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The RÁMÁYAN of VÁLMÍKI - Part 2 - 19

Canto XIX. 
Ráma's Promise.
Calm and unmoved by threatened woe

The noble conqueror of the foe

Answered the cruel words she spoke,

Nor quailed beneath the murderous stroke:

“Yea, for my father's promise sake

I to the wood my way will take,

And dwell a lonely exile there

In hermit dress with matted hair.

One thing alone I fain would learn,

Why is the king this day so stern?

Why is the scourge of foes so cold,

Nor gives me greeting as of old?

Now let not anger flush thy cheek:

Before thy face the truth I speak,

In hermit's coat with matted hair

To the wild wood will I repair.

How can I fail his will to do,

Friend, master, grateful sovereign too?

One only pang consumes my breast:

That his own lips have not expressed

His will, nor made his longing known

That Bharat should ascend the throne.

To Bharat I would yield my wife,

My realm and wealth, mine own dear life,

Unasked I fain would yield them all:

More gladly at my father's call,

More gladly when the gift may free

His honour and bring joy to thee.

Thus, lady, his sad heart release

From the sore shame, and give him peace.

But tell me, O, I pray thee, why

The lord of men, with downcast eye,

Lies prostrate thus, and one by one

Down his pale cheek the tear-drops run.

Let couriers to thy father speed

On horses of the swiftest breed,

And, by the mandate of the king,

Thy Bharat to his presence bring.

My father's words I will not stay

To question, but this very day

To Daṇḍak's pathless wild will fare,

For twice seven years an exile there.”

When Ráma thus had made reply

Kaikeyí's heart with joy beat high.

She, trusting to the pledge she held,

The youth's departure thus impelled:

“'Tis well. Be messengers despatched

On coursers ne'er for fleetness matched,

To seek my father's home and lead

My Bharat back with all their speed.

And, Ráma, as I ween that thou

Wilt scarce endure to linger now,

So surely it were wise and good

This hour to journey to the wood.

And if, with shame cast down and weak,

No word to thee the king can speak,

Forgive, and from thy mind dismiss

A trifle in an hour like this.

But till thy feet in rapid haste

Have left the city for the waste,

And to the distant forest fled,

He will not bathe nor call for bread.”

“Woe! woe!” from the sad monarch burst,

In surging floods of grief immersed;

Then swooning, with his wits astray,

Upon the gold-wrought couch he lay,

And Ráma raised the aged king:

But the stern queen, unpitying,

Checked not her needless words, nor spared

The hero for all speed prepared,

But urged him with her bitter tongue,

Like a good horse with lashes stung,

She spoke her shameful speech. Serene

He heard the fury of the queen,

And to her words so vile and dread

Gently, unmoved in mind, he said:

“I would not in this world remain

A grovelling thrall to paltry gain,

But duty's path would fain pursue,

True as the saints themselves are true.

From death itself I would not fly

My father's wish to gratify,

What deed soe'er his loving son

May do to please him, think it done.

Amid all duties, Queen, I count

This duty first and paramount,

That sons, obedient, aye fulfil

Their honoured fathers' word and will.

Without his word, if thou decree,

Forth to the forest will I flee,

And there shall fourteen years be spent

Mid lonely wilds in banishment.

Methinks thou couldst not hope to find

One spark of virtue in my mind,

If thou, whose wish is still my lord,

Hast for this grace the king implored.

This day I go, but, ere we part,

Must cheer my Sítá's tender heart,

To my dear mother bid farewell;

Then to the woods, a while to dwell.

With thee, O Queen, the care must rest

That Bharat hear his sire's behest,

And guard the land with righteous sway,

For such the law that lives for aye.”

In speechless woe the father heard,

Wept with loud cries, but spoke no word.

Then Ráma touched his senseless feet,

And hers, for honour most unmeet;

Round both his circling steps he bent,

Then from the bower the hero went.

Soon as he reached the gate he found

His dear companions gathered round.

Behind him came Sumitrá's child

With weeping eyes so sad and wild.

Then saw he all that rich array

Of vases for the glorious day.

Round them with reverent stops he paced,

Nor vailed his eye, nor moved in haste.

The loss of empire could not dim

The glory that encompassed him.

So will the Lord of Cooling Rays286

On whom the world delights to gaze,

Through the great love of all retain

Sweet splendour in the time of wane.

Now to the exile's lot resigned

He left the rule of earth behind:

As though all worldly cares he spurned

No trouble was in him discerned.

The chouries that for kings are used,

And white umbrella, he refused,

Dismissed his chariot and his men,

And every friend and citizen.

He ruled his senses, nor betrayed

The grief that on his bosom weighed,

And thus his mother's mansion sought

To tell the mournful news he brought.

Nor could the gay-clad people there

Who flocked round Ráma true and fair,

One sign of altered fortune trace

Upon the splendid hero's face.

Nor had the chieftain, mighty-armed,

Lost the bright look all hearts that charmed,

As e'en from autumn moons is thrown

A splendour which is all their own.

With his sweet voice the hero spoke

Saluting all the gathered folk,

Then righteous-souled and great in fame

Close to his mother's house he came.

Lakshmaṇ the brave, his brother's peer

In princely virtues, followed near,

Sore troubled, but resolved to show

No token of his secret woe.

Thus to the palace Ráma went

Where all were gay with hope and joy;

But well he knew the dire event

That hope would mar, that bliss destroy.

So to his grief he would not yield

Lest the sad change their hearts might rend,

And, the dread tiding unrevealed,

Spared from the blow each faithful friend.