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Part II

Great Dasarath, the King of Oude,
  Whom all men love and fear,
With elephants and horses proud
  Went forth to hunt the deer.

Oh gallant was the long array!
  Pennons and plumes were seen,
And swords that mirrored back the day,
  And spears and axes keen.

Rang trump, and conch, and piercing fife,
  Woke Echo from her bed!
The solemn woods with sounds were rife
  As on the pageant sped.

Hundreds, nay thousands, on they went!
  The wild beasts fled away!
Deer ran in herds, and wild boars spent
  Became an easy prey.

Whirring the peacocks from the brake
  With Argus wings arose,
Wild swans abandoned pool and lake
  For climes beyond the snows.

From tree to tree the monkeys sprung,
  Unharmed and unpursued,
As louder still the trumpets rung
  And startled all the wood.

The porcupines and such small game
  Unnoted fled at will,
The weasel only caught to tame
  From fissures in the hill.

Slunk light the tiger from the bank,
  But sudden turned to bay!
When he beheld the serried rank
  That barred his tangled way.

Uprooting fig-trees on their path,
  And trampling shrubs and flowers,
Wild elephants, in fear and wrath,
  Burst through, like moving towers.

Lowering their horns in crescents grim
  Whene'er they turned about,
Retreated into coverts dim
  The bisons' fiercer rout.

And in this mimic game of war
  In bands dispersed and past
The royal train,--some near, some far,
  As day closed in at last.

Where was the king? He left his friends
  At midday, it was known,
And now that evening fast descends
  Where was he? All alone.

Curving, the river formed a lake,
  Upon whose bank he stood,
No noise the silence there to break,
  Or mar the solitude.

Upon the glassy surface fell
  The last beams of the day,
Like fiery darts, that lengthening swell,
  As breezes wake and play.

Osiers and willows on the edge
  And purple buds and red,
Leant down,--and 'mid the pale green sedge
  The lotus raised its head.

And softly, softly, hour by hour
  Light faded, and a veil
Fell over tree, and wave, and flower,
  On came the twilight pale.

Deeper and deeper grew the shades,
  Stars glimmered in the sky,
The nightingale along the glades
  Raised her preluding cry.

What is that momentary flash?
  A gleam of silver scales
Reveals the Mahseer;--then a splash,
  And calm again prevails.

As darkness settled like a pall
  The eye would pierce in vain,
The fireflies gemmed the bushes all,
  Like fiery drops of rain.

Pleased with the scene,--and knowing not
  Which way, alas! to go,
The monarch lingered on the spot,--
  The lake spread bright below.

He lingered, when--oh hark! oh hark
  What sound salutes his ear!
A roebuck drinking in the dark,
  Not hunted, nor in fear.

Straight to the stretch his bow he drew,
  That bow ne'er missed its aim,
Whizzing the deadly arrow flew,
  Ear-guided, on the game!

Ah me! What means this?--Hark, a cry,
  A feeble human wail,
"Oh God!" it said--"I die,--I die,
  Who'll carry home the pail?"

Startled, the monarch forward ran,
  And then there met his view
A sight to freeze in any man
  The warm blood coursing true.

A child lay dying on the grass,
  A pitcher by his side,
Poor Sindhu was the child, alas!
  His parents' stay and pride.

His bow and quiver down to fling,
  And lift the wounded boy,
A moment's work was with the king.
  Not dead,--that was a joy!

He placed the child's head on his lap,
  And ranged the blinding hair,
The blood welled fearful from the gap
  On neck and bosom fair.

He dashed cold water on the face,
  He chafed the hands, with sighs,
Till sense revived, and he could trace
  Expression in the eyes.

Then mingled with his pity, fear--
  In all this universe
What is so dreadful as to hear
  A Bramin's dying curse!

So thought the king, and on his brow
  The beads of anguish spread,
And Sindhu, fully conscious now,
  The anguish plainly read.

"What dost thou fear, O mighty king?
  For sure a king thou art!
Why should thy bosom anguish wring?
  No crime was in thine heart!

"Unwittingly the deed was done;
  It is my destiny,
O fear not thou, but pity one
  Whose fate is thus to die.

"No curses, no!--I bear no grudge,
  Not thou my blood hast spilt,
Lo! here before the unseen Judge,
  Thee I absolve from guilt.

"The iron, red-hot as it burns,
  Burns those that touch it too,
Not such my nature,--for it spurns,
  Thank God, the like to do.

"Because I suffer, should I give
  Thee, king, a needless pain?
Ah, no! I die, but mayst thou live,
  And cleansed from every stain!"

Struck with these words, and doubly grieved
  At what his hands had done,
The monarch wept, as weeps bereaved
  A man his only son.

"Nay, weep not so," resumed the child,
  "But rather let me say
My own sad story, sin-defiled.
  And why I die to day!

"Picking a living in our sheaves,
  And happy in their loves,
Near, 'mid a peepul's quivering leaves,
  There lived a pair of doves.

"Never were they two separate,
  And lo, in idle mood,
I took a sling and ball, elate
  In wicked sport and rude,--

"And killed one bird,--it was the male,
  Oh cruel deed and base!
The female gave a plaintive wail
  And looked me in the face!

"The wail and sad reproachful look
  In plain words seemed to say,
A widowed life I cannot brook,
  The forfeit thou must pay.

"What was my darling's crime that thou
  Him wantonly shouldst kill?
The curse of blood is on thee now,
  Blood calls for red blood still.

"And so I die--a bloody death--
  But not for this I mourn,
To feel the world pass with my breath
  I gladly could have borne,

"But for my parents, who are blind,
  And have no other stay,--
This, this, weighs sore upon my mind
  And fills me with dismay.

"Upon the eleventh day of the moon
  They keep a rigorous fast,
All yesterday they fasted; soon
  For water and repast

"They shall upon me feebly call!
  Ah, must they call in vain?
Bear thou the pitcher, friend--'tis all
  I ask--down that steep lane."

He pointed,--ceased,--then sudden died!
  The king took up the corpse,
And with the pitcher slowly hied,
  Attended by Remorse,

Down the steep lane--unto the hut
  Girt round with Bela trees;
Gleamed far a light-the door not shut
  Was open to the breeze.