The Ramayana/Book II/Canto XXIII: Lakshman's Anger

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The Ramayana of Valmiki , translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith
Canto XXIII: Lakshman's Anger

Thus Rama to his brother said;
And Lakshman bent his drooping head.
In turns by grief and pride impelled,
A middle course of thought he held,
Then in a frown of anger, bent
His brows that chief most excellent,
And like a serpent in his hole,
Breathed fierce and fast in wrath of soul.
His threatening brows so darkly frowned,
His eyes so fiercely glanced around,
They made his glare, which none might brook,
Like some infuriate lion's look.
Like some wild elephant, full oft
He raised and shook his hand [1] aloft.
Now turned his neck to left and right
Now bent, now raised its stately height.
Now in his rage that sword he felt
Which mangling wounds to foemen dealt,
With sidelong glance his brother eyed,
And thus in burning words replied:
'Thy rash resolve, thy eager haste,
Thy mighty fear, are all misplaced:
No room is here for duty's claim,
No cause to dread the people's blame.
Can one as brave as thou consent
To use a coward's argument?
The glory of the Warrior race
With craven speech his lips debase?
Can one like thee so falsely speak,
Exalling Fate, confessed so weak?
Canst thou, undoubting still restrain?
Suspicions of those sinful twain?
Canst thou, most duteous, fail to know
Their hearts are set on duty's show?
They with deceit have set their trains,
And now the fruit rewards their pains,
Had they not long ago agreed,
O Rama, on this treacherous deed,
That promised boon, so long retained,
He erst had given and she had gained.
I cannot, O my brother, bear
To see another throned as heir
With rites which all our people hate:
Then, O, this passion tolerate.
This vaunted duty which can guide
Thy steps from wisdom's path aside,
And change the counsel of thy breast,
O lofty-hearted, I detest.
Wilt thou, when power and might are thine,
Submit to this abhorred design?
Thy father's impious hest fulfil,
That vassal of Kaikeyi's will?
But if thou still wilt shut thine eyes,
Nor see the guile herein that lies.
My soul is sad, I deeply mourn.
And duty seems a thing to scorn.
Canst thou one moment think to please
This pair who live for love and ease,
And 'gainst thy peace, as foes, allied,
With tenderest names their hatred hide
Now if thy judgment still refers
To Fate this plot of his and hers,
My mind herein can ne'er agree:
And O, in this be ruled by me.
Weak, void of manly pride are they
Who bend to Fate's imputed sway:
The choicest souls, the nobly great
Disdain to bow their heads to Fate.
And he who dares his Fate control
With vigorous act and manly soul,
Though threatening Fate his hopes assail.
Unmoved through all need never quail.
This day mankind shall learn aright
The power of Fate and human might,
So shall the gulf that lies between
A man and Fate be clearly seen.
The might of Fate subdued by me
This hour the citizens shall see,
Who saw its intervention stay
Thy consecrating rites to-day
My power shall turn this Fate aside,
That threatens, as, with furious stride,
An elephant who scorns to feel,
In rage unchecked, tne driver's steel.
Not the great Lords whose sleepless might
Protects the worlds, shall stay the rite
Though earth, hell, heaven combine their powers:
And shall we fear this sire of ours?
Then if their minds are idly bent
To doom thee, King, to banishment,
Through twice seven years of exile they
Shall In the lonely forest stay.
I will consume the hopes that fire
The queen Kaikeyí and our sire,
That to her son this check will bring
Advantage, making Bharat king.
The power of Fate will ne'er withstand
The might that arms my vigorous hand;
If danger and distress assail,
My fearless strength will still prevail.
A thousand circling years shall flee:
The forest then thy home shall be,
And thy good sons, succeeding, hold
The empire which their sire controlled.
The royal saints, of old who reigned,
For aged kings this rest ordained:
These to their sons their realm commit
That they, like sires, may cherish it.
O pious soul, if thou decline
The empire which is justly thine,
Lest, while the king distracted lies,
Disorder in the state should rise,
I,--or no mansion may I find
In worlds to hero souls assigned,--
The guardian of thy realm will be,
As the sea-bank protects the sea.
Then cast thine idle fears aside:
With prosperous rites be sanctified.
The lords of earth may strive in vain:
My power shall all their force restrain.
My pair of arms, my warrior's bow
Are not for pride of empty show:
For no support these shafts were made;
And binding up ill suits my blade:
To pierce the foe with deadly breach--
This is the work of all and each.
But small, methinks the love I show
For him I count my mortal foe.
Soon as my trenchant steel is bare,
Flashing its lightning through the air,
I heed no foe, nor stand aghast
Though Indra's self the levin cast.
Then shall the ways be hard to pass,
Where chariots lie in ruinous mass;
When elephant and man and steed
Crushed in the murderous onslaught bleed,
And legs and heads tall, heap on heap,
Beneath my sword's tremendous sweep.
Struck by my keen brand's trenchant blade,
Thine enemies shall fall dismayed,
Like towering mountains rent in twain,
Or lightning clouds that burst in rain.
When armed with brace and glove I stand,
And take my trusty bow in hand,
Who then shall vaunt his might? who dare
Count him a man to meet me there?
Then will I loose my shafts, and strike
Man, elephant, and steed alike:
At one shall many an arrow fly,
And many a foe with one shall die.
This day the world my power shall see,
That none in arms can rival me:
My strength the monarch shall abase,
And set thee, lord, in lordliest place.
These arms which breathe the sandal's
   scent,
Which golden bracelets ornament,
These hands which precious gifts bestow,
Which guard the friend and smite the foe,
A nobler service shall assay,
And fight in Ráma's cause to-day,
The robbers of thy rights to stay.
   Speak, brother, tell thy foeman's name
     Whom I, in conquering strife,
   May strip of followers and fame,
     Of fortune, or of life.
   Say, how may all this sea-girt land
     Be brought to own thy sway:
   Thy faithful servant here I stand
     To listen and obey.'
   Then strove the bride of Raghu's race
     Sad Lakshman's heart to cheer,
   While slowly down the hero's face,
     Unchecked, there rolled a tear.
   'The orders of my sire,' he cried,
     'My will shall ne'er oppose:
   I follow still, whate'er betide,
     The path which duty shows.'
        * * * * *


  1. The Sanskrit word hasta signifies both hand, and the trunk of the beast that bears between his eyes a serpent for a hand.'