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  • Her Quick Eyes
  • Translated by Andrew Schelling (bio)

udvṛttastanabhāra eṣa tarale netre cale bhrūlate    rāgādhikyatam oṣṭhapallavadalaṃ kurvantu nāma vyathāmsaubhāgyākṣarapaṃktikeva likhitā puṣpāyudhena svayaṃ    madhyasthā hi karoti tāpam adhikaṃ romāvalī kena sā

  • udvṛtta. uplifted

  • stana-bhāra. breasts

  • eṣa. this

  • tarale. flashing, quick

  • netre. eyes

  • cale. moving

  • bhrūlate. eyebrows

  • rāga-ādhikyatam. passionate

  • oṣṭha-palla-vadalaṃ. lips like flowerbuds

  • kurvantu. let them make

  • nāma. surely

  • vyathām. unease, distress (for me)

  • saubhāgya-akṣara-paṅktikā. (bv. cmpd. with romāvalī) gorgeous imperishable line

  • saubhāgya. beauty, charm

  • akṣara. imperishable, unforgettable

  • paṅktikā. a line, a meter

  • iva. like

  • likhitā. written, inscribed

  • puṣpā-yudhena. by the flowerlike bow (of love)

  • svayaṃ. her

  • madhyasthā. belly or navel

  • hi. surely

  • karoti. makes

  • tāpam. torment, anguish

  • adhikaṃ. excessive, much

  • romāvalī. line of hair above the pubis

  • kena sā. why, how [End Page 56]

Her quick eyesand animated mouthunsettle me.So, of course,her lifted breasts,full lips—soft fruits of desire.But why should asingle wisp of hair,stroked beneath hernavel likesome unforgettableline of poetry,reduce me to suchanguish?

Saubhāgya-akṣara-paṅktikā means a splendid or gorgeously imperishable poetic line. A pun may lie hidden in saubhāgya, referring to the vulva, adding to the poet’s charged emotion. The poetic line is literally stroked by the bow (with flower-tipped arrows of Kāma, desire). The image is conventional enough in Sanskrit poetry; nobody would really notice. But in English I thought it would call too much attention to itself and distract from Bhartṛhari’s intent.

The romāvalī (line of hair running from the navel down) was regarded by Indian poets as a particularly enticing mark of beauty. The word for anguish, tāpam, means heat, fever; it is also the term in spiritual traditions for ascetic practice. Bhartṛhari’s poetry is always torn between vairāgya (renunciation) and śṛṅgāra (erotic pleasure). Two of his three collections of poetry have been given those titles. [End Page 57]

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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