back soon â€” it is not a great way to the river ; I told
you ! He has gone thither to fetch me water â€” he â€” he
will be here anon '
" I answered him only by my sobs.
''-'Monster!' cried the old man, grasping my arm
in a sudden passion of despair, ' why do you not
answer me ? If this be indeed true, and my son, my
only son, has perished by your hand, how dare you
face my wrathful agony? What care I whether your
crime were voluntary or no, since it has left me deso-
late ? Do you despise a Brahman's curse, that you are
here ? '
The old 1'inn
In an agony
i o_f grief and
ra,iy he pre-
THE ILIAD OF THE EAST.
" From the dust, at his feet, I answered him :
" ' He bade me come ; lying in my arms, very feeble,
he said, "Kneel to my father and say: ^Ife forgave me;
perchance then he will forbear to curse thee.' " They
were the last words ere he died.'
" Then he burst out a weeping :
" ' Lead me,' he cried, ' lead me to my son ! He is
not quite dead, perhaps ; he has fainted ; my voice
may awaken him from his deep trance ! Or if he have
indeed passed into the silent World, Yama will pity
me ; his father ^ has kept his radiance back from me
so many years, that Yama will surely pity me, and give
me back my son ! Kshatriya, show me where he lies.'
"And so I wound my arm about the old man's waist,
and brought him to the river's bank, where lay the
innocent Youth, quite stiff and dead, near to the
shuddering reeds. The poor father laid him down
beside the corpse, and sought to chafe the rigid limbs
with his weak tremulous hands.
" ' Yajnadatta ! Light of my soul !' he wept,
' speak one word to thy old blind father, only one !
Oh return, return ; but for a little hour return to me,
and we will depart together ! I had died long since,
Yajnadatta, but for thee ; I waited, â€” waited, â€” I was
tired and very weak, but I could not die and leave my
boy ! And now it is thou, O son ! who hast forsaken
the old, blind man ! '
" So, pressing his withered face against the still
placid countenance of the Dead, the veteran spent
himself in wild entreaties and piteous complaints.
^ The sun-god Surya is father of Yama the Death-god.
DEEDS OF MORE MOMENT THAN SUFFERINGS.
"At length exhaustion, and his great feebleness,
hushed the rebellious tempest of his grief; and he
wept tranquilly, as do the clouds after the lightning has
spent its fire, and the thunder hurled forth its rage.
Then, to the memory of Yajnadatta, we performed
the ceremony of Lustrous Waters, and having piled
high the boughs of scented wood, we tenderly laid
the young anchorite on his last earthly couch.
** As the sacred Fire enveloped, in a shroud of gold,
the Body Yama thought to dishonour by his defiling
touch, floating upwards to the supernal azure, the
spirit of Yajnadatta lingered a while, like an ethereal
cloud, in mid-air. And as the kindly dews fall softly
from the bosom of the morning, consoling words
floated downwards, to cheer the aged mourner.
" ' Thy loneliness is not for long, Father, not for long !
The all Merciful Ruler will soon stop thee, with His
hand, and say : " Life is too heavy for these stooping
shoulders ; I will remove the Burthen ! Rest, thou poor
old man ! " And then shall even the memory of thy
sorrow be no more.
" * But for Dasaratha is more cause for pity. A man's
deeds are more memorable than his sufferings ; he
ceases so very soon to feel, â€” and then his joys and
griefs are as though they had not been ; but his actions,
which are the reason of his life, remain, I sorrow less
for thee. Father, than for Dasaratha ! '
" He spoke truly, Kausalya ! In a few days, tended
lovingly by me, the old man died, and his anguish was
no more. And I, after these long years, am bending
now beneath the guerdon of my sin ! "
fa titer is
THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN SiTA AND ANASUYA.
In the grey of morning, Rama stood at the door of his
hermitage. His head was very heavy ; his heart, too,
was not hght. Leaning against the trunk of the
perfumed peepul tree, he gazed with wistful eyes in
the direction of Ayodhya. It had seemed to him that
some light in earth or heaven would reveal where the
fair city lay, but there was no such token ; in the wide
distance was no gleam of light ; Ayodhya was so far
So far away ; â€” ^his father, the old King Dasaratha,
whom grief had slain, and who had passed into the
Restful World ; his mother, the loving Kausalya ; his
younger brother, Bharata, who had followed him into
these wilds, to seek to conquer his resolve, and win
him back to his throne and country, all so far away !
It is an error to suppose that the brave are neces-
sarily strong ; to be a Giant is one thing, to be a Hero
is quite another.
In the eyes of Riima swam a mist of unshed tears ;
suffering could not master him : yet he suffered !
Presently a ruddy glow crimsoned the heavens, and
Surya, the sun god, leapt forth from his misty chamber.
DAYBREAK ON MOUNT CHITRAKUTA.
" Good morrow ! " shouted he to the slumbrous
earth \ and thereupon she shook off her dun languor
and smiled back on him, brightly, " Good morrow ! "
The flowers, who had been weeping, raised their
gentle faces, still wet with dewy tears, and laughed in
their delight. The waving grass tossed the long
shadows to and fro, and played with them and said,
" We fear you no longer ; begone ! It is day ! "
" It is day," muttered the evil beasts, and crouched
low in their dark lairs,
" It is day ! " carolled the birds, and began to soar
Only in Rama's heart the night still lingered.
"The holy anchorites, who dwelt on this mountain,
have all fled," he said to his brother and to the gentle
Sita ; " they tell me that Rakshasas and evil spirits,
who hate all living things, prowl about here by night.
Think you, we do well to linger here ? "
Then Lakshmana, the impetuous young warrior,
broke into a fearless laugh.
" I am not a holy anchorite," he said, toying with
his mighty bow, "to dread the sight of these Rakshasas;
I have no treasures of penitence to lose, if I yield to
a fit of anger ; there is nothing would please me more
than to encounter these enemies of gods and men ! "
But Sita took Rama's hand, and put it tenderly to
" Nay," she said softly, " let us leave this mount
Chitrakuta ; / fear these cruel Rakshasas ; I am very
timid, Lakshmana ! "
For she read her husband's heart, and knew that
to quit t/ieir
THE ILIAD OF THE EAST.
to the her-
the evil spirits he dreaded were the idle regrets
which this spot, where he had bidden farewell to
Bharata, fostered in his mind.
Her love for him told her that.
So they left the fertile mount Chitrakuta, and the
pleasant hermitage, beneath the spreading peepul tree,
to wander once more in the pathless forest.
Towards the close of the first day, they reached the
humble dwelling which the magnanimous Brahman,
Atri, had sanctified by his life of penitence. When
the holy man recognized Rama, the Dasarathide, he
was filled with delight ; and turning to the venerable
saint, his consort, exclaimed :
" See, Anasuya, here comes this youthful prince
who prefers dignity to honour, and self-respect to
the glories of renown. To the vulgar he appears the
victim of fatality ; but the enlightened see in him one
who has dared to face his destiny, and say : ' Thou
art strong, but I am noble ; do thy worst, and I shall
still pass through it, head erect ! ' "
So saying, the saintly hermit hastened forth to meet
At sight of the old recluse the two young heroes
performed a pradakshina round him with great respect,
whilst the bashful Sita stood with downcast eyes
fore the holy man. When the venerable Atri nad
cordially greeted Rama and Lakshmana, he turned
to the gentle daughter of Janaka, and sought to
reassure her by his kindly words.
"Thou art welcome, O Flower of Beauty !" he said.
" My rude hut is all unused to harbour so lovely a
A MIRACLE AMONGST SAINTLY WOMEN.
guest. Anasuya, my faithful consort, had come forth
herself to greet thee, but she is an aged woman, Sita,
and very feeble ; but if thou wilt deign to enter, and
to approach her, she will open her arms to thee ten-
derly, as does the waning night to the radiant star of
Then turning to Rama he added, with justifiable
" Doubtless you have heard, O Prince, of this Ana-
suya, this Miracle amongst saintly women ? When
there was a dearth in the land, she afflicted herself
with terrible penances, for ten thousand years, that
fertility might return to the earth. On another occa-
sion, travelling on the affairs of the Immortals, by
virtue of her astounding macerations, she made one
night equal to ten. In fact this Pearl amongst women
has heaped up treasures by her unequalled penitence,
and can demand what boon she wills at the hands of
the Immortals. She has spoken to me, with favour, of
your blooming Vaidehi,^ and will certainly receive
her with a mother's tenderness."
Then Rama turned to Sita, and said :
" Thou art fortunate. Bride of my heart, to have
won the favourable esteem of this illustrious Penitent.
Enter then the hermitage, and bear, I pray thee, my
greetings to the holy Anasuya."
So, whilst the two princes accompanied the Brahman
to the stream, where he bathed at even, as the sacred
rites command, Sita entered the hermit's dwelling.
She found the ancient woman seated on a couch
* Vaidehl â€” Sita was Princess of Vaideha and Mithila.
A tri tells
THE ILIAD OF THE EAST.
her as a
of the sacred grass, kusa ; her figure was bent and
withered, her countenance wrinkled, her eyes dim,
and she trembled always, as the aspen does when the
rough north wind is abroad.
She had no need to macerate herself any more ;
nature had laid on her the supreme penance of age ;
which earns, too, the supreme compensation â€” rest.
Clasping her hands and raising them to her fore-
head, as the laws of politeness require, the Princess
of Mithila bowed herself before the illustrious Saint,
and inquired, courteously, how she did.
Then the venerable Anasuya looked long and
fixedly at the gentle Vaidehi.
" Thou art beautiful, child," she said at length, and
her voice was harsh as the mountain winds among
the creaking firs ; " and that is not ill : thou art
young and in good health, and that is better; thou
art a dutiful and obedient wife, and that is best of all !
I have heard of thee ; how thou hast abandoned the
luxuries of the court to follow thy husband's fortunes
in the pathless woods. There are many would tell
thee thou hadst performed a heroic action ; but I am
too old to use flatteries. I say merely thou hast done
thy duty. A dutiful wife is the reflection of her hus-
band ; her mind is the mirror which repeats his
thoughts ; her actions shape them after the model of
his ; and she herself follows him, meekly and self-
forgettingly, as the shadow which trails behind him in
the dust !"
Then Sita answered the stern old woman,
IfO^V LOVE CAN TEACH DUTY.
" I cannot tell whether I be a dutiful wife or
no ; I only know that I love Rama. When I stood
by the sacred Fire, and the Flame glowed up into my
Hero's face, as he vowed to love and cherish me, his
eyes met mine, and they held me, and I could not
" Then my soul went out to him.
" I cannot tell if it was God did that or the flame,
which lit up both our faces, or whether his dark, wist-
ful eyes drew the heart out from me ! I only know
that when my gaze fell there was a Heaviness in my
breast, and a Pain, and yet a strange Delight. And
where there had been selfish pride before, was written
Rama; and where there had been hope, or joy, or
beauty, was written Rama; and where there had
been dreams of unknown bliss, was written Rama ;
and where there had been God and heaven, was
written Rama ! â€” I know not if my mind reflects his
own, but every dumb, vague thought of mine he re-
veals clearly to me, and tells it me in living words ; I
cannot say whether I shape my actions after his pat-
tern, but all I strive to do he consummates and per-
fects ; whether I follow him like his shadow, meekly
and self-forgettingly, I know not, but where he goes,
I too go all unwittingly, for I seem to nestle in his
Then Anasuya, the aged matron, stroked Sita's
cheek, and said :
" Thy words have the fire of youth, my daughter,
and love sings in thy voice as through the notes of
the kokila. The past comes back to me, as I hear
THE ILIAD OF THE EAST.
Sit a the gift
thee name thy Beloved. The music of thy voice
brings the dead past back to me."
At that the Vaidehi, half ashamed of her loving
confession, hid her glowing face in the old woman's
bosom, and lay there trembling.
" Listen, my gentle singing Bird," said the vene-
rable Anasuya. " By virtue of my austere life, I
have obtained many gifts from the generous Immor-
tals ; one of them I have reserved for thee. Hence-
forth thou shalt walk adorned with celestial radiance,
which shall add fresh lustre to thy surpassing beauty.
The soft tints of thy raiment shall not fade nor be
ever soiled ; and these flowers I twine in thy glossy
hair shall never die nor lose their sweetness."
The Recluse proceeded to deck the youthful
princess in garments of tender colours, and to
hang glistening gems round her neck, and her small
wrists, and her round graceful ankles. Then the
amorous bride of Rama flung her arms round the aged
"I shall be more beautiful in his sight !" she whis-
pered. " O Pearl among Ancient Women, you have
filled my heart with gladness !"
Then Anasuya bade the Vaidehi sit down beside
her on the sacred grass ; and passing her arm
round her, drew her graceful head down upon her
" Now talk to me, child," she said ; " your voice is
very sweet to my ears. Tell me the story of your
birth, for I have heard you were born of no mortal
And so. reclining in Anasuya's embrace, Sita told
"There is a king of Mithila," she said, "who loves
his people as his own children. His life is very full
of care ; for, on all occasions, he feels with them,
and strives to think for them, as a righteous king
" It is a heavy charge to be on one man's
" The name of this righteous monarch is Janaka ;
he is my revered father.
" Some time back, as he was tracing with a plough
the circle which encloses the ground where sacrifices
are offered, a sudden ecstasy seized him. His heart,
which had been mournful and depressed, glowed with
new warmth, and into his mind, which anxiety had
filled with clouds, came a rush of light.
** From the loose sod thrown up round him, all
threaded through with fibrous roots, he looked to the
rich fields and pastures, and to the flowering shrubs
and giant trees; and his heart warmed to the generous
Goddess who holds the seeds of all things in her
"'O gentle Spirit of the Earth!* he cried, 'thou
alone givest me comfort for Humanity. The sky
draws back her azure robes, and with her myriad
radiant eyes looks down, in still surprise, on this dark,
restless speck called Man. The wailing World of
Waters makes monotonous lament â€” swinging forward,
ebbing backward, "in dull sorrow, that knows nor rest
nor hope. Standing near, the Heart, too, loses hope,
Sita tells of
her fa titer's
dess of the
THE ILIAD OF THE EAST,
Of the Earth
and there seems no cure for grief, nor any Purpose in
the Life of Man.
" ' But thou, Prithivl, noble Goddess of the Soil !
who art more than generous, who axt Just ; who dost
not merely give, but who acceptest ; who, honouring
Man, sayest not, *' Here, poor Creature, is thy daily
food;" but, "Comrade, put thy hand in mine, and let
us work together ; feed me, and I will give thee food ;
tend me, and-I will guard and shelter thee; love me,
and I will cast my beauty at thy feet ; observe and
study me, and I will teach thee to be strong, and
pure, and brave,"â€” thou, beloved Goddess ! art my
comforter and guide ; and, had it pleased Heaven to
give me lineage, I had brought my heir to thee, and
said, " Oh, rear this child up in thy fecund heart,
that I, who love thee, may possess an image of
" As he spoke, a dreamy haze stole over the sweet
Earth's face, like to the misty tenderness which veils
a maiden's eyes when told she is beloved. Little
by little, the amorous Cloud merged into ethereal
semblance of a Woman's form. It floated into the
embrace of his extended arais, and rested on his
impassioned breast most lovingly, a moment; then
died back into the formless air ; and left him, thrilled
by that ineffable caress, enraptured, but very tre-
'"I have had a Vision,' he said presently, and sighed.
â€” * Only a Vision ! ' he repeated, and half wept.
" But, as he put his hand to the plough once more,
lo before him, in the gaping furrow, he saw the loose
THE DAUGHTER OF THE SOIL.
soil move; and at length, slowly and with (Ufficulty
pushing through the heavy earth, emerged before him,
as he stood wonderstruck, a pretty Babe, with large
bewildered eyes, who rested its tiny dimpled hand
upon the broken turf, and struggled hard, and asked,
by plaintive cries, to be released.
** I have heard my father say, that when he saw me
thus, â€” my small limbs covered quite with dust, and
my poor innocent face turned up to his, â€” that his
heart cried out loudly :
" ' This is my child ! *
*' And a whisper from the deep bosom of the Earth
*' * And mine I '
" So Janaka ran forward, and snatched me to his
breast ; then I wept no longer, but smiled happily,
and nestled there.
"And where he took me from sprang up a bed of
flowers, and they did not fade with summer, but grew
more fragrant as the years went on. And when I
grew older, and could walk and run alone, I used to
steal there often, and lie down amongst them ; and
they would cluster round me, and whisper, ' Welcome,
little sister ! '
" But Janaka taught me ever to reverence the
generous Earth, my Mother ; and to strive to be as
pure and true and brave as she. And he called me
* Sitd^ ^ because I sprang from out of a furrow ol the
"This, Holy Woman, is the story of my birth.'*
* Srda means /ttrrozcj,
THE ILIAD OF THE EAST.
Chap. VI. Then Anasuya folded the Vaidehi in her arms :
" Thou hast indeed the courage of the brave Earth-
Mother," she said, " for thou hast not feared to face
the scorching heat, and the biting winds, and the
angry storm ! And thou art as noble too, O Sita !
For thou hast lavished thy beauty on the sorrowful ;
and hast sought to make even the path of exile
sweet to thy Beloved ! That is why I have given
thee unfading charms ; which, like the flowers that
cradled thee, shall outlive thy summer.
" But look ; through the doorway I see the an-
chorites, their valkalas^ glistening with silver water,
returning from the sacred river. The night must
be near; the jealous night who puts a veil over all
else, and says, 'Behold me ; I am decked with stars !'
Ere the darkness descend, stand forth, beside me,
Vaidehi, that I may see thee in thy new apparel."
So the gentle Princess of Mithila stood up; and
Anasuya admired her greatly, and said :
" These gems, and this radiance I have caused to
dwell upon thee, Sita, have greatly enhanced thy
And so thought Rama and Lakshmana, Avhen they
entered the hermitage ; and when they heard that the
Vaidehi was to retain her beauty through the suc-
ceeding years, they were the more delighted, and
" That is a favour seldom granted to mortal woman."
* Valkala â€” mantles worn by anchorites.
About this time lived an illustrious hermit, named
Agastya. He was justly renowned in the three
worlds, both for the persistency of his self-macerations,
and the amazing power he had acquired thereby;
neither of which had been equalled by any saint
before him, nor, it is probable, will be by any that
may come after. I will not attempt to enter here on
the history of his astounding miracles : but when I
shall have told you that, on one occasion, he devoured
the Rakshasa Vatapi, under the form of a ram ; and
that, on another, to please the Immortals, he swallowed
the sea, with its alligators and aquatic monsters, I
think you will admit I have not overrated his merits.
But these things were mere trifles to the resplendent
It was near to the abode of this unrivalled saint
that Rama wished to establish his new hermitage.
Now, Agastya lived in the midst of the terrible
forest, Dandaka, where eternal darkness reigned. The
huge trees there towered up till they reached the light,
branchless; then they spread forth their massive
ti! trades of
THE ILIAD OF THE EAST.
bourhs, and crushed them down, the one on the cher,
to ward off the sunshine ; if any emaciated Deam
forced its way through the outer fohage, it was
strangled, straightway, by the creeping plants that
twisted them round the naked trunks, and swung
their fibrous arms from tree to tree. There were few
sounds, and less movement; yet one was conscious
that the Forest teemed with life ; the intense stillness
itself revealed this. It was not the calm of solitude
but the suspended breath, which betrays a Hiding
Place ! The large-bladed grass grew to a monstrous
height ; it was of a
metallic green, that
showed the dank mephitic slime which nourished it ;
fungi, of all sizes and shapes and colours, sprang up
amidst it ; but there were no flowers â€” none, save the
spotted orchids, the impure daughters of mortality,
who thrive upon the fetid air, and draw their poi-
sonous brilliancy from corruption.
It was the home of those who loathe the day.
For all the dimness, and the evil that it sheltered,
and the silent menace of the faint, musk-scented air,
it was not without a dangerous fascination, and a
sinister beauty of its own.
Reader, let us not deceive ourselves : the ugliness of
Sin is an illusory supposition merely. Were it a fact,
the influence of Evil would be indeed unaccountable,
â€” to be attracted by the repiilswe, the preachers of
innate depravity will find it hard to fasten this anomaly
on poor Human Nature ! No ; the . Beautiful, the
Ideal, for they are One, includes all the opposite
principles of Life; here, too, all that is, involves
THE HAUNTED FOREST.
the existence of its contrary : the Angel of Light
infers the Prince of Darkness ; the Music of the
Spheres, the sombrous Harmony of Gehenna ; the
Radiance of the Empyrean, the magnificent Gloom of
the Abyss !
The glamour of the dangerous Forest had fallen on
Rama. The obscurity weighed on him heavily, yet it
had a volupiuous charm for him. He was, at once,
disquieted and entranced. An apprehension of un-
known Danger warned him not to linger here ; at the
same time, he was loth to go ; his own misgivings had
such an absorbing interest for him !
All this he did not acknowledge, even to himself.
" I would fain establish myself in your neighbour-
hood, O Elephant among Saints !" he said to Agastya,
" were it not for my gentle Sita. ... It is true that
I am here to protect her and the gallant Lakshmana,
my brother ; what think you, holy man ? My timid
Princess might perchance be exposed to alarms, for
this wood of Dandaka is full of terror."
*' It is truly a sombrous dwelling for thy youthful
bride," answered the Hermit ; " and since she has
abandoned her home to follow thy fortunes, it becomes