The Ramayana/Book II/Canto XL: Ráma's Departure

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto XL: Ráma's Departure

Then Ráma, Sítá, Lakshman bent
At the king's feet, and sadly went

Round him with slow steps reverent.
When Ráma of the duteous heart
Had gained his sire's consent to part,
With Sítá by his side he paid
Due reverence to the queen dismayed.
And Lakshman, with affection meet,
Bowed down and clasped his mother's feet.
Sumitrá viewed him as he pressed
Her feet, and thus her son addressed:
'Neglect not Ráma wandering there,
But tend him with thy faithful care.
In hours of wealth, in time of woe,
Him, sinless son, thy refuge know.
From this good law the just ne'er swerve,
That younger sons the eldest serve,
And to this righteous rule incline
All children of thine ancient line--
Freely to give, reward each rite,
Nor spare their bodies in the fight.
Let Ráma Das'aratha be,
Look upon Sítá as on me,
And let the cot wherein you dwell
Be thine Ayodhyá. Fare thee well."
Her blessing thus Sumitrá gave
To him whose soul to Ráma clave,
Exclaiming, when her speech was done,
' Go forth, O Lakshman, go, my son.
Go forth, my son to win success,
High victory and happiness.
Go forth thy foemen to destroy,
And turn again at last with joy.'
  As Mátali his charioteer
Speaks for the Lord of Gods to hear,
Sumantra, palm to palm applied,
In reverence trained, to Ráma cried:
'O famous Prince, my car ascend,--
May blessings on thy course attend,--
And swiftly shall my horses flee
And place thee where thou biddest me.
The fourteen years thou hast to stay
Far in the wilds, begin to-day;
For Oueen Kaikeyí cries, Away."
   Then Sítá, best of womankind,
Ascended, with a tranquil mind,
Soon as her toilet task was done,
That chariot brilliant as the sun.
Ráma and Lakshman true and bold
Sprang on the car adorned with gold.
The king those years had counted o'er,
And given Sítá robes and store
Of precious ornaments to wear
When following her husband there.
The brothers in the car found place
For nets and weapons of the chase,
There warlike arms and mail they laid,
A leathern basket and a spade.
Soon as Sumantra saw the three
Were seated in the chariot, he
Urged on each horse of noble breed,
Who matched the rushing wind in speed.
As thus the son of Raghu went

Forth for his dreary banishment,
Chill numbing grief the town assailed,
All strength grew weak, all spirit failed,
Ayodhá through her wide extent
Was filled with tumult and lament:
Steeds neighed and shook the bells they bore,
Each elephant returned a roar.
Then all the city, young and old,
Wild with their sorrow uncontrolled,
Rushed to the car, as, from the sun
The panting herds to water run.
Before the car, behind, they clung,
And there as eagerly they hung,
With torrents streaming from their eyes,
Called loudly with repeated cries:
'Listen, Sumantra: draw thy rein;
Drive gently, and thy steeds restrain.
Once more on Ráma will we gaze,
Now to be lost for many days.
The queen his mother has, be sure,
A heart of iron, to endure
To see her godlike Ráma go,
Nor feel it shattered by the blow.
Sítá, well done! Videha's pride,
Still like his shadow by his side;
Rejoicing in thy duty still
As sunlight cleaves to Meru's hill.
Thou, Lakshman, too, hast well deserved,
Who from thy duty hast not swerved,
Tending the peer of Gods above,
Whose lips speak naught but words of love.
Thy firm resolve is nobly great,
And high success on thee shall wait.
Yea, thou shalt win a priceless meed--
Thy path with him to heaven shall lead,'
As thus they spake, they could not hold
The tears that down their faces rolled,
While still they followed for a space
Their darling of Ikshváku's race.
   There stood surrounded by a ring
Of mournful wives the mournful king;
For, 'I will see once more,' he cried,
'Mine own dear son,' and forth he hied.
As he came near, there rose the sound
Of weeping, as the dames stood round.
So the she-elephants complain
When their great lord and guide is slain.
Kakutstha's son, the king of men,
The glorious sire, looked troubled then,
As the full moon is when dismayed
By dark eclipse's threatening shade.
Then Das'aratha's son, designed
For highest fate of lofty mind.
Urged to more speed the charioteer,
'Away, away! why linger here?
Urge on thy horses,' Rama cried,
And 'Stay, O stay,' the people sighed.
Sumantra, urged to speed away,
The townsmen's call must disobey,
Forth as the long-armed hero went,

The dust his chariot wheels up sent
Was laid by streams that ever flowed
From their sad eyes who filled the road.
Then, sprung of woe, from eyes of all
The women drops began to fall,
As from each lotus on the lake
The darting fish the water shake.
When he, the king of high renown,
Saw that one thought held all the town,
Like some tall tree he fell and lay,
Whose root the axe has hewn away.
Then straight a mighty cry from those
Who followed Ráma's car arose,
Who saw their monarch fainting there
Beneath that grief too great to bear.
Then 'Ráma, Ráma!" with the cry
Of 'Ah, his mother!' sounded high,
As all the people wept aloud
Around the ladies' sorrowing crowd.
When Ráma backward turned his eye,
And saw the king his father lie
With troubled sense and failing limb,
And the sad queen, who followed him,
Like some young creature in the net,
That will not, in its misery, let
Its wild eyes on its mother rest,
So, by the bonds of duty pressed,
His mother's look he could not meet.
He saw them with their weary feet,
Who, used to bliss, in cars should ride,
Who ne'er by sorrow should be tried,
And, as one mournful look he cast,
'Drive on,' he cried, 'Sumantra, fast.'
As when the driver's torturing hook
Goads on an elephant, the look
Of sire and mother in despair
Was more than Ráma's heart could bear.
As mother kine to stalls return
Which hold the calves for whom they yearn,
So to the car she tried to run
As a cow seeks her little one.
Once and again the hero's eyes
Looked on his mother, as with cries
Of woe she called and gestures wild,
'O Sítá, Lakshman, O my child!'
'Stay,' cried the king, 'thy chariot stay:'
'On, on,' cried Ráma, 'speed away.'
As one between two hosts, inclined
To neither was Sumantra's mind.
But Ráma spake these words again:
'A lengthened woe is bitterest pain.
On, on; and if his wrath grow hot,
Thine answer be, ' I heard thee not.'
Sumantra, at the chief's behest,
Dismissed the crowd that toward him pressed,
And, as he bade, to swiftest speed
Urged on his way each willing steed.
The king's attendants parted thence,
And paid him heart-felt reverence:
In mind, and with the tears he wept,
Each still his place near Ráma kept.
As swift away the horses sped,
His lords to Das'aratha said:
'To follow him whom thou again
Wouldst see returning home is vain.'
   With failing limb and drooping mien
     He heard their counsel wise:
   Still on their son the king and queen
     Kept fast their lingering eyes. [1]


  1. 'Thirty centuries have passed since he began this memorable journey. Every step of it is known and is annually traversed by thousands: hero worship is not extinct. What can Faith do! How strong are the ties of religion when entwined with the legends of a country! How many a cart creeps creaking and weary along the road from Ayodhyá to Chitrakút. It is this that gives the Rámáyan a strange interest, the story still lives.' Calcutta Review: Vol. XXIII.