May Radha the sublime, whose golden glow
greens Krishna’s raincloud blue,
clear from my path the hindrance of the world.
As breasts, hearts, eyes, and hips
hold sway in body politic,
astute king youth gives all a handsome raise.
Eagerly intent, and goaded by the god of love,
rushing on in rivalry:
her heart, her wits, her eyes.
The lady merged with moonlight,
lost from view; her friends swarmed after,
following a thread of fragrance.
With fearful dread I saw the moon rise in the lane
when by a happy circumstance
the bees that thronged around me dimmed its glow.
Her loveliness will thrill you, handsome Lal,
as it thrilled me; she gleams so bright it seems
her lily garland’s jasmine golden.
Idly sidling, spilling soul’s secrets,
blind to occasion, ever changing,
luster drunk: these errant eyes.
You saved a single elephant,
then quit as savior, so it seems.
You turn a fine deaf ear to my poor cry.
Shame’s moorings torn, my heart’s sent reeling –
a wayward craft wheeling
in the whirlpool of those charms.
From deep inside her veil she throws a glance,
contrives sweet touch of shadows,
and is gone.
As though well schooled by love in yogic lore,
her eyes reach out to her temples
in search of union.
A visit to her natal home yields joy,
while distance from her lover leads to grief:
in balance, like Duryodhana, she dies.
Glimmering through fine veil, a matchless glow –
a budding bough of the tree of paradise
gleaming, glinting, in ocean’s waters.
Beauty, that brigand, struck my traveler eyes,
dazzled them with her body’s sheen, noosed them
with a silken smile, ditched them in the dimple on her
A thousand efforts cannot draw it out:
like salt in water, Mohan’s form
infuses my heart.
The bedded flower shall surely bear its fruit
if saved from scorching anger; oh gardener,
just tend your bed with drops of tenderness.
Pān juice on eyes, eye black on lips, foot lac on brow:
well met, well done, well come indeed.
Your look becomes you, Lal.
Those smiling eyes –
shy and proud, languid yet thrilled;
their dawning luster tells a tale of night-felt joys.
He spoke of love: she smiled, glanced at her friends;
and one by one, delightedly,
they made excuses, took their leave.
Though strained on cresting her breast, his gaze
strove onward to her face; then tumbled down
chin-dimple dell – and lies there still.
It faces each in turn, then turns away:
the needle of a compass is her gaze,
which settles finally on him alone.
Speaking, spurning, thrilling, fretting,
meeting, blooming, blushing –
in a public place, all is said with eyes alone.
You yearn for my rival, and stumble as you walk.
For all your treachery, your coming here
cools the yearning that burns my heart.
Seeing her in company, Shyam touched a lotus
to his brow; she caught him in her mirror ring
and held him to her heart.
The barber’s wife began to lac the lady’s feet;
thinking it the lac ball,
she rubbed the lady’s heel over and over.
No pollen yet, no sweet nectar, no blooming flower;
the bee’s already held within the bud,
so who can tell what the future may hold?
Excerpted with permission from He Spoke of Love: Selected Poems from the Satsai, Biharilal, translated from the Hindi by Rupert Snell, Murty Classical Indian Library and Harvard University Press.