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With fertile length of fair champaign,
And flocks and herds and wealth of grain.
There, famous in her old renown,
Ayodhya stands, the royal town
In bygone ages built and planned
By sainted Hanu's princely hand.
Imperial seat! her walls extend
Twelve measured leagues from end to end,
And three in width from side to side,
With square and palace beautified.
Her gates at even distance stand;
Her ample roads are wisely planned.
Right glorious is her royal street.
Where streams allay the dust and heat.
On level ground in even row
Her houses rise in goodly show:
Terrace and palace, arch and gate,
The queenly city decorate.
High are her ramparts, strong and vast,
By ways at even distance passed,
With circling moat, both deep and wide,
And store of weapons fortified."—Book I, Canto ».
King Dasaratha and his people are next described:
"And worthy of so fair a place
There dwelt a just and happy race
With troops of children blest.
Each man contented sought no more,
Nor longed with envy for the store
By richer friends possessed.
For poverty was there unknown,
And each man counted as his own
Kine, steeds, and gold and grain.
All dressed in raiment bright and clean,
And every townsman might be seen
With ear-rings, wreath, or chain.
"Thus, worthy of the name she bore^
Ayodhya for a league or more
Cast a bright glory round,
Where Dasaratha, wise and great,
Governed his fair ancestral State,
With every virtue crowned.
Like Indra in the skies, he reigned
In that good town whose wall contained
High domes and turrets proud,
With gates and arcs of triumph decked,
And sturdy barriers to protect
Her gay and countless crowd."—Book I, Canto vi.
• Ayodhya means Not to be fought agaimt.
There are many fine passages in the poem, but want of space forbids extensive quotations. We may, however, make a few:
THE BREAKING OF THE BOW.
"Then spoke again the great recluse:
'This mighty bow, 0 king, produce.'
King Janak, at the saint's request,
This order to his train addressed:
'Let the great bow be hither borne,
Which flowery wreaths and scents adorn.'
Soon as the monarch's words were said,
His servants to the city sped:
Five thousand youths in number, all
Of manly strength and stature tall,
The ponderous eight-wheeled chest that held
The heavenly bow with toil propelled.
At length they brought that iron chest,
And thus the god-like king addressed:
■ This best of bows, 0 lord, we bring,
Respected by each chief and king,
And place it for these youths to see,
If, sovereign, such thy pleasure be.'
With suppliant palm to palm applied,
King Janak to the strangers cried:
'This gem of bows, 0 Brahman sage,
Our race has prized from age to age,
Too strong for those who yet have reigned,
Though great in might each nerve they strained.
Titan and fiend its strength defies,
God, spirit, minstrel of the skies.
And bard above and snake below
Are baffied by this glorious bow.
Then how may human prowess hope
With such a bow as this to cope?
What man with valor's choicest gift
This bow can draw, or string, or lift?
Yet let the princes, holy seer,
Behold it: it is present here.'"
"Then spake the hermit pious-soulcd:
'Rama, dear son, the bow behold.'
Then Rama at his word unclosed
The chest wherein its might reposed,
Thus crying as he viewed it: 'Lo!
I lay mine hand upon the bow:
May happy luck my hope attend
Its heavenly strength to lift or bend.'
'Good luck be thine!' the hermit cried;
■ Assay the task,' the king replied.
Then Raghu's son, as if in sport,
Before the thousands of the court,
The weapon by the middle raised,
That all the crowd in wonder gazed.
With steady arm the string he drew
Till bunt the mighty bow in two.
As snapped the bow, an awful clang,
Loud as the shriek of tempests, rang.
The earth, affrighted, shook amain
As when a hill Is rent in twain.
Then, senseless at the fearful sound,
The people fell upon the ground;
None save the king, the princely pair,
And the great saint the shock could bear.
"When woke to sense the stricken train,
And Janak's soul was calm again,
With suppliant hands and reverent head,
These words, most eloquent, he said:
•0 saint, Prince Rama stands alone;
His peerless might he well has shown.
A marvel has the hero wrought
Beyond belief, surpassing thought.
My child, to royal Rama wed,
New glory on our line will shed;
And true my promise will remain
That hero's worth the bride should gain.
Dearer to me than light and life,
My Sita shall be Rama's wife.' "—Book T, Canto Ixvii.
The triumph of the jealous Queen Kaikeyi over Dasaratha is thus described:
"When thus the archer king was bound
With treacherous arts and oaths enwound,
She to her bounteous lord, subdued
By blinding love, her speech renewed:
'Remember, king, that long past day
Of gods and demons' battle fray,
And how thy foe in doubtful strife
Had nigh bereft thee of thy life.
Remember it was only I
Preserved thee when about to die,
And thou for watchful love and care
Wouldst grant my first and second prayer.
Those offered boons, pledged with thee then,
I now demand, O king of men,
Of thee, 0 monarch, good and just, .
Whose righteous soul observes each trust.
It thou refuse thy promise sworn,
I die despised, before the morn.
These rites in Rama's name begun—
Transfer them, and enthrone my son.
The time is come to claim at last
That double boon of days long-past,
When gods and demons met in fight,
And thou wouldst fain my care requite.
Now forth to Dandak's forest drive
Thy Rama for nine years and fire,
And let him dwell a hermit there
With deer-skin coat and matted hair.
Without a rival let my boy
The empire of the land enjoy,
And let mine eyes ere morning see
Thy Rama to the forest flee.' "—Book IT, Canto xi.
The poet draws a pleasing picture of the three exiles going through the forest farther and farther from their Ayodhya home, and seeking in their mutual love a higher pleasure than the courtly attractions from which they were banished could
3^e^: "The tender dame
Asked Rama, as they walked, the name
Of every shrub that blossoms bore,
Creeper and tree unseen before;
And Lakshman fetched at Sita's prayer
Boughs of each tree with clusters fair."
As they approached Chitrakuta Rama thus addressed his lotus-eyed Sita:
"Look round thee, dear; each flowery tree
Touched with the fire of morning see:
The Kinsuk now the frosts are fled,—
How glorious with his wreaths of red 1
The Bel trees see, so loved of men,
Hanging their boughs in every glen,
O'erburdoned with their fruits and flowers;
A plenteous store of food is ours.
See, Lakshman, in the leafy trees,
Where'er they make their home,
Down hangs the work of laboring bees,
The ponderous honeycomb.
In the fair wood before us spread
The startled wild-cock cries:
Hark, where the flowers are soft to tread.
The peacock's voice replies.
Where elephants are roaming free,
And sweet birds' songs are loud,
The glorious Chitrakuta see;
His peaks are in the cloud.
On fair smooth ground he stands displayed,
Begirt by many a tree:
0, brother, in that holy shade
How happy shall we be 1" •—Book II, Canto Ivi.
Rama's sorrow on returning home after Sita had been stolen
away, is thus described:
"Longing to gaze on Sita's face,
He hastened to his dwelling-place,
Then, sinking 'neath his misery's weight,
He looked, and found it desolate.
Tossing his mighty arms on high,
He sought her with an eager cry.
From spot to spot he wildly ran,
Each corner of his home to scan.
He looked, but Sita was not there;
His cot was desolate and bare,
Like streamlet in the winter frost,
The glory of her lilies lost.
With leafy tears the sad trees wept
As a wild wind their branches swept .
Mourned bird and deer, and every flower
Drooped fainting round the lonely bower.
The sylvan deities had fled
The spot where all the light was dead,
Where hermits coat of skin displayed,
And piles of sacred grass were laid.
He saw, and, maddened by his pain,
Cried in lament again, again:
'Where is she, dead, or torn away,
Lost, or some hungry giant's prey?
Or did my darling chance to rove
For fruit and blossoms through the grove T
Or has she sought the pool or rill,
Her pitcher from the wave to fill?'
His eager eyes, on fire with pain,
He roamed about with maddened brain.
Each grove and glade he searched with care;
He sought, but found no Sita there."—Book III, Canto Ixi.
He rushed wildly through the forest, asking the various trees for tidings of the missing Sita. The kadamba, bel, arjun, basil,
• "We have often looked on that green hill," says a writer in the "Calcutta Review," (voL xxiii;) "it is the holiest spot of that sect of the Hindu faith who devote themselves to this incarnation of Vishnu. The whole neighborhood is Rama's country. Every head-land has some legend, every cavern is connected with his name; some of the wild fruits are still called titaphal, being the reputed food of the exiles. Thousands and thousands annually visit the spot, and round the hill is a raised footpath, ou which the devotee, with naked feet, treads full of pious awe."