Saturday, November 27, 2010

One Poet's View

The poet I have in mind today is the Bengali poet Ramprasad Sen (1718-1775), he who celebrated the Goddess Kali throughout his life in verse. In the West we’re so conditioned to think of the divine in a masculine form, it is almost odd to hear divinity framed in the feminine—but such a framing is most accessible when a poet does it. I found the first two quotes on Wikipedia (here), untitled, and sourced there to books by western authors.

You’ll find Mother in any house.
Do I dare say it in public?
She is Bhairavi with Shiva,
Druga with Her children,
Sita with Lakshmana.
She’s mother, daughter, wife, sister—
Every woman close to you.
What more can Ramprasad say?
You work the rest out from these hints.
Bhairavi, Druga, and Sita are all names of goddesses in the, for us, vast universe of divinities discoverable in the traditions of India. Where she is linked to Shiva and Lakshmana, these male deities are her consorts. Now if the above strikes the reader as a kind of exaltation simply of the feminine, the next quote shows that Ramprasad had more in minds and that his hints are not worked out by most. It presents a fascinating piece of negative theology applied to the Divine but in a female aspect.

You think you understand the Goddess?
Even philosophers cannot explain her.
The scriptures say that she, herself,
Is the essence of us all. It is she, herself,
Who brings life through her sweet will.
You think you understand her?
I can only smile. You think that you can
Truly know her? I can only laugh!
But what our minds accept, our hearts do not.
Ants try to grasp the moon, we the Goddess.
Finally a brief but sharply poetic take on Death by this genuine poet of the first rank. I found this quote in Robert Graves’ The White Goddess. It also bears no title or sourcing:

How can you shrink from death,
Child of the Mother of All Living?
A snake, and you fear frogs?

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