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FROM THE SHAH-NAMEH:
The Rajah of India sends a Chess
board to Nushirvan
Zal and Rudabeh
FROM THE POEM OF THE CID:
Count Raymond and My Cid
FROM THE DIVINE COMEDY:
Buonconte di Montefeltro
Beatrice descending from Heaven .
The Exquisite Beauty of Beatrice
FROM THE ORLANDO FURIOSO:
Apostrophe to Light.
FROM PARADISE REGAINED:
The Temptation of the Vision of the
Kingdoms of the Earth
"He who sings and hears this poem continually has attained to the highest state of enjoyment, and will finally be equal to the gods."
HE Râmâyana, the Hindu Iliad, is variously ascribed to the fifth, third, and first centuries B. C., its many interpolations making it almost impossible to determine its age by internal evidence. Its authorship is unknown, but according to legend it was sung by Kuça and Lava, the sons of Rama, to whom it was taught by Valmiki. Of the three versions now extant, one is attributed to Valmiki, another to Tuli Das, and a third to Vyasa.
Its historical basis, almost lost in the innumerable episodes and grotesque imaginings of the Hindu, is probably the conquest of southern India and Ceylon by the Aryans.
The Râmâyana is written in the Sanskrit language, is divided into seven books, or sections, and contains fifty thousand lines, the English translation of which, by Griffith, occupies five volumes.
The hero, Rama, is still an object of worship in India, the route of his wanderings being, each year, trodden by devout pilgrims. The poem is not a mere literary monument, - it is a part of the actual religion of the Hindu, and is held in such reverence that the mere reading or hearing of it, or certain passages of it, is believed to free from sin and grant his every desire to the reader or hearer.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM, THE RÂMÂYANA. G. W. Cox's Mythology and Folklore, 1881, p. 313; John Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology, Religion, Geography, History, and Literature, 1879; Sir William Jones on the Literature of the Hindus (in his Works, vol. iv.); Maj.Gen. Vans Kennedy's Researches into Hindu Mythology, 1831; James Mill's History of British India, 1840, vol. ii., pp. 47-123; F. Max Müller's Ancient Sanskrit Literature, 1859; E. A. Reed's Hindu Literature, 1891, pp. 153-271; Albrecht Weber's History of Indian Literature, 1878, pp. 191-195; J. T. Wheeler's History of India, 4 vols., 1876, vol. ii.; Sir Monier Williams's Indian Wisdom, 1863, Indian Epic Poetry, 1863; Article on Sanskrit Literature in Encyclopædia Britannica; R. M. Cust's The Râmâyana: a Sanskrit Epic (in his Linguistic and Oriental Essays, 1880, p. 56); T. Goldstuecker's Râmâyana (in his Literary Remains, 1879, vol. i., p. 155); C. J. Stone's Cradleland of Arts and Creeds, 1880, pp. 11-21; Albrecht Weber's On the Râmâyana, 1870; Westminster Review, 1849, vol. 1., p. 34; J. C. Oman's Great Indian Epics, 1874, pp. 13-81.
STANDARD ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS, THE RAMAYANA. The Râmâyana, Tr. by R. T. H. Griffith, 5 vols., 1870-1874. (Follows Bombay ed., Translated into metre of "Lady of the Lake"); Extracts from the Râmâyana, Tr. by Sir William Jones (in his Works, vol. 13); Iliad of the East, F. Richardson, 1873 (Popular translations of a set of legends from the Râmâyana); The Râmâyana translated into English Prose, edited and published by Naumatha Nath Dutt, 7 vols., Calcutta, 1890-1894.
THE STORY OF THE RÂMÂYANA.
BRAHMA, creator of the universe, though all powerful, could not revoke a promise once made. For this reason, Ravana, the demon god of Ceylon, stood on his head in the midst of five fires for ten thousand years, and at the end of that time boldly demanded of Brahma as a reward that he should not be slain by gods, demons, or genii. He also requested the gift of nine other heads and eighteen additional arms and hands.
These having been granted, he began by the aid of his evil spirits, the Rakshasas, to lay waste the earth and to do violence to the good, especially to the priests.
At the time when Ravana's outrages were spreading terror throughout the land, and Brahma, looking down from his throne, shuddered to see the monster he had gifted with such fell power, there reigned in Ayodhya, now the city of Oude, a good and wise raja, Dasaratha, who had reigned over the splendid city for nine thousand years without once growing weary. He had but one grief, — that he was childless, and at the opening of the story he was preparing to make the great sacrifice, Asva-medha, to propitiate the gods, that they might give him a son.
The gods, well pleased, bore his request to Brahma in person, and incidentally preferred a request that he provide some means of destroying the monster Ravana that was working such woe among their priests, and disturbing their sacrifices.
Brahma granted the first request, and, cudgeling his brains for a device to destroy Ravana, bethought himself that while he had promised that neither gods, genii, nor demons should slay him, he had said nothing of man. He accordingly led the appealing gods to Vishnu, who proclaimed that the monster should be slain by men and monkeys, and that he would
himself be re-incarnated as the eldest son of Dasaratha and in this form compass the death of Ravana.
In course of time, as a reward for his performance of the great sacrifice, four sons were born to Dasaratha, Rama by Kausalya, his oldest wife, Bharata, whose mother was Kaikeyi, and twin sons, Lakshmana and Satrughna, whose mother was Sumitra.
Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu, destined to destroy Ravana, grew daily in grace, beauty, and strength. When he was but sixteen years old, having been sent for by a sage to destroy the demons who were disturbing the forest hermits in their religious rites, he departed unattended, save by his brother Lakshmana and a guide, into the pathless forests, where he successfully overcame the terrible Rakshasa, Tarika, and conveyed her body to the grateful sage.
While he was journeying through the forests, destroying countless Rakshasas, he chanced to pass near the kingdom of Mithila and heard that its king, Janaka, had offered his peerless daughter, Sita, in marriage to the man who could bend the mighty bow of Siva the destroyer, which, since its owner's death, had been kept at Janaka's court.
Rama at once determined to accomplish the feat, which had been essayed in vain by so many suitors. When he presented himself at court Janaka was at once won by his youth and beauty; and when the mighty bow, resting upon an eightwheeled car, was drawn in by five thousand men, and Rama without apparent effort bent it until it broke, he gladly gave him his beautiful daughter, and after the splendid wedding ceremonies were over, loaded the happy pair with presents to carry back to Ayodhya.
When Dasaratha, who had attended the marriage of his son at Mithila, returned home, he began to feel weary of reigning, and bethought himself of the ancient Hindu custom of making the eldest son and heir apparent a Yuva-Raja, that is appointing him assistant king. Rama deserved this honor, and would, moreover, be of great assistance to him.
His happy people received the announcement of his intention with delight; the priests approved of it as well, and the