Then Ráma, that his friend might know
His strength unrivalled, grasped his bow,
That mighty bow the foe's dismay,--
And on the string an arrow lay.
Next on the tree his eye he bent,
And forth the hurtling weapon went.
Loosed from the matchless hero's hold,
That arrow, decked with burning gold,
Cleft the seven palms in line, and through
The hill that rose behind them flew:
Six subterranean realms it passed,
And reached the lowest depth at last,
Whence speeding back through earth and air
It sought the quiver, and rested there.(573)
Upon the cloven trees amazed,
The sovereign of the Vánars gazed.
With all his chains and gold outspread
Prostrate on earth he laid his head.
Then, rising, palm to palm he laid
In reverent act, obeisance made,
And joyously to Ráma, best
Of war-trained chiefs, these words addressed:
"What champion, Raghu's son, may hope
With thee in deadly fight to cope,
Whose arrow, leaping from the bow,
Cleaves tree and hill and earth below?
Scarce might the Gods, arrayed for strife
By Indra's self, escape, with life
Assailed by thy victorious hand:
And how may Báli hope to stand?
All grief and care are past away,
And joyous thoughts my bosom sway,
Who have in thee a friend, renowned,
As Varun(574) or as Indra, found.
Then on! subdue,--'tis friendship's claim,--
My foe who bears a brother's name.
Strike Báli down beneath thy feet:
With suppliant hands I thus entreat."
Sugríva ceased, and Ráma pressed
The grateful Vánar to his breast;
And thoughts of kindred feeling woke
In Lakshman's bosom, as he spoke:
"On to Kishkindhá, on with speed!
Thou, Vánar King, our way shalt lead,
Then challenge Báli forth to fight.
Thy foe who scorns a brother's right."
They sought Kishkindhá's gate and stood
Concealed by trees in densest wood,
Sugríva, to the fight addressed,
More closely drew his cinctured vest,
And raised a wild sky-piercing shout
To call the foeman Báli out.
Forth came impetuous Báli, stirred
To fury by the shout he heard.
So the great sun, ere night has ceased,
Springs up impatient to the east.
Then fierce and wild the conflict raged
As hand to hand the foes engaged,
As though in battle mid the stars
Fought Mercury and fiery Mars.(575)
To highest pitch of frenzy wrought
With fists like thunderbolts they fought,
While near them Ráma took his stand,
And viewed the battle, bow in hand.
Alike they stood in form and might,
Like heavenly Asvins(576) paired in fight,
Nor might the son of Raghu know
Where fought the friend and where the foe;
So, while his bow was ready bent,
No life-destroying shaft he sent.
Crushed down by Báli's mightier stroke
Sugríva's force now sank and broke,
Who, hoping naught from Ráma's aid,
To Rishyamúka fled dismayed,
Weary, and faint, and wounded sore,
His body bruised and dyed with gore,
From Báli's blows, in rage and dread,
Afar to sheltering woods he fled.
Nor Báli farther dared pursue,
The curbing curse too well he knew.
"Fled from thy death!" the victor cried,
And home the mighty warrior hied.
Hanúmán, Lakshman, Raghu's son
Beheld the conquered Vánar run,
And followed to the sheltering shade
Where yet Sugríva stood dismayed.
Near and more near the chieftains came,
Then, for intolerable shame,
Not daring yet to lift his eyes,
Sugríva spoke with burning sighs:
"Thy matchless strength I first beheld,
And dared my foe, by thee impelled.
Why hast thou tried me with deceit
And urged me to a sure defeat?
Thou shouldst have said, "I will not slay
Thy foeman in the coming fray."
For had I then thy purpose known
I had not waged the fight alone."
The Vánar sovereign, lofty-souled,
In plaintive voice his sorrows told.
Then Ráma spake: "Sugríva, list,
All anger from thy heart dismissed,
And I will tell the cause that stayed
Mine arrow, and withheld the aid.
In dress, adornment, port, and height,
In splendour, battle-shout, and might,
No shade of difference could I see
Between thy foe, O King, and thee.
So like was each, I stood at gaze,
My senses lost in wildering maze,
Nor loosened from my straining bow
A deadly arrow at the foe,
Lest in my doubt the shaft should send
To sudden death our surest friend.
O, if this hand in heedless guilt
And rash resolve thy blood had spilt,
Through every land, O Vánar King,
My wild and foolish act would ring.
Sore weight of sin on him must lie
By whom a friend is made to die;
And Lakshman, I, and Sítá, best
Of dames, on thy protection rest.
On, warrior! for the fight prepare;
Nor fear again thy foe to dare.
Within one hour thine eye shall view
My arrow strike thy foeman through;
Shall see the stricken Báli lie
Low on the earth, and gasp and die.
But come, a badge about thee bind,
O monarch of the Vánar kind,
That in the battle shock mine eyes
The friend and foe may recognize.
Come, Lakshman, let that creeper deck
With brightest bloom Sugríva's neck,
And be a happy token, twined
Around the chief of lofty mind."
Upon the mountain slope there grew
A threading creeper fair to view,
And Lakshman plucked the bloom and round
Sugríva's neck a garland wound.
Graced with the flowery wreath he wore,
The Vánar chief the semblance bore
Of a dark cloud at close of day
Engarlanded with cranes at play,
In glorious light the Vánar glowed
As by his comrade's side he strode,
And, still on Ráma's word intent,
His steps to great Kishkindhá bent.