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The angry Lakshman scarce could brook
Her bitter words, her furious look.
With dark forebodings in his breast
To Ráma's side he quickly pressed.
   Then ten necked Rávan saw the time
Propitious for his purposed crime.
A mendicant in guise he came
And stood before the Maithil dame.
His garb was red, with tufted hair
And sandalled feet a shade he bare,
And from the fiend's left shoulder slung
A staff and water-vessel hung.
Near to the lovely dame he drew,
While both the chiefs were far from view,
As darkness takes the evening air
When neither sun nor moon is there.
He bent his eye upon the dame,
A princess fair, of spotless fame:
So might some baleful planet be
Near Moon-forsaken Rohini.  1
As the fierce tyrant nearer drew,
The trees in Janasthán that grew
Waved not a leaf for fear and woe,
And the hushed wind forbore to blow.
Godávarí's waters as they fled,
Saw his fierce eye-balls flashing red,
And from each swiftly-gliding wave
A melancholy murmur gave.
Then Rávan, when his eager eye
Beheld the longed-for moment nigh,
In mendicant's apparel dressed
Near to the Maithil lady pressed.

p. 283

In holy guise, a fiend abhorred,
He found her mourning for her lord.
Thus threatening draws S'anis'char  1 nigh
To Chitrá  2 in the evening sky:
Thus the deep well by grass concealed
Yawns treacherous in the verdant field.
He stood and looked upon the dame
Of Ráma, queen of spotless fame
With her bright teeth and each fair limb
Like the full moon she seemed to him,
Sitting within her leafy cot.
Weeping for woe that left her not.
Thus, while with joy his pulses beat,
He saw her in her lone retreat,
Eyed like the lotus, fair to view
In bilken robes of amber hue.
Pierced to the core by Káma's dart
He murmured texts with lying art,
And questioned with a soft address
The lady in her loneliness.
The fiend essayed with gentle speech
The heart of that fair dame to reach,
Pride of the worlds, like Beauty's Queen
Without her darling lotus seen:
   'O thou whose silken robes enfold
A form more rare than finest gold,
With lotus garland on thy head,
Like a sweet spring with bloom o'erspread,
Who art thou, fair one, what thy name,
Beauty, or Honour, Fortune, Fame,
Spirit, or nymph, or Queen of love
Descended from thy home above?
Bright as the dazzling jasmine shine
Thy small square teeth in level line.
Like two black stars aglow with light
Thine eyes are large and pure and bright.
Thy charms of smile and teeth and hair
And winning eyes, O thou most fair,
Steal all my spirit, as the flow
Of rivers mines the bank below.
How bright, how fine each flowing trees!
How firm those orbs beneath thy dress!
That dainty waist with ease were spanned,
Sweet lady, by a lover's hand.
Mine eyes, O beauty, ne'er have seen
Goddess or nymph so fair of mien,
Or bright Gandharva's heavenly dame,
Or woman of so perfect frame.
In youth's soft prime thy years are few,
And earth has naught so fair to view.
I marvel one like thee in face
Should make the woods her dwelling-place.
Leave, lady, leave this lone retreat
In forest wilds for thee unmeet,
Where giants fierce and strong assume
All shapes and wander in the gloom.
These dainty feet were formed to tread

Some palace floor with carpets spread,
Or wander in trim gardens where
Each opening bud perfumes the air
The richest robe thy form should deck,
The rarest gems adorn thy neck.
The sweetest wreath should bind thy hair,
The noblest lord thy bed should share.
Art thou akin, O fair of form,
To Rudras, 1b or the Gods of storm, 2b
Or to the glorious Vasus  3b? How
Can less than these be bright as thou?
But never nymph or heavenly maid
Or Goddess haunts this gloomy shade.
Here giants roam, a savage race;
What led thee to so dire a place?
Here monkeys leap from tree to tree,
And bears and tigers wander free;
Here ravening lions prowl, and fell
Hyenas in the thickets yell,
And elephants infuriate roam,
Mighty and fierce, their woodland home.
Dost thou not dread, so soft and fair,
Tiger and lion, wolf and bear?
Hast thou, O beauteous dame, no fear
In the wild wood so lone and drear?
Whose and who art thou? whence and why
Sweet lady, with no guardian nigh,
Dost thou this awful forest tread
By giant bands inhabited?'
   The praise the high-souled Rávan spoke
No doubt within her bosom woke. '
His saintly look and Bráhman guise
Deceived the lady's trusting eyes.
With due attention on the guest
Her hospitable rites she pressed.
She bade the stranger to a seat,
And gave him water for his feet.
The bowl and water-pot he bare,
And garb which wandering Bráhmans wear
   Forbade a doubt to rise.
Won by his holy look she deemed
The stranger even as he seemed
   To her deluded eyes.
Intent on hospitable care,
She brought her best of woodland fare.
   And showed her guest a seat.
She bade the saintly stranger lave
His feet in water which she gave,
   And sit and rest and eat.
He kept his eager glances bent
On her so kindly eloquent,
Wife of the noblest king;
And longed in heart to steal her thence,
Preparing by the dire offence,
Death on his head to bring.

p. 284

The lady watched with anxious face
For Ráma coming from the chase
   With Lakshman by his side:
But nothing met her wandering glance
Save the wild forest's green expanse
   Extending far aud wide.


282:1 The favourite wife of the Moon.

283:1 The planet Saturn.

283:2 Another favourite of the Moon; one of the lunar mansions.

283:1b The Rudras, agents in creation, are eight in number; they sprang from the forehead of Brahmá.

283:2b Maruts, the attendants of Indra.

283:3b Radiant demi-gods.

Next: Canto XLVII: Rávan's Wooing.