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The words that Sítá uttered, spurred
By truest love, the hero heard:
Then he who ne'er from virtue strayed
To Janak's child his answer made:
'In thy wise speech, sweet love, I find
True impress of thy gentle mind,
Well skilled the warrior's path to trace,
Thou pride of Janak's ancient race.
What fitting answer shall I frame
To thy good words, my honoured dame?
Thou sayst the warrior bears the bow
That misery's tears may cease to flow;
And those pure saints who love the shade
Of Dandak wood are sore dismayed.
They sought me of their own accord,
With suppliant prayers my aid implored:
They, fed on roots and fruit, who spend
Their lives where bosky wilds extend,
My timid love, enjoy no rest
By these malignant fiends distressed.
These make the flesh of man their meat:
The helpless saints they kill and eat.
The hermits sought my side, the chief
Of Brahman race declared their grief.
I heard, and from my lips there fell
The words which thou rememberest well:
I listened as the hermits cried,
And to their prayers I thus replied:
   'Your favour, gracious lords, I claim,
O'erwhelmed with this enormous shame
That Bráhmans, great and pure as you,
Who should be sought, to me should sue.'
And then before the saintly crowd,
'What can I do?' I cried aloud.
Then from the trembling hermits broke
One long sad cry, and thus they spoke:
'Fiends of the wood, who wear at will
Each varied shape, afflict us still.
To thee in our distress we fly:
O help us, Ráma, or we die.
When sacred rites of fire are due,
When changing moons are full or new,
These fiends who bleeding flesh devour
Assail us with resistless power.
They with their cruel might torment
The hermits on their vows intent:
We look around for help and see
Our surest refuge, Prince, in thee.
We, armed with powers of penance, might
Destroy the rovers of the night:
But loth were we to bring to naught
The merit years of toil have bought.
Our penance rites are grown too hard,
By many a check and trouble barred,
But though our saints for food are slain
The withering curse we yet restrain.

Thus many a weary day distressed
By giants who this wood infest,
We see at length deliverance, thou
With Lakshman art our guardian now.'
   As thus the troubled hermits prayed,
I promised, dame, my ready aid,
And now--for truth I hold most dear--
Still to my word must I adhere.
My love, I might endure to be
Deprived of Lakshman, life, and thee,
But ne'er deny my promise, ne'er
To Bráhmans break the oath I sware.
I must, enforced by high constraint,
Protect them all. Each suffering saint
In me, unasked, his help had found;
Still more in one by promise bound.
I know thy words, mine own dear dame,
From thy sweet heart's affection came:
I thank thee for thy gentle speech,
For those we love are those we teach.
'Tis like thyself, O fair of face,
'Tis worthy of thy noble race:
Dearer than life, thy feet are set
In righteous paths they ne'er forget.'
   Thus to the Maithil monarch's child,
His own dear wife, in accents mild
   The high-souled hero said:
Then to the holy groves which lay
Beyond them fair to see, their way
   The bow-armed chieftain led.

Next: Canto XI.: Agastya.