KABIR: WATER IN THE HOLY POOLS
There is nothing but water in the holy pools.
I know, I have been swimming in them.
All the gods sculpted of wood and ivory can’t say a word.
I know, I have been crying out to them.
The Sacred Books of the East are nothing but words.
I looked through their covers one day sideways.
What Kabir talks of is only what he has lived through.
If you have not lived through something, it is not true.
Kabir Ecstatic poems Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1992 (The English translations are free enough for Robert Bly to call them ‘versions by Robert Bly’. There is an earlier set of translations published by MacMillan in New York in 1915 by Rabindranath Tagore assisted by Evelyn Underhill under the title Songs of Kabir. Whilst I don’t follow Bly in calling the English of the earlier work “useless”, I do find that Bly’s interpretation has more passion and power. The Bly work includes an insightful afterword Kabir and the transcendental Bly by John Stratton Hawley).
Thank you for sharing this. Unless it is of our own experience, it is nothing but someone else’s leavings, which may or may not be true.
Exactly. Even though Kabir might say it better than you or me.
Hadn’t heard of Kabir but his poetry looks very interesting for me as someone interested in the experiential and devotional aspects of connecting with divine and giving this expression.
Kabir, a real person, has been highly mythologised over the centuries, differently remembered by people from different regions, faiths and social positions in India. John Stratton Hawley, who wrote an essay on ‘Kabir and the Transcendental Bly’ in my edition of the poems, says: “there is no way of knowing who Kabir was apart from the history of his reception”. But inspirational any way, at least to me.