To the fairest of his consorts, dearest to his ancient heart,
Came the king with eager gladness joyful message to impart,
Radiant as the Lord of Midnight, ere the eclipse casts its gloom,
Carne the old and ardent monarch heedless of his darksome doom!
Through the shady palace garden where the peacock wandered free.
Lute and lyre poured forth their music, parrot flew from tree to tree,
Through the corridor of creepers, painted rooms by artists done,
And the halls where scented Champak and the flaming Asok shone,
Through the portico of splendour graced by silver, tusk and gold.
Radiant with his thought of gladness walked the monarch proud and bold.
Through the lines of scented blossoms which by limpid waters shone,
And the rooms with seats of silver, ivory bench and golden throne.
Through the chamber of confection, where each viand wooed the taste,
Every object in profusion as in regions of the blest,
Through Kaikeyi’s inner closet lighted with a softened sheen,
Walked the king with eager longing,-but Kaikeyi was not seen!
Thoughts of love and gentle dalliance woke-within his ancient heart,
And the magic of her beauty and the glamour of her art,
With a soft desire the monarch vainly searched the vanished fair,
Found her not in royal chamber, found her not in gay parterre!
Filled with love and longing languor loitered not the radiant queen,
In her soft voluptuous chamber, in the garden, grove or green,
And he asked the faithful warder of Kaikeyi loved and lost,
She who served him with devotion and his wishes never crost,
Spake the warder in his terror that the queen with rage distraught.
Weeping silent tears of anguish had the mourner’s chamber sought!
Thither flew the stricken monarch; on the bare and unswept ground,
Trembling with tumultuous passion was the Queen Kaikeyi found,
On the cold uncovered pavement sorrowing lay the weeping wife,
Young wife of an ancient husband, dearer than his heart and life!
Like a bright and blossoming creeper rudely severed from the earth,
Like a fallen fair Apsara, beauteous nymph of heavenly birth,
Like a female forest-ranger bleeding from the hunter’s dart,
Whom her mate the forest-monarch soothes with soft endearing art,
Lay the queen in tears of anguish! And with sweet and gentle word
To the lotus-eyƩd lady softly spake her loving lord:
Wherefore thus, my Queen and Empress, sorrow-laden is thy heart,
Who with daring slight or insult seeks to cause thy bosom smart?
If some unknown ailment pains thee, evil spirit of the air,
Skilled physicians wait upon thee, priests with incantations fair,
If from human foe some insult, wipe thy tears and doom his fate,
Rich reward or royal vengeance shall upon thy mandate wait!
Wilt thou doom to death the guiltless, free whom direst sins debase,
Wilt thou lift the poor and lowly or the proud and great disgrace,
Speak, and I and all my courtiers Queen Kaikeyi’s hest obey,
For thy might is boundless, Empress, limitless thy regal sway!
Rolls my chariot-wheel revolving from the sea to farthest sea,
And the wide earth is my empire, monarchs list my proud decree,
Nations of the eastern regions and of Sindhu’s western wave,
Brave Saurashtras and the races who the ocean’s dangers brave,
Vangas, Angas and Magadhas, warlike Matsyas of the west,
Kasis and the southern races, brave Kosalas first and best,
Nations of my world-wide empire, rich in corn and sheep and kine,
All shall serve my Queen Kaikeyi and their treasures all are thine,
Speak, command thy king a obedience, and thy wrath will melt away,
Like the melting snow of winter ‘neath the sun’s reviving ray!’
Blinded was the ancient husband as he lifted up her head,
Heedless oath and word he plighted that her wish should be obeyed,
Scheming for a fatal purpose, inly then Kaikeyi smiled,
And by sacred oath and promise bound the monarch love-beguiled:
‘Thou hast given, Dasa-ratha, troth and word and royal oath,
Three and thirty Gods be witness, watchers of the righteous truth,
Sun and Moon and Stars be witness, Sky and Day and sable Night,
Rolling Worlds and this our wide Earth, and each dark and unseen wight,
Witness Rangers of the forest, Household Gods that guard us both,
Mortal beings and Immortal,-witness ye the monarch’s oath,
Ever faithful to his promise, ever truthful in his word,
Dasa-ratha grants my prayer, Spirits and the Gods have heard!
Call to mind, O righteous monarch, days when in a bygone strife,
Warring with thy foes immortal thou hadst almost lost thy life,
With a woman’s loving tendance poor Kaikeyi cured thy wound,
Till from death and danger rescued, thou wert by a promise bound,
Two rewards my husband offered, what my loving heart might seek,
Long delayed their wished fulfilment,-now let poor Kaikeyi speak,
And if royal deeds redeem not what thy royal lips did say,
Victim to thy broken promise Queen Kaikeyi dies to-day!
By these rites ordained for Rama,-such the news my menials bring,-
Let my Bharat, and not Rama, be anointed Regent King,
Wearing skins and matted tresses, in the cave or hermit’s cell,
Fourteen years in Dandak’s forests let the elder Rama dwell,
These are Queen Kaikeyi’s wishes, these are boons for which I pray,
I would see my son anointed, Rama banished on this day!’

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