Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 


'I told thee of that dreadful day
When Ráma smote and spared to slay.
Now hear me, Rávan, while I tell
What in the after time befell.
At length, restored to strength and pride,
I and two mighty fiends beside
Assumed the forms of deer and strayed
Through Dandak wood in lawn and glade,
I reared terrific horns: beneath
Were flaming tongue and pointed teeth.
I roamed where'er my fancy led,
And on the flesh of hermits fed,
In sacred haunt, by hallowed tree,
Where'er the ritual fires might be.
A fearful shape, I wandered through
The wood, and many a hermit slew.
With ruthless rage the saints I killed
Who in the grove their tasks fulfilled.
When smitten to the earth they sank,
Their flesh I ate, their blood I drank,
And with my cruel deeds dismayed
All dwellers in the forest shade,
Spoiling their rites in bitter hate,
With human blood inebriate.
Once in the wood I chanced to see
Ráma again, a devotee,
A hermit, fed on scanty fare,
Who made the good of all his care.
His noble wife was by his side,
And Lakshman in the battle tried.
In senseless pride I scorned the might
Of that illustrious anchorite,
And heedless of a hermit foe,
Recalled my earlier overthow.

p. 275

I charged him in my rage and scorn
To slay him with my pointed horn,
In heedless haste, to fury wrought
As on my former wounds I thought.
Then from the mighty bow he drew
Three foe-destroying arrows flew,
Keen-pointed, leaping from the string:
Swift as the wind or feathered king.
Dire shafts, on flesh of foemen fed,
Like rushing thunderbolts they sped.
With knots well smoothed and barbs well bent,
Shot e'en as one, the arrows went.
But I who Ráma's might had felt,
And knew the blows the hero dealt,
Escaped by rapid flight. The two
Who lingered on the spot, he slew.
I fled from mortal danger, freed
From the dire shaft by timely speed.
Now to deep thought my days I give,
And as a humble hermit live.
In every shrub, in every tree
I view that noblest devotee.
In every knotted trunk I mark
His deerskin and his coat of bark,
And see the bow-armed Ráma stand
Like Yama with his noose in hand.
I tell thee Rávan, in my fright
A thousand Rámas mock my sight,
This wood with every bush and bough
Seems all one fearful Ráma now.
Throughout the grove there is no spot
So lonely where I see him not.
He haunts me in my dreams by night,
And wakes me with the wild affright.
The letter that begins his name
Sends terror through my startled frame.
The rapid cars whereon we ride,
The rich rare jewels, once my pride,
Have names  1 that strike upon mine ear
With hated sound that counsels fear.
His mighty strength too well I know,
Nor art thou match for such a foe.
Too strong were Raghus's son in fight
For Namu*chi or Bali's might.
Then Ráma to the battle dare,
Or else be patient and forbear;
But, wouldst thou see me live in peace,
Let mention of the hero cease.
The good whose holy lives were spent
In deepest thought, most innocent.
With all their people many a time
Have perished through another's crime.
So in the common ruin, I
Must for another's folly die,
Do all thy strength and courage can.
But ne'er will I approve the plan.
For he, in might supremely great,

The giant world could extirpate,
Since, when impetuous Khara sought
The grove of Janasthán and fought
For Súrpanakhá's sake, he died
By Ráma's hand in battle tried.
How has he wronged thee? Soothly swear,
And Ráma's fault and sin declare.
   I warn thee, and my words are wise,
     I seek thy people's weal:
   But if this rede thou wilt despise.
     Nor hear my last appeal,
   Thou with thy kin and all thy friends
     In fight this day wilt die,
   When his great bow the hero bends,
     And shafts unerring fly.'


275:1 The Sanskrit words for car and jewels begin with ra.

Next: Canto XL.: Rávan's Speech.