Page images
PDF
EPUB

MANTHARA'S GUILE.

“But this happiness was all destroyed by the intrigues of Dasaratha's second wife, who was jealous of Rama, and determined that her son Bharat should be the future king.” Mrs. SPEIR.

High on the palace roof Kaikeyi's maid,
The crook-back Manthara, the town surveyed.
She saw the water sprinkled o'er the street,
And flowery heaps and garlands fresh and sweet :
Saw pennons playing in the scented air,
And busy Brahmans bustling here and there.
From every corner, as around she gazed,
She heard a concert of glad music raised;
While every temple shone with purest white,
That the maid marvelled at the festive sight.
She turned to Rama's nurse, who, standing by,
Gazed on the scene with rapture-rolling eye,
And cried, “I pray thee, aged matron, say
Does Rama's mother scatter gifts to-day?
Have the Gods listened to Kausalya's vow,
And made the frugal queen so lavish now?"

D

The white-robed nurse, with transport uncontrolled, All the glad story to the damsel told : “To-morrow's happy light will see,” she cried, “Prince Rama Regent by his father's side."

Down from the roof, high as Kailasa's' head,
In furious haste the crook-backt maiden sped:
Planning accursed guile, her soul aflame,
Where queen Kaikeyi lay asleep, she came.

Up, queen !" she cried, “ unclose thy heedless eyes ;
Huge peril threatens thee, awake! arise !
Art thou still sleeping, still too blind to see
The load of misery that crushes thee?
Boast of thy husband's love, and find too late
His vaunted favour but disguises hate.
Ruin to thee and thine, thy lord has planned
To make Prince Rama Regent o'er the land,
In fear and grief and rage thy faithful slave

Has hither fled to warn thee and to save.

Are not my fortunes closely knit with thine ?
Thy gain and peril, both, are also mine.

[merged small][ocr errors]

And thou, the scion of a royal race,
Shouldst know the frauds which royal hearts disgrace.
Poor queen, he loves thee not : thy treacherous lord :
Can smile upon thee while he bares the sword :
And thy sweet soul, pure from all thought of sin,

Sees not the cruel snares tbat hem thee in.

Kind flattering words he makes thine empty dower,
But queen Kausalya has the wealth and power.
Far from thy side thine own dear son he sends
To live an exile with his mother's friends ;

And, every rival thus removed from sight,
He gives to Rama all the royal might.
Alas! deluded lady, thou hast prest
A deadly serpent to thy foolish breast,
Lavishing love on him who works thee woe,
No loving husband but a mortal foe.
Come, rouse thee, mistress, while there yet is time,

Ensure thy safety and prevent the crime.
Up from thy careless ease! awake, and be
The saviour of thy son, thyself, and me.”

Up rose Kaikeyi radiant with delight,

Like the calm moon upon the autumn night,
And spoke these words in answer, as she gave,
For the glad news, a necklace to the slave:
“Take this, dear maiden, for thy pains, and say
How can my love thy welcome tale repay.
I joy that Rama shares his father's throne:
I love Kausalya’s son e'en as I love mine own."

The handmaid's soul with grief and fury burned ; She cried in anger, as the gift she spurned : “What! on the sea of whelming ruin tost, Canst thou rejoice when all but hope is lost ? Heart-sick I am, yet smile to see thy joy When peril threatens and will soon destroy. If thou wert wise thou scarce wouldst hail, I ween, For king, the offspring of a rival queen. Soon wilt thou stand in menial habit drest, And move obedient to her high behest. Yea, thou wilt serve with us who serve thee now, And see thy child before his brother bow. Then Rama's wife will triumph, queen of all, And thy poor daughter be a helpless thrall.”

“The viriuous Rama,” thus the dame replied, “From virtue's path will never turn aside. Obedient, grateful, pure from stain, and true, As eldest born he only gains his due. His lords and brethren many a year will share, Blest in his rule, his kind paternal care : And when a hundred years have past away, My son, dear Bharat, will enjoy the sway. I love Prince Rama as mine own dear son ;

I see no fault to stain him, no not one.

Gentle and lowly, good and kind is he,
Meek to his mother, meeker still to me.

What though he rule, there is no cause of fear,

To him his br

en as his soul are dear :

And though in name his father's place he fill
Bharat will share the royal sceptre still."

Kaikeyi ceased : the impatient maiden sighed, And thus with tears of grief and spite replied : “Ah queen, what frenzy has assailed thy mind, And made thee thus to instant danger blind ? Too blind to mark the seas of grief and woe,

« PreviousContinue »