The Ramayana/Book II/Canto CIX: The Praises of Truth

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto CIX: The Praises of Truth

By sage Jáváli thus addressed,
Ráma of truthful hearts the best,
With perfect skill and wisdom high
Thus to his speech made fit reply:
'Thy words that tempt to bliss are fair.
But virtue's garb they falsely wear.
For he from duty's path who strays
To wander in forbidden ways,
Allured by doctrine false and vain,
Praise from the good can never gain.
Their lives the true and boaster show,
Pure and impure, and high and low.
Else were no mark to judge between
Stainless and stained and high and mean;
They to whose lot fair signs may fall
Were but as they who lack them all,
And those to virtuous thouguts inclined
Were but as men of evil mind.
If in the sacred name of right
I do this wrong in duty's spite;
The path of virtue meanly quit,
And this polluting sin commit,
What man who marks the bounds between
Virtue and vice with insight keen,
Would rank me high in after time.
Stained with this soul destroying crime?
Whither could I, the sinner, turn,
How hope a seat in heaven to earn,
If I my plighted promise break,
And thus the righteous path forsake?
This world of ours is ever led
To walk the ways which others tread,
And as their princes they behold,
The subjects too their lives will mould.
That truth and mercy still must be
Beloved of kings, is Heaven's decree.
Upheld by truth the monarch reigns,
And truth the very world sustains.
Truth evermore has been the love
Of holy saints and Gods above,
And he whose lips are truthful here
Wins after death the highest sphere.
As from a serpent's deadly tooth,
We shrink from him who scorns the truth.
For holy truth is root and spring
Of justice and each holy thing,
A might that every power transcends,
Linked to high bliss that never ends.
Truth is all virtue's surest base,
Supreme in worth and first in place.
Oblations, gifts men offer here,
Vows, sacrifice, and rites austere,
And Holy Writ, on truth depend:
So men must still that truth defend.
Truth, only truth protects the land,
By truth unharmed our houses stand;
Neglect of truth makes men distressed,
And truth in highest heaven is blessed.
Then how can I, rebellious, break
Commandments which my father spake--
I ever* true and faithful found,
And by my word of honour bound?
My father's bridge of truth shall stand
Unharmed by my destructive hand:
Not folly, ignorance, or greed
My darkened soul shall thus mislead.
Have we not heard that God and shade
Turn from the hated offerings paid
By him whose false and fickle mind
No pledge can hold, no promise bind?
Truth is all duty: as the soul,
It quickens and supports the whole.
The good respect this duty: hence
Its sacred claims I reverence.
The Warrior's duty I despise
That seeks the wrong in virtue's guise:
Those claims I shrink from, which the base,
Cruel, and covetous embrace.
The heart conceives the guilty thought,
Then by the hand the sin is wrought,
And with the pair is leagued a third,
The tongue that speaks the lying word.
Fortune and land and name and fame
To man's best care have right and claim;
The good will aye to truth adhere,
And its high laws must men revere.
Base were the deed thy lips would teach,
Approved as best by subtle speech.
Shall I my plighted promise break,
That I these woods my home would make?*
Shall I, as Bharat's words advise,
My father's solemn charge despise?
Firm stands the oath which then before
My father's face I soothly swore,
Which Queen Kaikeyi's anxious ear
Bejoiced with highest joy to hear.
Still in the wood will I remain,
With food prescribed my life sustain,
And please with fruit and roots and flowers
Ancestral shades and heavenly powers.
Here every sense contented, still
Heeding the bounds of good and ill,
My settled course will I pursue,
Firm in my faith and ever true.
Here in this wild and far retreat
Will I my noble task complete;
And Fire and Wind and *Moon shall be
Partakers of its fruit with me.
A hundred offerings duly wrought
His rank o'er Gods for Indra bought,
And mighty saints their heaven secured
By torturing years on earth endured.'
   That scoffing plea the hero spurned,
     And thus he spake once more,
   Chiding, the while his bosom burned,
     Jáváli's impious lore:
   'Justice, and courage ne'er dismayed,
     Pity for all distressed,
   Truth, loving honour duly paid
     To Brahman, God, and guest--
   In these, the true and virtuous say,
     Should lives of men be passed:
   They form the right and happy way
     That leads to heaven at last.
My father's thoughtless act I chide
   That gave thee honoured place,
Whose soul, from virtue turned aside,
   Is faithless, dark, and base.
We rank the Buddhist with the thief, [1]
   And all the impious crew
Who share his sinful disbelief,
   And hate the right and true.
Hence never should wise kings who seek
   To rule their people well,
Admit, before their face to speak,
   The cursed infidel.
But twice-born men in days gone by,
   Of other sort than thou,
Have wrought good deeds, whose glories high
   Are fresh among us now:
This world they conquered, nor in vain
   They strove to win the skies:
The twice-born hence pure lives maintain,
   And fires of worship rise.
Those who in virtue's path delight,
   And with the virtuous live,--
Whose flames of holy zeal are bright,
   Whose hands are swift to give,
Who injure none, and good and mild
   In every grace excel,
Whose lives by sin are undefiled,
   We love and honour well.'
Thus Rama spoke in righteous rage
   *J'av'ali's speech to chide,
When thus again the virtuous sage
   In truthful words replied:
'The atheist's lore I use no more,
   Not mine his impious creed:
His words and doctrine I abhor,
   Assumed at time of need.
E'en as I rose to speak with thee,
   The fit occasion came
That bade me use the atheist's plea
   To turn thee from thine aim.
The atheist creed I disavow,
   Unsay the words of sin,
And use the faithful's language now
   Thy favour, Prince, to win.


  1. The verses in a different metre with which some cantos end are all to be regarded with suspicion. Schlegel regrets that he did not exclude them all from his edition. These lines are manifestly spurious. See Additional Notes.