in town and field were well,
All well with friends, and kith and kin,
And royal treasure stored within:--
"Do all thy neighbors own thy sway?
Thy foes confess thee yet?
Dost thou continue still to pay
To Gods and men each debt?"
Then he, of hermits first and best,
Vasishtha with a smile addressed,
And asked him of his welfare too,
Showing him honor as was due.
Then with the sainted hermit all
Went joyous to the monarch's hall,
And sate them down by due degree,
Each one, of rank and dignity.
Joy filled the noble prince's breast
Who thus bespoke the honored guest:--
"As Amrit by a mortal found,
As rain upon the thirsty ground,
As to an heirless man a son
Born to him of his precious one--
As gain of what we sorely miss,
As sudden dawn of mighty bliss,
So is thy coming here to me--
All welcome, mighty Saint, to thee.
What wish within thy heart hast thou!
If I can please thee, tell me how.
Hail, Saint, from whom all honors flow,
Worthy of all I can bestow.
Blest is my birth with fruit to-day,
Nor has my life been thrown away.
I see the best of Brahman race,
And night to glorious morn gives place.
Thou, holy Sage, in days of old
Among the royal saints enrolled,
Didst, penance-glorified, within
The Brahman caste high station win.
'Tis meet and right in many a way
That I to thee should honor pay.
This seems a marvel to mine eyes--
All sin thy visit purifies;
And I by seeing thee, O Sage,
Have reaped the fruit of pilgrimage.
Then say what thou wouldst have me do.
That thou hast sought this interview.
Favored by thee, my wish is still,
O Hermit, to perform thy will.
Nor needest thou at length explain
The object that thy heart would gain.
Without reserve I grant it now--
My deity, O Lord, art thou."
The glorious hermit, far renowned.
With highest fame and virtue crowned,
Rejoiced these modest words to hear
Delightful to the mind and ear.
The hermit heard with high content
That speech so wondrous eloquent,
And while each hair with joy arose,
He thus made answer at the close:--
"Good is thy speech, O noble King,
And like thyself in everything.
So should their lips be wisdom-fraught
Whom kings begot, Vasishtha taught.
The favor which I came to seek
Thou grantest ere my tongue can speak.
But let my tale attention claim,
And hear the need for which I came.
O King, as Scripture texts allow,
A holy rite employs me now.
Two fiends who change their forms at will
Impede that rite with cursed skill.
Oft when the task is nigh complete,
These worst of fiends my toil defeat,
Throw bits of bleeding flesh, and o'er
The altar shed a stream of gore.
When thus the rite is mocked and stayed.
And all my pious hopes delayed,
Cast down in heart the spot I leave,
And spent with fruitless labor grieve.
Nor can I, checked by prudence, dare
Let loose my fury on them there--
The muttered curse, the threatening word,
In such a rite must ne'er be heard.
Thy grace the rite from check can free,
And yield the fruit I long to see.
Thy duty bids thee, King, defend
The suffering guest, the suppliant friend.
Give me thy son, thine eldest born,
Whom locks like raven's wings adorn.
That hero youth, the truly brave,
Of thee, O glorious King, I crave.
For he can lay those demons low
Who mar my rites and work me woe:
My power shall shield the youth from harm,
And heavenly might shall nerve his arm.
And on my champion will I shower
Unnumbered gifts of varied power--
Such gifts as shall ensure his fame
And spread through all the worlds his name.
Be sure those fiends can never stand
Before the might of Rama's hand,
And mid the best and bravest none
Can slay that pair but Raghu's son.
Entangled in the toils of Fate
Those sinners, proud and obstinate,
Are, in their fury overbold,
No match for Rama, mighty-souled.
Nor let a father's breast give way
Too far to fond affection's sway.
Count thou the fiends already slain:
My word is pledged, nor pledged in vain.
I know the hero Rama well
In whom high thoughts and valor dwell;
So does Vasishtha, so do these
Engaged in long austerities.
If thou would do the righteous deed,
And win high fame, thy virtue's meed,
Fame that on earth shall last and live,
To me, great King, thy Rama give.
If to the words that I have said,
With Saint Vasishtha at their head
Thy holy men, O King, agree,
Then let thy Rama go with me.
Ten nights my sacrifice will last,
And ere the stated time be past
Those wicked fiends, those impious twain,
Must fall by wondrous Rama slain.
Let not the hours, I warn thee, fly,
Fixt for the rite, unheeded by;
Good luck have thou, O royal Chief,
Nor give thy heart to needless grief."
Thus in fair words with virtue fraught,
The pious glorious saint besought.
But the good speech with poignant sting
Pierced ear and bosom of the King,
Who, stabbed with pangs too sharp to bear,
Fell prostrate and lay fainting there.
His tortured senses all astray,
Awhile the hapless monarch lay,
Then slowly gathering thought and strength
To Visvamitra spoke at length:--
"My son is but a child, I ween;
This year he will be just sixteen.
How is he fit for such emprise,
My darling with the lotus eyes?
A mighty army will I bring
That calls me master, lord, and King,
And with its countless squadrons fight
Against these rovers of the night.
My faithful heroes skilled to wield
The arms of war will take the field;
Their skill the demons' might may break:
Rama, my child, thou must not take.
I, even I, my bow in hand,
Will in the van of battle stand,
And, while my soul is left alive,
With the night-roaming demons strive.
Thy guarded sacrifice shall be
Completed, from all hindrance free.
Thither will I my journey make:
Rama, my child, thou must not take.
A boy unskilled, he knows not yet
The bounds to strength and weakness set.
No match is he for demon foes
Who magic arts to arms oppose.
O chief of saints, I have no power,
Of Rama reft, to live one hour--
Mine aged heart at once would break:
Rama, my child, thou must not take.
Nine thousand circling years have fled
With all their seasons o'er my head,
And as a hard-won boon, O Sage,
These sons have come to cheer mine age.
My dearest love amid the four
Is he whom first his mother bore,
Still dearer for his virtue's sake;
Rama, my child, thou must not take.
But if, unmoved by all I say,
Thou needs must bear my son away,
Let me lead with him, I entreat,
A fourfold army all complete.
What is the demons' might, O Sage?
Who are they? What their parentage?
What is their size? What beings lend
Their power to guard them and befriend?
How can my son their arts withstand?
Or I or all my armed band?
Tell me the whole that I may know
To met in war each evil foe
Whom conscious might inspires with pride."
And Visvamitra thus replied:--
"Sprung from Pulastya's race there came
A giant known by Ravan's name.
Once favored by the Eternal Sire
He plagues the worlds in ceaseless ire,
For peerless power and might renowned,
By giant bands encompassed round.
Visravas for his sire they hold,
His brother is the Lord of Gold.
King of the giant hosts is he,
And worst of all in cruelty.
This Ravan's dread commands impel
Two demons who in might excel,
Maricha and Suvahu Light,
To trouble and impede the rite."
Then thus the King addressed the sage:--
"No power have I, my lord, to wage
War with this evil-minded foe;
Now pity on my darling show,
And upon me of hapless fate,
For thee as God I venerate.