Ramayan, Book 3, The

Canto XVI. Winter.

While there the high-souled hero spent
His tranquil hours in sweet content,
The glowing autumn passed, and then
Came winter so beloved of men.
One morn, to bathe, at break of day
To the fair stream he took his way.
Behind him, with the Maithil dame
Bearing a pitcher Lakshmaṇ came,
And as he went the mighty man
Thus to his brother chief began:
“The time is come, to thee more dear
Than all the months that mark the year:
The gracious seasons' joy and pride,
By which the rest are glorified.
A robe of hoary rime is spread
O'er earth, with corn engarlanded.
The streams we loved no longer please,
But near the fire we take our ease.
Now pious men to God and shade
Offer young corn's fresh sprouted blade,
And purge away their sins with rice
Bestowed in humble sacrifice.
Rich stores of milk delight the swain,
And hearts are cheered that longed for gain,
Proud kings whose breasts for conquests glow
Lead bannered troops to smite the foe.
Dark is the north: the Lord of Day
To Yáma's south452 has turned away:
And she—sad widow—shines no more,
Reft of the bridal mark453 she wore.
Himálaya's hill, ordained of old
The treasure-house of frost and cold,
Scarce conscious of the feebler glow,
Is truly now the Lord of Snow.
Warmed by the noontide's genial rays
Delightful are the glorious days:
But how we shudder at the chill
Of evening shadows and the rill!
How weak the sun, how cold the breeze!
How white the rime on grass and trees!
The leaves are sere, the woods have lost
Their blossoms killed by nipping frost.
Neath open skies we sleep no more:
December's nights with rime are hoar:
Their triple watch454 in length extends
With hours the shortened daylight lends.
No more the moon's sun-borrowed rays
Are bright, involved in misty haze,
As when upon the mirror's sheen
The breath's obscuring cloud is seen.
E'en at the full the faint beams fail
To struggle through the darksome veil:
Changed like her hue, they want the grace
That parts not yet from Sítá's face.
Cold is the western wind, but how
Its piercing chill is heightened now,
Blowing at early morning twice
As furious with its breath of ice!
See how the dewy tears they weep
The barley, wheat, and woodland steep,
Where, as the sun goes up the sky,
The curlew and the sáras cry.
See where the rice plants scarce uphold
Their full ears tinged with paly gold,
Bending their ripe heads slowly down
Fair as the date tree's flowery crown.
Though now the sun has mounted high
Seeking the forehead of the sky,
Such mist obscures his struggling beams,
No bigger than the moon he seems.
Though weak at first, his rays at length
Grow pleasant in their noonday strength,
And where a while they chance to fall
Fling a faint splendour over all.
See, o'er the woods where grass is wet
With hoary drops that cling there yet,
With soft light clothing earth and bough
There steals a tender glory now.
Yon elephant who longs to drink,
Still standing on the river's brink,
Plucks back his trunk in shivering haste
From the cold wave he fain would taste.
The very fowl that haunt the mere
Stand doubtful on the bank, and fear
To dip them in the wintry wave
As cowards dread to meet the brave.
The frost of night, the rime of dawn
Bind flowerless trees and glades of lawn:
Benumbed in apathetic chill
Of icy chains they slumber still.
You hear the hidden sáras cry
From floods that wrapped in vapour lie,
And frosty-shining sands reveal
Where the unnoticed rivers steal.
The hoary rime of dewy night,
And suns that glow with tempered light
Lend fresh cool flavours to the rill
That sparkles from the topmost hill.
The cold has killed the lily's pride:
Leaf, filament, and flower have died:
With chilling breath rude winds have blown,
The withered stalk is left alone.
At this gay time, O noblest chief,
The faithful Bharat, worn by grief,
Lives in the royal town where he
Spends weary hours for love of thee.
From titles, honour, kingly sway,
From every joy he turns away:
Couched on cold earth, his days are passed
With scanty fare and hermit's fast.
This moment from his humble bed
He lifts, perhaps, his weary head,
And girt by many a follower goes
To bathe where silver Sarjú flows.
How, when the frosty morn is dim,
Shall Sarjú be a bath for him
Nursed with all love and tender care,
So delicate and young and fair.
How bright his hue! his brilliant eye
With the broad lotus leaf may vie.
By fortune stamped for happy fate,
His graceful form is tall and straight.
In duty skilled, his words are truth:
He proudly rules each lust of youth.
Though his strong arm smites down the foe,
In gentle speech his accents flow.
Yet every joy has he resigned
And cleaves to thee with heart and mind.
Thus by the deeds that he has done
A name in heaven has Bharat won,
For in his life he follows yet
Thy steps, O banished anchoret.
Thus faithful Bharat, nobly wise,
The proverb of the world belies:
“No men, by mothers' guidance led,
The footsteps of their fathers tread.”
How could Kaikeyí, blest to be
Spouse of the king our sire, and see
A son like virtuous Bharat, blot
Her glory with so foul a plot!”
Thus in fraternal love he spoke,
And from his lips reproaches broke:
But Ráma grieved to hear him chide
The absent mother, and replied:
“Cease, O beloved, cease to blame
Our royal father's second dame.
Still speak of Bharat first in place
Of old Ikshváku's princely race.
My heart, so firmly bent but now
To dwell in woods and keep my vow,
Half melting as I hear thee speak
Of Bharat's love, grows soft and weak,
With tender joy I bring to mind
His speeches ever sweet and kind.
That dear as Amrit took the sense
With most enchanting influence.
Ah, when shall I, no more to part,
Meet Bharat of the mighty heart?
When, O my brother, when shall we
The good and brave Śatrughna see?”
Thus as he poured his fond lament
The son of Raghu onward went:
They reached the river, and the three
Bathed them in fair Godávarí.
Libations of the stream they paid
To every deity and shade,
With hymns of praise, the Sun on high
And sinless Gods to glorify.
Fresh from the purifying tide
Resplendent Ráma came,
With Lakshmaṇ ever by his side,
And the sweet Maithil dame.
So Rudra shines by worlds adored,
In glory undefiled,
When Nandi455 stands beside his lord,
And King Himálaya's child.456

Canto XVII. Súrpanakhá.

The bathing and the prayer were o'er;
He turned him from the grassy shore,
And with his brother and his spouse
Sought his fair home beneath the boughs.
Sítá and Lakshmaṇ by his side,
On to his cot the hero hied,
And after rites at morning due
Within the leafy shade withdrew.
Then, honoured by the devotees,
As royal Ráma sat at ease,
With Sítá near him, o'er his head
A canopy of green boughs spread,
He shone as shines the Lord of Night
By Chitrá's457 side, his dear delight.
With Lakshmaṇ there he sat and told
Sweet stories of the days of old,
And as the pleasant time he spent
With heart upon each tale intent,
A giantess, by fancy led,
Came wandering to his leafy shed.
Fierce Śúrpaṇakhá,—her of yore
The Ten-necked tyrant's mother bore,—
Saw Ráma with his noble mien
Bright as the Gods in heaven are seen;
Him from whose brow a glory gleamed,
Like lotus leaves his full eyes beamed:
Long-armed, of elephantine gait,
With hair close coiled in hermit plait:
In youthful vigour, nobly framed,
By glorious marks a king proclaimed:
Like some bright lotus lustrous-hued,
With young Kandarpa's458 grace endued:
As there like Indra's self he shone,
She loved the youth she gazed upon.
She grim of eye and foul of face
Loved his sweet glance and forehead's grace:
She of unlovely figure, him
Of stately form and shapely limb:
She whose dim locks disordered hung,
Him whose bright hair on high brows clung:
She whose fierce accents counselled fear,
Him whose soft tones were sweet to hear:
She whose dire form with age was dried,
Him radiant in his youthful pride:
She whose false lips maintained the wrong,
Him in the words of virtue strong:
She cruel-hearted, stained with sin,
Him just in deed and pure within.
She, hideous fiend, a thing to hate,
Him formed each eye to captivate:
Fierce passion in her bosom woke,
And thus to Raghu's son she spoke:
“With matted hair above thy brows,
With bow and shaft and this thy spouse,
How hast thou sought in hermit dress
The giant-haunted wilderness?
What dost thou here? The cause explain:
Why art thou come, and what to gain?”
As Śúrpaṇakhá questioned so,
Ráma, the terror of the foe,
In answer to the monster's call,
With fearless candour told her all.
“King Daśaratha reigned of old,
Like Gods celestial brave and bold.
I am his eldest son and heir,
And Ráma is the name I bear.
This brother, Lakshmaṇ, younger born,
Most faithful love to me has sworn.
My wife, this princess, dear to fame,
Is Sitá the Videhan dame.
Obedient to my sire's behest
And by the queen my mother pressed,
To keep the law and merit win,
I sought this wood to harbour in.
But speak, for I of thee in turn
Thy name, and race, and sire would learn.
Thou art of giant race, I ween.
Changing at will thy form and mien.
Speak truly, and the cause declare
That bids thee to these shades repair.”
Thus Ráma spoke: the demon heard,
And thus replied by passion spurred:
“Of giant race, what form soe'er
My fancy wills, 'tis mine to wear.
Named Śúrpaṇakhá here I stray,
And where I walk spread wild dismay.
King Rávaṇ is my brother: fame
Has taught perchance his dreaded name,
Strong Kumbhakarṇa slumbering deep
In chains of never-ending sleep:
Vibhíshaṇ of the duteous mind,
In needs unlike his giant kind:
Dúshaṇ and Khara, brave and bold
Whose fame by every tongue is told:
Their might by mine is far surpassed;
But when, O best of men, I cast
These fond eyes on thy form, I see
My chosen love and lord in thee.
Endowed with wondrous might am I:
Where'er my fancy leads I fly.
The poor misshapen Sítá leave,
And me, thy worthier bride receive.
Look on my beauty, and prefer
A spouse more meet than one like her:
I'll eat that ill-formed woman there:
Thy brother too her fate shall share.
But come, beloved, thou shalt roam
With me through all our woodland home;
Each varied grove with me shalt seek,
And gaze upon each mountain peak.”
As thus she spoke, the monster gazed
With sparkling eyes where passion blazed:
Then he, in lore of language learned,
This answer eloquent returned:

Canto XVIII. The Mutilation.

On her ensnared in Káma's net
His eyes the royal Ráma set,
And thus, her passion to beguile,
Addressed her with a gentle smile:
“I have a wife: behold her here,
My Sítá ever true and dear:
And one like thee will never brook
Upon a rival spouse to look.
But there my brother Lakshmaṇ stands:
Unchained is he by nuptial bands:
A youth heroic, loved of all,
Gracious and gallant, fair and tall.
With winning looks, most nobly bred,
Unmatched till now, he longs to wed.
Meet to enjoy thy youthful charms,
O take him to thy loving arms.
Enamoured on his bosom lie,
Fair damsel of the radiant eye,
As the warm sunlight loves to rest
Upon her darling Meru's breast.”
The hero spoke, the monster heard,
While passion still her bosom stirred.
Away from Ráma's side she broke,
And thus in turn to Lakshmaṇ spoke:
“Come, for thy bride take me who shine
In fairest grace that suits with thine.
Thou by my side from grove to grove
Of Daṇḍak's wild in bliss shalt rove.”
Then Lakshmaṇ, skilled in soft address,
Wooed by the amorous giantess,
With art to turn her love aside,
To Śúrpaṇakhá thus replied:
“And can so high a dame agree
The slave-wife of a slave to be?
I, lotus-hued! in good and ill
Am bondsman to my brother's will.
Be thou, fair creature radiant-eyed,
My honoured brother's younger bride:
With faultless tint and dainty limb,
A happy wife, bring joy to him.
He from his spouse grown old and grey,
Deformed, untrue, will turn away,
Her withered charms will gladly leave,
And to his fair young darling cleave.
For who could be so fond and blind,
O loveliest of all female kind,
To love another dame and slight
Thy beauties rich in all delight?”
Thus Lakshmaṇ praised in scornful jest
The long-toothed fiend with loathly breast,
Who fondly heard his speech, nor knew
His mocking words were aught but true.
Again inflamed with love she fled
To Ráma, in his leafy shed
Where Sítá rested by his side,
And to the mighty victor cried:
“What, Ráma, canst thou blindly cling
To this old false misshapen thing?
Wilt thou refuse the charms of youth
For withered breast and grinning tooth!
Canst thou this wretched creature prize
And look on me with scornful eyes?
This aged crone this very hour
Before thy face will I devour:
Then joyous, from all rivals free.
Through Daṇḍak will I stray with thee.”
She spoke, and with a glance of flame
Rushed on the fawn-eyed Maithil dame:
So would a horrid meteor mar
Fair Rohiṇí's soft beaming star.
But as the furious fiend drew near,
Like Death's dire noose which chills with fear,
The mighty chief her purpose stayed,
And spoke, his brother to upbraid:
“Ne'er should we jest with creatures rude,
Of savage race and wrathful mood.
Think, Lakshmaṇ, think how nearly slain
My dear Videhan breathes again.
Let not the hideous wretch escape
Without a mark to mar her shape.
Strike, lord of men, the monstrous fiend,
Deformed, and foul, and evil-miened.”
He spoke: then Lakshmaṇ's wrath rose high,
And there before his brother's eye,
He drew that sword which none could stay,
And cleft her nose and ears away.
Noseless and earless, torn and maimed,
With fearful shrieks the fiend exclaimed,
And frantic in her wild distress
Resought the distant wilderness.
Deformed, terrific, huge, and dread,
As on she moved, her gashes bled,
And groan succeeded groan as loud
As roars, ere rain, the thunder cloud.
Still on the fearful monster passed,
While streams of blood kept falling fast,
And with a roar, and arms outspread
Within the boundless wood she fled.
To Janasthán the monster flew;
Fierce Khara there she found,
With chieftains of the giant crew
In thousands ranged around.
Before his awful feet she bent
And fell with piercing cries,
As when a bolt in swift descent
Comes flashing from the skies.
There for a while with senses dazed
Silent she lay and scared:
At length her drooping head she raised,
And all the tale declared,
How Ráma, Lakshmaṇ, and the dame
Had reached that lonely place:
Then told her injuries and shame,
And showed her bleeding face.

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