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The saint, well read in holy lore,
Pondered awhile his answer o'er.
And thus again addressed the king,
His wandering thoughts regathering:
'Another rite will I begin
Which shall the sons thou cravest win,
Where all things shall be duly sped
And first Atharva texts be read.'

Then by Vibhándak's gentle son
Was that high sacrifice begun,
The king's advantage seeking still
And zealous to perform his will.
Now all the Gods had gathered there,
Each one for his allotted share:
Brahmá, the ruler of the sky,
Sthanu, Náráyan, Lord most high
And holy Indra men might view
With Maruts  1 for his retinue;
The heavenly chorister, and saint,
And spirit pure from earthly taint,
With one accord had sought the place
The high-souled monarch's rite to grace.
Then to the Gods who came to take
Their proper share the hermit spake:
'For you has Das'aratha slain
The votive steed, a son to gain;
Stern penance-rites the king has tried,
And in firm faith on you relied,

And now with undiminished care
A second rite would fain prepare.
But, O ye Gods, consent to grant
The longing of your supplicant.
For him beseeching hands I lift,
And pray you all to grant the gift,
That four fair sons of high renown
The offerings of the king may crown.'
They to the hermit's son replied:
'His longing shall be gratified.
For, Bráhman, in most high degree
We love the king and honour thee.'

These words the Gods in answer said,
And vanished thence by Indra led.
Thus to the Lord, the worlds who made,
The Immortals all assembled prayed:
'O Brahmá, mighty by thy grace,
Rávan, who rules the giant race,
Torments us in his senseless pride,
And penance-loving saints beside.
For thou well pleased in days of old
Gavest the boon that makes him bold,
That God nor demon e'er should kill
His charmed life, for so thy will.
We, honouring that high behest,
Bear all his rage though sore distressed.
That lord of giants fierce and fell
Scourges the earth and heaven and hell.
Mad with thy boon, his impious rage
Smites saint and bard and God and sage.
The sun himself withholds his glow.
The wind in fear forbears to blow;
The fire restrains his wonted heat
Where stand the dreaded Rávan's feet,
And, necklaced with the wandering ware,
The sea before him fears to rave.
Kuvera's self in sad defeat
Is driven from his blissful seat.
We see, we feel the giant's might.
And woe comes o'er us and affright.
Tc thee, O Lord, thy suppliants pray
To find some cure this plague to stay.'

Thus by the gathered Gods addressed
He pondered in his secret breast,
And said: 'One only way I find
To slay this fiend of evil mind.
He prayed me once his life to guard
From demon, God, and heavenly bard,
And spirits of the earth and air,
And I consenting heard his prayer.
But the proud giant in Inn scorn
Recked not of man of woman born.
None else may take his life away,
But only man the fiend may slay.'
The Gods, with Indra at their head,
Rejoiced to hear the words he said.
Then crowned with glory like a flame,
Lord Vishnu to the council came;
His hands shell, mace, and discus bore,
Aud saffron were the robes he wore.

p. 26

Riding his eagle through the crowd,
As the sun rides upon a cloud,
With bracelets of fine gold, he came
Loud welcomed by the Gods' acclaim.
His praise they sang with one consent,
And cried, in lowly reverence bent:
'O Lord whose hand fierce Madhu 1 slew,
Be thou our refuge, firm and true;
Friend of the suffering worlds art thou,
We pray thee help thy suppliants now.'
Then Vishnu spake: 'Ye Gods, declare,
What may I do to grant your prayer?'

'King Das'aratha,' thus cried they,
'Fervent in penance many a day,
The sacrificial steed has slain,
Longing for sons, but all in vain.
Now, at the cry of us forlorn,
Incarnate as his seed be born.
Three queens has he: each lovely dame
Like Beauty, Modesty, or Fame.
Divide thyself in four, and be
His offspring by these noble three.
Man's nature take, and slay in fight
Rávan who laughs at heavenly might:
This common scourge, this rankling thorn
Whom the three worlds too long have borne.
For Rávan in the senseless pride
Of might unequalled has defied
The host of heaven, and plagues with woe
Angel and bard and saint below,
Crushing each spirit and each maid
Who plays in Nandan's 2 heavenly shade.
O conquering Lord, to thee we bow;
Our surest hope and trust art thou.
Regard the world of men below,
And slay the Gods' tremendous foe.'

When thus the suppliant Gods had prayed,
His wise reply Nárayan 3 made:
'What task demands my presence there,
And whence this dread, ye Gods declare.'

The Gods replied: 'We fear, O Lord,
Fierce Rávan, ravener abhorred.
Be thine the glorious task, we pray,
In human form this fiend to slay.
By thee of all the Blest alone
This sinner may be overthrown.
He gained by penance long and dire
The favour of the mighty Sire.
Then He who every gift bestows

Guarded the fiend from heavenly foes,
And gave a pledge his life that kept
From all things living, man except.
On him thus armed no other foe
Than man may deal the deadly blow.
Assume, O King, a mortal birth,
And strike the demon to the earth.'

Then Vishnu, God of Gods, the Lord
Supreme by all the worlds adored,
To Brahmá and the suppliants spake:
'Dismiss your fear: for your dear sake
In battle will I smite him dead,
The cruel fiend, the Immortal's dread,
And lords and ministers and all
His kith and kin with him shall fall.
Then, in the world of mortal men,
Ten thousand years and hundreds ten
I as a human king will reign,
And guard the earth as my domain.'

God, saint, aud nymph, and ministrel throng
With heavenly voices raised their song
In hymns of triumph to the God
Whose conquering feet on Madhu trod:
   'Champion of Gods, as man appear,
     This cruel Rávan slay,
   The thorn that saints and hermits fear,
     The plague that none can stay.
   In savage fury uncontrolled
     His pride for ever grows:
   He dares the Lord of Gods to hold
     Among his deadly foes.'


25:1 The Maruts are the winds, deified in we religion of the Veda like other mighty Powers and phenomena of nature.

26:1 A Titan or fiend whose destruction has given Vishnu one of his well-known titles, Mádhava.

26:2 The garden of Indra.

26:3 One of the most ancient and popular of the numerous names of Vishnu. The word has been derived in several ways, and may mean he who moved on the (primordial) waters, or he who pervades or influences men or their thoughts.

Next: Canto XV.: The Nectar.