King Rávan, by his pleading moved,
The counsel of the chief approved:
'Thy words are wise and true; to kill
An envoy would beseem us ill
Yet must we for his crime invent
Some fitting mode of punishment.
The tail, I fancy, is the part
Most cherished by a monkey's heart. 1
Make ready: set his tail aflame,
And let him leave us as he came,
And thus disfigured and disgraced
Back to his king and people haste.'
The giants heard their monarch's speech;
And, filled with burning fury, each
Brought strips of cotton cloth, and round
The monkey's tail the bandage wound.
As round big tail the bands they drew
His mighty form dilating grew
Vast as the flame that bursts on high
Where trees are old and grass is dry.
Each hand and strip they soaked in oil,
And set on fire the twisted coil.
Delighted as they viewed the blaze,
The cruel demons stood at gaze:
And mid loud drums and shells rang out
The triumph of their joyful shout.
They pressed about him thick and fast
As through the crowded streets he passed,
Observing with attentive care
Each rich and wondrous structure there,
Still heedless of the eager cry
That rent the air, The spy! the spy!
Some to the captive lady ran.
And thus in joyous words began:
'That copper-visaged monkey, he
Who in the garden talked with thee,
Through Lanká's town is led a show,
And round his tail the red flames glow.'
The mournful news the lady heard
That with fresh grief her bosom stirred.
Swift to the kindled fire she went
And prayed before it reverent:
'If I my husband have obeyed,
And kept the ascetic vows I made,
Free, ever free, from stain and blot,
O spare the Vánar; harm him not.'
Then leapt on high the flickering flame
And shone in answer to the dame.
The pitying fire its rage forbore:
The Vánar felt the heat no more.
Then, to minutest size reduced, 1b
The bonds that bound his limbs he loosed,
And, freed from every band and chain,
Rose to his native size again.
He seized a club of ponderous weight
That lay before him by the gate,
Rushed at the fiends that hemmed him round,
And laid them lifeless on the ground,
Through Lanká's town again he strode,
And viewed each street and square and road,--
Still wreathed about with harmless blaze,
A sun engarlanded with rays.
423:1 I have not attempted to tone down anything in this Canto. I give a faithful translation.
423:1b "Behold a wonder! they but now who seemed In bigness to surpass earth's giant sons, Now less than smallest dwarfs in narrow room Throng numberless."
Paradise Lost, I, 716.