But splendid, just, and great of mind,
The childless king for offspring pined.
No son had he his name to grace,
Transmitter of his royal race.
Long had his anxious bosom wrought,
And as he pondered rose the thought:
"A votive steed 'twere good to slay,
So might a son the gift repay."
Before his lords his plan he laid,
And bade them with their wisdom aid:
Then with these words Sumantra, best
Of royal counsellors, addressed:
"Hither, Vasishtha at their head,
Let all my priestly guides be led."
To him Sumantra made reply:
"Hear, Sire, a tale of days gone by.
To many a sage in time of old,
Sanatkumár, the saint, foretold
How from thine ancient line, O King,
A son, when years came round, should spring.
"Here dwells," 'twas thus the seer began,
"Of Kasyap's(80) race, a holy man,
Vibhándak named: to him shall spring
A son, the famous Rishyasring.
Bred with the deer that round him roam,
The wood shall be that hermit's home.
To him no mortal shall be known
Except his holy sire alone.
Still by those laws shall he abide
Which lives of youthful Bráhmans guide,
Obedient to the strictest rule
That forms the young ascetic's school:
And all the wondering world shall hear
Of his stern life and penance drear;
His care to nurse the holy fire
And do the bidding of his sire.
Then, seated on the Angas'(81) throne,
Shall Lomapád to fame be known.
But folly wrought by that great king
A plague upon the land shall bring;
No rain for many a year shall fall
And grievous drought shall ruin all.
The troubled king with many a prayer
Shall bid the priests some cure declare:
"The lore of Heaven 'tis yours to know,
Nor are ye blind to things below:
Declare, O holy men, the way
This plague to expiate and stay."
Those best of Bráhmans shall reply:
"By every art, O Monarch, try
Hither to bring Vibhándak's child,
Persuaded, captured, or beguiled.
And when the boy is hither led
To him thy daughter duly wed."
But how to bring that wondrous boy
His troubled thoughts will long employ,
And hopeless to achieve the task
He counsel of his lords will ask,
And bid his priests and servants bring
With honour saintly Rishyasring.
But when they hear the monarch's speech,
All these their master will beseech,
With trembling hearts and looks of woe,
To spare them, for they fear to go.
And many a plan will they declare
And crafty plots will frame,
And promise fair to show him there,
Unforced, with none to blame.
On every word his lords shall say,
The king will meditate,
And on the third returning day
Recall them to debate.
Then this shall be the plan agreed,
That damsels shall be sent
Attired in holy hermits' weed,
And skilled in blandishment,
That they the hermit may beguile
With every art and amorous wile
Whose use they know so well,
And by their witcheries seduce
The unsuspecting young recluse
To leave his father's cell.
Then when the boy with willing feet
Shall wander from his calm retreat
And in that city stand,
The troubles of the king shall end,
And streams of blessed rain descend
Upon the thirsty land.
Thus shall the holy Rishyasring
To Lomapád, the mighty king,
By wedlock be allied;
For Sántá, fairest of the fair,
In mind and grace beyond compare,
Shall be his royal bride.
He, at the Offering of the Steed,
The flames with holy oil shall feed,
And for King Dasaratha gain
Sons whom his prayers have begged in vain."
"I have repeated, Sire, thus far,
The words of old Sanatkumár,
In order as he spoke them then
Amid the crowd of holy men."
Then Dasaratha cried with joy,
"Say how they brought the hermit boy."