Poems by Bhartrihari


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

Haunts of sensual delight,
the company of women exhausted from making love,
cuckoos murmuring their love-struck sighs,
smiling glances, arbors bowered with vines,
conversations with true poets,
the moon’s delicate light -
these are the flowered garlands that
enchant the hearts of men in spring.
Only learned men, their mouths
filled with false eloquence,
speak so lightly of renunciation.
But that soft-eyed woman there,
her waist garlanded with rubies -
Who can truly forsake her?          
Let rank descend to hell and the host
of virtues lower still.
Let morals fall from the mountainside
and nobility be consumed by fire.
Let the thunderbolt shatter courage against the foe.
But let us have money at least,
for without it all these other things are worth
less than blades of grass.
Bind the maddened elephant with a fragile lotus thread,
split the diamond with a flower’s silken edge,
sweeten with a drop of honey the ocean’s salt,
but do not seek with words sprinkled like nectar
to lead bad men to the path of the good.

Armlets do not adorn a man,
nor pearls shining with the moon’s splendor,
nor baths, nor perfumed oils, nor flowers,
nor beautifully adorned hair.
The only thing that truly adorns a man
is the perfect cultivation of his speech.
All other adornments always fade,
the adornment of speech alone is true.
Her hair disheveled, eyes shut tight,
clothes roughly torn from her body,
the soft hairs on her skin quicken
with the tremor of desire’s arrival.
Lips bruised from countless kisses,
she can no longer contain her sighs -
the cold wind has become her lover.


Translated by Louis Hunt

If you have any thoughts about these poems,  Louis Hunt would be pleased to hear them