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She stooped, her hands with flowers to fill,
But gazed upon the marvel still:
Gazed on its back and sparkling side
Where silver hues with golden vied.
Joyous was she of faultless mould,
With glossy skin like polished gold.
And loudly to her husband cried
And bow-armed Lakshman by his side:
Again, again she called in glee:
'O come this glorious creature see;
Quick, quick, my lord, this deer to view.
And bring thy brother Lakshman too.'
As through the wood her clear tones rang,
Swift to her side the brothers sprang.
With eager eyes the grove they scanned,
And saw the deer before them stand.
But doubt was strong in Lakshman's breast,
Who thus his thought and fear expressed:
   'Stay, for the wondrous deer we see
The fiend Márícha's self may be.
Ere now have kings who sought this place
To take their pastime in the chase,
Met from his wicked art defeat,
And fallen slain by like deceit.
He wears, well trained in magio guile,
The figure of a deer a while,
Bright as the very sun, or place
Where dwell the gay Gaudharya race.
No deer, O Ráma, e'er was seen
Thus decked with gold und jewels' sheen.
'Tis magic, for the world has ne'er,
Lord of the world, shown aught so fair.'
   But Sítá of the lovely smile,
A captive to the giant's wile,
Turned Lakshman's prudent speech aside
And thus with eager words replied:
Mv honoured lord, this deer I see
With beauty rare enraptures me.
Go, chief of mighty arm, and bring
For my delight this precious thing.
Fair creatures ot the woodland roam
Untroubled near our hermit home.
The forest cow and stag are there,
The fawn, the monkey, and the bear,
Where spotted deer delight to play,

p. 279

And strong and beauteous Kinnars  1 stray.
But never, as they wandered by,
Has such a beauty charmed mine eye
As this with limbs so fair and slight,
So gentle, beautiful and bright.
O see, how fair it is to view
With jewels of each varied hue:
Bright as the rising moon it glows,
Lighting the wood where'er it goes.
Ah me, what form and grace are there!
Its limbs how fine, its hues how fair!
Transcending all that words express,
It takes my soul with loveliness.
O, if thou would, to please me, strive
To take the beauteous thing alive,
How thou wouldst gaze with wondering eyes
Delighted on the lovely prize!
And when our woodland life is o'er,
And we enjoy our realm once more,
The wondrous animal will grace
The chambers of my dwelling-place,
And a dear treasure will it be
To Bharat and the queens and me,
And all with rapture and amaze
Upon its heavenly form will gaze.
But if the beauteous deer, pursued,
Thine arts to take it still elude,
Strike it, O chieftain, and the akin
Will be a treasure, laid within.
O, how I long my time to pass
Sitting upon the tender grass,
With that soft fell beneath me spread
Bright with its hair of golden thread!
This strong desire, this eager will,
Befits a gentle lady ill:
But when I first beheld, its look
My breast with fascination took.
See, golden hair its flank adorns,
And sapphires tip its branching horns.
Resplendent as the lunar way,
Or the first blush of opening day,
With graceful form and radiant hue
It charmed thy heart, O chieftain, too.'
   He heard her speech with willing ear,
He looked again upon the deer.
Its lovely shape his breast beguiled
Moved by the prayer of Janak's child,
And yielding for her pleasure's sake,
To Lakshman Ráma turned and spake:
   'Mark, Lakshman, mark how Sítá's breast
With eager longing is possessed.
To-day this deer of wondrous breed
Must for his passing beauty bleed,
Brighter than e'er in Nandan strayed,
Or Chaitraratha's heavenly shade.

How should the groves of earth possess
Such all-surpassing loveliness!
The hair lies smooth and bright and fine,
Or waves upon each curving line,
And drops of living gold bedeck
The beauty of his side and neck.
O look, his crimson tongue between
His teeth like flaming fire is seen,
Flashing, whene'er his lips he parts,
As from a cloud the lightning darts.
O see his sunlike forehead shine
With emerald tints and almandine,
While pearly light and roseate glow
Of shells adorn his neck below.
No eye on such a deer can rest
But soft enchantment takes the breast:
No man so fair a thing behold
Ablaze with light of radiant gold.
Celestial, bright with jewels' sheen,
Nor marvel when his eyes have seen,
A king equipped with bow and shaft
Delights in gentle forest craft,
And as in boundless woods he strays
The quarry for the venison slays.
There as he wanders with his train
A store of wealth he oft may gain.
He claims by right the precious ore.
He claims the jewels' sparkling store.
Such gains are dearer in his eyes
Than wealth that in his chamber lies.
The dearest things his spirit knows,
Dear as the bliss which Sukra chose.
But oft the rich expected gain
Which heedless men pursue in vain.
The sage, who prudent counsels know,
Explain and in a moment show.
This best of deer, this gem of all,
To yield his precious spoils must fall,
And tender Sítá by my side
Shall sit upon the golden hide.
Ne'er could I find so rich a coat
On spotted deer or sheep or goat.
No buck or antelope has such,
So bright to view, so soft to touch.
This radiant deer and one on high
That moves in glory through the sky,
Alike in heavenly beauty are,
One on the earth and one a star.
But, brother, if thy fears be true,
And this bright creature that we view
Be fierce Márícha in disguise,
Then by this hand he surely dies.
For that dire fiend who spurns control
With bloody hand and cruel soul,
Has roamed this forest and dismayed
The holiest saints who haunt the shade.
Great archers, sprung of royal race.
Pursuing in the wood the chase,
Have fallen by his wicked art,
And now my shaft shall strike his heart.
Vatápi, by his magic power

p. 280

Made heedless saints his flesh devour,
Then, from within their frames he rent
Forth bursting from imprisonment,
But once his art in senseless pride
Upon the mightiest saint he tried,
Agastya's self, and caused him taste
The baited meal before him placed.
Vátápi, when the rite* was o'er,
Would take the giant form he wore,
But Saint Agastya knew his wile
And checked the giant with smile
'Vatápi, thou with cruel spite
Hast conquered many an achorite
The noblest of the Brahman ask*--
And now thy ruin comes at last'
Now if my power he thus defies,
This giant, like Vatápi dies,
Daring to scorn a man like me,
A self subduing devotee.
Yea, as Agastya slew the foe,
My hand shall lay Mancha low
Clad in thine arms thy bow in hand,
To guard the Maithil lady stand,
With watchful eye and thoughtful breast
Keeping each word of my behest
I go, and hunting through the brake
This wondrous deer will bring or take.
Yea surely I will bring the spoil
Returning from my hunter's toil
See, Lakshman how my contort's eyes
Are longing for the lovely prize
This day it falls, that I may win
The treasure of so fair a skin.
Do thou and Sítá watch with care
Lest danger seize you unaware.
Swift from my bow one shaft will fly;
The stricken deer will fall and die
Then quickly will I stop the game
And bring the trophy to my dame.
   Jatavus, guardian good and wise,
     Our old and faithful friend,
   The best and strongest bird that flies,
     His willing aid will lend
   The Maithil lady well protect,
     For every chance provide,
   And in thy tender care suspect
     A foe on every side.


279:1 A race of beings of human shape but with the heads of horses, like centaurs reversed.

Next: Canto XLIV: Artcha's Death