He spoke: the younger prince obeyed:
Within the bounds his way he made,
And thus addressed, whom first he met,
A pupil of the anchoret:
"Brave Ráma, eldest born, who springs,
From Dasaratha, hither brings
His wife the lady Sítá: he
Would fain the holy hermit see.
Lakshman am I--if happy fame
E'er to thine ears has brought the name--
His younger brother, prompt to do
His will, devoted, fond, and true.
We, through our royal sire's decree,
To the dread woods were forced to flee.
Tell the great Master, I entreat,
Our earnest wish our lord to greet."
He spoke: the hermit rich in store
Of fervid zeal and sacred lore,
Sought the pure shrine which held the fire,
To bear his message to the sire.
Soon as he reached the saint most bright
In sanctity's surpassing might,
He cried, uplifting reverent hands:
"Lord Ráma near thy cottage stands."
Then spoke Agastya's pupil dear
The message for his lord to hear:
"Ráma and Lakshman, chiefs who spring
From Dasaratha, glorious king,
Thy hermitage e'en now have sought,
And lady Sítá with them brought.
The tamers of the foe are here
To see thee, Master, and revere.
'Tis thine thy further will to say:
Deign to command, and we obey."
When from his pupil's lips he knew
The presence of the princely two,
And Sítá born to fortune high.
The glorious hermit made reply:
"Great joy at last is mine this day
That Ráma hither finds his way,
For long my soul has yearned to see
The prince who comes to visit me.
Go forth, go forth, and hither bring
The royal three with welcoming:
Lead Ráma in and place him near:
Why stands he not already here?"
Thus ordered by the hermit, who,
Lord of his thought, all duty knew,
His reverent hands together laid,
The pupil answered and obeyed.
Forth from the place with speed he ran,
To Lakshman came and thus began:
"Where is he? let not Ráma wait,
But speed, the sage to venerate."
Then with the pupil Lakshman went
Across the hermit settlement,
And showed him Ráma where he stood
With Janak's daughter in the wood.
The pupil then his message spake
Which the kind hermit bade him take;
Then led the honoured Ráma thence
And brought him in with reverence.
As nigh the royal Ráma came
With Lakshman and the Maithil dame,
He viewed the herds of gentle deer
Roaming the garden free from fear.
As through the sacred grove he trod
He viewed the seat of many a God,
Brahmá and Agni,(429) Sun and Moon,
And His who sends each golden boon;(430)
Here Vishnu's stood, there Bhaga's(431) shrine,
And there Mahendra's, Lord divine;
Here His who formed this earthly frame,(432)
His there from whom all beings came.(433)
Váyu's,(434) and His who loves to hold
The great noose, Varun(435) mighty-souled:
Here was the Vasus'(436) shrine to see,
Here that of sacred Gáyatrí,(437)
The king of serpents(438) here had place,
And he who rules the feathered race.(439)
Here Kártikeya,(440) warrior lord,
And there was Justice King adored.
Then with disciples girt about
The mighty saint himself came out:
Through fierce devotion bright as flame
Before the rest the Master came:
And then to Lakshman, fortune blest,
Ráma these hasty words addressed:
"Behold, Agastya's self draws near,
The mighty saint, whom all revere:
With spirit raised I meet my lord
With richest wealth of penance stored."
The strong-armed hero spake, and ran
Forward to meet the sunbright man.
Before him, as he came, he bent
And clasped his feet most reverent,
Then rearing up his stately height
Stood suppliant by the anchorite,
While Lakshman's strength and Sítá's grace
Stood by the pride of Raghu's race.
The sage his arms round Ráma threw
And welcomed him with honours due,
Asked, was all well, with question sweet,
And bade the hero to a seat.
With holy oil he fed the flame,
He brought the gifts which strangers claim,
And kindly waiting on the three
With honours due to high degree,
He gave with hospitable care
A simple hermit's woodland fare.
Then sat the reverend father, first
Of hermits, deep in duty versed.
And thus to suppliant Ráma, bred
In all the lore of virtue, said:
"Did the false hermit, Prince, neglect
To hail his guest with due respect,
He must,--the doom the perjured meet,--
His proper flesh hereafter eat.
A car-borne king, a lord who sways
The earth, and virtue's law obeys,
Worthy of highest honour, thou
Hast sought, dear guest, my cottage now."
He spoke: with fruit and hermit fare,
With every bloom the branches bare,
Agastya graced his honoured guest,
And thus with gentle words addressed:
"Accept this mighty bow, divine,
Whereon red gold and diamonds shine;
'Twas by the Heavenly Artist planned
For Vishnu's own almighty hand;
This God-sent shaft of sunbright hue,
Whose deadly flight is ever true,
By Lord Mahendra given of yore:
This quiver with its endless store.
Keen arrows hurtling to their aim
Like kindled fires that flash and flame:
Accept, in golden sheath encased,
This sword with hilt of rich gold graced.
Armed with this best of bows
Lord Vishnu slew his demon foes,
And mid the dwellers in the skies
Won brilliant glory for his prize.
The bow, the quivers, shaft, and sword
Received from me, O glorious lord:
These conquest to thine arm shall bring,
As thunder to the thunder's King."
The splendid hermit bade him take
The noble weapons as he spake,
And as the prince accepted each
In words like these renewed his speech: