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Ramayana, Book 2, The

Canto X. Dasaratha's Speech.

As Queen Kaikeyí thus obeyed
The sinful counsel of her maid
She sank upon the chamber floor,
As sinks in anguish, wounded sore,
An elephant beneath the smart
Of the wild hunter's venomed dart.
The lovely lady in her mind
Revolved the plot her maid designed,
And prompt the gain and risk to scan
She step by step approved the plan.
Misguided by the hump-back's guile
She pondered her resolve awhile,
As the fair path that bliss secured
The miserable lady lured,
Devoted to her queen, and swayed
By hopes of gain and bliss, the maid
Rejoiced, her lady's purpose known,
And deemed the prize she sought her own.
Then bent upon her purpose dire,
Kaikeyí with her soul on fire,
Upon the floor lay, languid, down,
Her brows contracted in a frown.
The bright-hued wreath that bound her hair,
Chains, necklets, jewels rich and rare,
Stripped off by her own fingers lay
Spread on the ground in disarray,
And to the floor a lustre lent
As stars light up the firmament.
Thus prostrate in the mourner's cell,
In garb of woe the lady fell,
Her long hair in a single braid,
Like some fair nymph of heaven dismayed.272
The monarch, Ráma to install,
With thoughtful care had ordered all,
And now within his home withdrew,
Dismissing first his retinue.
Now all the town has heard, thought he,
What joyful rite the morn will see.
So turned he to her bower to cheer
With the glad news his darling's ear.
Majestic, as the Lord of Night,
When threatened by the Dragon's might,
Bursts radiant on the evening sky
Pale with the clouds that wander by,
So Daśaratha, great in fame,
To Queen Kaikeyí's palace came.
There parrots flew from tree to tree,
And gorgeous peacocks wandered free,
While ever and anon was heard
The note of some glad water-bird.
Here loitered dwarf and hump-backed maid,
There lute and lyre sweet music played.
Here, rich in blossom, creepers twined
O'er grots with wondrous art designed,
There Champac and Aśoka flowers
Hung glorious o'er the summer bowers,
And mid the waving verdure rose
Gold, silver, ivory porticoes.
Through all the months in ceaseless store
The trees both fruit and blossom bore.
With many a lake the grounds were graced;
Seats gold and silver, here were placed;
Here every viand wooed the taste,
It was a garden meet to vie
E'en with the home of Gods on high.
Within the mansion rich and vast
The mighty Daśaratha passed:
Not there was his beloved queen
On her fair couch reclining seen.
With love his eager pulses beat
For the dear wife he came to meet,
And in his blissful hopes deceived,
He sought his absent love and grieved.
For never had she missed the hour
Of meeting in her sumptuous bower,
And never had the king of men
Entered the empty room till then.
Still urged by love and anxious thought
News of his favourite queen he sought,
For never had his loving eyes
Found her or selfish or unwise.
Then spoke at length the warder maid,
With hands upraised and sore afraid:
“My Lord and King, the queen has sought
The mourner's cell with rage distraught.”
The words the warder maiden said
He heard with soul disquieted,
And thus as fiercer grief assailed,
His troubled senses wellnigh failed.
Consumed by torturing fires of grief
The king, the world's imperial chief,
His lady lying on the ground
In most unqueenly posture, found.
The aged king, all pure within,
Saw the young queen resolved on sin,
Low on the ground, his own sweet wife,
To him far dearer than his life,
Like some fair creeping plant uptorn,
Or like a maid of heaven forlorn,
A nymph of air or Goddess sent
From Swarga down in banishment.
As some wild elephant who tries
To soothe his consort as she lies
Struck by the hunter's venomed dart,
So the great king disturbed in heart,
Strove with soft hand and fond caress
To soothe his darling queen's distress,
And in his love addressed with sighs
The lady of the lotus eyes:
“I know not, Queen, why thou shouldst be
Thus angered to the heart with me.
Say, who has slighted thee, or whence
Has come the cause of such offence
That in the dust thou liest low,
And rendest my fond heart with woe,
As if some goblin of the night
Had struck thee with a deadly blight,
And cast foul influence on her
Whose spells my loving bosom stir?
I have Physicians famed for skill,
Each trained to cure some special ill:
My sweetest lady, tell thy pain,
And they shall make thee well again.
Whom, darling, wouldst thou punished see?
Or whom enriched with lordly fee?
Weep not, my lovely Queen, and stay
This grief that wears thy frame away;
Speak, and the guilty shall be freed.
The guiltless be condemned to bleed,
The poor enriched, the rich abased,
The low set high, the proud disgraced.
My lords and I thy will obey,
All slaves who own thy sovereign sway;
And I can ne'er my heart incline
To check in aught one wish of thine.
Now by my life I pray thee tell
The thoughts that in thy bosom dwell.
The power and might thou knowest well,
Should from thy breast all doubt expel.
I swear by all my merit won,
Speak, and thy pleasure shall be done.
Far as the world's wide bounds extend
My glorious empire knows no end.
Mine are the tribes in eastern lands,
And those who dwell on Sindhu's sands:
Mine is Suráshṭra, far away,
Suvíra's realm admits my sway.
My best the southern nations fear,
The Angas and the Vangas hear.
And as lord paramount I reign
O'er Magadh and the Matsyas' plain,
Kośal, and Káśi's wide domain:273
All rich in treasures of the mine,
In golden corn, sheep, goats, and kine.
Choose what thou wilt. Kaikeyí, thence:
But tell me, O my darling, whence
Arose thy grief, and it shall fly
Like hoar-frost when the sun is high.”
She, by his loving words consoled,
Longed her dire purpose to unfold,
And sought with sharper pangs to wring
The bosom of her lord the king.

Canto XI. The Queen's Demand.

To him enthralled by love, and blind,
Pierced by his darts who shakes the mind,274
Kaikeyí with remorseless breast
Her grand purpose thus expressed:
“O King, no insult or neglect
Have I endured, or disrespect.
One wish I have, and faith would see
That longing granted, lord, by thee.
Now pledge thy word if thou incline
To listen to this prayer of mine,
Then I with confidence will speak,
And thou shalt hear the boon I seek.”
Ere she had ceased, the monarch fell,
A victim to the lady's spell,
And to the deadly snare she set
Sprang, like a roebuck to the net.
Her lover raised her drooping head,
Smiled, playing with her hair, and said:
“Hast thou not learnt, wild dame, till now
That there is none so dear as thou
To me thy loving husband, save
My Ráma bravest of the brave?
By him my race's high-souled heir,
By him whom none can match, I swear,
Now speak the wish that on thee weighs:
By him whose right is length of days,
Whom if my fond paternal eye
Saw not one hour I needs must die,—
I swear by Ráma my dear son,
Speak, and thy bidding shall be done.
Speak, darling; if thou choose, request
To have the heart from out my breast;
Regard my words, sweet love, and name
The wish thy mind thinks fit to frame.
Nor let thy soul give way to doubt:
My power should drive suspicion out.
Yea, by my merits won I swear,
Speak, darling, I will grant thy prayer.”
The queen, ambitious, overjoyed
To see him by her plot decoyed,
More eager still her aims to reach,
Spoke her abominable speech:
“A boon thou grantest, nothing loth,
And swearest with repeated oath.
Now let the thirty Gods and three
My witnesses, with Indra, be.
Let sun and moon and planets hear,
Heaven, quarters, day and night, give ear.
The mighty world, the earth outspread,
With bards of heaven and demons dread;
The ghosts that walk in midnight shade,
And household Gods, our present aid,
A every being great and small
To hear and mark the oath I call.”
When thus the archer king was bound,
With treacherous arts and oaths enwound,
She to her bounteous lord subdued
By blinding love, her speech renewed:
“Remember, King, that long-past day
Of Gods' and demons' battle fray.
And how thy foe in doubtful strife
Had nigh bereft thee of thy life.
Remember, it was only I
Preserved thee when about to die,
And thou for watchful love and care
Wouldst grant my first and second prayer.
Those offered boons, pledged with thee then,
I now demand, O King of men,
Of thee, O Monarch, good and just,
Whose righteous soul observes each trust.
If thou refuse thy promise sworn,
I die, despised, before the morn.
These rites in Ráma's name begun—
Transfer them, and enthrone my son.
The time is come to claim at last
The double boon of days long-past,
When Gods and demons met in fight,
And thou wouldst fain my care requite.
Now forth to Daṇḍak's forest drive
Thy Ráma for nine years and five,
And let him dwell a hermit there
With deerskin coat and matted hair.
Without a rival let my boy
The empire of the land enjoy,
And let mine eyes ere morning see
Thy Ráma to the forest flee.”

Canto XII. Dasaratha's Lament.

The monarch, as Kaikeyí pressed
With cruel words her dire request,
Stood for a time absorbed in thought
While anguish in his bosom wrought.
“Does some wild dream my heart assail?
Or do my troubled senses fail?
Does some dire portent scare my view?
Or frenzy's stroke my soul subdue?”
Thus as he thought, his troubled mind
In doubt and dread no rest could find,
Distressed and trembling like a deer
Who sees the dreaded tigress near.
On the bare ground his limbs he threw,
And many a long deep sigh he drew,
Like a wild snake, with fury blind,
By charms within a ring confined.
Once as the monarch's fury woke,
“Shame on thee!” from his bosom broke,
And then in sense-bewildering pain
He fainted on the ground again.
At length, when slowly strength returned,
He answered as his eyeballs burned
With the wild fury of his ire
Consuming her, as 'twere, with fire:
“Fell traitress, thou whose thoughts design
The utter ruin of my line,
What wrong have I or Ráma done?
Speak murderess, speak thou wicked one,
Seeks he not evermore to please
Thee with all sonlike courtesies?
By what persuasion art thou led
To bring this ruin on his head?
Ah me, that fondly unaware
I brought thee home my life to share,
Called daughter of a king, in truth
A serpent with a venomed tooth!
What fault can I pretend to find
In Ráma praised by all mankind,
That I my darling should forsake?
No, take my life, my glory take:
Let either queen be from me torn,
But not my well-loved eldest-born.
Him but to see is highest bliss,
And death itself his face to miss.
The world may sunless stand, the grain
May thrive without the genial rain,
But if my Ráma be not nigh
My spirit from its frame will fly.
Enough, thine impious plan forgo,
O thou who plottest sin and woe.
My head before thy feet, I kneel,
And pray thee some compassion feel.
O wicked dame, what can have led
Thy heart to dare a plot so dread?
Perchance thy purpose is to sound
The grace thy son with me has found;
Perchance the words that, all these days,
Thou still hast said in Ráma's praise,
Were only feigned, designed to cheer
With flatteries a father's ear.
Soon as thy grief, my Queen, I knew,
My bosom felt the anguish too.
In empty halls art thou possessed,
And subject to anothers' hest?
Now on Ikshváku's ancient race
Falls foul disorder and disgrace,
If thou, O Queen, whose heart so long
Has loved the good should choose the wrong.
Not once, O large-eyed dame, hast thou
Been guilty of offence till now,
Nor said a word to make me grieve,
Now will I now thy sin believe.
With thee my Ráma used to hold
Like place with Bharat lofty-souled.
As thou so often, when the pair
Were children yet, wouldst fain declare.
And can thy righteous soul endure
That Ráma glorious, pious, pure,
Should to the distant wilds be sent
For fourteen years of banishment?
Yea, Ráma Bharat's self exceeds
In love to thee and sonlike deeds,
And, for deserving love of thee,
As Bharat, even so is he.
Who better than that chieftain may
Obedience, love, and honour pay,
Thy dignity with care protect,
Thy slightest word and wish respect?
Of all his countless followers none
Can breathe a word against my son;
Of many thousands not a dame
Can hint reproach or whisper blame.
All creatures feel the sweet control
Of Ráma's pure and gentle soul.
The pride of Manu's race he binds
To him the people's grateful minds.
He wins the subjects with his truth,
The poor with gifts and gentle ruth,
His teachers with his docile will,
The foemen with his archer skill.
Truth, purity, religious zeal,
The hand to give, the heart to feel,
The love that ne'er betrays a friend,
The rectitude that naught can bend,
Knowledge, and meek obedience grace
My Ráma pride of Raghu's race.
Canst thou thine impious plot design
'Gainst him in whom these virtues shine,
Whose glory with the sages vies,
Peer of the Gods who rule the skies!
From him no harsh or bitter word
To pain one creature have I heard,
And how can I my son address,
For thee, with words of bitterness?
Have mercy, Queen: some pity show
To see my tears of anguish flow,
And listen to my mournful cry,
A poor old man who soon must die.
Whate'er this sea-girt land can boast
Of rich and rare from coast to coast,
To thee, my Queen, I give it all:
But O, thy deadly words recall:
O see, my suppliant hands entreat,
Again my lips are on thy feet:
Save Ráma, save my darling child,
Nor kill me with this sin defiled.”
He grovelled on the ground, and lay
To burning grief a senseless prey,
And ever and anon, assailed
By floods of woe he wept and wailed,
Striving with eager speed to gain
The margent of his sea of pain.
With fiercer words she fiercer yet
The hapless father's pleading met:
“O Monarch, if thy soul repent
The promise and thy free consent,
How wilt thou in the world maintain
Thy fame for truth unsmirched with stain?
When gathered kings with thee converse,
And bid thee all the tale rehearse,
What wilt thou say, O truthful King,
In answer to their questioning?
“She to whose love my life I owe,
Who saved me smitten by the foe,
Kaikeyí, for her tender care,
Was cheated of the oath I sware.”
Thus wilt thou answer, and forsworn
Wilt draw on thee the princes' scorn.
Learn from that tale, the Hawk and Dove,275
How strong for truth was Saivya's love.
Pledged by his word the monarch gave
His flesh the suppliant bird to save.
So King Alarka gave his eyes,
And gained a mansion in the skies.
The Sea himself his promise keeps,
And ne'er beyond his limit sweeps.
My deeds of old again recall,
Nor let thy bond dishonoured fall.
The rights of truth thou wouldst forget,
Thy Ráma on the throne to set,
And let thy days in pleasure glide,
Fond King, Kauśalyá by thy side.
Now call it by what name thou wilt,
Justice, injustice, virtue, guilt,
Thy word and oath remain the same,
And thou must yield what thus I claim.
If Ráma be anointed, I
This very day will surely die,
Before thy face will poison drink,
And lifeless at thy feet will sink.
Yea, better far to die than stay
Alive to see one single day
The crowds before Kauśalyá stand
And hail her queen with reverent hand.
Now by my son, myself, I swear,
No gift, no promise whatsoe'er
My steadfast soul shall now content,
But only Ráma's banishment.”
So far she spake by rage impelled,
And then the queen deep silence held.
He heard her speech full fraught with ill,
But spoke no word bewildered still,
Gazed on his love once held so dear
Who spoke unlovely rede to hear;
Then as he slowly pondered o'er
The queen's resolve and oath she swore.
Once sighing forth, Ah Ráma! he
Fell prone as falls a smitten tree.
His senses lost like one insane,
Faint as a sick man weak with pain,
Or like a wounded snake dismayed,
So lay the king whom earth obeyed.
Long burning sighs he slowly heaved,
As, conquered by his woe, he grieved,
And thus with tears and sobs between
His sad faint words addressed the queen:
“By whom, Kaikeyí, wast thou taught
This flattering hope with ruin fraught?
Have goblins seized thy soul, O dame,
Who thus canst speak and feel no shame?
Thy mind with sin is sicklied o'er,
From thy first youth ne'er seen before.
A good and loving wife wast thou,
But all, alas! is altered now.
What terror can have seized thy breast
To make thee frame this dire request,
That Bharat o'er the land may reign,
And Ráma in the woods remain?
Turn from thine evil ways, O turn,
And thy perfidious counsel spurn,
If thou would fain a favour do
To people, lord, and Bharat too.
O wicked traitress, fierce and vile,
Who lovest deeds of sin and guile,
What crime or grievance dost thou see,
What fault in Ráma or in me?
Thy son will ne'er the throne accept
If Ráma from his rights be kept,
For Bharat's heart more firmly yet
Than Ráma's is on justice set.
How shall I say, Go forth, and brook
Upon my Ráma's face to look,
See his pale cheek and ashy lips
Dimmed like the moon in sad eclipse?
How see the plan so well prepared
When prudent friends my counsels shared,
All ruined, like a host laid low
Beneath some foeman's murderous blow.
What will these gathered princes say,
From regions near and far away?
“O'erlong endures the monarch's reign,
or now he is a child again.”
When many a good and holy sage
In Scripture versed, revered for age,
Shall ask for Ráma, what shall I
Unhappy, what shall I reply?
“By Queen Kaikeyí long distressed
I drove him forth and dispossessed.”
Although herein the truth I speak,
They all will hold me false and weak.
What will Kauśalyá say when she
Demands her son exiled by me?
Alas! what answer shall I frame,
Or how console the injured dame?
She like a slave on me attends,
And with a sister's care she blends
A mother's love, a wife's, a friend's.
In spite of all her tender care,
Her noble son, her face most fair,
Another queen I could prefer
And for thy sake neglected her,
But now, O Queen, my heart is grieved
For love and care by thee received,
E'en as the sickening wretch repents
His dainty meal and condiments.
And how will Queen Sumitrá trust
The husband whom she finds unjust,
Seeing my Ráma driven hence
Dishonoured, and for no offence?
Ah! the Videhan bride will hear
A double woe, a double fear,
Two whelming sorrows at one breath,
Her lord's disgrace, his father's death.
Mine aged bosom she will wring
And kill me with her sorrowing,
Sad as a fair nymph left to weep
Deserted on Himálaya's steep.
For short will be my days, I ween,
When I with mournful eyes have seen
My Ráma wandering forth alone
And heard dear Sítá sob and moan.
Ah me! my fond belief I rue.
Vile traitress, loved as good and true,
As one who in his thirst has quaffed,
Deceived by looks, a deadly draught.
Ah! thou hast slain me, murderess, while
Soothing my soul with words of guile,
As the wild hunter kills the deer
Lured from the brake his song to hear.
Soon every honest tongue will fling
Reproach on the dishonest king;
The people's scorn in every street
The seller of his child will meet,
And such dishonour will be mine
As whelms a Bráhman drunk with wine.
Ah me, for my unhappy fate,
Compelled thy words to tolerate!
Such woe is sent to scourge a crime
Committed in some distant time.
For many a day with sinful care
I cherished thee, thou sin and snare,
Kept thee, unwitting, like a cord
Destined to bind its hapless lord.
Mine hours of ease I spent with thee,
Nor deemed my love my death would be,
While like a heedless child I played,
On a black snake my hand I laid.
A cry from every mouth will burst
And all the world will hold me curst,
Because I saw my high-souled son
Unkinged, unfathered, and undone;
“The king by power of love beguiled
Is weaker than a foolish child,
His own beloved son to make
An exile for a woman's sake.
By chaste and holy vows restrained,
By reverend teachers duly trained.
When he his virtue's fruit should taste
He falls by sin and woe disgraced.”
Two words will all his answer be
When I pronounce the stern decree,
“Hence, Ráma, to the woods away,”
All he will say is, I obey.
O, if he would my will withstand
When banished from his home and land,
This were a comfort in my woe;
But he will ne'er do this, I know.
My Ráma to the forest fled,
And curses thick upon my head,
Grim Death will bear me hence away,
His world-abominated prey.
When I am gone and Ráma too.
How wilt thou those I love pursue?
What vengeful sin will be designed
Against the queens I leave behind?
When thou hast slain her son and me
Kauśalyá soon will follow: she
Will sink beneath her sorrows' weight,
And die like me disconsolate.
Exist, Kaikeyí, in thy pride,
And let thy heart be gratified,
When thou my queens and me hast hurled,
And children, to the under world.
Soon wilt thou rule as empress o'er
My noble house unvext before.
But then to wild confusion left,
Of Ráma and of me bereft.
If Bharat to thy plan consent
And long for Ráma's banishment,
Ne'er let his hands presume to pay
The funeral honours to my clay.
Vile foe, thou cause of all mine ill,
Obtain at last thy cursed will.
A widow soon shalt thou enjoy
The sweets of empire with thy boy.
O Princess, sure some evil fate
First brought thee here to devastate,
In whom the night of ruin lies
Veiled in a consort's fair disguise.
The scorn of all and deepest shame
Will long pursue my hated name,
And dire disgrace on me will press,
Misled by thee to wickedness.
How shall my Ráma, whom, before,
His elephant or chariot bore,
Now with his feet, a wanderer, tread
The forest wilds around him spread?
How shall my son, to please whose taste,
The deftest cooks, with earrings graced,
With rivalry and jealous care
The dainty meal and cates prepare—
How shall he now his life sustain
With acid fruit and woodland grain?
He spends his time unvext by cares,
And robes of precious texture wears:
How shall he, with one garment round
His limbs recline upon the ground?
Whose was this plan, this cruel thought
Unheard till now, with ruin fraught,
To make thy son Ayodhyá's king,
And send my Ráma wandering?
Shame, shame on women! Vile, untrue,
Their selfish ends they still pursue.
Not all of womankind I mean.
But more than all this wicked queen.
O worthless, cruel, selfish dame,
I brought thee home, my plague and woe.
What fault in me hast thou to blame,
Or in my son who loves thee so?
Fond wives may from their husbands flee,
And fathers may their sons desert,
But all the world would rave to see
My Ráma touched with deadly hurt.
I joy his very step to hear,
As though his godlike form I viewed;
And when I see my Ráma near
I feel my youth again renewed.
There might be life without the sun,
Yea, e'en if Indra sent no rain,
But, were my Ráma banished, none
Would, so I think, alive remain.
A foe that longs my life to take,
I brought thee here my death to be,
Caressed thee long, a venomed snake,
And through my folly die. Ah me!
Ráma and me and Lakshmaṇ slay,
And then with Bharat rule the state;
So bring the kingdom to decay,
And fawn on those thy lord who hate,
Plotter of woe, for evil bred,
For such a speech why do not all
Thy teeth from out thy wicked head
Split in a thousand pieces fall?
My Ráma's words are ever kind,
He knows not how to speak in ire:
Then how canst thou presume to find
A fault in him whom all admire?
Yield to despair, go mad, or die,
Or sink within the rifted earth;
Thy fell request will I deny,
Thou shamer of thy royal birth.
Thy longer life I scarce can bear,
Thou ruin of my home and race,
Who wouldst my heart and heartstrings tear,
Keen as a razor, false and base.
My life is gone, why speak of joy?
For what, without my son, were sweet?
Spare, lady, him thou canst destroy;
I pray thee as I touch thy feet.”
He fell and wept with wild complaint,
Heart-struck by her presumptuous speech,
But could not touch, so weak and faint,
The cruel feet he strove to reach.

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