"Once in my strength and vigour's pride
I roamed this earth from side to side,
And towering like a mountain's crest,
A thousand Nágas'(491) might possessed.
Like some vast sable cloud I showed:
My golden armlets flashed and glowed.
A crown I wore, an axe I swayed,
And all I met were sore afraid.
I roved where Dandak wood is spread;
On flesh of slaughtered saints I fed.
Then Visvámitra, sage revered,
Holy of heart, my fury feared.
To Dasaratha's court he sped
And went before the king and said:(492)
"With me, my lord, thy Ráma send
On holy days his aid to lend.
Márícha fills my soul with dread
And keeps me sore disquieted."
The monarch heard the saint's request
And thus the glorious sage addressed:
"My boy as yet in arms untrained
The age of twelve has scarce attained.
But I myself a host will lead
To guard thee in the hour of need.
My host with fourfold troops complete,
The rover of the night shall meet,
And I, O best of saints, will kill
Thy foeman and thy prayer fulfil."
The king vouchsafed his willing aid:
The saint again this answer made:
"By Ráma's might, and his alone,
Can this great fiend be overthrown.
I know in days of yore the Blest
Thy saving help in fight confessed.
Still of thy famous deeds they tell
In heaven above, in earth, and hell,
A mighty host obeys thy hest:
Here let it still, I pray thee, rest.
Thy glorious son, though yet a boy,
Will in the fight that fiend destroy.
Ráma alone with me shall go:
Be happy, victor of the foe."
He spoke: the monarch gave assent,
And Ráma to the hermit lent.
So to his woodland home in joy
Went Visvámitra with the boy.
With ready bow the champion stood
To guard the rites in Dandak wood.
With glorious eyes, most bright to view,
Beardless as yet and dark of hue;
A single robe his only wear,
His temples veiled with waving hair,
Around his neck a chain of gold,
He grasped the bow he loved to hold;
And the young hero's presence made
A glory in the forest shade.
Thus Ráma with his beauteous mien,
Like the young rising moon was seen,
I, like a cloud which tempest brings,
My arms adorned with golden rings,
Proud of the boon which lent me might,
Approached where dwelt the anchorite.
But Ráma saw me venturing nigh,
Raising my murderous axe on high;
He saw, and fearless of the foe,
Strung with calm hand his trusty bow.
By pride of conscious strength beguiled,
I scorned him as a feeble child,
And rushed with an impetuous bound
On Visvámitra's holy ground.
A keen swift shaft he pointed well,
The foeman's rage to check and quell,
And hurled a hundred leagues away
Deep in the ocean waves I lay.
He would not kill, but, nobly brave,
My forfeit life he chose to save.
So there I lay with wandering sense
Dazed by that arrow's violence.
Long in the sea I lay: at length
Slowly returned my sense and strength,
And rising from my watery bed
To Lanká's town again I sped.
Thus was I spared, but all my band
Fell slain by Ráma's conquering hand,--
A boy, untrained in warrior's skill,
Of iron arm and dauntless will.
If thou with Ráma still, in spite
Of warning and of prayer, wilt fight,
I see terrific woes impend,
And dire defeat thy days will end.
Thy giants all will feel the blow
And share the fatal overthrow,
Who love the taste of joy and play,
The banquet and the festal day.
Thine eyes will see destruction take
Thy Lanká, lost for Sítá's sake,
And stately pile and palace fall
With terrace, dome, and jewelled wall.
The good will die: the crime of kings
Destruction on the people brings:
The sinless die, as in the lake
The fish must perish with the snake.
The prostrate giants thou wilt see
Slain for this folly wrought by thee,
Their bodies bright with precious scent
And sheen of heavenly ornament;
Or see the remnant of thy train
Seek refuge far, when help is vain
And with their wives, or widowed, fly
To every quarter of the sky;
Thy mournful eyes, where'er they turn,
Will see thy stately city burn,
When royal homes with fire are red,
And arrowy nets around are spread.
A sin that tops all sins in shame
Is outrage to another's dame,
A thousand wives thy palace fill,
And countless beauties wait thy will.
O rest contented with thine own,
Nor let thy race be overthrown.
If thou, O King, hast still delight
In rank and wealth and power and might,
In noble wives, in troops of friends,
In all that royal state attends,
I warn thee, cast not all away,
Nor challenge Ráma to the fray.
If deaf to every friendly prayer,
Thou still wilt seek the strife,
And from the side of Ráma tear
His lovely Maithil wife,
Soon will thy life and empire end
Destroyed by Ráma's bow,
And thou, with kith and kin and friend,
To Yáma's realm must go."