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black marigolds

Even now
My thought is all of this gold-tinted king's daughter
With garlands tissue and golden buds,
Smoke tangles of her hair, and sleeping or waking
Feet trembling in love, full of pale languor;
My thought is clinging as to a lost learning
Slipped down out of the minds of men,
Labouring to bring her back into my soul.

Even now
If I see in my soul the citron-breasted fair one
Still gold-tinted, her face like our night stars,
Drawing unto her; her body beaten about with flame,
Wounded by the flaring spear of love,
My first of all by reason of her fresh years,
Then is my heart buried alive in snow.

Even now
If my girl with lotus eyes came to me again
Weary with the dear weight of young love,
Again I would give her to these starved twins of arms
And from her mouth drink down the heavy wine,
As a reeling pirate bee in fluttered ease
Steals up the honey from the nenuphar.

- Bilhana Kavi

It's the start of Bilhana's great eleventh century Sanskrit love poem, the 'Caurapâñcâsikâ', 50 stanzas long, which he wrote in prison after an ill-fated love affair with the daughter of the king.

John Steinbeck quotes the poem extensively at the end of 'Cannery Row', and it adds an extra dimension to its charm to envision it being read aloud at a riotous party by the memorable character Doc.

The complete text of 'Black Marigolds' is online, in the free translation / interpretation by Edward Powys Mathers.

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