Some Unquenchable Desire
Although few facts are known about his life, the Indian poet Bhartrihari leaps from the page as a remarkably recognizable individual. Amidst a career as a linguist, courtier, and hermit, he used poetry to explore themes of love, desire, impermanence, despair, anger, and fear. “A thousand emotions, ideas, words, and rhythmic syllables stormed through him,” writes translator Andrew Schelling in an evocative introduction. “In particular he shows himself torn between sexual desire and a hunger to be free of failed love affairs and turbulent karma.”
Despite the fact that collections of Bhartrihari’s poems are the most common non-religious manuscripts found in Sanskrit, Schelling’s translation represents a rare opportunity for English-language readers to become acquainted with this fascinating poet. Attuned to Bhartrihari’s unique poetic sensibility, Schelling has produced a compelling, personally curated set of translations. He includes a botanical index to familiarize readers with Bhartrihari’s many references to Indian trees, flowers, and herbs. Replete with love, sex, disappointment, Hindu gods, and Buddhist philosophical concepts, this appealing volume brings the world of ancient India to life through the extraordinary voice of one of its beloved poets.
"Imagine you are Percy Shelley sleeping in your favorite snoozing place among the ancient ruins in Pisa, and you awaken to the Sanskrit poems of Bhartrihari instead of to the Greek poets and Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Will your new poems be splashed with eroticism and awakened with rich theology? Unknown thoughts and imagined odors tremble at your ears like mosquitoes at Behemoth’s nose. Bhartrihari’s poems are wealthy in the loved sciences—Natural History—and the mammal solidity of exciting emotions changing shape. Breasts and honeyed Lips, not chockablock metamorphoses. Andrew Schelling's genius has given us Bhartrihari's great gifts of overwhelming beauty. Never have Entertainment and Loveliness so melted together!" —Michael McClure
"In Some Unquenchable Desire, Andrew Schelling offers a brilliant new rendering of Bhartrihari’s Sanskrit lyric poetry. As its title suggests, this collection evokes in blistering rawness a spectrum of emotion: the heat of sexual desire, the longing for a lover’s caress, the misery of bodily frailty, the heartbreak of ephemeral experience, and the mystical yearning for release from the ordinary world. These selections illuminate the struggle between embracing and renouncing sensuous experience, ultimately reflecting what it means to be human. Although Bhartrihari composed his poems more than a thousand years ago in a world far from our own, Schelling’s stunning translations breathe new life into the poet’s words for the modern ear with clarity and vitality." —Andrew Quintman, Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Wesleyan University