When the silent night was ended, and their pure ablutions done,
Joyous went the minstrel brothers, and their lofty lay begun,
Rama to the hermit minstrels lent a monarch’s willing car,
Blended with the simple music dulcet was the lay to hear,
And so sweet the chanted accents, Rama’s inmost soul was stirred,
With his royal guests and courtiers still the deathless lay he heard!
Heralds versed in old Puranas, Brahmans skilled in pious rite,
Minstrels deep in lore of music, poets fired by heavenly might,
Watchers of the constellations, min’sters of the festive day,
Men of science and of logic, bards who sang the ancient lay,
Painters skilled and merry dancers who the festive joy prolong
Hushed and silent in their wonder listed to the wondrous song!
And as poured the flood of music through the bright and livelong day,
Eyes and ears and hearts insatiate drank the nectar of the lay,
And the eager people whispered: ‘See the boys, how like our king
As two drops of limpid water from the parent bubble spring!
Were the boys no hermit-children, in the hermit’s garments clad,
We would deem them Rama’s image,-Rama as a youthful lad!’
Twenty cantos of the Epic thus the youthful minstrels sung,
And the voice of stringéd music through the Epic rolled along,
Out spake Rama in his wonder: ‘Scarce I know who these may be,
Eighteen thousand golden pieces be the children-minstrels’ fee!’
‘Not so,’ answered thus the children, ‘we in darksome forests dwell,
Gold and silver, bounteous monarch, forest life beseem not well!’
‘Noble children!’ uttered Rama, ‘dear to me the words you say,
Tell me who composed this Epic,-Father of this deathless Lay?’
‘Saint Valmiki,’ spake the minstrels, ‘framed the great immortal song
Four and twenty thousand verses to this noble Lay belong,
Untold tales of deathless virtue sanctify his sacred line,
And five hundred glorious cantos in this glorious Epic shine,
In six Books of mighty splendour was the poet’s task begun,
With a seventh Book, supplemental is the poet’s labour done,
All thy matchless deeds, O monarch, in this Lay will brighter shine,
List to us from first to ending if thy royal heart incline!’
‘Be it so,’ thus Rama answered, but the hours of day were o’er,
And Valmiki’s youthful pupils to their cottage came once more.
Rama with his guests and courtiers slowly left the royal hall,
Eager was his heart to listen, eager were the monarchs all,
And the voice of song and music thus was lifted day to day,
And from day to day they listened to Valmiki’s deathless Lay!