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The RÁMÁYAN of VÁLMÍKI - Part 2 - 63

Canto LXIII. 
The Hermit's Son.
But soon by rankling grief oppressed

The king awoke from troubled rest,

And his sad heart was tried again

With anxious thought where all was pain.

Ráma and Lakshmaṇ's mournful fate

On Daśaratha, good and great

As Indra, pressed with crushing weight,

As when the demon's might assails

The Sun-God, and his glory pales.

Ere yet the sixth long night was spent,

Since Ráma to the woods was sent,

The king at midnight sadly thought

Of the old crime his hand had wrought,

And thus to Queen Kauśalyá cried

Who still for Ráma moaned and sighed:

“If thou art waking, give, I pray,

Attention to the words I say.

Whate'er the conduct men pursue,

Be good or ill the acts they do,

Be sure, dear Queen, they find the meed

Of wicked or of virtuous deed.

A heedless child we call the man

Whose feeble judgment fails to scan

The weight of what his hands may do,

Its lightness, fault, and merit too.

One lays the Mango garden low,

And bids the gay Paláśas grow:

Longing for fruit their bloom he sees,

But grieves when fruit should bend the trees.

Cut by my hand, my fruit-trees fell,

Paláśa trees I watered well.

My hopes this foolish heart deceive,

And for my banished son I grieve.

Kauśalyá, in my youthful prime

Armed with my bow I wrought the crime,

Proud of my skill, my name renowned,

An archer prince who shoots by sound.

The deed this hand unwitting wrought

This misery on my soul has brought,

As children seize the deadly cup

And blindly drink the poison up.

As the unreasoning man may be

Charmed with the gay Paláśa tree,

I unaware have reaped the fruit

Of joying at a sound to shoot.

As regent prince I shared the throne,

Thou wast a maid to me unknown,

The early Rain-time duly came,

And strengthened love's delicious flame.

The sun had drained the earth that lay

All glowing 'neath the summer day,

And to the gloomy clime had fled

Where dwell the spirits of the dead.335

The fervent heat that moment ceased,

The darkening clouds each hour increased

And frogs and deer and peacocks all

Rejoiced to see the torrents fall.

Their bright wings heavy from the shower,

The birds, new-bathed, had scarce the power

To reach the branches of the trees

Whose high tops swayed beneath the breeze.

The fallen rain, and falling still,

Hung like a sheet on every hill,

Till, with glad deer, each flooded steep

Showed glorious as the mighty deep.

The torrents down its wooded side

Poured, some unstained, while others dyed

Gold, ashy, silver, ochre, bore

The tints of every mountain ore.

In that sweet time, when all are pleased,

My arrows and my bow I seized;

Keen for the chase, in field or grove,

Down Sarjú's bank my car I drove.

I longed with all my lawless will

Some elephant by night to kill,

Some buffalo that came to drink,

Or tiger, at the river's brink.

When all around was dark and still,

I heard a pitcher slowly fill,

And thought, obscured in deepest shade,

An elephant the sound had made.

I drew a shaft that glittered bright,

Fell as a serpent's venomed bite;

I longed to lay the monster dead,

And to the mark my arrow sped.

Then in the calm of morning, clear

A hermit's wailing smote my ear:

“Ah me, ah me,” he cried, and sank,

Pierced by my arrow, on the bank.

E'en as the weapon smote his side,

I heard a human voice that cried:

“Why lights this shaft on one like me,

A poor and harmless devotee?

I came by night to fill my jar

From this lone stream where no men are.

Ah, who this deadly shaft has shot?

Whom have I wronged, and knew it not?

Why should a boy so harmless feel

The vengeance of the winged steel?

Or who should slay the guiltless son

Of hermit sire who injures none,

Who dwells retired in woods, and there

Supports his life on woodland fare?

Ah me, ah me, why am I slain,

What booty will the murderer gain?

In hermit coils I bind my hair,

Coats made of skin and bark I wear.

Ah, who the cruel deed can praise

Whose idle toil no fruit repays,

As impious as the wretch's crime

Who dares his master's bed to climb?

Nor does my parting spirit grieve

But for the life which thus I leave:

Alas, my mother and my sire,—

I mourn for them when I expire.

Ah me, that aged, helpless pair,

Long cherished by my watchful care,

How will it be with them this day

When to the Five336 I pass away?

Pierced by the self-same dart we die,

Mine aged mother, sire, and I.

Whose mighty hand, whose lawless mind

Has all the three to death consigned?”

When I, by love of duty stirred,

That touching lamentation heard,

Pierced to the heart by sudden woe,

I threw to earth my shafts and bow.

My heart was full of grief and dread

As swiftly to the place I sped,

Where, by my arrow wounded sore,

A hermit lay on Sarjú's shore.

His matted hair was all unbound,

His pitcher empty on the ground,

And by the fatal arrow pained,

He lay with dust and gore distained.

I stood confounded and amazed:

His dying eyes to mine he raised,

And spoke this speech in accents stern,

As though his light my soul would burn:

“How have I wronged thee, King, that I

Struck by thy mortal arrow die?

The wood my home, this jar I brought,

And water for my parents sought.

This one keen shaft that strikes me through

Slays sire and aged mother too.

Feeble and blind, in helpless pain,

They wait for me and thirst in vain.

They with parched lips their pangs must bear,

And hope will end in blank despair.

Ah me, there seems no fruit in store

For holy zeal or Scripture lore,

Or else ere now my sire would know

That his dear son is lying low.

Yet, if my mournful fate he knew,

What could his arm so feeble do?

The tree, firm-rooted, ne'er may be

The guardian of a stricken tree.

Haste to my father, and relate

While time allows, my sudden fate,

Lest he consume thee as the fire

Burns up the forest, in his ire.

This little path, O King, pursue:

My father's cot thou soon wilt view.

There sue for pardon to the sage,

Lest he should curse thee in his rage.

First from the wound extract the dart

That kills me with its deadly smart,

E'en as the flushed impetuous tide

Eats through the river's yielding side.”

I feared to draw the arrow out,

And pondered thus in painful doubt:

“Now tortured by the shaft he lies,

But if I draw it forth he dies.”

Helpless I stood, faint, sorely grieved:

The hermit's son my thought perceived;

As one o'ercome by direst pain

He scarce had strength to speak again.

With writhing limb and struggling breath,

Nearer and ever nearer death

“My senses undisturbed remain,

And fortitude has conquered pain:

Now from one tear thy soul be freed.

Thy hand has made a Bráhman bleed.

Let not this pang thy bosom wring:

No twice-born youth am I, O King,

For of a Vaiśya sire I came,

Who wedded with a Śúdra dame.”

These words the boy could scarcely say,

As tortured by the shaft he lay,

Twisting his helpless body round,

Then trembling senseless on the ground.

Then from his bleeding side I drew

The rankling shaft that pierced him through.

With death's last fear my face he eyed,

And, rich in store of penance, died.”