Lakshman by Toru Dutt

Toru Dutt (1856-1877)


              1"Hark! Lakshman! Hark, again that cry!
              2    It is, -- it is my husband's voice!
              3Oh hasten, to his succour fly,
              4    No more hast thou, dear friend, a choice.
              5He calls on thee, perhaps his foes
              6    Environ him on all sides round,
              7That wail, -- it means death's final throes!
              8    Why standest thou, as magic-bound?

              9"Is this a time for thought, -- oh gird
            10    Thy bright sword on, and take thy bow!
            11He heeds not, hears not any word,
            12    Evil hangs over us, I know!
            13Swift in decision, prompt in deed,
            14    Brave unto rashness, can this be,
            15The man to whom all looked at need?
            16    Is it my brother that I see!

            17"Oh no, and I must run alone,
            18    For further here I cannot stay;
            19Art thou transformed to blind dumb stone!
            20    Wherefore this impious, strange delay!
            21That cry, -- that cry, -- it seems to ring
            22    Still in my ears, -- I cannot bear
            23Suspense; if help we fail to bring
            24    His death at least we both can share"

            25"Oh calm thyself, Videhan Queen,
            26    No cause is there for any fear,
            27Hast thou his prowess never seen?
            28    Wipe off for shame that dastard tear!
            29What being of demonian birth
            30    Could ever brave his mighty arm?
            31Is there a creature on earth
            32    That dares to work our hero harm?

            33"The lion and the grisly bear
            34    Cower when they see his royal look,
            35Sun-staring eagles of the air
            36    His glance of anger cannot brook,
            37Pythons and cobras at his tread
            38    To their most secret coverts glide,
            39Bowed to the dust each serpent head
            40    Erect before in hooded pride.

            41"Rakshasas, Danavs, demons, ghosts,
            42    Acknowledge in their hearts his might,
            43And slink to their remotest coasts,
            44    In terror at his very sight.
            45Evil to him! Oh fear it not,
            46    Whatever foes against him rise!
            47Banish for aye the foolish thought,
            48    And be thyself, -- bold, great, and wise.

            49"He call for help! Canst thou believe
            50    He like a child would shriek for aid
            51Or pray for respite or reprieve --
            52    Not of such metal is he made!
            53Delusive was that piercing cry, --
            54    Some trick of magic by the foe;
            55He has a work, -- he cannot die,
            56    Beseech me not from hence to go.

            57For here beside thee, as a guard
            58    'Twas he commanded me to stay,
            59And dangers with my life to ward
            60    If they should come across thy way.
            61Send me not hence, for in this wood
            62    Bands scattered of the giants lurk,
            63Who on their wrongs and vengeance brood,
            64    And wait the hour their will to work."

            65"Oh shame! and canst thou make my weal
            66    A plea for lingering! Now I know
            67What thou art, Lakshman! And I feel
            68    Far better were an open foe.
            69Art thou a coward? I have seen
            70    Thy bearing in the battle-fray
            71Where flew the death-fraught arrows keen,
            72    Else had I judged thee so today.

            73"But then thy leader stood beside!
            74    Dazzles the cloud when shines the sun,
            75Reft of his radiance, see it glide
            76    A shapeless mass of vapours dun;
            77So of thy courage, -- or if not,
            78    The matter is far darker dyed,
            79What makes thee loth to leave this spot?
            80    Is there a motive thou wouldst hide?

            81"He perishes -- well, let him die!
            82    His wife henceforth shall be mine own!
            83Can that thought deep imbedded lie
            84    Within thy heart's most secret zone!
            85Search well and see! one brother takes
            86    His kingdom, -- one would take his wife!
            87A fair partition! -- But it makes
            88    Me shudder, and abhor my life.

            89"Art thou in secret league with those
            90    Who from his hope the kingdom rent?
            91A spy from his ignoble foes
            92    To track him in his banishment?
            93And wouldst thou at his death rejoice?
            94    I know thou wouldst, or sure ere now
            95When first thou heardst that well known voice
            96    Thou shouldst have run to aid, I trow.

            97"Learn this, -- whatever comes may come,
            98    But I shall not survive my Love,
            99Of all my thoughts here is the sum!
          100    Witness it gods in heaven above.
          101If fire can burn, or water drown,
          102    I follow him: -- choose what thou wilt
          103Truth with its everlasting crown,
          104    Or falsehood, treachery, and guilt.

          105"Remain here with a vain pretence
          106    Of shielding me from wrong and shame,
          107Or go and die in his defence
          108    And leave behind a noble name.
          109Choose what thou wilt, -- I urge no more,
          110    My pathway lies before me clear,
          111I did not know thy mind before,
          112    I know thee now, -- and have no fear."

          113She said and proudly from him turned, --
          114    Was this the gentle Sita? No.
          115Flames from her eyes shot forth and burned,
          116    The tears therein had ceased to flow.
          117"Hear me, O Queen, ere I depart,
          118    No longer can I bear thy words,
          119They lacerate my inmost heart
          120    And torture me, like poisoned swords.

          121"Have I deserved this at thine hand?
          122    Of lifelong loyalty and truth
          123Is this the meed? I understand
          124    Thy feelings, Sita, and in sooth
          125I blame thee not, -- but thou mightst be
          126    Less rash in judgement, Look! I go,
          127Little I care what comes to me
          128    Wert thou but safe, -- God keep thee so!

          129"In going hence I disregard
          130    The plainest orders of my chief,
          131A deed for me, -- a soldier, -- hard
          132    And deeply painful, but thy grief
          133And language, wild and wrong, allow
          134    No other course. Mine be the crime,
          135And mine alone. -- but oh, do thou
          136    Think better of me from this time.

          137"Here with an arrow, lo, I trace
          138    A magic circle ere I leave,
          139No evil thing within this space
          140    May come to harm thee or to grieve.
          141Step not, for aught, across the line,
          142    Whatever thou mayst see or hear,
          143So shalt thou balk the bad design
          144    Of every enemy I fear.

          145"And now farewell! What thou hast said,
          146    Though it has broken quite my heart,
          147So that I wish I were dead --
          148    I would before, O Queen, we part,
          149Freely forgive, for well I know
          150    That grief and fear have made thee wild,
          151We part as friends, -- is it not so?"
          152    And speaking thus he sadly smiled.

          153"And oh ye sylvan gods that dwell
          154    Among these dim and sombre shades,
          155Whose voices in the breezes swell
          156    And blend with noises of cascades,
          157Watch over Sita, whom alone
          158    I leave, and keep her safe from harm,
          159Till we return unto our own,
          160    I and my brother, arm in arm.

          161"For though ill omens round us rise
          162    And frighten her dear heart, I feel
          163That he is safe. Beneath the skies
          164    His equal is not, -- and his heel
          165Shall tread all adversaries down,
          166    Whoeve'r they may chance to be.
          167Farewell, O Sita! Blessings crown
          168    And peace for ever rest with thee!"

          169He said, and straight his weapons took
          170    His bow and arrows pointed keen,
          171Kind, -- nay, indulgent, -- was his look,
          172    No trace of anger, there was seen,
          173Only a sorrow dark, that seemed
          174    To deepen his resolve to dare
          175All dangers. Hoarse the vulture screamed,
          176    As out he strode with dauntless air.
1] "The theme is derived from the Ramayana. Sita, deeply moved by the beauty of a golden deer roaming about the hermitage, pleads with her husband [Rama] to get it for her. Rama goes in pursuit of the deer in spite of the forebodings expressed by Lakshman who guesses that the golden deer is Maricha in disguise sent by Ravana. After a long pursuit of the deer Rama sends an arrow which fells Maricha. While dying he cries out in Rama's voice for help. Hearing the agonised cry, Sita mistakes it for Rama's voice. Toru Dutt's poem begins at this point. Sita urges Lakshman to rush to help Rama. However, Lakshman is unmoved as he has been instructed by Rama not to leave the hermitage and to give protection to Sita. Moreover, Lakshman knows that Rama is fortified against death and is invincible" (Nair, 109).

25] Videhan: an old kingdom, Videha, on the river Ganga.

41] Rakshases: Ravana, king of the black, ape-like called in the epic as Rakshases of Lanka. There his wife, Sita, was abducted by Ravana, king of the ape-like creatures called the Rakshases of Lanka in the epic Ramayana, kidnapped Sita. She was rescued by Hanuman, a monkey. Danavs: giants.

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