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Mahabharata, Book Ix - Standards Of The Kurus: Arjun's Revenge - Poem by Veda Vyasa

Morning from the face of battle night's depending curtain drew,
Long and shrill his sounding sankha then the wrathful Arjun blew,

Kurus knew the vow of Arjun, heard the sankha's deathful blare,
As it rose above the red field, thrilled the startled morning air,

'Speed, my Krishna,' out spake Arjun, as he held aloft his bow,
'For to-day my task is dreadful, cruel is my mighty vow! '

Fiery coursers urged by Krishna flew with lightning's rapid course,
Dashing through the hostile warriors and the serried Kuru force,

Brave Durmarsan faced the hero but he strove and fought in vain,
Onward thundered Arjun's chariot o'er the dying and the slain,

Fierce Duhsasan with his tuskers rushed into the fine of war,
But the tuskers broke in panic, onward still went Arjun's car!

Drona then, the proud preceptor, Arjun's furious progress stayed,
Tear-drops filled the eye of Arjun as these gentle words he said:

'Pardon, father, if thy pupil shuns to-day thy offered war,
'Gainst his Abhimanyu's slayer Arjun speeds his battle-car,

Not against my great acharya is my wrathful bow-string drawn,
Not against a lovéd father fights a loving duteous son!

Heavy on this bleeding bosom sits the darkening load of woe,
And an injured father's vengeance seeks the slaughtered hero's foe,

Pardon then if sorrowing Arjun seeks a far and distant way,
Mighty is the vow of Arjun, cruel is his task to-day! '

Passing by the doughty Drona onward sped the fiery car,
Through the broken line of warriors, through the shattered ranks of war,

Angas and the brave Kalingas vainly crossed his wrathful way,
Proud Avantis from the regions where fair Chambal's waters stray,

Famed Avanti's fated princes vainly led their highland force,
Fell beneath the wrath of Arjun, stayed nor stopped his onward course,

Onward still with speed of lightning thundered Arjun's battle-car,
To the spot where Jayadratha stood behind the ranks of war!

Now the sun from highest zenith red and fiery radiance lent,
Long and weary was the passage, Arjun's foaming steeds were spent,

Arjun said the faithful Krishna, 'arduous is thy cruel quest,
But thy foaming coursers falter and they need a moment's rest,'

'Be it so,' brave Arjun answered, 'from our chariot we alight,
Rest awhile the weary horses, Krishna, I will watch the fight! '

Speaking thus the arméd Arjun lightly leaped upon the lea,
Stood on guard with bow and arrow by the green and shady tree,

Krishna groomed the jaded horses, faint and feeble, red with gore,
With a healing hand he tended wounds the bleeding coursers bore,

Watered them beside a river by the zephyrs soft caressed,
Gave unto them welcome fodder, gave unto them needful rest,

Thus refreshed, the noble coursers Krishna harnessed to the car,
And the gleaming fiery Arjun rushed once more to fatal war!

Came on him the Kuru warriors, darksome wave succeeding wave,
Standards decked with strange devices, streaming banners rich and brave,

Foremost was the glorious standard of preceptor Drona's son,
Lion's tail in golden brilliance on his battle-chariot shone,

Elephant's rope was Karna's ensign made of rich and burnished gold,
And a bull bedecked the standard of the bowman Kripa bold,

Peacock made of precious metal, decked with jewels rich and rare,
Vrishasena's noble standard shone aloft serene and fair,

Ploughshare of a golden lustre shining like the radiant flame,
Spoke the car of mighty Salya, Madra's king of warlike fame,

Far and guarded well by chieftains shone the dazzling silver-boar,
Ensign proud of Jayadratha brought from Sindhu's sounding shore,

On the car of Somadatta shone a stake of sacrifice,
Silver-boar and golden parrots, these were Salwa's proud device,

Last and brightest of the standards, on the prince Duryodhan's car,
Lordly elephant in jewels proudly shone above the war!

Nine heroic Kuru chieftains, bravest warriors and the best,
Leagued they came to grapple Arjun and on faithful Krishna pressed,

Arjun swept like sweeping whirlwind all resistless in his force,
Sought no foe and waged no combat, held his ever onward course,

For he sighted Jayadratha midst the circling chiefs of war,
'Gainst that warrior, grim and silent, Arjun drove his furious car!

Now the day-god rolled his chariot on the western clouds aflame,
Karna's self and five great chieftains round brave Jayadratha came,

Vainly strove the valiant Arjun struggling 'gainst the Kuru line,
Charged upon the peerless Karna as he marked the day's decline,

Krishna then a prayer whispered; came a friendly sable cloud,
Veiled the red sun's dazzling brilliance in a dark and inky shroud!

Karna deemed the closing darkness now proclaimed the close of strife,
Failing in his plighted promise Arjun must surrender life,

And his comrade chiefs rejoicing slackened in their furious fight,
Jayadratha hailed with gladness thickening shades of welcome night!

In that sad and fatal error did the Kuru chiefs combine,
Arjun quick as bolt of lightning broke their all unguarded line,

Like an onward sweeping wildfire shooting forth its lolling tongue,
On the startled Jayadratha, Arjun in his fury flung!

Short the strife; as angry falcon swoops upon its helpless prey,
Arjun sped his vengeful arrow and his foeman lifeless lay,

Friendly winds removed the dark cloud from the reddening western hill,
And the sun in crimson lustre cast its fiery radiance still!

Ere the evening's mantling darkness fell o'er distant hill an d plain,
Proud Duryodhan's many brothers were by vengeful Bhima slain,

And Duryodhan stung by sorrow waged the still unceasing fight,
In the thick and gathering darkness torches lit the gloom of night!

Karna, furious in his anger for his Jayadratha slain,
And for brothers of Duryodhan sleeping lifeless on the plain,

'Gainst the gallant son of Bhima drove his deep resounding car,
And in gloom and midnight darkness waked the echoes of the war!

Bhima's son brave Ghatotkacha twice the steeds of Karna slew,
Twice the humbled steedless Karna from the dubious battle flew,

Came again the fiery Karna, vengeance flamed within his heart,
Like the midnight's lurid lightning sped his fell and fatal dart,

Woeful was the hour of darkness, luckless was the starry sway,
Bhima's son in youth and valour lifeless on the red field lay!

Then was closed the midnight battle, silent shone the starry light,
Bhima knew nor rest nor slumber through the long and woeful night!


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