Poems from the Indian SubContinent


Kalidasa (375-415 AD), belonged to the second stage of Sanskrit Literature when the Vedic hymns gave way to secular poetry and drama.He is particularly noted for his three surviving verse dramas of romantic love, Sakuntala, the most famous of the three; Vikramorvasi (Urvasi Won by Valor); and Malavikagnimitra (Malavi and Agnimitra). Kalidasa also wrote two epic poems, Raghuvamsa (Dynasty of Raghu) and Kumarasambhava (Birth of the War God).

Kannamma My Love
Subramania Bharathi
(tr. prema nandakumar)
Are those flame-bright eyes, Kannamma!
the Sun and the Moon?
Does the dark eye-ball, Kannamma!
reflect the inky skies?
Are the woven diamonds gleaming
on the raven silk robe
the star-clusters above
at the middle of the night?
Is the lovely smile on your lips
the shine of flesh blossoms?
Are the waves of the blue sea
your heart-beats indeed?
The sweetness of your voice is heard
in the nightingale.
Youthful darling girl, Kannamma!
I love you to distraction.
You speak of Sastraic sanctions:
what need of them here?
No scriptual texts control
love's ecstatic play.
Let the formal wedding come later
for our elder's sake-
must I wait for aeons?-
here's a kiss for you!
Subramania Bharathi (1882-1921),

Subramania Bharathi

supreme among twentieth century Tamil poets, has also been one of the major creative forces of the modern renaissance in Tamil Nadu.

There is so much to be done;
let us unroll the earth,
let us put leaves on the trees,
blossoms on branches,
let us set mountains in a row,
hang the moon;
add vast space to blue heavens,
light the stars,
to the wind give velocity,
to stones, wings, to movement, melody;
also smiles to lips,
glowlight to eyes,
and to moving shadow on the roadside,
God is silent.
Why don't you come
And help create the universe.
I can't do this all by myself.

Nida Fazli

(tr. Agha Shahid Ali)

I have certainly
no faith in miracles, yet I long
that when death comes to take me
from this great song
of a world, it permits me to return
to your door and knock
and knock
and call out: "If you need someone

to share your anguish, your simplest pain,
then let me be the one.
If not, let me again

embark, this time never
to return, in that final direction,

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1910- 1984), was born in undivided India, but after partition chose to live in Pakistan. In 1951, he was arrested on the charge of planning a Communist coup; sentenced to death but released after four years. After the Miltary coup led by Zia ul haq, he lived in exile in Beirut-- till the Israeli invasion in 1982. He died in Lahore in November 1984.

Otherwise why should you be human
sakti chattopadhyay
(tr. Jayanta Mahapatra)

A group of mud-smeared dark boys
Their loin-clothes raised above their knees
Excitedly catching fish, as they plunge into the water
Beside the ankle-high ridge in the middle of the pool.
Over on the other side
Their loin-cloth pouches fill with little jiyal
Their hollow hampers full already
Draining away water from one side of the pool
Into the other half
So they can grab the fish with bare hands.
Before the rains
The earth dry and parched
The naked backs of the boys burning in the sun
Like the outside of earthen pots darkened
In the smoke of burning sawdust
While they desperately pat themselves on the back
With wet mud to bring down the summer heat
Trying hard -
And later
Would come the inevitable rolling in the soft slime
For this was not the time to use the usual
Net-baskets of bamboo.
It's time now
Simply to run over the lowly varieties of fish
And seize them
And gulp the fish down, fried.
Even if no cooking oil is there.
And if one is lucky to catch any shol
Then, to roast this fish and take these
with a bowl of watered rice-
Enough if there is a little salt to go with it.
In the first rains
As mudskippers wriggle up with whirring noises
And streams rush down from high hillocks
To fill the pools, now clear and pellucid-
Delighted, the small fish rise
Erect with their barbed bodies
Becoming difficult to get a hold on them.
And bristles?
Yes, there are.
As there are ways and ways
Or else life can't go on.
It is the same everywhere in the world
It has to be caught the right way.
Otherwise it slips through your hands
And isn't there your loss or gain in this?
But, let things be as they are.
In the eyes of that man behind
One has to reach out for some such example
Of success, struggle or fear-
Otherwise why should you be human?
You could have been a shy mimosa creeper!

sakti chattopadhyay

Sakti Chattopadhyay (b.1933) is a Bengali poet of the post-partition period. A journalist since 1970, Sakti Chattopadhyay has more than 60 books to his credit.


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