Their task achieved, the princes spent
That night with joy and full content.
Ere yet the dawn was well displayed
Their morning rites they duly paid,
And sought, while yet the light was faint,
The hermits and the mighty saint.
They greeted first that holy sire
Resplendent like the burning fire,
And then with noble words began
Their sweet speech to the sainted man:
'Here stand, O Lord, thy servants true:
Command what thou wouldst have us do.'
The saints, by Vis'vámitra led,
To Ráma thus in answer said:
'Janak the king who rules the land
Of fertile Mithilá has planned
A noble sacrifice, and we
Will thither go the rite to see.
Thou, Prince of men, with us shalt go,
And there behold the wondrous bow,
Terrific, vast, of matchless might,
Which, splendid at the famous rite,
The Gods assembled gave the king.
No giant, fiend, or God can string
That gem of bows, no heavenly bard:
Then, sure, for man the task were hard.
When lords of earth have longed to know
The virtue of that wondrous bow,
The strongest sons of kings in vain
Have tried the mighty cord to strain.
This famous bow thou there shalt view,
And wondrous rites shalt witness too.
The high-souled king who lords it o'er
The realm of Mithilá of yore
Gained from the Gods this bow, the price
Of his imperial sacrifice.
Won by the rite the glorious prize
Still in the royal palace lies,
Laid up in oil of precious scent
With aloe-wood and incense blent.'
Then Ráma answering, Be it so,
Made ready with the rest to go.
The saint himself was now prepared,
But ere beyond the grove he fared,
He turned him and in words like these
Addressed the sylvan deities:
'Farewell! each holy rite complete,
I leave the hermits' perfect seat:
To Gangá's northern shore I go
Beneath Himálaya's peaks of snow.'
With reverent steps he paced around
The limits of the holy ground,
And then the mighty saint set forth
And took his journey to the north.
His pupils, deep in Scripture's page,
Followed behind the holy sage,
And servants from the sacred grove
A hundred wains for convoy drove.
The very birds that winged that air,
The very deer that harboured there,
Forsook the glade and leafy brake
And followed for the hermit's sake.
They travelled far, till in the west
The sun was speeding to his rest,
And made, their portioned journey o'er,
Their halt on S'ona's 1 distant shore.
The hermits bathed when sank the sun,
And every rite was duly done,
Oblations paid to Fire, and then
Sate round their chief the holy men.
Ráma and Lakshman lowly bowed
In reverence to the hermit crowd,
And Ráma, having sate him down
Before the saint of pure renown,
With humble palms together laid
His eager supplication made:
'What country, O my lord, is this,
Fair-smiling in her wealth and bliss?
Deign fully. O thou mighty Seer,
To tell me, for I long to hear.'
Moved by the prayer of Ráma, he
Told forth the country's history.
45:1 A river which rises in Budelcund and falls into the Ganges near Patna. It is called also Hiranyabáhu, Golden-armed, and Hiranyaváha, Auriferous.