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Music and Poetry

From: Manoa
Volume 25, Issue 2, 2013
pp. 38-39 | 10.1353/man.2013.0050

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Music and Poetry

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saṃgītaṃ sāhityaṃ ca sarasvatyāḥ stanadvayamekam āpātamadhuram anyad ālocanāmṛtam

  • saṃgītaṃ. music

  • sāhityaṃ. poetry, literature

  • ca. and

  • sarasvatyāḥ. (poss.) Sarasvatī has

  • stana. breasts

  • dvayam. two, a pair

  • ekam. one

  • āpāta. (ā-pat, fall downwards) instantly, readily

  • madhuram. sweet, honeyed

  • anyad. the other

  • ālocana. (by means of, through) reflecting, considering, looking over carefully, ruminating

  • amṛtam. ambrosia (is had) [End Page 38]

Music and poetry,Sarasvatī has two breastsOne’s sweet at first sip—the other, well, you need tochew it a while

Sarasvatī presides over two arts. Music, the first, is enviably direct. Children, animals, even plants, respond to it instantly. By contrast, poetry is a more cultivated art; it demands solitary work and study. In classical India, the sahṛdaya, the person “with heart,” spent a lifetime preparing for the poem. To the poet there’s no doubt which art requires more sacrifice. Does arduous commitment on the part of poet and reader lead to immortality? Notice that music gives a quick earthy sweetness: madhuram, honeyed. Poetry, however—after ālocana, rumination—yields amṛta, the milk of deathlessness. [End Page 39]

Andrew Schelling

Andrew Schelling, born in 1953 at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C., has written, edited, or translated twenty books. Early opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, plus an encounter with India’s texts, set him on a lifelong engagement with Asian literature. He studied Sanskrit at the University of California at Berkeley, and began to translate from its classical poetry tradition around 1978. His first book, Dropping the Bow: Poems of Ancient India, received the Academy of American Poets translation award in 1992, the first time the Academy had honored work done from an Asian language. Schelling’s own poetry and essays emerge from the Southern Rocky Mountain bioregion in which he lives. Recent books of poetry wrangle with the Arapaho language as a way of reading landscape and the natural cycles; they include From the Arapaho Songbook and A Possible Bag. He has edited The Oxford Anthology of Bhakti Literature and Love and the Turning Seasons: India’s Poetry of Spiritual and Erotic Longing (forthcoming from Counterpoint Press). Living on the Front Range of Colorado, he is active on land-use issues and teaches at Naropa University. He also teaches regularly at Deer Park Institute, in India’s Himalayan foothills.

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