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Then when the people wroth and sad
Saw Sítá in bark vesture clad,
Though wedded, like some widowed thing,
They cried out, 'Shame upon thee, King!'
Grieved by their cry and angry look
The lord of earth at once forsook
All hope in life that still remained,
In duty, self, and fame unstained.
Ikshváku's son with burning sighs
On Queen Kaikeyí bent his eyes,
And said: 'But Sítá must not flee
In garments of a devotee.
My holy guide has spoken truth:
Unfit is she in tender youth,

p. 140

So gently nurtured, soft and fair,
The hardships of the wood to share.
   How has she sinned, devout and true,
     The noblest monarch's child,
   That she should garb of bark indue
     And journey to the wild?
   That she should spend her youthful days
     Amid a hermit band,
   Like some poor mendicant who strays
     Sore troubled, through the land?
   Ah, let the child of Janak throw
     Her dress of bark aside,
   And let the royal lady go
     With royal wealth supplied.
   Not such the pledge I gave before,
     Unfit to linger here:
   The oath, which I the sinner swore
     Is kept, and leaves her clear.
   Won from her childlike love this too
     My instant death would be,
   As blossoms on the old bamboo
     Destroy the parent tree.  1
If aught amiss by Ráma done
Offend thee, O thou wicked one,
What least transgiession canst thou find
In her, thou worst of womankind?
What shade of fault in her appears,
Whose full soft eye is like the deer's?
What canst thou blame in Janak's child,
So gentle, modest, true, and mild?
Is not one crime complete, that sent
My Ráma forth to banishment!
And wilt thou other sins commit.
Thou wicked one, to double it?
This is the pledge and oath I swore,
What thou besoughtest, and no more,
Of Ráma--for I heard thee, dame--
When he for consecration came.
Now with this limit not content,
In hell should be thy punishment,
Who fain the Maithil bride wouldst press
To clothe her limbs with hermit dress.'

Thus spake the father in his woe;
And Ráma, still prepared to go,
To him who sat with drooping head
Spake in return these words and said:

'Just King, here stands my mother dear,
Kaus'alyá, one whom all revere.
Submissive, gentle, old is she,
And keeps her lips from blame of thee,
For her, kind lord, of me bereft
A sea of whelming woe is left.
O, show her in her new distress
Still fonder love and tenderness.
Well honoured by thine honoured hand
Her grief for me let her withstand,
Who wrapt in constant thought of me
In me would live a devotee.

   Peer of Mahendra, O, to her be kind,
     And treat I pray, my gentle mother so,
   That, when I dwell afar, her life resigned,
     She may not, pass, to Yama's realm for woe.'


140:1 It is said that the bamboo dies after flowering.

Next: Canto XXXIX.: Counsel To Sítá.