The Ramayana/Book II/Canto XXXI: Lakshman's Prayer

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

When Lakshman, who had joined them there,
Had heard the converse of the pair,
His mien was changed, his eyes o'erflowed,
His breast no more could bear its load.
The son of Raghu, sore distressed,
His brother's feet with fervour pressed,
While thus to Sita he complained.
And him by lofty vows enchained:
'If thou wilt make the woods thy home,
Where elephant and roebuck roam,
I too this day will take my bow
And in the path before thee go.
Our way will lie through forest ground
Where countless birds and beasts are found,
I heed not homes of Gods on high,
I heed not life that cannot die,
Nor would I wish, with thee away,
O'er the three worlds to stretch my sway.'
Thus Lakshman spake, with earnest prayer
His brother's woodland life to share.
As Rama still his prayer denied
With soothing words, again he cried:
'When leave at first thou didst accord,
Why dost thou stay me now, my lord?
Thou art my refuge: O, be kind,
Leave me not, dear my lord, behind.
Thou canst not, brother, if thou choose
That I still live, my wish refuse.'
The glorious chief his speech renewed
To faithful Lakshman as he sued,
And on the eyes of Ráma gazed
Longing to load, with hands upraised:
'Thou art a hero just and dear,
Whose steps to virtue's path adhere,
Loved as my life till life shall end.
My faithful brother and my friend.
If to the woods thou take thy way
With Sítá and with me to-day,
Who for Kaus'alyá will provide,
And guard the good Sumitra's side?
The lord of earth, of mighty power,
Who sends good things in plenteous shower,
As Indra pours the grateful rain,
A captive lies in passion's chain.
The power imperial for her son
Has As'vapati's daughter 1 won,
And she, proud queen, will little heed
Her miserable rivals' need.
So Bharat, ruler of the land,
By Queen Kaikeyí's side will stand,
Nor of those two will ever think.
While grieving in despair they sink.
Now, Lakshman, as thy love decrees,
Or else the monarch's heart to please,
Follow this counsel and protect
My honoured mother from neglect.
So thou, while not to me alone
Thy great affection will be shown,
To highest duty wilt adhere
By serving those thou shouldst revere.
Now, son of Raghu, for my sake
Obey this one request I make,
Or, of her darling son bereft,
Kausaly'á has no comfort left.'
The faithful Lakshman, thus addressed
In gentle words which love expressed,
To him in lore of language learned,
His answer, eloquent, returned:
'Nay, through thy might each queen will share
Attentive Bharat's love and care.
Should Bharat, raised as king to sway
This noblest realm, his trust betray,
Nor for their safety well provide,
Seduced by ill-suggesting pride,
Doubt not my vengeful hand shall kill
The cruel wretch who counsels ill--
Kill him and all who lend him aid,
And the three worlds in league arrayed.
And good Kausaly'á well can fee
A thousand champions like to me.
A thousand hamlets rich in grain
The station of that queen maintain.
She may, and my dear mother too,
Live on the ample revenue.
Then let me follow thee: herein
Is naught that may resemble sin.
So shall I in my wish suceed,
And aid, perhaps, my brother's need.
My bow and quiver well supplied
With arrows hanging at my side,
My hands shall spade and basket bear,
And for thy feet the way prepare.
I'll bring thee roots and berries sweet.
And woodland fare which hermits eat.
Thou shall with thy Videhan spouse
Recline upon the mountain's brows:
Be mine the toil, be mine to keep
Watch o'er thee waking or asleep.'
Filled by his speech with joy and pride
Ráma to Lakshman thus replied:
'Go then, my brother, bid adieu
To all thy friends and retinue.
And those two bows of fearful might,
Celestial, which, at that famed rite,
Lord Varun gave to Janak, king
Of fair Videha with thee bring,
With heavenly coats of sword-proof mail,
Quivers, whose arrows never fail,
And golden-hilted swords so keen,
The rivals of the sun in sheen.
Tended with care these arms are all
Preserved in my preceptor's hall.
With speed, O Lakshman, go, produce,
And bring them hither for our use.'
So on a woodland life intent,
To see his faithful friends he went,
And brought the heavenly arms which lay
By Ráma's teacher stored away,
And Raghu's son to Ráma showed
Those wondrous arms which gleamed and glowed,
Well kept, adorned with many a wreath
Of flowers on case, and hilt, and sheath.
The prudent Ráma at the sight
Addressed his brother with delight:
'Well art thou come, my brother dear.
For much I longed to see thee here.
For with thine aid, before I go,
I would my gold and wealth bestow
Upon the Bráhmans sage, who school
Their lives by stern devotion's rule.
And for all those who ever dwell
Within my house and serve me well,
Devoted servants, true and good,
Will I provide a livelihood.
   Quick, go and summon to this place
     The good Vas'ishtha's son,
   Suyajna, of the Bráhman race
     The first and holiest one.
   To all the Bráhmans wise and good
     Will I due reverence pay,
   Then to the solitary wood
     With thee will take my way.'