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While Khara urged by valiant rage,
Drew near that little hermitage,
Those wondrous signs in earth and sky
Smote on each prince's watching rye.
When Rama saw those signs of woe
Fraught with destruction to the foe,
With bold impatience scarce repressed
His brother chief he thus addressed:
   'These fearful signs, my brother bold,
Which threaten all our foes, behold:
All laden, as they strike the view,
With ruin to the fiendish crew.
The angry clouds are gathering fast,
Their skirts with dusty gloom o'ercast,
And harsh with loud-voiced thunder, rain
Thick drops of blood upon the plain.
See, burning for the coming light,
My shafts with wreaths of smoke are white,
And my great bow embossed with gold
Throbs eager for the master's hold.
Each bird that through the forest flies
Sends out its melancholy cries.
All signs foretell the dangerous strife,
The jeopardy of limb and life.
Each sight, each sound gives warning clear
That foemen meet and death is near.
But courage, valiant brother! well
The throbbings of mine arm foretell
That ruin waits the hostile powers,
And triumph in the fight is ours.
I hail the welcome omen: thou
Art bright of lace and clear of brow.
For Lakshman, when the eye can trace
A cloud upon the warrior's face
Stealing the cheerful light away,
His life is doomed in battle fray.
List, brother, to that awful cry:
With shout and roar the fiends draw nigh.
With thundering beat of many a drum
The savage-hearted giants come.
The wise who value safety know
To meet, prepared, the coming blow:
In paths of prudence trained aright
They watch the stroke before it smite.
Take thou thine arrows and thy bow,
Aud with the Maithil lady go
For shelter to the mountain cave
Where thickest trees their branches wave.
I will not have thee, Lakshman, say
One word in answer, but obey.
By all thy honour for these feet
Of mine, dear brother, I entreat.
Thy warlike arm, I know could, smite
To death these rovers of the night;
But I this day would fight alone
Till all the fiends be overthrown.'

p. 257

He spake: and Lakshman answered naught:
His arrows and his bow he brought,
And then with Sítá following hied
For shelter to the mountain side.
As Lakshman and the lady through
The forest to'the cave withdrew,
'Tis well,' cried Ráma. Then he braced
His coat of mail around his waist.
When, bright as blazing fire, upon
His mighty limbs that armour shone,
The hero stood like some great light
Uprising in the dark of night.
His dreadful shafts were by his side;
His trusty bow he bent and plied.
Prepared he stood: the bowstring rang,
Filling the welkin with the clang.

The high-souled Gods together drew
The wonder of the fight to view,
The saints made free from spot and stain,
And bright Gandharvas' heavenly train.
Each glorious sage the assembly sought,
Each saint divine of loftiest thought,
And filled with zeal for Ráma's sake.
Thus they whose deeds were holy spake:

'Now be it well with Bráhmans, now
Well with the worlds and every cow!
Let Ráma in the deadly fray
The fiends who walk in darkness slay,
As He who bears the discus 1 slew
The chieftains of the Asur crew.'

Then each with anxious glances viewed
His fellow and his speech renewed:
'There twice seven thousand giants stand
With impious heart and cruel hand:
Here Ráma stands, by virtue known:
How can the hero fight alone?'

Thus royal sage and Bráhman saint,
Spirit, and Virtue free from taint,
And all the Gods of heaven who rode
On golden cars, their longing showed.
Their hearts with doubt and terror rent,
They saw the giants' armament,
And Ráma clothed in warrior might,
Forth standing in the front of fight.
Lord of the arm no toil might tire,
He stood majestic in his ire,
Matchless in form as Rudra 2 when
His wrath is fierce on Gods or men.

While Gods and saints in close array
Held converse of the coming fray,
The army of the fiends drew near
With sight and sound that counselled fear.
Long, loud and deep their war-cry pealed,
As on they rushed with flag and shield,
Each, of his proper valour proud,
Urging to fight the demon crowd.

His ponderous bow each warrior tried,
And swelled his bulk with martial pride.
'Mid shout and roar and trampling feet.
And thunder of the drums they beat,
Loud and more loud the tumult went
Throughout the forest's vast extent,
And all the life that moved within
The woodland trembled at the din.
In eager haste all fled to find
Some tranquil spot, nor looked behind.

With every arm of war supplied,
On-rushing wildly like the tide
Of some deep sea, the giant host
Approached where Ráma kept his post.
Then he, in battle skilled and tried,
Bent his keen eye on every side,
And viewed the host of Khara face
To face before his dwelling-place.
He drew his arrows forth, and reared
And strained that bow which foemen feared,
And yielded to the vengeful sway
Of fierce desire that host to slay.
Terrific as the ruinous fire
That ends the worlds, he glowed in ire;
And his tremendous form dismayed
The Gods who roam the forest shade.
For in the furious wrath that glowed
Within his soul the hero showed
Like S'iva when his angry might
Stayed Daksha's sacrificial rite. 1b
Like some great cloud at dawn of day
   When first the sun upsprings,
And o'er the gloomy mass each ray
   A golden radiance flings:
Thus showed the children of the night,
   Whose mail and chariots threw,
With gleam of bows and armlets bright,
   Flashes of flamy hue.


257:1 Vishnu, who bears a chakra or discus.

257:2 S'iva.

Next: Canto XXV.: The Battle.