The Ramayana/Book I/Canto XXI: Vis'vámitra's Speech

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The Ramayana of Valmiki by Valmiki, translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Book I — Canto XXI: Vis'vámitra's Speech

The hermit heard with high content
That speech so wondrous eloquent,
And while each hair with joy arose, [1]

He thus made answer at the close:
'Good is thy speech O noble King,
And like thyself in everything.
So should their lips be wisdom-fraught
Whom kings begot, Vas'ishtha taught.
The favour which I came to seek
Thou grantest ere my tongue can speak.
But let my tale attention claim,
And hear the need for which I came,
O King, as Scripture texts allow,
A holy rite employs me now.
Two fiends who change their forms at will
Impede that rite with cursed skill. [2]
Oft when the task is nigh complete,
These worst of fiends my toil defeat,
Throw bits of bleeding flesh, and o'er
The altar shed a stream of gore.
When thus the rite is mocked and stayed,
And all my pious hopes delayed,
Cast down in heart the spot I leave,
And spent with fruitless labour grieve.
Nor can I, checked by prudence, dare
Let loose my fury on them there:
The muttered curse, the threatening word,
In such a rite must ne'er be heard.
Thy grace the rite from check can free.
And yield the fruit I long to see.
Thy duty bids thee, King, defend
The suffering guest, the suppliant friend.
Give me thy son, thine eldest born,
Whom locks like raven's wings adorn,
That hero youth, the truly brave,
Of thee, O glorious King, I crave,
For he can lay those demons low
Who mar my rites and work me woe:
My power shall shield the youth from harm,
And heavenly might shall nerve his arm.
And on my champion will I shower
Unnumbered gifts of varied power,
Such gifts as shall ensure his fame
And spread through all the worlds his name.
Be sure those fiends can never stand
Before the might of Ráma's hand,
And mid the best and bravest none
Can slay that pair but Raghu's son.
Entangled in the toils of Fate
Those sinners, proud and obstinate,
Are, in their fury overbold,
No match for Ráma mighty-souled.
Nor let a father's breast give way
Too far to fond affection's sway.
Count thou the fiends already slain:
My word is pledged, nor pledged in vain.
I know the hero Ráma well

In whom high thoughts and valour dwell;
So does Vas'ishtha, so do these
Engaged in long austerities.
If thou would do the righteous deed,
And win high fame, thy virtue's meed,
Fame that on earth shall last and live,
To me. great King, thy Ráma give.
If to the words that I have said,
With Saint Vas'ishtha at their head
Thy holy men, O King, agree,
Then let thy Ráma go with me.
Ten nights my sacrifice will last,
And ere the stated time be past
Those wicked fiends, those impious twain,
Must fall by wondrous Ráma slain.
Let not the hours, I warn thee, fly,
Fixt for the rite, unheeded by;
Good luck have thou, O royal Chief,
Nor give thy heart to needless grief."

Thus in fair words with virtue fraught
The pious glorious saint besought.
But the good speech with poignant sting
Pierced ear and bosom of the king,
Who, stabbed with pangs too sharp to bear,
Fell prostrate and lay fainting there.


  1. Great joy, according to the Hindu belief, has this effect, not causing each particular hair to stand on end, but gently raising all the down upon the body.
  2. The Rákshasas, giants, or fiends who are represented as disturbing the sacrifice, signify here, as often elsewhere, merely the savage tribes which placed themselves in hostile opposition to Bráhmanical institutions.