Kurt passed away yesterday, doing what he loved: hiking on a trail in the Berkshires. He led me to many lovely trails. I used to overhear him tutoring a friend in Sanskrit. He knew a great deal about many things. He will be very missed. On this day at Fuel Cafe, he offered me this poem. He sent me this explanation via email:
What a pleasure running into you, inspiring even. Here’s the story of my Sanskrit epiphany.
When I noticed, in the course of translation, that the poet and playwright, Kalidasa (ca. 100CE), was using *bhavant* and *tvam* interchangeably, that is, the formal and familiar 2nd person in direct address, simply to satisfy the meter of his poem, The Meghaduta, I realized something. This was roughly equivalent to an English poet deciding to use either “Milord” or “dude” simply because the meter called for one or two syllables. There are dead languages and there are petrified languages. By the time Kalidasa was writing—two thousand years ago—Sanskrit was already a thousand years in the grave, with etymological but little emotional import to it’s vast vocabulary. I decided to stop spending my mornings with it and instead to write in my own very much alive native English.
The following poem is an acrostic in which the first word of each trisyllabic line reproduces the quotation from Francis Bacon, “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”
There at last
Is proof that
No mean is
That the rule.
Has she seen
Some man? My
In her own: