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The Parting - Rama Takes Leave From Sita

( Originally Published 1939 )

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DEARLY loved, devoted Sita! daughter of a royal line,

Part we now, for years of wand'ring in the pathless woods is mine,

For my father, promise-fettered, to Kaikeyi yields the sway,

And she wills her son anointed, fourteen years doth Rama stray,

But before I leave thee, Sita, in the wilderness to rove,

Yield me one more tender token of thy true and trustful love!

Serve my crowned brother, Sita, as a faithful, duteous dame,

Tell him not of Rama's virtues, tell him not of Rama's claim,

Since my royal father willeth, --- Bharat shall be regent-heir,

Serve him with a loyal duty, serve him with obeisance fair;

Since my royal father willeth; -- years of banishment be mine,

Brave in sorrow and in suffering, woman's brightest fame be thine!

Keep thy fasts and vigils, Sita, while thy Rama is away,

Faith in Gods and faith in virtue on thy bosom hold their sway,

In the early watch of morning to the Gods for blessings pray,

To my father, Dasa-ratha, honour and obeisanceTo my mother, Queen Kausalya, is thy dearest tendance due,

Offer her thy consolation, be a daughter fond and true!

Listen, Sita, unto Bharat speak no heedless angry word,

He is monarch of Kosala and of Raghu's race is lord,

Crowned kings our willing service and our faithful duty own,

Dearest sons they disinherit, cherish strangers near the throne!

Bharat's will with deep devotion and with faultless faith obey,

Truth and virtue on thy bosom ever hold their gentle sway,

And to please each dear relation, gentle Sita, be it thine;

Part we, love! for years of wand'ring in the pathless woods is mine! "

WOMAN'S LOVE

RAMA spake, and soft-eyed Sita, ever sweet in speech and word,

Stirred by loving woman's passion boldly answered thus her lord:

"Do I hear my husband rightly, are these words my Rama spake,

And her banished lord and husband will the wedded wife forsake?

Lightly I dismiss the counsel which my lord hath lightIy, said,

For it ill beseems a warrior and my husband's princely grade!

For the faithful woman follows where her wedded lord may lead,

In the banishment of Rama, Sita's exile is decreed.

Sire nor son nor loving brother rules the wedded woman's state,

With her lord she falls or rises, with her consort courts her fate.

If the righteous son of Raghu wends to forests clark and drear,

Sita steps before her husband wild and thorny paths to clear!

Car and steed and gilded palace, vain are these to woman's life,

Dearer is her husband's shadow to the loved and loving wife!

For my mother often taught me and my father often spake,

That her home the wedded woman doth beside her husband make,

As the shadow to the substance, to her lord is faithful wife,

And she parts not from her consort till she parts with fleeting life!

Therefore bid me seek the jungle and in pathless forests roam,

Where the wild deer freely ranges and the tiger makes his home.

Happier than in father's mansions in the woods will Sita rove,

Waste no thought on home or kindred, nestling in her husband's love!

Bid me seek the sylvan greenwoods, wooded hills and plateaus high,

Limpid rills and crystal nullas as they softly ripple by,

And where in the lake of lotus tuneful ducks their plumage lave.

Let me with my loving Rama skim the cool translucent wave!

Years will pass in happy union, happiest lot to woman given,

Sita seeks not throne or empire, nor the brighter joys of heaven.

Heaven conceals not brighter mansions in its sunny fields of pride,

Where without her lord and husband faithful Sita would reside! "

BROTHER'S FAITHFULNESS

TEARS bedewed the face of Lakshman as he heard what Sita said,

And he touched the feet of Rama and in gentle accents prayed:

"If my elder and his lacly to the pathless forests wend,

Armed with bow and ample quiver Lakshman will on them attend,

Where the wild cleer range the forest and the lordly tuskers roam,

And the bird of gorgeous plumage nestles in its jungle home.

Dearer far to me these woodlands where my elder Rama dwells,

Than the homes of bright Immortals where perennial bliss prevails!

Grant me then thy sweet permission, faithful to thy glorious star,

Lakshman shall not wait and tarry when his Rama wanders far,

Grant me then thy loving mandate, Lakshman hath no wish to stay,

None shall bar the faithful younger when the elder leads the way!"

IN THE FOREST. SITA LOST SURPA-NAKHA IN LOVE

AS the Moon with starry Chitra dwells in azure skies above,

In his lonesome leafy cottage Rama dwelt in Sita's love,

And with Lakshman strong and valiant, quick to labour and obey,

Tales of bygone times recounting Rama passed the livelong day.

And it so befell, a maiden, dweller of the dark some wood,

Led by wand'ring thought or fancy once before the cottage stood,

Surpa-nakha, Raksha maiden, sister of the Raksha lord,

Came and looked with eager longing till her soul was passion-stirred!

Looked on Rama lion-chested, mighty-armed, lotus-eyed,

Stately as the jungle tusker, with his crown of tresses tied,

Looked on Rama lofty-fronted, with a royal visage graced,

Like Kandarpa young and lustrous, lotus-hued and lotus-faced !

What though she a Raksha maiden, poor in beauty, plain in face,

Fell her glances passion laden on the prince of peerless grace,

What though wild her eyes and tresses, and her accents counselled fear,

Soft-eyed Rama fired her bosom, and his sweet voice thrilled her ear,

What though bent on deeds unholy, holy Rama won her heart,

And, for love makes bold a female, thus did she her thoughts impart:

"Who be thou in hermit's vestments, in thy native beauty bright,

Friended by a youthful woman, armed with thy bow of might,

Who be thou in these Ione regions where the Rakshas hold their sway,

Wherefore in a lonely cottage in this darksome jungle stay?"

With his wonted truth and candour Rama spake sedate and bold,

And the story of his exile to the Raksha maiden told:

"Dasa-ratha of Ayodhya ruled with Indra's god-like fame,

And his eldest, first born, Rama, by his mandate here I came,

Younger Lakshman strong and valiant doth with me these forests roam,

And my wife, Videha's daughter, Sita makes with me her home.

Duteous to my father's bidding, duteous to my mother's will,

Striving in the cause of virtue in the woods we wander still.

Tell me, female of the forest, who thou be and whence thy birth,

Much I fear thou art a Raksha wearing various forms on earth!"

"Listen," so spake Surpa-nakha, "if my purpose thou wouldst know,

I am Raksha, Surpa-nakha, wearing various shapes below,

Know my brothers, royal Ravan, Lanka's lord from days of old,

Kumbha-karna dread and dauntless and Bibhishan true and bold,

Khara and the doughty Dushan with me in these forests stray,

But by Rama's love emboldened I have left them on the way!

Broad and boundless is my empire and I wander in my pride,

Thee I choose as Iord and husband, cast thy human wife aside.

Pale is Sita and misshapen, scarce a warrior's worthy wife,

To a nobler, lordlier female consecrate thy gallant life!

Human flesh is food of Rakshas! weakling Sita I will slay,

SIay that boy thy stripling brother, thee as husband I obey,

On the peaks of lofty mountains, in the forests dark and lone,

We shall range the boundless woodlands and the joys of dalliance prove!"

Rama heard her impious purpose and a gentle smile repressed,

To the foul and forward female thus his mocking words addressed:

"List, 0 passion-smitten maiden! Sita is my honoured wife,

With a rival loved and cherished cruel were thy wedded life!

But no consort follows Lakshman:, peerless is his comely face,

Dauntless is his warlike valour, matchless is his courtly grace,

And he leads no wife or consort to this darksome woodland grove,

With no rival to thy passion seek his ample-hearted love!"

Surpa-nakha passion-laden then on Lakshman turned her eye,

But in merry mocking accents smiling Lakshman made reply :

"Ruddy in thy youthful beauty like the lotus in her pride,

I am slave of royal Rama, would'st thou be a vassal's bride?

Rather be his younger consort, banish Sita from his arms,

Spurning Sita's faded beauty let him seek thy fresher charms,

Spurning Sita's faded graces let him brighter pleasures prove,

Wearied with a woman's dalliance let him court a Raksha's love!"

Wrath of unrequited passion raged like madness in her breast,

Torn by anger strong as tempest thus her answer she addrest:

"Are these mocking accents uttered, Rama, to insult my flame,

Feasting on her faded beauty dost thou still revere thy dame?

But beware a Raksha's fury and an injured female's wrath,

Surpa-nakha slays thy consort, bears no rival in her path!"

SURPA-NAKHA'S REVENGE

THEN the humbled Surpa-nakha to her royal brother hied,

Spake her sorrows unto Ravan and Maricha true and tried.

Shape of deer unmatched in beauty now the deep Maricha wore,

Golden tints upon his haunches, sapphire on his antlers bore,

Till the woodland wand'ring Sita marked the creature in his pride,

Golden was his neck of beauty, silver white his flank and side!

"Come, my lord and gallant Lakshman," thus the raptur'd Sita spake,

"Mark the deer of wondrous radiance browsing by the forest brake!"

"Much my heart misgives me, sister," Lakshman hesitated still,

"'Tis some deep deceitful Raksha wearing every shape at will,

Monarchs wand'ring in this forest, hunting in this lonely glen,

Oft waylaid by artful Rakshas are by deep devices slain,

Bright as day-god or Gandharva, woodland scenes they love to stray,

Till they fall upon the heedless, quick to slaughter and to slay.

Trust me, not in jewelled lustre forest creatures haunt the green,

'Tis some maya and illusion, trust not what thy eyes have seen!"

Vainly spake the watchful Lakshman in the arts of Rakshas skilled,

For with forceful fascination Sita's inmost heart was thrilled.

"Husband, good and ever gracious," sweetly thus implored the wife,

"I would tend this thing of beauty, sharer of my forest life!

I have witnessed in this jungle graceful creatures passing fair,

Chowri and the gentle roebuck, antelope of beauty rare,

I have seen the lithesome monkey sporting in the branches' shade,

Grizzly bear that feeds on Mabua, and the deer that crops the blade,

I have marked the stately wild bull dash into the deepest wood,

And the Kinnar strange and wondrous as in sylvan wilds he stood,

But these eyes have never rested on a form so wondrous fair,

On a shape so full of beauty, decked with tints so rich and rare !

If alive this wary creature be it, husband, hard to take,

Slay him and his skin of Iustre cherish for thy Sita's sake.

I will as a golden carpet spread the skin upon the grass,

Sweet memento of this forest when our forest days will pass!

Rama bade the faithful Lakshman with the gentle Sita stay,

Long through woods and gloomy gorges vainly held his cautious way,

Vainly set the snare in silence by the Iake and in the dale,

'Scaping every trap, Maricha, pierced by Rama's arrows fell,

Imitating Rama's accents uttered forth his dying cry:

"Speed, my faithful brother Lakshman, helpless in the woods I die!"

LAKSHMAN'S DEPARTURE

HEARDST that distant cry of danger?" questioned Sita in distress,

"Woe, to me! who in my frenzy sent my lord to wilderness,

Speed, brave Lakshman, help my Rama., doleful was his distant cry,

And my fainting bosom falters and a dimness clouds my eye!

To the dread and darksome forest with thy keenest arrows speed,

Help thy elder and thy monarch, sore his danger and his need,

For perchance the cruel Rakshas gather round his lonesome path,

As the mighty bull is slaughtered by the lions in their wrath!"

Spake the hero: "Fear not, Sita! Dwellers of the azure height,

Rakshas nor the Jungle-rangers match the peerless Rama's might,

Rama knows no dread or danger, and his mandate still I own,

And I may not leave thee, Lady, in this cottage all alone!

It aside thy causeless terror; in the sky or earth below,

In the nether regions, Rama knows no peer or equal foe,

He shall slay the deer of jungle, he shall voice no dastard cry,

'Tis some trick of wily Rakshas in this forest dark and high!

Sita, thou hast heard my elder bid me in this cottage stay,

Lakshman may not leave thee, Lady, for his duty to obey,

Ruthless Rakshas roam the forest to revenge their leader slain,

Various are their arts and accents; chase thy thought of causeless pain!"

Sparkled Sita's eye in anger, frenzy marked her speech and word,

For a woman's sense is clouded by the danger of her lord:

"Markest thou my Rama's danger with a cold and callous heart,

Courtest thou the death of elder in thy deep deceitful art,

In thy semblance of compassion dost thou hide a cruel craft,

As in friendly guise the foeman hides his death-compelling shaft,

Following like a faithful younger in this dread and lonesome land,

Seekest thou the death of elder to enforce his widow's hand?

False thy hope as foul thy purpose! Sita is a faithful wife,

Sita follows saintly Rama, true in death as true in life!"

"Daughter of Videha's monarch, pardon if I do thee wrong,

Fickle is the faith of woman, poison-dealing is her tongue !

And thy censure, trust me, Lady, scathes me like a burning dart,

Free from guile is Lakshman's purpose, free from sin is Lakshman's heart.

Witness ye my truth of purpose, unseen dwellers of the wood,

Witness, I for Sita's safety by my elder's mandate stood,

Duteous to my queen and elder, I have toiled and worked in vain,

Dark suspicion and dishonour cast on me a need, less stain!

Lacly! I obey thy mandate, to my elder now I go,

Guarclian Spirits of the forest watch thee from each secret foe,

Omens dark and signs of danger meet my pained and aching sight,

May I see thee by thy Rama, guarded by his conquering might!"

RAVAN'S COMING

RAVAN watched the happy moment burning with a vengeful spite,

Came to sad and sorrowing Sita in the guise of anchorite,

Tufted hair and russet garment, sandals on feet he wore,

And depending from his shoulders on a staff his vessel bore.

And he came to lonely Sita, for each warlike chief was gone,

As the darkness comes to evening lightless from the parted sun.

Mute and still were forest creatures when in guise of anchorite,

Unto Sita's lonely cottage pressed the Raksha in his might,

Mute and voiceless was the Jungle as he cast on her his eye,

As across the star of Chitra planet Sani walks the sky!

Ravan stood in hermit's vestments, vengeful'' purpose unrevealed,

As a deep and darksome cavern is by grass and leaf concealed,

Ravan stood sedate and silent, and he gazed on Rama's queen,

Ivory brow and lip of coral, sparkling teeth of pearly sheen!

Lighting up the lonely cottage Sita sat in radiance high,

As the Moon with streaks of silver fills the IoneIy midnight sky,

Lighting up the gloomy woodlands with her eyes serenely fair,

With her bark-clad shape of beauty mantled by her raven hair!

Ravan fired by impure passion fixed on her his lustful eye,

And the light that lit his glances gave his holy texts the lie,

Ravan in his flattering accents, with a soft and soothing art,

Praised the woman's peerless beauty to subdue the woman's heart.

"Art thou Sri or radiant Gauri, maid of Fortune or of Fame,

Nymph of Love or sweet Fruition, what may be thy sacred name?

On thy lips of ruddy coral teeth of tender jasmine shine,

In thy eyes of limpid lustre dwells a light of love divine,

Tall and slender, softly rounded, are thy limbs of beauty rare,

Like the swelling fruit of tala heaves thy bosom sweetly fair!

Goddess or Gandharva maiden wears no brighter form or face,

Woman seen by eyes of mortals owns not such transcendent grace,

Wherefore, then, in lonesome forest, nymph or maiden, make thy stay,

Where the jungle creatures wander and the Raks has hold their sway?

Royal halls and stately mansions were for thee a meeter home,

And thy steps should grace a palace, not in path' less forest roam,

Blossoms rich, not thorn of jungle, decorate a lady's bower,

Silken robes, not sylvan garments, heighten beauty's potent power!

Lady of the sylvan forest! other destiny is thine, As a bride beloved and courted in thy bridal garments shine,

Choose a loved and lordly suitor who shall wait on thee in pride,

Choose a hero worth thy beauty, be a monarch's queenly bride!

Speak thy lineage, heaven-descended ! who may be thy parents high,

Rudras or the radiant Maruts, Vasus leaders of the sky,

All unworthy is this forest for a nymph or heavenly maid,

Beasts of prey infest the jungle, Rakshas haunt its gloomy shade,

Lions dwell in lonely caverns, tuskers ford the silent lake,

Monkeys sport on pendant branches, tigers steal beneath the brake,

Wherefore then this dismal forest doth thy fairy face adorn,

Who art thou and whence descended, nymph or maid or goddess-born?"

RAVAN'S WOOING

LISTEN, Brahman!" answered Sita, unsuspecting in her mind

That she saw a base betrayer in a hermit seeming kind,

"I am born of royal Janak, ruler of Videha's land, Rama prince of proud Kosala by his valour won my hand.

Years we passed in peaceful pleasure in Ayodya's happy clime,

Rich in every rare enjoyment gladsome passed our happy time,

Till the monarch Dasa-ratha, for his days were almost done,

Wished to crown the royal Rama as his Heir and Regent son.

But the scheming Queen Kaikeyi claimed a long-forgotten boon,

That my consort should be exiled and her son should fill the throne,

She would take no rest or slumber, nourishment of drink or food,

Till her Bharat ruled the empire, Rama banished to the wood!

Lion in his warlike valour, hermit in his saintly vow,

Lakshman with his honoured elder wanders through the forest now.

Rest thee here, 0 holy Brahman, rich in piety and fame,

Till the forest-ranging brothers greet thee with the forest game,

Speak, if so it please thee, father, what great rishi claims thy birth,

Wherefore in this pathless jungle wand'rest friendless on this earth?"

THE WISDOM OF THE HINDUS

"Brahman nor a righteous rishi," royal Ravan made reply,

"Leader of the wrathful Rakshas, Lanka's lord and king am I,

He whose valour quells the wide-world, Gods above and men below,

He whose proud and peerless prowess Rakshas and Asuras know!

But thy beauty's golden lustre, Sita, wins my royaI heart,

Be a sharer of my empire, of my glory take a part,

Many queens of queenly beauty on the royal Ravan wait,

Thou shalt be their reigning empress, thou shalt own my regal state!

Lanka girt by boundless ocean is of royal towns the best,

Seated in her pride and glory on a mountain's towering crest,

And in mountain paths and woodlands thou shalt with thy Ravan stray,

Not in Godavari's gorges through the dark and dreary day,

And five thousand gay-dressed damsels shall upon my Sita wait,

Queen of Ravan's true affection, proud partaker of his state!"

Sparkled Sita's eyes in anger and a tremor shook her frame,

As in proud and scornful accents answered thus the royal dame:

"Know'st thou Rama great and godlike, peerless hero in the strife,

Deep, uncompassed, like the ocean? I am Rama's wedded wife!

Know'st thou Rama proud and princely, sinless in his saintly Iife,

Stately as the tall Nyagradha? I am Rama's wedded wife!

Mighty-armed, mighty-chested, mighty with his bow and sword,

Lion midst the sons of mortals, Rama is my wedded Iord!

Stainless as the Moon in glory, stainless in his deed and word,

Rich in valour and in virtue, Rama is my wedded lord !

Sure thy fitfuI Iife is shadowed by a dark and dreadful fate,

Since in frenzy of thy passion courtest thou a warrior's mate,

Tear the tooth of hungry lion while upon the calf he feeds,

Touch the fang of deadly cobra while his dying victim bleeds,

Aye uproot the solid mountain from its base of rocky land,

Ere thou win the wife of Rama, stout of heart and strong of hand!

Hurl thyself upon the ocean from a towering peak and high,

Snatch the orbs of day and midnight from their spheres in azure sky,

Tongues of flaming conflagration in thy flowing dress enfold,

Ere thou take the wife of Rama to thy distant dungeon hold,

Ere thou seek to insult Rama unrelenting in his wrath,

O'er a bed of pikes of iron tread a softer easier path!"

RAVAN'S TRIUMPH

VAIN her threat and soft entreaty, Ravan held her in his wrath,

As the planet Budha captures fair Rokini in his path,

By his left hand tremor-shaken, Ravan held her streaming hair,

By his right the ruthless Raksha lifted up the fainting fair !

Unseen dwellers of the woodlands watched the dismal deed of shame,

Marked the mighty-armed Raksha lift the poor and helpless dame,

Seat her on his car celestial yoked with asses winged with speed,

Golden in its shape and radiance, fleet as Indra's heavenly steed!

Angry threat and sweet entreaty Ravan to her ears addressed,

As the struggling fainting woman still he held upon his breast,

Vain his threat and vain entreaty, "Rama! Rama!" still she cried,

To the dark and distant forest where her noble lord had hied.

Then arose the car celestial o'er the hill and wooded vale,

Like a snake in eagle's talons Sita writhed with piteous wail,

Dim and dizzy, faint and faltering, still she sent her piercing cry,

Echoing through the boundless woodlands, pealing to the upper sky :

"Save me, mighty-armed Lakshman, stainless in thy heart and deed,

Save a faithful wife and woman from a Raksha's Iust and greed,

True and faithful was thy warning, false and foul the charge I made,

THE WISDOM OF THE HINDUS

Pardon, friend, an erring sister, pardon words a woman said!

Help me, ever righteous Rama, duty bade thee yield thy throne,

Duty bids thee smite the sinful, save the wife who is thy own,

Thou art king and stern chastiser of each deed of sin and shame,

Hurl thy vengeance on the Raksha who insults thy faithful dame!

Deed of sin, unrighteous Ravan, brings in time its dreadful meed,

As the young corn grows and ripens from the small and living seed,

For this deed of insult, Ravan, in thy heedless folly done,

Death of all thy race and kindred thou shalt reap from Raghu's son!

Ah, my Rama, mighty-armed! vengeance soon shall speed thy way,

When thou hearest, helpless Sita is by Ravan torn away !

And thou royal bird, Jatayu, witness Ravan's deed of shame,

Witness how he courts destruction, stealing Rama's faithful dame,

Rama and the gallant Lakshman soon shall find their destined prey,

When they know that trusting Sita is by Ravan torn away!"

Vainly wept the anguished Sita; vain Jatayu in his wrath,

Fought with beak and bloody talons to impede the Raksha's path,

Pierced and bleeding fell the vulture; Ravan fled with Rama's bride,

Where amidst the boundless ocean Lanka rose in towering pride!

THE QUEST FOR SITA

LONG FRIENDS IN MISFORTUNE Land loud Iamented Rama by his lone-some cottage door,

Janasthana's woodlands answered, Panchavati's echoing shore,

Long he searched in wood and jungle, mountain crest and pathless plain,

Till he reached the MaIya mountains stretching to the southern main.

There Sugriva king of Vanars, Hanuman his henchman brave,

Banished from their home and empire lived within the forest cave,

To the exiled king Sugriva, Hanuman his purpose told,

As he marked the pensive Rama wand'ring with his brother bold :

"Mark the sons of Dasa-ratha banished from their royal home,

Duteous to their father's mandate in these pathless forests roam,

By a monarch's stainless duty people's love the monarch won,

By a woman's false contrivance banished he his eldest son!

True to duty, true to virtue, Rama passed his forest life,

TiII a false perfidious Raksha stole his fair and faithful wife,

And the anguish-stricken husband seeks thy friendship and thy aid,

Mutual sorrow blends your fortunes, be ye friends in mutual need!"

Bold Sugriva heard the counsel, and to righteous Rama hied,

And the princes of Ayodhya with his greetings gratified :

"Well I know thee, righteous Rama, soul of piety and love,

And thy cluty to thy father and thy faith in Gods above,

Fortune favours poor Sugriva, Rama courts his humble aid,

In our cleepest direst danger be our truest friend-ships made!

Equal is our fateful fortune, I have lost a queenly wife,

Banishecl from Kishkindba's empire here I lead a forest life,

Pleclge of love and true alliance, Rama, take this profferecl band,

Banded by a common sorrow we shall fall or stoutly stand!

For my tyrant brother Bali rules Kishkindha all alone,

Forced my wife from my embraces, drove me from my father's throne,

Trembling in my fear and anguish I endure a life of woe,

Render me my wife and empire from my brother and my foe!"

"Not in vain they seek my succour," so the gallant Rama said,

"Who with Iove and offered friendship seek my counsel and my aid,

Not in vain these glistening arrows in my ample quiver shine,

Bali dies the death of tyrants, wife and empire shall be thine.

Quick as INDRA'S forked lightning are these arrows feather-plumed,

Deadly as the hissing serpent are these darts with points illumed,

And this day shall not be ended ere it sees thy brother fall,

As by lurid lightning severed sinks the crest of mountain tall!

Ah, my lost and Ioving Sita! writhing in a Raksha's power,

As the lightning shakes and quivers in this dark tempestuous shower;

Shadows thicken on the prospect, flower and leaf are wet with rain,

And each passing object, Lakshman, wakes in me a thought of pain !

Joyously from throne and empire with my Sita I could part,

As the stream erodes its margin, Sita's absence breaks my heart!

Rain and tempest cloud the prospect as they cloud my onward path,

Dubious is my darksome future, mighty is my foeman's wrath!

Ravan monarch of the Rakshas, so Jatayu said and died,

In some unknown forest fastness doth my sorrowing Sita hide,

But Sugriva true and faithful seeks the Raksha's secret hold,

Firm in faith and fixed in purpose we will face our foeman bold!"

Past the rains, the marshalled Vanars gathered round Sugriva bold,

And unto a gallant chieftain thus the king his purpose told:

"Brave in war and wise in counsel! take ten thousand of my best,

Seek the hiding-place of Ravan in the regions of the East.

Seek each ravine rock and forest and each shadowy hill and cave,

Far where bright Sarayu's waters mix with Ganga's ruddy wave,

And where Jumna's dark blue waters ceaseless roll in regal pride,

And the Sone through leagues of country spreads its torrent far and wide!"

SITA IN THE Asoka GARDENS

CROSSED the ocean's boundless waters, Hanuman in duty brave,

Lighted on the emerald island girdled by the sapphire wave,

And in tireless quest of Sita searched the margin of the sea,

In a dark Asoka garden hid himself within a tree.

By the rich and royal mansion Hanuman his eyes did rest

On a woman sad and sorrowing in her sylvan garments drest,

Like the moon obscured and clouded, dim with shadows deep and dark,

Like the smoke-enshrouded red fire, dying with a feeble spark,

Like the tempest-pelted lotus by the wind and torrent shaken,

Like the beauteous star Rohini by a graha over-taken!

Fasts and vigils paled her beauty, tears bedimmed her tender grace,

Anguish dwelt within her bosom, sorrow darkened on her face,

And she lived by Rakshas guarded, as a faint and timid deer,

Severed from her herd and kindred when the prowling wolves are near,

And her raven locks ungathered hung behind in single braid,

And her gentle eye was lightless, and her brow was hid in shade!

"This is she! the peerless princess, Rama's con-sort Ioved and lost,

This is she! the saintly Sita, by a cruel fortune crost,"

Hanuman thus thought and pondered: "On her graceful form I spy,

Gems and gold by sorrowing Rama oft depicted with a sigh,

On her ears the golden pendants and the tiger's sharpened tooth,

On her arms the Jewelled bracelets, tokens of unchanging truth,

On her pallid brow and bosom still the radiant Jewels shine,

Rama with a sweet affection did in early days entwine!

Hermit's garments clothe her person, braided is her raven hair,

Matted bark of trees of forest drape her neck and bosom fair,

And a dower of dazzling beauty still bedecks her peerless face,

Though the shadowing tinge of sorrow darkens all her earlier grace!

This is she ! the soft-eyed Sita, wept with unavaiIing tear,

This is she! the faithful consort, unto Rama ever dear,

Unforgetting and unchanging, truthful still in deed and word,

Sita in her silent suffering sorrows for her absent lord,

Still for Rama, Iost but cherished, Sita heaves the choking sigh,

Sita lives for righteous Rama, for her Rama she would die!"

RAMA'S TOKEN

TIS no dream's deceitful whisper!" Hanuman spake to the dame,

As from darksome leafy shelter he to Rama's consort came,

"Rama's messenger and vassal, token from thy lord I bring,

Mark this bright ring, Jewel-lettered with the dear name of thy king,

For the loved and cherished Sita is to Rama ever dear,

And he sends his loving message and his force is drawing near!"

Sita held that tender token from her loved and cherished lord,

And once more herself she fancied to his loving arms restored,

And her pallid face was lighted and her soft eye sent a spark,

As the Moon regains her lustre freed from Rahu's shadows dark!

And with voice of deep-emotion in each softly whispered word,

Spake her thoughts in gentle accents of her consort and her lord:

"Messenger of love of Rama! Dauntless is thy deed and bold,

Thou hast crossed the boundless ocean to the Raksha's castled hold,

Thou hast crossed the angry billows which confess no monarch's sway,

O'er the face of rolling waters found thy unresisted way,

Thou bast done what living mortal never sought to do before,

Dared the Raksha in his island, Ravan in his sea-girt shore!

Speak, if Rama lives in safety in the woods or by the hill,

And if young and gallant Lakshman faithful serves his brother still,

Speak, if Rama in his anger and his unforgiving ire,

Hurls destruction on my captor like the world-consuming fire?

Doth my husband seek alliance with each wild and warlike chief,

Striving for a speedy vengeance and for Sita's quick relief,

Doth he stir the warlike races to a fierce and vengeful strife,

Dealing death to ruthless Rakshas for this insult on his wife,

Doth he still in fond remembrance cherish Sita loved of yore,

Nursing in his hero-bosom tender sorrows evermore?"

"I will swear, my gentle Lady, Rama's vengeance draweth nigh,

Thou shalt see his beaming visage like the Lord of Midnight Sky,

Firm in purpose Rama waiteth on the Prasravana hill,

As upon the huge Airavat, INDRA; motionless and still!

Flesh of cleer nor forest honey tasteth Rama true ancl bold,

Till he rescues cherished Sita from the Raksha's castlecl hold,

Thoughts of Sita leave not Rama clreary clay or clark-some night,

Till his vengeance deep and dreadful crushes Ravan in his might,

Forest flower nor scentecl creeper pleases Rama's anguished heart,

Till he wins his wedded consort by his death-compelling dart!"

TOKEN SITA'S TOKEN TOKEN from her raven tresses Sita to the Vanar gave,

Hanuman with dauntless valour crossed once more the ocean wave,

Where in Prasra-vana's mountain Rama with his brother stayed,

Jewel from the brow of Sita by her sorrowing consort laid,

Spake of Ravan's foul endearment and his lIoathsome loving word,

Spake of Sita's scorn and anger and her truth unto her lord,

Tears of sorrow and affection from the warrior's eyelids start,

As his consort's loving token Rama presses to his heart!

"Hanuman, my friend and comrade, lead me to the distant isle,

Where my soft-eyed Sita Iingers midst the Rakshas dark and vile,

Where my true and tender consort like a lone and stricken deer,

Girt by, Rakshas stern and ruthless sheds the unavailing tear,

Where she weeps in ceaseless anguish, sorrow stricken, sad and pale,

Like the Moon by dark clouds shrouded then her light and lustre fail!

Speak again, my faithful henchman, Loving message of my wife,

Like some potent drug her accents renovate my fainting life,

Arm thy forces, friend Sugriva, Rama shall not brook delay,

While in distant Lanka's confines Sita weeps the livelong day,

Marshal forth thy bannered forces, cross the ocean in thy might,

Rama speeds on wings of vengeance Lanka's impious lord to smite!"

Bibhishan, Ravan's youngest brother, requested his brother not to fight Rama.

Anger swelled in Ravan's bosom as he cast his blood-red eye

On Bibhishan calm and fearless, and he spake in accents high:

"Rather dwell with open foemen or in homes where cobras haunt,

Than with faithless friends who falter and whom fears of clanger daunt!

0, the love of near relations! false and faithless, full of guile,

How they sorrow at my glory, at my clanger how they smile,

How they grieve with secret anguish when my loftier virtues shine,

How they harbour jealous envy when deserts and fame are mine,

How they scan with curious vision every fault that clouds my path,

How they wait with eager longing till I fall in Fortune's wrath!

Rain-clrops fall upon the lotus but unmingling hang apart,

False relations round us gather but they blend not heart with heart,

Winter clouds are big with thunder but they shed no freshening rain,

False relations smile and greet us but their soothing words are vain,

Bees are tempted by the honey but from flower to flower they range,

False relations share our favour but in secret seek a change!

Lying is thy speech, Bibhishan, secret envy lurks within,

Thou wouldst rule thy elder's empire, thou wouldst wed thy elder's queen,

Take thy treason to the foemen, brother's blood I may not shed,

Other Raksha craven-hearted by my royal hands had bled!"

Lanka was sieged by Rama's army. Both parties fought bravely. Both Rama and Lertshan were severely wounded and were about to die. Ravan took his beloved son Indajit and his dear brother Kembhutarna in the war. Ravan himself entered the battle field three times. The third battle of Ravan's was fierce indeed.

RAVAN'S LAST BATTLE AND FALL

GODS and mortals watched the contest and the heroes of the war,

Ravan speeding on his chariot, Rama on the heavenly car,

And a fiercer form the warriors in their fiery frenzy wore,

And a deeper weight of hatred on their anguished bosoms bore,

CIouds of dread and deathful arrows hid the radiant face of sky,

Darker grew the day of combat, fiercer grew the contest high!

Pierced by Ravan's pointed weapons bleeding Rama. owned no pain,

Rama's arrows keen and piercing sought his foe man's life in vain,

Long the dubious battle lasted, and with wilder fury fraught,

Wounded, faint, and still unyielding, blind with wrath the rivals fought,

Pike and club and mace and trident 'scaped from Ravan's vengeful hand,

Spear and arrows Rama wielded, and his bright and flaming brand!

Long the dubious battle lasted, shook the ocean, hill and dale,

Winds were hushed in voiceless terror and the livid sun was pale,

Still the dubious battle lasted, until Rama in his ire,

Wielded BRAHMA'S deathfuI weapon flaming with celestial fire!

Weapon which the Saint Agastya had unto the hero given,

Winged as lightning dart of INDRA, fatal as the bolt of heaven,

Wrapped in smoke and flaming flashes, speeding from the circled bow,

Pierced the iron heart of Ravan, laid the lifeless hero low,

And a cry of pain and terror from the Raksha ranks arose,

And a shout from toying Vanars as they smote their fleeing foesl

Heavenly flowers in rain descended on the red and gory plain,

And from unseen harps and timbrels rose a soft celestial strain,

And the ocean heaved in gladness, brighter shone the sunlit sky,

Soft and cool the gentle zephyrs through the forest murmured by,

Sweetest scent and fragrant odours wafted from celestial trees,

Fell upon the earth and ocean, rode upon the laden breeze!

Voice of blessing from the bright sky fell on Raghu's valiant son,

"Champion of the true and righteous! now thy noble task is done!"

ORDEAL BY FIRE

FOR she dwelt in Ravan's dwelling, rumour clouds a woman's fame

Righteous Rama's brow was clouded, saintly Sita spake in shame:

"Wherefore spake ye not, my Rama, if your bosom doubts my faith,

Dearer than a dark suspicion to a woman were her death!

Wherefore, Rama, with your token came your vassal o'er the wave,

To assist a fallen woman and a tainted wife to save,

Wherefore with your mighty forces crossed the ocean in your pride,

Risked your life in endless combats for a sin-polluted bride?

}last thou, Rama, all forgotten? Saintly Janak saw my birth,

Child of harvest-bearing furrow, Sita sprang from Mother Earth,

As a maiden true and stainless unto thee I gave my hand,

As a consort fond and faithful roved with thee from land to land !

But a woman pleadeth vainly when suspicion clouds her name,

Lakshman, if thou Iov'st thy sister, light for me the funeral flame,

When the shadow of dishonour darkens o'er a woman's life,

Death alone is friend and refuge of a true and trustful wife,

When a righteous lord and husband turns his cold averted eyes,

Funeral flame dispels suspicion, honour lives when woman dies!"

Dark was Rama's gloomy visage and his lips were firmly sealed,

And his eye betrayed no weakness, word disclosed no thought concealed,

Silent heaved his heart in anguish, silent drooped his tortured head,

Lakshman with a throbbing bosom funeral pyre for Sita made,

And Videha's sinless daughter prayed unto the Gods above,

On her lord and wedded consort cast her dying looks of love !

"If in act ancl thought," she uttered, "I am true unto my name,

Witness of our sins and virtues, may this Fire protect my fame!

If a false and lying scandal brings a faithful woman shame,

Witness of our sins and virtues, may this Fire protect my fame!

If in life-long loving duty I am free from sin and blame,

Witness of our sins and virtues, may this Fire protect my fame!

Fearless in her faith and valour Sita stepped upon the pyre,

And her form of beauty vanished circled by the clasping fire,

And an anguish shook the people like the ocean tempest-tost,

Old and young and maid and matron wept for Sita true and lost,

For bedecked in golden splendour and in gems and rich attire,

Sita vanished in the red fire of the newly lighted pyre !

Rishis and the great Gandharvas, Gods who know each secret deed,

Witnessed Sita's high devotion and a woman's lofty creed,

And the earth by ocean girdled with its wealth of teeming life,

Witnessed deed of dauntless duty of a true and stainless wife!

VIRTUE TRIUMPHANT

SLOW the red flames roIIed asunder, God of Fire incarnate came,

Holding in his radiant bosom fair Videha's sinIess dame,

Not a curl upon her tresses, not a blossom on her brow,

Not a fibre of her mantle did with tarnished lustre glow !

Witness of our sins and virtues, God of Fire incarnate spake,

Bade the sorrow-stricken Rama back his sinless wife to take:

"Ravan in his impious folly forced from thee thy faithful dame,

Guarded by her changeless virtue, Sita still remains the same,

Tempted oft by female Rakshas in the dark and dismal wood,

In her woe and in her sadness true to thee bath Sita stood,

Courted oft by royal Ravan in the forest far and lone,

True to wedded troth and virtue Sita thought of thee alone,

Pure is she in thought and action, pure and stainIess, true and meek,

I, the witness of all actions, thus my sacred mandate speak!"

Rama's forehead was unclouded and a radiance lit his eye,

And his bosom heaved in gladness as he spake in accents high:

"Never from the time I saw her in her maiden days of youth,

Have I doubted Sita's virtue, Sita's fixed and changeless truth,

I have known her ever sinless, let the world her virtue know,

For the God of Fire is witness to her truth and changeless vow !

Ravan in his pride and passion conquered not a woman's love,

For the virtuous Iike the bright fire in their native radiance move,

Ravan in his rage and folly conquered not a faithfuI wife,

For like ray of sun unsullied is a righteous woman's life,

Be the wide world now a witness, pure and stainless is my dame,

Rama shall not Ieave his consort till he Ieaves his righteous fame!"

In his tears the contrite Rama clasped her in a soft embrace,

And the fond forgiving Sita in his bosom hid her face!

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