Four poems translated from the Sanskrit by Brishti Guha • Empty Mirror

scudder pond, december / d.enckafter / credit: de

Translator’s note:These poems from the Sanskrit “Gathasaptashati” are attributed to King Hala, a first-century AD ruler of the Satavahana dynasty in ancient South India. Hala’s version was in Prakrit, which was later rendered into Sanskrit. I have translated from the Sanskrit.

Ushnani nihshvasan kila shayanardhe kimiti mama parangmukhyah
Manasamapyanushayataha pradeepya prishtham pradeepyasi.
(Gatha Saptashati verse 33)

I turn away, tucked in my half of our bed.
I don’t know why you’re sighing so hotly –
Having already inflamed my brain
With fury, are you now trying
To see if you can burn my back, too?

Aganitasamastayuvaka bala vyutkrantalokamaryada
Atha sa bhramati dishamukhavikasitakshee tava kritena.
(Gatha Saptashati verse 56)

Hey boy! It’s your doing that she
Doesn’t have eyes for any other young men,
She’s dispensed with social proprieties,
And now wanders about, all her senses alert
For news of you!

Shakyo vodhum yavanstavantam dehi me pranaya
Sarvo jano nivrittaprasadapeedasaho na ayam.
(Gatha Saptashati verse 81)

Give me your love for just as long
As you feel it’s light and easy to handle:
I’m not like others, who can’t bear the pain
Of a lover’s withdrawal of interest.

Drishtena tena matuli tatkshanamavatrishnaveekshaneeyena
Trishnaiva napayata payaseva svapnapeetena.
(Gatha Saptashati verse 93)

Aunt, I’ve been thirsting
For that man – that cynosure of all eyes –
From the moment he looked at me.
His gaze couldn’t quench my thirst
Just as if I’d drunk water – but only in a dream.

About Brishti Guha

Dr Brishti Guha earned a PhD from Princeton University, and is an associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. She is an economist in love with literature, Sanskrit, and ancient cultures. She frequently publishes in international journals and in national newspapers.

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