Poems by Bhartrihari

Bhartrihari lived in the fifth century A.D., and wrote in Sanskrit.

Her face is not the moon’s reflection,
her eyes are not the lotus’ dark blue,
her slender body is not cast from gold,
but the stupid minds of men, deceived by poets,
still worship the bodies of soft-eyed women,
though they know them to be nothing more
than skin and flesh and bone.


Seated in the lotus pose,
where the Ganges flows from Himalayan rock,
contemplating the absolute, lost in a yogic trance,
what will I achieve in these luminous days
when ancient deer are not afraid
to caress their bodies against my own?


Meditating in a mountain cave,
couched on a bed of stone,
I pause to think of those who endure
the misery of waiting on the rich,
whose minds, distracted by the tumult of the senses,
are lost in triviality,
and my heart bursts with sudden laughter.

Make your home on the Ganges
whose water washes away your sins,
or between a young girl’s breasts
whose pearls steal away your mind.        

Translated by Louis Hunt


If you have any thoughts on these translations, Louis Hunt would be pleased to hear them.