The Epic of Rama, Prince of India
Book II. Vana-Gamana-Adesa
The description of Rama’s princely virtues and the rejoicings at his proposed coronation, with which the Book begins, contrast with much dramatic force and effect with the dark intrigues which follow, and which end in his cruel banishment for fourteen years.
The portions translated in this Book form Sections i., ii., vi., and vii., portions of Sections x. to xiii., and the whole of Section xviii. of Book ii. of the original text.
I. The Council Convened
Thus the young and brave Satrughna, Bharat ever true and bold,
Went to warlike western regions where Kaikeyas lived of old,
Where the ancient Aswa-pati ruled his kingdom broad and fair,
Hailed the sons of Dasa-ratha with a grandsire’s loving care.
Tended with a fond affection, guarded with a gentle sway,
Still the princes of their father dreamt and thought by night and day,
And their father in Ayodhya, great of heart and stout of hand,
Thought of Bharat and Satrughna living in Kaikeya’s land.
Were a part of Dasa-ratha like his hands and arms of might,
But of all his righteous children righteous Rama won his heart,
As Swayambhu of all creatures, was his dearest, holiest part,
For his Rama strong and stately was his eldest and his best,
Void of every baser passion and with every virtue blest!
Soft in speech, sedate and peaceful, seeking still the holy path,
Calm in conscious worth and valour, taunt nor cavil waked his wrath,
In the field of war excelling, boldest warrior midst the bold,
In the palace chambers musing on the tales by elders told,
Faithful to the wise and learned, truthful in his deed and word,
Rama dearly loved his people and his people loved their lord!
To the Brahmans pure and holy Rama due obeisance made,
To the poor and to the helpless deeper love and honour paid,
Spirit of his race and nation was to high-souled Rama given,
Thoughts that widen human glory, deeds that ope the gates of heaven.
Not intent on idle cavil Rama spake with purpose high,
And the God of speech might envy when he spake or made reply,
In the learning of the Vedas highest meed and glory won,
In the skill of arms the father scarcely matched the gallant son!
Taught by sages and by elders in the manners of his race,
Rama grew in social virtues and each soft endearing grace,
Taught by inborn pride and wisdom patient purpose to conceal,
Deep determined was his effort, dauntless was his silent will!
Peerless in his skill and valour steed and elephant to tame,
Dauntless leader of his forces, matchless in his warlike fame,
Higher thought and nobler duty did the righteous Rama move,
By his toil and by his virtues still he sought his people’s love!
And from life-long royal duties now he sought repose and rest:
“Shall I see my son anointed, seated on Kosala’s throne,
In the evening of my life-time ere my days on earth be done,
Shall I place my ancient empire in the youthful Rama’s care,
Seek for me a higher duty and prepare for life more fair?”
Pondering thus within his bosom counsel from his courtiers sought,
And to crown his Rama, Regent, was his purpose and his thought,
For strange signs and diverse tokens now appeared on earth and sky,
And his failing strength and vigour spoke his end approaching nigh,
And he witnessed Rama’s virtues filling all the world with love,
As the full-moon’s radiant lustre fills the earth from skies above!
Dear to him appeared his purpose, Rama to his people dear,
Private wish and public duty made his path serene and clear,
Dasa-ratha called his Council, summoned chiefs from town and plain,
Welcomed too from distant regions monarchs and the kings of men,
Mansions meet for prince and chieftain to his guests the monarch gave,
Gracious as the Lord of Creatures held the gathering rich and brave!
Nathless to Kosala’s Council nor Videha’s monarch came,
Nor the warlike chief Kaikeya, Aswa-pati king of fame,
To those kings and near relations, ancient Dasa-ratha meant,
Message of the proud anointment with his greetings would be sent.
Brightly dawned the day of gathering; in the lofty Council Hall
Stately chiefs and ancient burghers came and mustered one and all,
And each prince and peer was seated on his cushion rich and high,
And on monarch Dasa-ratha eager turned his anxious eye,
Girt by crownéd kings and chieftains, burghers from the town and plain,
Dasa-ratha shone like Indra girt by heaven’s immortal train!
II. The People Consulted
To the princes and the burghers gathered in Ayodhya’s hall:
“Known to all, the race of Raghu rules this empire broad and fair,
And hath ever loved and cherished subjects with a father’s care,
In my fathers’ footsteps treading I have sought the ancient path,
Nursed my people as my children, free from passion, pride and wrath,
Underneath this white umbrella, seated on this royal throne,
I have toiled to win their welfare and my task is almost done!
Years have passed of fruitful labour, years of work by fortune blest,
And the evening of my life-time needs, my friends, the evening’s rest,
Years have passed in watchful effort, Law and Duty to uphold,
Effort needing strength and prowess, – and my feeble limbs are old!
Peers and burghers, let your monarch, now his lifelong labour done,
For the weal of loving subjects on his empire seat his son,
Indra-like in peerless valour, rishi-like in holy lore,
Rama follows Dasa-ratha, but in virtues stands before!
Throned in Pushya’s constellation shines the moon with fuller light,
Throned to rule his father’s empire Rama wins a loftier might,
He will be your gracious monarch favoured well by Fortune’s Queen,
By his virtues and his valour lord of earth he might have been!
Speak your thought and from this bosom lift a load of toil and care,
On the proud throne of my fathers let me place a peerless heir,
Or if wiser, better counsel in your wisdom ye can tell,
Speak your thought without compulsion, though this plan to me be dear,
If some middle course were wiser, if some other way were clear!”
Gathered chieftains hailed the mandate with applauses long and loud,
As the peafowl hail the thunder of the dark and laden cloud,
And the gathered subjects echoed loud and long the welcome sound,
Till the voices of the people shook the sky and solid ground!
Brahmans versed in laws of duty, chieftains in their warlike pride,
Countless men from town and hamlet heard the mandate far and wide,
And they met in consultation, joyously with one accord,
Freely and in measured accents, gave their answer to their lord:
“Years of toil and watchful labour weigh upon thee, king of men,
Young in years is righteous Rama, Heir and Regent let him reign,
We would see the princely Rama, Heir and Regent duly made,
Riding on the royal tusker in the white umbrella’s shade!”
Searching still their secret purpose, seeking still their thought to know,
Spake again the ancient monarch in his measured words and slow:
“I would know your inner feelings, loyal thoughts and whispers kind,
For a doubt within me lingers and a shadow clouds my mind,
True to Law and true to Duty while I rule this kingdom fair,
Wherefore would you see my Rama seated as the Regent Heir?”
“We would see him Heir and Regent, Dasa-ratha, ancient lord,
For his heart is blessed with valour, virtue marks his deed and word,
Lives not man in all the wide-earth who excels the stainless youth,
In his loyalty to Duty, in his love of righteous Truth,
And his virtue fills the wide earth and exalts his ancient race!
Bright Immortals know his valour; with his brother Lakshman bold
He hath never failed to conquer hostile town or castled hold,
And returning from his battles, from the duties of the war,
Riding on his royal tusker or his all-resistless car,
As a father to his children to his loving men he came,
Blessed our homes and maids and matrons till our infants lisped his name,
For our humble woes and troubles Rama hath the ready tear,
To our humble tales of suffering Rama lends his willing ear!
Happy is the royal father who hath such a righteous son,
For in town and mart and hamlet every heart hath Rama won,
Burghers and the toiling tillers tales of Rama’s kindness say,
Man and infant, maid and matron, morn and eve for Rama pray,
To the Gods and bright Immortals we our inmost wishes send,
May the good and godlike Rama on his father’s throne ascend,
Great in gifts and great in glory, Rama doth our homage own,
We would see the princely Rama seated on his father’s throne!”
III. The City Decorated
With his consort pious Rama, pure in deed and pure in thought,
After evening’s due ablutions Narayana’s chamber sought,
Prayed unto the Lord of Creatures, Narayana Ancient Sire,
Placed his offering on his forehead, poured it on the lighted fire,
As he kept his fast and vigils on the grass of kusa spread.
With her lord the saintly Sita silent passed the sacred night,
Contemplating World’s Preserver, Lord of Heaven’s ethereal height,
And within the sacred chamber on the grass of kusa lay,
Till the crimson streaks of morning ushered in the festive day,
Till the royal bards and minstrels chanted forth the morning call,
Pealing through the holy chamber, echoing through the royal hall.
Past the night of sacred vigils, in his silken robes arrayed,
Message of the proud anointment Rama to the Brahmans said,
And the Brahmans spake to burghers that the festive day was come,
Till the mart and crowded pathway rang with note of pipe and drum,
And the townsmen heard rejoicing of the vigils of the night,
Kept by Rama and by Sita for the day’s auspicious rite.
Rama shall be Heir and Regent, Rama shall be crowned to-day, –
Rapid flew the gladdening message with the morning’s gladsome ray,
And the people of the city, maid and matron, man and boy,
Decorated fair Ayodhya in their wild tumultuous joy!
On the temple’s lofty steeple high as cloud above the air,
On the crossing of the pathways, in the garden green and fair,
On the merchant’s ample warehouse, on the shop with stores displayed,
On the mansion of the noble by the cunning artist made,
On the gay and bright pavilion, on the high and shady trees,
Banners rose and glittering streamers, flags that fluttered in the breeze!
Actors gay and nimble dancers, singers skilled in lightsome song,
With their antics and their music pleased the gay and gathered throng,
And the people met in conclaves, spake of Rama, Regent Heir,
And the children by the road-side lisped of Rama brave and fair!
Men with broom and sprinkled water swept the spacious mart and street,
Rows of trees and posts they planted hung with lamps for coming night,
That the midnight dark might rival splendour of the noonday light!
Troops of men and merry children laboured with a loving care,
Woman’s skill and woman’s fancy made the city passing fair,
So that good and kindly Rama might his people’s toil approve,
So that sweet and soft-eyed Sita might accept her people’s love!
Groups of joyous townsmen gathered in the square or lofty hall,
Praised the monarch Dasa-ratha, regent Rama young and tall:
“Great and good is Dasa-ratha born of Raghu’s royal race,
In the fulness of his lifetime on his son he grants his grace,
And we hail the rite auspicious for our prince of peerless might,
He will guard us by his valour, he will save our cherished right,
Dear unto his loving brothers in his father’s palace hall,
As is Rama to his brothers dear is Rama to us all,
Long live ancient Dasa-ratha king of Raghu’s royal race,
We shall see his son anointed by his father’s righteous grace!”
Thus of Rama’s consecration spake the burghers one and all,
And the men from distant hamlets poured within the city wall,
From the confines of the empire, north and south and west and east,
Came to see the consecration and to share the royal feast!
And the rolling tide of nations raised their voices loud and high,
Like the tide of sounding ocean when the full moon lights the sky,
And Ayodhya thronged by people from the hamlet, mart and lea,
Was tumultuous like the ocean thronged by creatures of the sea!
With a mother’s joy Kaikeyi gaily watched the festive scene,
But with deep and deadly hatred Manthara, her nurse and maid,
Marked the city bright with banners, and in scornful accents said:
“Take thy presents back, Kaikeyi, for they ill befit the day,
And when clouds of sorrow darken, ill beseems thee to be gay,
And thy folly moves my laughter though an anguish wakes my sigh,
For a gladness stirs thy bosom when thy greatest woe is nigh!
Who that hath a woman’s wisdom, who that is a prudent wife,
Smiles in joy when prouder rival triumphs in the race of life,
How can hapless Queen Kaikeyi greet this deed of darkness done,
When the favoured Queen Kausalya wins the empire for her son?
Know the truth, O witless woman! Bharat is unmatched in fame,
Rama, deep and darkly jealous, dreads thy Bharat’s rival claim,
Younger Lakshman with devotion doth on eldest Rama wait,
Young Satrughna with affection follows Bharat’s lofty fate,
Rama dreads no rising danger from the twins, the youngest-born,
But thy Bharat’s claims and virtues fill his jealous heart with scorn!
Trust me, queen, thy Bharat’s merits are too well and widely known,
And he stands too near and closely by a rival brother’s throne,
Rama hath a wolf-like wisdom and a fang to reach the foe,
And I tremble for thy Bharat, Heaven avert untimely woe!
Happy is the Queen Kausalya, they will soon anoint her son,
When on Pushya’s constellation gaily rides to-morrow’s moon,
And Kaikeyi like a bond-slave must upon her rival wait!
Wilt thou do her due obeisance as we humble women do,
Will thy proud and princely Bharat as his brother’s henchman go,
Will thy Bharat’s gentle consort, fairest princess in this land,
In her tears and in her anguish wait on Sita’s proud command?”
With a woman’s scornful anger Manthara proclaimed her grief,
With a mother’s love for Rama thus Kaikeyi answered brief:
“What inspires thee, wicked woman, thus to rail in bitter tone,
Shall not Rama, best and eldest, fill his father’s royal throne,
What alarms thee, crooked woman, in the happy rites begun,
Shall not Rama guard his brothers as a father guards his son?
And when Rama’s reign is over, shall not Gods my Bharat speed,
And by law and ancient custom shall not younger son succeed,
In the present bliss of Rama and in Bharat’s future hope,
What offends thee, senseless woman, wherefore dost thou idly mope?
Dear is Rama as my Bharat, ever duteous in his ways,
Rama honours Queen Kausalya, loftier honour to me pays,
Rama’s realm is Bharat’s kingdom, ruling partners they shall prove,
For himself than for his brothers Rama owns no deeper love!”
Scorn and anger shook her person and her bosom heaved a sigh,
As in wilder, fiercer accents Manthara thus made reply:
“What insensate rage or madness clouds thy heart and blinds thine eye,
Courting thus thy own disaster, courting danger dread and high,
What dark folly clouds thy vision to the workings of thy foe,
Heedless thus to seek destruction and to sink in gulf of woe?
Know, fair queen, by law and custom, son ascends the throne of pride,
Rama’s son succeedeth Rama, luckless Bharat steps aside,
Mighty were the civil discord if such custom were decreed!
For to stop all war and tumult, thus the ancient laws ordain,
Eldest son succeeds his father, younger children may not reign,
Bharat barred from Rama’s empire, vainly decked with royal grace,
Friendless, joyless, long shall wander, alien from his land and race!
Thou hast borne the princely Bharat, nursed him from thy gentle breast,
To a queen and to a mother need a prince’s claims be pressed,
To a thoughtless heedless mother must I Bharat’s virtues plead,
Must the Queen Kaikeyi witness Queen Kausalya’s son succeed?
Trust thy old and faithful woman who hath nursed thee, youthful queen,
And in great and princely houses many darksome deeds hath seen,
Trust my word, the wily Rama for his spacious empire’s good,
Soon will banish friendless Bharat and secure his peace with blood!
Thou hast sent the righteous Bharat to thy ancient father’s land,
And Satrughna young and valiant doth beside his brother stand,
Young in years and generous-hearted, they will grow in mutual love,
As the love of elder Rama doth in Lakshman’s bosom move.
Young companions grow in friendship, and our ancient legends tell,
Weeds protect a forest monarch which the woodman’s axe would fell,
Crownéd Rama unto Lakshman will a loving brother prove,
But for Bharat and Satrughna, Rama’s bosom owns no love,
And a danger thus ariseth if the elder wins the throne,
Haste thee, heedless Queen Kaikeyi, save the younger and thy son!
Speak thy mandate to thy husband, let thy Bharat rule at home,
In the deep and pathless jungle let the banished Rama roam,
This will please the righteous people, Bharat knows no guile or sin!
Speak thy mandate to thy husband, win thy son a happy fate,
Doom him not to Rama’s service or his unrelenting hate,
Let not Rama in his rancour shed a younger brother’s blood,
As the lion slays the tiger in the deep and echoing wood!
With the magic of thy beauty thou hast won thy monarch’s heart,
Queen Kausalya’s bosom rankles with a woman’s secret smart,
Let her not with woman’s vengeance turn upon her prouder foe,
And as crownéd Rama’s mother venge her in Kaikeyi’s woe,
Mark my word, my child Kaikeyi, much these ancient eyes have seen,
Rama’s rule is death to Bharat, insult to my honoured queen!”
Like a slow but deadly poison worked the ancient nurse’s tears,
And a wife’s undying impulse mingled with a mother’s fears,
Deep within Kaikeyi’s bosom worked a woman’s jealous thought,
Speechless in her scorn and anger mourner’s dark retreat she sought.
V. The Queen’s Demand
Rama shall be crowned at sunrise, so did royal bards proclaim,
Every rite arranged and ordered, Dasa-ratha homeward came,
To the fairest of his consorts, dearest to his ancient heart,
Came the king with eager gladness joyful message to impart,
Radiant as the Lord of Midnight, ere the eclipse casts its gloom,
Came the old and ardent monarch heedless of his darksome doom!
Lute and lyre poured forth their music, parrot flew from tree to tree,
Through the corridor of creepers, painted rooms by artists done,
And the halls where scented Champak and the flaming Asok shone,
Through the portico of splendour graced by silver, tusk and gold,
Radiant with his thought of gladness walked the monarch proud and bold.
Through the lines of scented blossoms which by limpid waters shone,
And the rooms with seats of silver, ivory bench and golden throne,
Through the chamber of confection, where each viand wooed the taste,
Every object in profusion as in regions of the blest,
Through Kaikeyi’s inner closet lighted with a softened sheen,
Walked the king with eager longing, – but Kaikeyi was not seen!
Thoughts of love and gentle dalliance woke within his ancient heart,
And the magic of her beauty and the glamour of her art,
With a soft desire the monarch vainly searched the vanished fair,
Found her not in royal chamber, found her not in gay parterre!
Filled with love and longing languor loitered not the radiant queen,
In her soft voluptuous chamber, in the garden, grove or green,
And he asked the faithful warder of Kaikeyi loved and lost,
She who served him with devotion and his wishes never crost,
Spake the warder in his terror that the queen with rage distraught,
Weeping silent tears of anguish had the mourner’s chamber sought!
Thither flew the stricken monarch; on the bare and unswept ground,
Trembling with tumultuous passion was the Queen Kaikeyi found,
On the cold uncovered pavement sorrowing lay the weeping wife,
Young wife of an ancient husband, dearer than his heart and life!
Like a fallen fair Apsara, beauteous nymph of heavenly birth,
Like a female forest-ranger bleeding from the hunter’s dart,
Whom her mate the forest-monarch soothes with soft endearing art,
Lay the queen in tears of anguish! And with sweet and gentle word
To the lotus-eyed lady softly spake her loving lord:
“Wherefore thus, my Queen and Empress, sorrow-laden is thy heart,
Who with daring slight or insult seeks to cause thy bosom smart?
If some unknown ailment pains thee, evil spirit of the air,
Skilled physicians wait upon thee, priests with incantations fair,
If from human foe some insult, wipe thy tears and doom his fate,
Rich reward or royal vengeance shall upon thy mandate wait!
Wilt thou doom to death the guiltless, free whom direst sins debase,
Wilt thou lift the poor and lowly or the proud and great disgrace,
Speak, and I and all my courtiers Queen Kaikeyi’s hest obey,
For thy might is boundless, Empress, limitless thy regal sway!
Rolls my chariot-wheel revolving from the sea to farthest sea,
And the wide earth is my empire, monarchs list my proud decree,
Nations of the eastern regions and of Sindhu’s western wave,
Brave Saurashtras and the races who the ocean’s dangers brave,
Vangas, Angas and Magadhas, warlike Matsyas of the west,
Kasis and the southern races, brave Kosalas first and best,
Nations of my world-wide empire, rich in corn and sheep and kine,
All shall serve my Queen Kaikeyi and their treasures all are thine,
Speak, command thy king’s obedience, and thy wrath will melt away,
Like the melting snow of winter ’neath the sun’s reviving ray!”
Blinded was the ancient husband as he lifted up her head,
Heedless oath and word he plighted that her wish should be obeyed,
And by sacred oath and promise bound the monarch love-beguiled:
“Thou hast given, Dasa-ratha, troth and word and royal oath,
Three and thirty Gods be witness, watchers of the righteous truth,
Sun and Moon and Stars be witness, Sky and Day and sable Night,
Rolling Worlds and this our wide Earth, and each dark and unseen wight,
Witness Rangers of the forest, Household Gods that guard us both,
Mortal beings and Immortal, – witness ye the monarch’s oath,
Ever faithful to his promise, ever truthful in his word,
Dasa-ratha grants my prayer, Spirits and the Gods have heard!
Call to mind, O righteous monarch, days when in a bygone strife,
Warring with thy foes immortal thou hadst almost lost thy life,
With a woman’s loving tendance poor Kaikeyi cured thy wound,
Till from death and danger rescued, thou wert by a promise bound,
Two rewards my husband offered, what my loving heart might seek,
Long delayed their wished fulfilment, – now let poor Kaikeyi speak,
And if royal deeds redeem not what thy royal lips did say,
Victim to thy broken promise Queen Kaikeyi dies to-day!
By these rites ordained for Rama, – such the news my menials bring, –
Let my Bharat, and not Rama, he anointed Regent King,
Wearing skins and matted tresses, in the cave or hermit’s cell,
Fourteen years in Dandak’s forests let the elder Rama dwell,
These are Queen Kaikeyi’s wishes, these are boons for which I pray,
I would see my son anointed, Rama banished on this day!”
VI. The King’s Lament
O’er my darkened mind and bosom doth a fainting fit prevail?”
So the stricken monarch pondered and in hushed and silent fear,
Looked on her as on a tigress looks the dazed and stricken deer,
Lying on the unswept pavement still he heaved the choking sigh,
Like a wild and hissing serpent quelled by incantations high!
Sobs convulsive shook his bosom and his speech and accent failed,
And a dark and deathlike faintness o’er his feeble soul prevailed,
Stunned awhile remained the monarch, then in furious passion woke,
And his eyeballs flamed with redfire, to the queen as thus he spoke,
“Traitress to thy king and husband, fell destroyer of thy race,
Wherefore seeks thy ruthless rancour Rama rich in righteous grace,
Traitress to thy kith and kindred, Rama loves thee as thy own,
Wherefore then with causeless vengeance as a mother hate thy son?
Have I courted thee, Kaikeyi, throned thee in my heart of truth,
Nursed thee in my home and bosom like a snake of poisoned tooth,
Have I courted thee, Kaikeyi, placed thee on Ayodhya’s throne,
That my Rama, loved of people, thou shouldst banish from his own?
Banish far my Queen Kausalya, Queen Sumitra saintly wife,
Wrench from me my ancient empire, from my bosom wrench my life,
But with brave and princely Rama never can his father part,
Till his ancient life is ended, cold and still his beating heart!
But from righteous Rama severed, never can his sire survive,
Feeble is thy aged husband, few and brief on earth his day,
Lend me, wife, a woman’s kindness, as a consort be my stay!
Ask for other boon, Kaikeyi, aught my sea-girt empire yields,
Wealth or treasure, gem or jewel, castled town or smiling fields,
Ask for other gift, Kaikeyi, and thy wishes shall be given,
Stain me not with crime unholy in the eye of righteous Heaven!”
Coldly spake the Queen Kaikeyi: “If thy royal heart repent,
Break thy word and plighted promise, let thy royal faith be rent,
Ever known for truth and virtue, speak to peers and monarchs all,
When from near and distant regions they shall gather in thy hall,
Speak if so it please thee, monarch, of thy evil-destined wife,
How she loved with wife’s devotion, how she served and saved thy life,
How on plighted promise trusting for a humble boon she sighed,
How a monarch broke his promise, how a cheated woman died!”
“Fair thy form,” resumed the monarch, “beauty dwells upon thy face,
Woman’s winsome charms bedeck thee, and a woman’s peerless grace,
Wherefore then within thy bosom wakes this thought of cruel wile,
And what dark and loathsome spirit stains thy heart with blackest guile?
Ever since the day, Kaikeyi, when a gentle bride you came,
By a wife’s unfailing duty you have won a woman’s fame,
Wherefore now this cruel purpose hath a stainless heart defiled,
Ruthless wish to send my Rama to the dark and pathless wild?
Wherefore, darkly-scheming woman, on unrighteous purpose bent,
Doth thy cruel causeless vengeance on my Rama seek a vent,
Throne which Bharat doth not covet, – blackened by his mother’s sin?
Shall I see my banished Rama mantled in the garb of woe,
Reft of home and kin and empire to the pathless jungle go,
Shall I see disasters sweeping o’er my empire dark and deep,
As the forces of a foeman o’er a scattered army sweep?
Shall I hear assembled monarchs in their whispered voices say,
Weak and foolish in his dotage, Dasa-ratha holds his sway,
Shall I say to righteous elders when they blame my action done,
That by woman’s mandate driven I have banished thus my son?
Queen Kausalya, dear-loved woman! she who serves me as a slave,
Soothes me like a tender sister, helps me like a consort brave,
As a fond and loving mother tends me with a watchful care,
As a daughter ever duteous doth obeisance sweet and fair,
When my fond and fair Kausalya asks me of her banished son,
How shall Dasa-ratha answer for the impious action done,
How can husband, cold and cruel, break a wife’s confiding heart,
How can father, false and faithless, from his best and eldest part?”
Coldly spake the Queen Kaikeyi: “If thy royal heart repent,
Break thy word and plighted promise, let thy royal faith be rent,
Truth-abiding is our monarch, so I heard the people say,
And his word is all inviolate, stainless virtue marks his sway,
Let it now be known to nations, – righteous Dasa-ratha lied,
And a trusting, cheated woman broke her loving heart and died!”
Darker grew the shades of midnight, coldly shone each distant star,
Wilder in the monarch’s bosom raged the struggle and the war:
“Starry midnight, robed in shadows! give my wearied heart relief,
Spread thy sable covering mantle o’er an impious monarch’s grief,
Reign perennial o’er my sorrows heedless of the lapse of time,
May a sinful monarch perish ere the dawning of the day,
O’er a dark life sin-polluted, beam not morning’s righteous ray!”
VII. The Sentence
Morning came and duteous Rama to the palace bent his way,
For to make his salutation and his due obeisance pay,
And he saw his aged father shorn of kingly pomp and pride,
And he saw the Queen Kaikeyi sitting by her consort’s side.
Duteously the righteous Rama touched the ancient monarch’s feet,
Touched the feet of Queen Kaikeyi with a son’s obeisance meet,
“Rama!” cried the feeble monarch, but the tear bedimmed his eye,
Sorrow choked his failing utterance and his bosom heaved a sigh,
Rama started in his terror at his father’s grief or wrath,
Like a traveller in the jungle crossed by serpent in his path!
Reft of sense appeared the monarch, crushed beneath a load of pain,
Heaving oft a sigh of sorrow as his heart would break in twain,
Like the ocean tempest-shaken, like the sun in eclipse pale,
Like a crushed repenting rishi when his truth and virtue fail!
Breathless mused the anxious Rama, – what foul action hath he done,
What strange anger fills his father, wherefore greets he not his son?
“Speak, my mother,” uttered Rama, “what strange error on my part,
Unremembered sin or folly fills with grief my father’s heart,
Gracious unto me is father with a father’s boundless grace,
Wherefore clouds his altered visage, wherefore tears bedew his face?
Doth some secret silent anguish wring his torn and tortured heart,
Bharat lives with brave Satrughna in thy father’s realms afar,
Hath some cloud of dark disaster crossed their bright auspicious star?
Duteously the royal consorts on the loving monarch wait,
Hath some woe or dire misfortune dimmed the lustre of their fate,
I would yield my life and fortune ere I wound my father’s heart,
Hath my unknown crime or folly caused his ancient bosom smart?
Ever dear is Queen Kaikeyi to her consort and her king,
Hath some angry accent escaped thee thus his royal heart to wring,
Speak, my ever-loving mother, speak the truth for thou must know,
What distress or deep disaster pains his heart and clouds his brow?”
Mother’s love nor woman’s pity moved the deep-determined queen,
As in cold and cruel accents thus she spake her purpose keen:
“Grief nor woe nor sudden ailment pains thy father loved of old,
But he fears to speak his purpose to his Rama true and bold,
And his loving accents falter some unloving wish to tell,
Till you give your princely promise, you will serve his mandate well!
Listen more, in bygone seasons, – Rama thou wert then unborn, –
I had saved thy royal father, he a gracious boon had sworn,
But his feeble heart repenting is by pride and passion stirred,
He would break his royal promise as a caitiff breaks his word,
Years have passed and now the monarch would his ancient word forego,
He would build a needless causeway when the waters ceased to flow!
Truth inspires each deed attempted and each word by monarchs spoke,
Not for thee, though loved and honoured, should a royal vow be broke,
If the true and righteous Rama binds him by his father’s vow,
I will tell thee of the anguish which obscures his royal brow,
Unredeemed is royal promise and unspoken is my tale!”
“Speak thy word,” exclaimed the hero, “and my purpose shall not fail,
Rama serves his father’s mandate and his bosom shall not quail,
Poisoned cup or death untimely, – what the cruel fates decree, –
To his king and to his father Rama yields obedience free,
Speak my father’s royal promise, hold me by his promise tied,
Rama speaks and shall not falter, for his lips have never lied.”
Cold and clear Kaikeyi’s accents fell as falls the hunter’s knife,
“Listen then to word of promise and redeem it with thy life,
Wounded erst by foes immortal, saved by Queen Kaikeyi’s care,
Two great boons your father plighted and his royal words were fair,
I have sought their due fulfilment, – brightly shines my Bharat’s star, –
Bharat shall be Heir and Regent, Rama shall be banished far!
If thy father’s royal mandate thou wouldst list and honour still,
Fourteen years in Dandak’s forest live and wander at thy will,
Seven long years and seven, my Rama, thou shalt in the jungle dwell,
Bark of trees shall be thy raiment and thy home the hermit’s cell,
Over fair Kosala’s empire let my princely Bharat reign,
With his cars and steeds and tuskers, wealth and gold and arméd men!
Tender-hearted is the monarch, age and sorrow dim his eye,
And the anguish of a father checks his speech and purpose high,
For the love he bears thee, Rama, cruel vow he may not speak,
I have spoke his will and mandate, and thy true obedience seek.”
Calmly Rama heard the mandate, grief nor anger touched his heart,
Calmly from his father’s empire and his home prepared to part.