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Canto XI. The Sacrifice Decreed.

The Dewy Season(85) came and went;
The spring returned again:
Then would the king, with mind intent,
His sacrifice ordain.
He came to Rishyasring, and bowed
To him of look divine,
And bade him aid his offering vowed
For heirs, to save his line.
Nor would the youth his aid deny:
He spake the monarch fair,
And prayed him for that rite so high
All requisites prepare.
The king to wise Sumantra cried
Who stood aye ready near;
"Go summon quick each holy guide,
To counsel and to hear."
Obedient to his lord's behest
Away Sumantra sped,
And brought Vasishtha and the rest,
In Scripture deeply read.
Suyajna, Vámadeva came,
Jávali, Kasyap's son,
And old Vasishtha, dear to fame,
Obedient every one.
King Dasaratha met them there
And duly honoured each,
And spoke in pleasant words his fair
And salutary speech:
"In childless longing doomed to pine,
No happiness, O lords, is mine.
So have I for this cause decreed
To slay the sacrificial steed.
Fain would I pay that offering high
Wherein the horse is doomed to die,
With Rishyasring his aid to lend,
And with your glory to befriend."
With loud applause each holy man
Received his speech, approved the plan,
And, by the wise Vasishtha led,
Gave praises to the king, and said:
"The sons thou cravest shalt thou see,
Of fairest glory, born to thee,
Whose holy feelings bid thee take
This righteous course for offspring's sake."
Cheered by the ready praise of those
Whose aid he sought, his spirits rose,
And thus the king his speech renewed
With looks of joy and gratitude:
"Let what the coming rites require
Be ready as the priests desire,
And let the horse, ordained to bleed,
With fitting guard and priest, be freed,(86)
Yonder on Sarjú's northern side
The sacrificial ground provide;
And let the saving rites, that naught
Ill-omened may occur, be wrought.
The offering I announce to-day
Each lord of earth may claim to pay,
Provided that his care can guard
The holy rite by flaws unmarred.
For wandering fiends, whose watchful spite
Waits eagerly to spoil each rite,
Hunting with keenest eye detect
The slightest slip, the least neglect;
And when the sacred work is crossed
The workman is that moment lost.
Let preparation due be made:
Your powers the charge can meet:
That so the noble rite be paid
In every point complete."
And all the Bráhmans answered, Yea,
His mandate honouring,
And gladly promised to obey
The order of the king.
They cried with voices raised aloud:
"Success attend thine aim!"
Then bade farewell, and lowly bowed,
And hastened whence they came.
King Dasaratha went within,
His well loved wives to see:
And said: "Your lustral rites begin,
For these shall prosper me.
A glorious offering I prepare
That precious fruit of sons may bear."
Their lily faces brightened fast
Those pleasant words to hear,
As lilies, when the winter's past,
In lovelier hues appear.