Within This Body

In honor of Gandhi Jayanti, we present this work by one of India’s greatest Hindi language poets.

Tulsidas
Indian
1532 – 1623

 

Within this body
breathes the secret essence.
Within this body
beats the heart of the Vedas.

Within this body
shines the entire Universe,
so the saints say.

Hermits, ascetics, celibates —
all are lost
seeking Him
in endless guises.

Seers and sages perfectly parrot
the scriptures and holy books,
blinded by knowledge.

Their pilgrimage,
and fasting,
and striving
but delude.
Despite their perfect practice,
they discover no destination.

Only the saints
who know the body’s heart
have attained the Ultimate, O Tulsi.
Realize this, and you’ve found your freedom.

While teachers trapped in tradition
know only the mirage
in the mirror.

Against an Avaricious Judge

Fray Luis de Leon
Spanish
1527 – 1591

 

Even if in copious mountains you lift the attained, useless gold;
and even if your possessions you improve with the hurt and tears of others;

And even if, cruel tyrant, you oppress the truth,
and your avarice, dressed in a false name, converts justice to buying and selling;

Even if you fool the eyes of the world that you adore,
it will nonetheless not stop sharp thistles to be born in your heart;

Nor will fear stop sleeping in your bed;
nor will you escape worries and agony, the ultimate spite;

Nor will good hope in pleasure ever cross your threshold;

Nor will la Meguera, with infernal flames, and serpentine whip
in a raised and ferocious skilled arm, leave your bedchamber for a moment;

Nor will you stop the wheel of fortune, despite all you can do,
the hungry and cruel consumer of time is coming with death as a co-conspirator,
to leave you naked of the gold and all that you love most;

And you will be left immersed in interminable harm and oblivion.

To the Sun Because it Rose When He Was With a Woman and He Had to Leave Her

Luis de Góngora
Spanish
1561 – 1627

 

Already kissing two crystalline hands,
Already clinging to a white, smooth neck,
Already scattering ‘round it all that hair,
which Love from the gold in its mines had torn;

already breaking on those precious pearls
a thousand sweet words, not deserving it,
already plucking from each lovely lip
crimson roses with no fear of thorns,

was I, oh shimmering and jealous Sun,
when your light, shattering my eyes,
killed my delight and stopped what I’d begun.

If heaven has not yet become too weak,
in order that yours cease to give me pain,
may its rays kill you as they did your son.

Today I Drank Wine and Was Drunk

Pir Sultan Abdal
Turkish
1480 – 1550

 

Today I drank wine and was drunk
I swear, I cannot hold my tongue
Today I was so pleased with my Dervish
I swear, I forgot all about death

The world appears completely empty
My Dervish brings me pleasure
He is exuberant whenever he loves
I swear, I love my Dervish

The morsel the Dervish proffers is permitted for me
The tavern is my pilgrim‘s kabaa
The barking of the patrolling hounds
I swear, does not block my way

Let the Dervish come and be cross with me
Let my arm embrace his neck
Let the arms that are drawn away be broken
I swear, I cannot withdraw my arm

If I enter his embrace uncovered
If he sleeps and I love silently
If he awakes and he speaks rudely
I swear, I cannot withdraw my hand

I am Latife I am so shameless
I love greatly and I am so brazen
I know nothing of shame and honour
I swear, I will pluck my rose

Done is a Battle

We present this work in honor of Corpus Christi.

William Dunbar
Scots
1459 – 1520

 

Done is a battle on the dragon black,
Our champion Christ confoundit has his force;
The yetis of hell are broken with a crack,
The sign triumphal raisit is of the cross,
The devillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis are borrowit and to the bliss can go,
Christ with his bloud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungan is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The cruewall serpent with the mortal stang;
The auld kene tiger, with his teith on char,
Whilk in a wait has lyen for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clawis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it were so,
He made him for to failye of that fang.
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice was dicht,
Is lyk a lion risen up agane,
And as a gyane raxit him on hicht;
Sprungen is Aurora radious and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorious Apollo,
The blissful day departit fro the nicht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The grit victour again is rissen on hicht,
That for our querrell to the deth was woundit;
The sun that wox all pale now shynis bricht,
And, derkness clearit, our faith is now refoundit;
The knell of mercy fra the heaven is soundit,
The Christin are deliverit of their wo,
The Jowis and their errour are confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The fo is chasit, the battle is done ceis,
The presone broken, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeon temit,
The ransoun made, the prisoneris redeemit;
The field is won, owrecomen is the fo,
Dispuilit of the treasure that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

I am Mad with Love

Mirabai
Indian
1498 – 1557

 

I am mad with love
And no one understands my plight.
Only the wounded
Understand the agonies of the wounded,
When the fire rages in the heart.
Only the jeweller knows the value of the jewel,
Not the one who lets it go.
In pain I wander from door to door,
But could not find a doctor.
Says Mira: Harken, my Master,
Mira’s pain will subside
When Shyam comes as the doctor.

In Praise of the Divers Instruments of Music

In honor of National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, we present this work by one of Turkey’s cleverest poets.

Rewani
Turkish
1475 – 1524

 

Come hither, Mistrel of the Feast of Time,
Whose minstrelsy ennobleth every clime!
As thou the songster at Joy’s Banquet art,
Wilt thou not look on us in kindly part?
Let all the feast be filled with melody,
Let beauties carol in thy company.
Be all the instruments of music blent,
And let the veil of mystery be rent.
For each is potent in some gramarye,
Magicians some, and some enchaters be.

The Harp in magic craft is great of worth,
It brings the new moon down from heaven to earth.
The Mandoline pursues its humours e’er;
If thou would have it sing, then twist its ear.
The Mandoline can’t grapple with the Lute;
Then why torment itself when naught can boot?
A spell it sings when chants the Dulcimer;
It is the ruler for Love’s register.
No Tabret deem that in the minstrel’s hand,
A target ‘tis woe’s arrows to withstand.
What wonder if it all the world o’erthrow? —
The bandit Viol’s armed with shaft and bow.
Amid the feast to call me into mind
The Flute a thread doth round its finger bind.
Where bides one like the Ghittern sweet of say,
The chosen, the elect of the array?

Since joy of soul doth from their voices tide,
Withouten music let no party bide.

Sonnet LVIII

Alexander Montgomerie
Scots
1550 – 1598

 

Hou long sall I in languishing lament?
Hou long sall I bot duyne, and dou not di[e ?]
Hou long sall Love, but mercy, murther me?
Hou long against me sall his bou be bent?

Hou long sall pane my plesiur so prevent ?
Hou long sall weping blind my watrie ee ?
Hou long sall baill my bed felou jit be?
Or vhen sall I with comfort be acquent?

Hou long sall hope be hindrit be mishap ?
Hou long jit, Love, will thou my patience prove?
Hou long sall wo in wrechitnes me wrap ?
Vp once, and my melancholie remove.

Revenge, revert, revive, revest, reveall,
My hurt, my hairt, my hope, my hap, my heall.