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The RÁMÁYAN of VÁLMÍKI - Part 2 - 65

Canto LXV. 
The Women's Lament.
And now the night had past away,

And brightly dawned another day;

The minstrels, trained to play and sing,

Flocked to the chamber of the king:

Bards, who their gayest raiment wore,

And heralds famed for ancient lore:

And singers, with their songs of praise,

Made music in their several ways.

There as they poured their blessings choice

And hailed their king with hand and voice,

Their praises with a swelling roar

Echoed through court and corridor.

Then as the bards his glory sang,

From beaten palms loud answer rang,

As glad applauders clapped their hands,

And told his deeds in distant lands.

The swelling concert woke a throng

Of sleeping birds to life and song:

Some in the branches of the trees,

Some caged in halls and galleries.

Nor was the soft string music mute;

The gentle whisper of the lute,

And blessings sung by singers skilled

The palace of the monarch filled.

Eunuchs and dames of life unstained,

Each in the arts of waiting trained,

Drew near attentive as before,

And crowded to the chamber door:

These skilful when and how to shed

The lustral stream o'er limb and head,

Others with golden ewers stood

Of water stained with sandal wood.

And many a maid, pure, young, and fair,

Her load of early offerings bare,

Cups of the flood which all revere,

And sacred things, and toilet gear.

Each several thing was duly brought

As rule of old observance taught,

And lucky signs on each impressed

Stamped it the fairest and the best.

There anxious, in their long array,

All waited till the shine of day:

But when the king nor rose nor spoke,

Doubt and alarm within them woke.

Forthwith the dames, by duty led,

Attendants on the monarch's bed,

Within the royal chamber pressed

To wake their master from his rest.

Skilled in the lore of dreaming, they

First touched the bed on which he lay.

But none replied; no sound was heard,

Nor hand, nor head, nor body stirred.

They trembled, and their dread increased,

Fearing his breath of life had ceased,

And bending low their heads, they shook

Like the tall reeds that fringe the brook.

In doubt and terror down they knelt,

Looked on his face, his cold hand felt,

And then the gloomy truth appeared

Of all their hearts had darkly feared.

Kauśalyá and Sumitrá, worn

With weeping for their sons, forlorn,

Woke not, but lay in slumber deep

And still as death's unending sleep.

Bowed down by grief, her colour fled,

Her wonted lustre dull and dead,

Kauśalyá shone not, like a star

Obscured behind a cloudy bar.

Beside the king's her couch was spread,

And next was Queen Sumitrá's bed,

Who shone no more with beauty's glow,

Her face bedewed with tears of woe.

There lapped in sleep each wearied queen,

There as in sleep, the king was seen;

And swift the troubling thought came o'er

Their spirits that he breathed no more.

At once with wailing loud and high

The matrons shrieked a bitter cry,

As widowed elephants bewail

Their dead lord in the woody vale.

At the loud shriek that round them rang,

Kauśalyá and Sumitrá sprang

Awakened from their beds, with eyes

Wide open in their first surprise.

Quick to the monarch's side they came,

And saw and touched his lifeless frame;

One cry, O husband! forth they sent,

And prostrate to the ground they went.

The king of Kośal's daughter338 there

Writhed, with the dust on limb and hair

Lustreless, as a star might lie

Hurled downward from the glorious sky.

When the king's voice in death was stilled,

The women who the chamber filled

Saw, like a widow elephant slain,

Kauśalyá prostrate in her pain.

Then all the monarch's ladies led

By Queen Kaikeyí at their head,

Poured forth their tears, and weeping so,

Sank on the ground, consumed by woe.

The cry of grief so long and loud

Went up from all the royal crowd,

That, doubled by the matron train,

It made the palace ring again.

Filled with dark fear and eager eyes,

Anxiety and wild surmise;

Echoing with the cries of grief

Of sorrowing friends who mourned their chief,

Dejected, pale with deep distress,

Hurled from their height of happiness:

Such was the look the palace wore

Where lay the king who breathed no more.