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Ramayan, Book 3, The

Canto XXII. Khara's Wrath.

Roused by the taunting words she spoke,
The mighty Khara's wrath awoke,
And there, while giants girt him round,
In these fierce words an utterance found:
“I cannot, peerless one, contain
Mine anger at this high disdain,
Galling as salt when sprinkled o'er
The rawness of a bleeding sore.
Ráma in little count I hold,
Weak man whose days are quickly told.
The caitiff with his life to-day
For all his evil deeds shall pay.
Dry, sister, dry each needless tear,
Stint thy lament and banish fear,
For Ráma and his brother go
This day to Yáma's realm below.
My warrior's axe shall stretch him slain,
Ere set of sun, upon the plain,
Then shall thy sated lips be red
With his warm blood in torrents shed.”
As Khara's speech the demon heard,
With sudden joy her heart was stirred:
She fondly praised him as the boast
And glory of the giant host.
First moved to ire by taunts and stings,
Now soothed by gentle flatterings,
To Dúshaṇ, who his armies led,
The demon Khara spoke, and said:
“Friend, from the host of giants call
Full fourteen thousand, best of all,
Slaves of my will, of fearful might,
Who never turn their backs in fight:
Fiends who rejoice to slay and mar,
Dark as the clouds of autumn are:
Make ready quickly, O my friend,
My chariot and the bows I bend.
My swords, my shafts of brilliant sheen,
My divers lances long and keen.
On to the battle will I lead
These heroes of Pulastya's seed,
And thus, O famed for warlike skill,
Ráma my wicked foeman kill.”
He spoke, and ere his speech was done,
His chariot glittering like the sun,
Yoked and announced, by Dúshan's care,
With dappled steeds was ready there.
High as a peak from Meru rent
It burned with golden ornament:
The pole of lazulite, of gold
Were the bright wheels whereon it rolled.
With gold and moonstone blazoned o'er,
Fish, flowers, trees, rocks, the panels bore;
Auspicious birds embossed thereon,
And stars in costly emblem shone.
O'er flashing swords his banner hung,
And sweet bells, ever tinkling, swung.
That mighty host with sword and shield
And oar was ready for the field:
And Khara saw, and Dúshan cried,
“Forth to the fight, ye giants, ride.”
Then banners waved, and shield and sword
Flashed as the host obeyed its lord.
From Janasthán they sallied out
With eager speed, and din, and shout,
Armed with the mace for close attacks,
The bill, the spear, the battle-axe,
Steel quoit and club that flashed afar,
Huge bow and sword and scimitar,
The dart to pierce, the bolt to strike,
The murderous bludgeon, lance, and pike.
So forth from Janasthán, intent
On Khara's will, the monsters went.
He saw their awful march: not far
Behind the host he drove his car.
Ware of his master's will, to speed
The driver urged each gold-decked steed.
Then forth the warrior's coursers sprang,
And with tumultuous murmur rang
Each distant quarter of the sky
And realms that intermediate lie.
High and more high within his breast
His pride triumphant rose,
While terrible as Death he pressed
Onward to slay his foes,
“More swiftly yet,” as on they fled,
He cried in thundering tones
Loud as a cloud that overhead
Hails down a flood of stones.

Canto XXIII. The Omens.

As forth upon its errand went
That huge ferocious armament,
An awful cloud, in dust and gloom,
With threatening thunders from its womb
Poured in sad augury a flood
Of rushing water mixt with blood.
The monarch's steeds, though strong and fleet,
Stumbled and fell: and yet their feet
Passed o'er the bed of flowers that lay
Fresh gathered on the royal way.
No gleam of sunlight struggled through
The sombre pall of midnight hue,
Edged with a line of bloody red,
Like whirling torches overhead.
A vulture, fierce, of mighty size.
Terrific with his cruel eyes,
Perched on the staff enriched with gold,
Whence hung the flag in many a fold.
Each ravening bird, each beast of prey
Where Janasthán's wild thickets lay,
Rose with a long discordant cry
And gathered as the host went by.
And from the south long, wild, and shrill,
Came spirit voices boding ill.
Like elephants in frantic mood,
Vast clouds terrific, sable-hued,
Hid all the sky where'er they bore
Their load of water mixt with gore.
Above, below, around were spread
Thick shades of darkness strange and dread,
Nor could the wildered glance descry
A point or quarter of the sky.
Then came o'er heaven a sanguine hue,
Though evening's flush not yet was due,
While each ill-omened bird that flies
Assailed the king with harshest cries.
There screamed the vulture and the crane,
And the loud jackal shrieked again.
Each hideous thing that bodes aright
Disaster in the coming fight,
With gaping mouth that hissed and flamed,
The ruin of the host proclaimed.
Eclipse untimely reft away
The brightness of the Lord of Day,
And near his side was seen to glow
A mace-like comet boding woe.
Then while the sun was lost to view
A mighty wind arose and blew,
And stars like fireflies shed their light,
Nor waited for the distant night.
The lilies drooped, the brooks were dried,
The fish and birds that swam them died,
And every tree that was so fair
With flower and fruit was stripped and bare.
The wild wind ceased, yet, raised on high,
Dark clouds of dust involved the sky.
In doleful twitter long sustained
The restless Sárikás462 complained,
And from the heavens with flash and flame
Terrific meteors roaring came.
Earth to her deep foundation shook
With rock and tree and plain and brook,
As Khara with triumphant shout,
Borne in his chariot, sallied out.
His left arm throbbed: he knew full well
That omen, and his visage fell.
Each awful sign the giant viewed,
And sudden tears his eye bedewed.
Care on his brow sat chill and black,
Yet mad with wrath he turned not back.
Upon each fearful sight that raised
The shuddering hair the chieftain gazed,
And laughing in his senseless pride
Thus to his giant legions cried:
“By sense of mightiest strength upborne,
These feeble signs I laugh to scorn.
I could bring down the stars that shine
In heaven with these keen shafts of mine.
Impelled by warlike fury I
Could cause e'en Death himself to die.
I will not seek my home again
Until my pointed shafts have slain
This Raghu's son so fierce in pride,
And Lakshmaṇ by his brother's side.
And she, my sister, she for whom
These sons of Raghu meet their doom,
She with delighted lips shall drain
The lifeblood of her foemen slain.
Fear not for me: I ne'er have known
Defeat, in battle overthrown.
Fear not for me, O giants; true
Are the proud words I speak to you.
The king of Gods who rules on high,
If wild Airávat bore him nigh,
Should fall before me bolt in hand:
And shall these two my wrath withstand!”
He ended and the giant host
Who heard their chief's triumphant boast,
Rejoiced with equal pride elate,
Entangled in the noose of Fate.
Then met on high in bright array,
With eyes that longed to see the fray,
God and Gandharva, sage and saint,
With beings pure from earthly taint.
Blest for good works aforetime wrought,
Thus each to other spake his thought:
“Now joy to Bráhmans, joy to kine,
And all whom world count half divine!
May Raghu's offspring slay in fight
Pulastya's sons who roam by night!”
In words like these and more, the best
Of high-souled saints their hopes expressed,
Bending their eager eyes from where
Car-borne with Gods they rode in air.
Beneath them stretching far, they viewed
The giants' death-doomed multitude.
They saw where, urged with fury, far
Before the host rolled Khara's car,
And close beside their leader came
Twelve giant peers of might and fame.
Four other chiefs463 before the rest
Behind their leader Dúshaṇ pressed.
Impetuous, cruel, dark, and dread,
All thirsting for the fray,
The hosts of giant warriors sped
Onward upon their way.
With eager speed they reached the spot
Where dwelt the princely two,—
Like planets in a league to blot
The sun and moon from view.

Canto XXIV. The Host In Sight.

While Khara, urged by valiant rage,
Drew near that little hermitage,
Those wondrous signs in earth and sky
Smote on each prince's watchful eye.
When Ráma saw those signs of woe
Fraught with destruction to the foe,
With bold impatience scarce repressed
His brother chief he thus addressed:
“These fearful signs, my brother bold,
Which threaten all our foes, behold:
All laden, as they strike the view,
With ruin to the fiendish crew.
The angry clouds are gathering fast,
Their skirts with dusty gloom o'ercast,
And harsh with loud-voiced thunder, rain
Thick drops of blood upon the plain.
See, burning for the coming fight,
My shafts with wreaths of smoke are white,
And my great bow embossed with gold
Throbs eager for the master's hold.
Each bird that through the forest flies
Sends out its melancholy cries.
All signs foretell the dangerous strife,
The jeopardy of limb and life.
Each sight, each sound gives warning clear
That foemen meet and death is near.
But courage, valiant brother! well
The throbbings of mine arm foretell
That ruin waits the hostile powers,
And triumph in the fight is ours.
I hail the welcome omen: thou
Art bright of face and clear of brow.
For Lakshmaṇ, when the eye can trace
A cloud upon the warrior's face
Stealing the cheerful light away,
His life is doomed in battle fray.
List, brother, to that awful cry:
With shout and roar the fiends draw nigh.
With thundering beat of many a drum
The savage-hearted giants come.
The wise who value safety know
To meet, prepared, the coming blow:
In paths of prudence trained aright
They watch the stroke before it smite.
Take thou thine arrows and thy bow,
And with the Maithil lady go
For shelter to the mountain cave
Where thickest trees their branches wave.
I will not have thee, Lakshmaṇ, say
One word in answer, but obey.
By all thy honour for these feet
Of mine, dear brother, I entreat.
Thy warlike arm, I know could, smite
To death these rovers of the night;
But I this day would fight alone
Till all the fiends be overthrown.”
He spake: and Lakshmaṇ answered naught:
His arrows and his bow he brought,
And then with Sítá following hied
For shelter to the mountain side.
As Lakshmaṇ and the lady through
The forest to the cave withdrew,
“'Tis well,” cried Ráma. Then he braced
His coat of mail around his waist.
When, bright as blazing fire, upon
His mighty limbs that armour shone,
The hero stood like some great light
Uprising in the dark of night.
His dreadful shafts were by his side;
His trusty bow he bent and plied,
Prepared he stood: the bowstring rang,
Filling the welkin with the clang.
The high-souled Gods together drew
The wonder of the fight to view,
The saints made free from spot and stain,
And bright Gandharvas' heavenly train.
Each glorious sage the assembly sought,
Each saint divine of loftiest thought,
And filled with zeal for Ráma's sake.
Thus they whose deeds were holy spake:
“Now be it well with Bráhmans, now
Well with the worlds and every cow!
Let Ráma in the deadly fray
The fiends who walk in darkness slay,
As He who bears the discus464 slew
The chieftains of the Asur crew.”
Then each with anxious glances viewed
His fellow and his speech renewed:
“There twice seven thousand giants stand
With impious heart and cruel hand:
Here Ráma stands, by virtue known:
How can the hero fight alone?”
Thus royal sage and Bráhman saint,
Spirit, and Virtue free from taint,
And all the Gods of heaven who rode
On golden cars, their longing showed.
Their hearts with doubt and terror rent,
They saw the giants' armament,
And Ráma clothed in warrior might,
Forth standing in the front of fight.
Lord of the arm no toil might tire,
He stood majestic in his ire,
Matchless in form as Rudra465 when
His wrath is fierce on Gods or men.
While Gods and saints in close array
Held converse of the coming fray,
The army of the fiends drew near
With sight and sound that counselled fear.
Long, loud and deep their war-cry pealed,
As on they rushed with flag and shield,
Each, of his proper valour proud,
Urging to fight the demon crowd.
His ponderous bow each warrior tried,
And swelled his bulk with martial pride.
'Mid shout and roar and trampling feet,
And thunder of the drums they beat,
Loud and more loud the tumult went
Throughout the forest's vast extent,
And all the life that moved within
The woodland trembled at the din.
In eager haste all fled to find
Some tranquil spot, nor looked behind.
With every arm of war supplied,
On-rushing wildly like the tide
Of some deep sea, the giant host
Approached where Ráma kept his post.
Then he, in battle skilled and tried,
Bent his keen eye on every side,
And viewed the host of Khara face
To face before his dwelling-place.
He drew his arrows forth, and reared
And strained that bow which foemen feared,
And yielded to the vengeful sway
Of fierce desire that host to slay.
Terrific as the ruinous fire
That ends the worlds, he glowed in ire,
And his tremendous form dismayed
The Gods who roam the forest shade.
For in the furious wrath that glowed
Within his soul the hero showed
Like Śiva when his angry might
Stayed Daksha's sacrificial rite.466
Like some great cloud at dawn of day
When first the sun upsprings,
And o'er the gloomy mass each ray
A golden radiance flings:
Thus showed the children of the night,
Whose mail and chariots threw,
With gleam of bows and armlets bright,
Flashes of flamy hue.

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