The hermit ceased: the tale was done:
Then in a transport Raghu's son
Again addressed the ancient sire
Resplendent as a burning fire:
"O holy man, I fain would hear
The tale repeated full and clear
How he from whom my sires descend
Brought the great rite to happy end."
The hermit answered with a smile:
"Then listen, son of Raghu, while
My legendary tale proceeds
To tell of high-souled Sagar's deeds.
Within the spacious plain that lies
From where Himálaya's heights arise
To where proud Vindhya's rival chain
Looks down upon the subject plain--
A land the best for rites declared(183)--
His sacrifice the king prepared.
And Ansumán the prince--for so
Sagar advised--with ready bow
Was borne upon a mighty car
To watch the steed who roamed afar.
But Indra, monarch of the skies,
Veiling his form in demon guise,
Came down upon the appointed day
And drove the victim horse away.
Reft of the steed the priests, distressed,
The master of the rite addressed:
"Upon the sacred day by force
A robber takes the victim horse.
Haste, King! now let the thief be slain;
Bring thou the charger back again:
The sacred rite prevented thus
Brings scathe and woe to all of us.
Rise, monarch, and provide with speed
That naught its happy course impede."
King Sagar in his crowded court
Gave ear unto the priests' report.
He summoned straightway to his side
His sixty thousand sons, and cried:
"Brave sons of mine, I knew not how
These demons are so mighty now:
The priests began the rite so well
All sanctified with prayer and spell.
If in the depths of earth he hide,
Or lurk beneath the ocean's tide,
Pursue, dear sons, the robber's track;
Slay him and bring the charger back.
The whole of this broad earth explore,
Sea-garlanded, from shore to shore:
Yea, dig her up with might and main
Until you see the horse again.
Deep let your searching labour reach,
A league in depth dug out by each.
The robber of our horse pursue,
And please your sire who orders you.
My grandson, I, this priestly train,
Till the steed comes, will here remain."
Their eager hearts with transport burned
As to their task the heroes turned.
Obedient to their father, they
Through earth's recesses forced their way.
With iron arms' unflinching toil
Each dug a league beneath the soil.
Earth, cleft asunder, groaned in pain,
As emulous they plied amain
Sharp-pointed coulter, pick, and bar,
Hard as the bolts of Indra are.
Then loud the horrid clamour rose
Of monsters dying neath their blows,
Giant and demon, fiend and snake,
That in earth's core their dwelling make.
They dug, in ire that naught could stay,
Through sixty thousand leagues their way,
Cleaving the earth with matchless strength
Till hell itself they reached at length.
Thus digging searched they Jambudvip(184)
With all its hills and mountains steep.
Then a great fear began to shake
The heart of God, bard, fiend, and snake,
And all distressed in spirit went
Before the Sire Omnipotent.
With signs of woe in every face
They sought the mighty Father's grace,
And trembling still and ill at ease
Addressed their Lord in words like these:
"The sons of Sagar, Sire benign,
Pierce the whole earth with mine on mine,
And as their ruthless work they ply
Innumerable creatures die.
"This is the thief," the princes say,
"Who stole our victim steed away.
This marred the rite, and caused us ill,
And so their guiltless blood they spill."