Ramayan, Book 3, The

Canto VII. Sutíkshna.

So Raghu's son, his foemen's dread,
With Sítá and his brother sped,
Girt round by many a twice-born sage,
To good Sutíkshṇa's hermitage.420
Through woods for many a league he passed,
O'er rushing rivers full and fast,
Until a mountain fair and bright
As lofty Meru rose in sight.
Within its belt of varied wood
Ikshváku's sons and Sítá stood,
Where trees of every foliage bore
Blossom and fruit in endless store.
There coats of bark, like garlands strung,
Before a lonely cottage hung,
And there a hermit, dust-besmeared,
A lotus on his breast, appeared.
Then Ráma with obeisance due
Addressed the sage, as near he drew:
“My name is Ráma, lord; I seek
Thy presence, saint, with thee to speak.
O sage, whose merits ne'er decay,
Some word unto thy servant say.”
The sage his eyes on Ráma bent,
Of virtue's friends preëminent;
Then words like these he spoke, and pressed
The son of Raghu to his breast:
“Welcome to thee, illustrious youth,
Best champion of the rights of truth!
By thine approach this holy ground
A worthy lord this day has found.
I could not quit this mortal frame
Till thou shouldst come, O dear to fame:
To heavenly spheres I would not rise,
Expecting thee with eager eyes.
I knew that thou, unkinged, hadst made
Thy home in Chitrakúṭa's shade.
E'en now, O Ráma, Indra, lord
Supreme by all the Gods adored,
King of the Hundred Offerings,421 said,
When he my dwelling visited,
That the good works that I have done
My choice of all the worlds have won.
Accept this meed of holy vows,
And with thy brother and thy spouse,
Roam, through my favour, in the sky
Which saints celestial glorify.”
To that bright sage, of penance stern,
The high-souled Ráma spake in turn,
As Vásava422 who rules the skies
To Brahmá's gracious speech replies:
“I of myself those worlds will win,
O mighty hermit pure from sin:
But now, O saint, I pray thee tell
Where I within this wood may dwell:
For I by Śarabhanga old,
The son of Gautama, was told
That thou in every lore art wise,
And seest all with loving eyes.”
Thus to the saint, whose glories high
Filled all the world, he made reply:
And thus again the holy man
His pleasant speech with joy began:
“This calm retreat, O Prince, is blest
With many a charm: here take thy rest.
Here roots and kindly fruits abound,
And hermits love the holy ground.
Fair silvan beasts and gentle deer
In herds unnumbered wander here:
And as they roam, secure from harm,
Our eyes with grace and beauty charm:
Except the beasts in thickets bred,
This grove of ours has naught to dread.”
The hermit's speech when Ráma heard,—
The hero ne'er by terror stirred,—
On his great bow his hand he laid,
And thus in turn his answer made:
“O saint, my darts of keenest steel,
Armed with their murderous barbs, would deal
Destruction mid the silvan race
That flocks around thy dwelling-place.
Most wretched then my fate would be
For such dishonour shown to thee:
And only for the briefest stay
Would I within this grove delay.”
He spoke and ceased. With pious care
He turned him to his evening prayer,
Performed each customary rite,
And sought his lodging for the night,
With Sítá and his brother laid
Beneath the grove's delightful shade,
First good Sutíkshṇa, as elsewhere, when he saw
The shades of night around them draw,
With hospitable care
The princely chieftains entertained
With store of choicest food ordained
For holy hermit's fare.

Canto VIII. The Hermitage.

So Ráma and Sumitrá's son,
When every honour due was done,
Slept through the night. When morning broke,
The heroes from their rest awoke.
Betimes the son of Raghu rose,
With gentle Sítá, from repose,
And sipped the cool delicious wave
Sweet with the scent the lotus gave,
Then to the Gods and sacred flame
The heroes and the lady came,
And bent their heads in honour meet
Within the hermit's pure retreat.
When every stain was purged away,
They saw the rising Lord of Day:
Then to Sutíkshṇa's side they went,
And softly spoke, most reverent:
“Well have we slept, O holy lord,
Honoured of thee by all adored:
Now leave to journey forth we pray:
These hermits urge us on our way.
We haste to visit, wandering by,
The ascetics' homes that round you lie,
And roaming Daṇḍak's mighty wood
To view each saintly brotherhood,
For thy permission now we sue,
With these high saints to duty true,
By penance taught each sense to tame,—
In lustre like the smokeless flame.
Ere on our brows the sun can beat
With fierce intolerable heat.
Like some unworthy lord who wins
His power by tyranny and sins,
O saint, we fain would part.” The three
Bent humbly to the devotee.
He raised the princes as they pressed
His feet, and strained them to his breast;
And then the chief of devotees
Bespake them both in words like these:
“Go with thy brother, Ráma, go,
Pursue thy path untouched by woe:
Go with thy faithful Sítá, she
Still like a shadow follows thee.
Roam Daṇḍak wood observing well
The pleasant homes where hermits dwell,—
Pure saints whose ordered souls adhere
To penance rites and vows austere.
There plenteous roots and berries grow,
And noble trees their blossoms show,
And gentle deer and birds of air
In peaceful troops are gathered there.
There see the full-blown lotus stud
The bosom of the lucid flood,
And watch the joyous mallard shake
The reeds that fringe the pool and lake.
See with delighted eye the rill
Leap sparkling from her parent hill,
And hear the woods that round thee lie
Reëcho to the peacock's cry.
And as I bid thy brother, so,
Sumitrá's child, I bid thee go.
Go forth, these varied beauties see,
And then once more return to me.”
Thus spake the sage Sutíkshṇa: both
The chiefs assented, nothing loth,
Round him with circling steps they paced,
Then for the road prepared with haste.
There Sítá stood, the dame long-eyed,
Fair quivers round their waists she tied,
And gave each prince his trusty bow,
And sword which ne'er a spot might know.
Each took his quiver from her hand.
And clanging bow and gleaming brand:
Then from the hermits' home the two
Went forth each woodland scene to view.
Each beauteous in the bloom of age,
Dismissed by that illustrious sage,
With bow and sword accoutred, hied
Away, and Sítá by their side.

Canto IX. Sítá's Speech.

Blest by the sage, when Raghu's son
His onward journey had begun,
Thus in her soft tone Sítá, meek
With modest fear, began to speak:
“One little slip the great may lead
To shame that follows lawless deed:
Such shame, my lord, as still must cling
To faults from low desire that spring.
Three several sins defile the soul,
Born of desire that spurns control:
First, utterance of a lying word,
Then, viler both, the next, and third:
The lawless love of other's wife,
The thirst of blood uncaused by strife.
The first, O Raghu's son, in thee
None yet has found, none e'er shall see.
Love of another's dame destroys
All merit, lost for guilty joys:
Ráma, such crime in thee, I ween,
Has ne'er been found, shall ne'er be seen:
The very thought, my princely lord,
Is in thy secret soul abhorred.
For thou hast ever been the same
Fond lover of thine own dear dame,
Content with faithful heart to do
Thy father's will, most just and true:
Justice, and faith, and many a grace
In thee have found a resting-place.
Such virtues, Prince, the good may gain
Who empire o'er each sense retain;
And well canst thou, with loving view
Regarding all, each sense subdue.
But for the third, the lust that strives,
Insatiate still, for others' lives,—
Fond thirst of blood where hate is none,—
This, O my lord, thou wilt not shun.
Thou hast but now a promise made,
The saints of Daṇḍak wood to aid:
And to protect their lives from ill
The giants' blood in tight wilt spill:
And from thy promise lasting fame
Will glorify the forest's name.
Armed with thy bow and arrows thou
Forth with thy brother journeyest now,
While as I think how true thou art
Fears for thy bliss assail my heart,
And all my spirit at the sight
Is troubled with a strange affright.
I like it not—it seems not good—
Thy going thus to Daṇḍak wood:
And I, if thou wilt mark me well,
The reason of my fear will tell.
Thou with thy brother, bow in hand,
Beneath those ancient trees wilt stand,
And thy keen arrows will not spare
Wood-rovers who will meet thee there.
For as the fuel food supplies
That bids the dormant flame arise,
Thus when the warrior grasps his bow
He feels his breast with ardour glow.
Deep in a holy grove, of yore,
Where bird and beast from strife forbore,
Śuchi beneath the sheltering boughs,
A truthful hermit kept his vows.
Then Indra, Śachí's heavenly lord,
Armed like a warrior with a sword,
Came to his tranquil home to spoil
The hermit of his holy toil,
And left the glorious weapon there
Entrusted to the hermit's care,
A pledge for him to keep, whose mind
To fervent zeal was all resigned.
He took the brand: with utmost heed
He kept it for the warrior's need:
To keep his trust he fondly strove
When roaming in the neighbouring grove:
Whene'er for roots and fruit he strayed
Still by his side he bore the blade:
Still on his sacred charge intent,
He took his treasure when he went.
As day by day that brand he wore,
The hermit, rich in merit's store
From penance rites each thought withdrew,
And fierce and wild his spirit grew.
With heedless soul he spurned the right,
And found in cruel deeds delight.
So, living with the sword, he fell,
A ruined hermit, down to hell.
This tale applies to those who deal
Too closely with the warrior's steel:
The steel to warriors is the same
As fuel to the smouldering flame.
Sincere affection prompts my speech:
I honour where I fain would teach.
Mayst thou, thus armed with shaft and bow,
So dire a longing never know
As, when no hatred prompts the fray,
These giants of the wood to slay:
For he who kills without offence
Shall win but little glory thence.
The bow the warrior joys to bend
Is lent him for a nobler end,
That he may save and succour those
Who watch in woods when pressed by foes.
What, matched with woods, is bow or steel?
What, warrior's arm with hermit's zeal?
We with such might have naught to do:
The forest rule should guide us too.
But when Ayodhyá hails thee lord,
Be then thy warrior life restored:
So shall thy sire423 and mother joy
In bliss that naught may e'er destroy.
And if, resigning empire, thou
Submit thee to the hermit's vow,
The noblest gain from virtue springs,
And virtue joy unending brings.
All earthly blessings virtue sends:
On virtue all the world depends.
Those who with vow and fasting tame
To due restraint the mind and frame,
Win by their labour, nobly wise,
The highest virtue for their prize.
Pure in the hermit's grove remain,
True to thy duty, free from stain.
But the three worlds are open thrown
To thee, by whom all things are known.
Who gave me power that I should dare
His duty to my lord declare?
'Tis woman's fancy, light as air,
That moves my foolish breast.
Now with thy brother counsel take,
Reflect, thy choice with judgment make,
And do what seems the best.”

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