The Birth of The War-God (Canto Second) – The Address To Brahma

While impious TARAK in resistless might Was troubling heaven and earth with wild affright, To BRAHMA’S high abode, by INDRA led, The mournful deities for refuge fled. As when the Day-God’s loving beams awake The lotus slumbering on the silver lake, So BRAHMA deigned his glorious face to show, And poured sweet comfort on their looks of woe. Then nearer came the suppliant Gods to pay Honour to him whose face turns every way. They bowed them low before the Lord of Speech, And sought with truthful words his heart to reach: “Glory to Thee! before the world was made, One single form thy Majesty displayed. Next Thou, to body forth the mystic Three, Didst fill three Persons: Glory, Lord, to Thee! Unborn and unbegotten! from thy hand The fruitful seed rained down; at thy command From that small germ o’er quickening waters thrown All things that move not, all that move have grown. Before thy triple form in awe they bow: Maker, preserver, and destroyer, Thou! Thou, when a longing urged thee to create, Thy single form in twain didst separate. The Sire, the Mother that made all things be By their first union were but parts of Thee. From them the life that fills this earthly frame, And fruitful Nature, self-renewing, came. Thou countest not thy time by mortals’ light; With Thee there is but one vast day and night. When BRAHMA slumbers fainting Nature dies, When BRAHMA wakens all again arise. Creator of the world, and uncreate! Endless! all things from Thee their end await. Before the world wast Thou! each Lord shall fall Before Thee, mightiest, highest, Lord of all. Thy self-taught soul thine own deep spirit knows; Made by thyself thy mighty form arose; Into the same, when all things have their end, Shall thy great self, absorbed in Thee, descend. Lord, who may hope thy essence to declare? Firm, yet as subtile as the yielding air: Fixt, all-pervading; ponderous, yet light, Patent to all, yet hidden from the sight. Thine are the sacred hymns which mortals raise, Commencing ever with the word of praise, With three-toned chant the sacrifice to grace, And win at last in heaven a blissful place. They hail Thee Nature labouring to free The Immortal Soul from low humanity; Hail Thee the stranger Spirit, unimpressed, Gazing on Nature from thy lofty rest. Father of fathers, God of gods art thou, Creator, highest, hearer of the vow! Thou art the sacrifice, and Thou the priest, Thou, he that eateth; Thou, the holy feast. Thou art the knowledge which by Thee is taught, The mighty thinker, and the highest thought!”

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Pleased with their truthful praise, his favouring eye He turned upon the dwellers in the sky, While from four mouths his words in gentle flow Come welling softly to assuage their woe: “Welcome! glad welcome, Princes! ye who hold Your lofty sovereignties ordained of old. But why so mournful? what has dimmed your light? Why shine your faces less divinely bright? Like stars that pour forth weaker, paler gleams, When the fair moon with brighter radiance beams. O say, in vain doth mighty INDRA bear The thunderbolt of heaven, unused to spare? VRITRA, the furious fiend, ’twas strong to slay: Why dull and blunted is that might to-day? See, VARUN’S noose hangs idly on his arm, Like some fell serpent quelled by magic charm. Weak is KUVERA’S hand, his arm no more Wields the dread mace it once so proudly bore; But like a tree whose boughs are lopped away, It tells of piercing woe, and dire dismay. In days of yore how YAMA’S sceptre shone! Fled are its glories, all its terrors gone; Despised and useless as a quenched brand, All idly now it marks the yielding sand. Fallen are the Lords of Light, ere now the gaze Shrank from the coming of their fearful blaze; So changed are they, the undazzled eye may see Like pictured forms, each rayless deity. Some baffling power has curbed the breezes’ swell: Vainly they chafe against the secret spell. We know some barrier checks their wonted course, When refluent waters seek again their source. The RUDRAS too–fierce demigods who bear The curved moon hanging from their twisted hair– Tell by their looks of fear, and shame, and woe, Of threats now silenced, of a mightier foe. Glory and power, ye Gods, were yours of right: Have ye now yielded to some stronger might, Even as on earth a general law may be Made powerless by a special text’s decree? Then say, my sons, why seek ye BRAHMA’S throne? ‘Tis mine to frame the worlds, and yours to guard your own.”

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Then INDRA turned his thousand glorious eyes, Glancing like lilies when the soft wind sighs, And in the Gods’ behalf, their mighty chief Urged the Most Eloquent to tell their grief. Then rose the heavenly Teacher, by whose side Dim seemed the glories of the Thousand-eyed, And with his hands outspread, to BRAHMA spake, Couched on his own dear flower, the daughter of the lake: “O mighty Being! surely thou dost know The unceasing fury of our ruthless foe; For thou canst see the secret thoughts that lie Deep in the heart, yet open to thine eye. The vengeful TARAK, in resistless might, Like some dire Comet, gleaming wild affright, O’er all the worlds an evil influence sheds, And, in thy favour strong, destruction spreads. All bow before him: on his palace wall The sun’s first ray and parting splendour fall; Ne’er could he waken with a lovelier glance His own dear lotus from her nightly trance. For him, proud fiend, the moon no waning knows, But with unminished full-orbed lustre glows. Too faint for him the crescent glory set Amid the blaze of [‘S]IVA’S coronet. How fair his garden, where the obedient breeze Dares steal no blossom from the slumbering trees! The wild wind checks his blustering pinions there, And gently whispering fans the balmy air; While through the inverted year the seasons pour, To win the demon’s grace, their flowery store. For him, the River-god beneath the stream, Marks the young pearl increase its silver gleam, Until, its beauty and its growth complete, He bears the offering to his master’s feet. The Serpents, led by VASUKI, their king, Across his nightly path their lustre fling; Bright as a torch their flashing jewels blaze, Nor wind, nor rain, can dim their dazzling rays. E’en INDRA, sovereign of the blissful skies, To gain his love by flattering homage tries, And sends him oft those flowers of wondrous hue That on the heavenly tree in beauty grew. Yet all these offerings brought from day to day, This flattery, fail his ruthless hand to stay. Earth, hell, and heaven, beneath his rage must groan, Till force can hurl him from his evil throne. Alas! where glowed the bright celestial bowers, And gentle fair ones nursed the opening flowers, Where heavenly trees a heavenly odour shed, O’er a sad desert ruin reigns instead. He roots up MERU’S sacred peaks, where stray The fiery coursers of the God of Day, To form bright slopes, and glittering mounds of ease, In the broad gardens of his palaces. There, on his couch, the mighty lord is fanned To sweetest slumber by a heavenly band; Poor captive nymphs, who stand in anguish by, Drop the big tear, and heave the ceaseless sigh. And now have INDRA’S elephants defiled The sparkling stream where heavenly GANGA smiled, And her gold lotuses the fiend has taken To deck his pools, and left her all forsaken. The Gods of heaven no more delight to roam O’er all the world, far from their glorious home. They dread the demon’s impious might, nor dare Speed their bright chariots through the fields of air. And when our worshippers in duty bring The appointed victims for the offering, He tears them from the flame with magic art, While we all powerless watch with drooping heart. He too has stolen from his master’s side The steed of heavenly race, great INDRA’S pride. No more our hosts, so glorious once, withstand The fierce dominion of the demon’s hand, As herbs of healing virtue fail to tame The sickness raging through the infected frame. Idly the discus hangs on VISH[N.]U’S neck, And our last hope is vain, that it would check The haughty TARAK’S might, and flash afar Ruin and death–the thunderbolt of war. E’en INDRA’S elephant has felt the might Of his fierce monsters in the deadly fight, Which spurn the dust in fury, and defy The threatening clouds that sail along the sky. Therefore, O Lord, we seek a chief, that he May lead the hosts of heaven to victory, Even as holy men who long to sever The immortal spirit from its shell for ever, Seek lovely Virtue’s aid to free the soul From earthly ties and action’s base control. Thus shall he save us: proudly will we go Under his escort ‘gainst the furious foe; And INDRA, conqueror in turn, shall bring FORTUNE, dear captive, home with joy and triumphing.”

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Sweet as the rains–the fresh’ning rains–that pour On the parched earth when thunders cease to roar, Were BRAHMA’S words: “Gods, I have heard your grief; Wait ye in patience: time will bring relief. ‘Tis not for me, my children, to create A chief to save you from your mournful fate. Not by my hand the fiend must be destroyed, For my kind favour has he once enjoyed; And well ye know that e’en a poisonous tree By him who planted it unharmed should be. He sought it eagerly, and long ago I gave my favour to your demon-foe, And stayed his awful penance, that had hurled Flames, death, and ruin o’er the subject world. When that great warrior battles for his life, O, who may conquer in the deadly strife, Save one of [‘S]IVA’S seed? He is the light, Reigning supreme beyond the depths of night. Nor I, nor VISH[N.]U, his full power may share, Lo, where he dwells in solitude and prayer! Go, seek the Hermit in the grove alone, And to the God be UMA’S beauty shown. Perchance, the Mountain-child, with magnet’s force, May turn the iron from its steadfast course, Bride of the mighty God; for only she Can bear to Him as water bears to me. Then from their love a mighty Child shall rise, And lead to war the armies of the skies. Freed by his hand, no more the heavenly maids Shall twine their glittering hair in mournful braids.”

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He spake, and vanished from their wondering sight;
And they sped homeward to their world of light.
But INDRA, still on BRAHMA’S words intent,
To KAMA’S dwelling-place his footsteps bent.
Swiftly he came: the yearning of his will
Made INDRA’S lightning course more speedy still.
The LOVE-GOD, armed with flowers divinely sweet,
In lowly homage bowed before his feet.
Around his neck, where bright love-tokens clung,
Arched like a maiden’s brow, his bow was hung,
And blooming SPRING, his constant follower, bore
The mango twig, his weapon famed of yore.

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