Category Archives: LITERATURE

Supplication in Nothingness.

zikr e jaana


There comes a time when a man realizes that nothing is truth and absolute except God, the merciful. When there is no sky above, no earth beneath, and no hands left to cradle. All alone, left to shambles, in a ruthless mare’s nest. With all the certainty, this time comes in every person’s life, but alas! when this realization strikes most people tend to run over it, dump it to unseen, so they can escape this blue truth of life. Intoxicated with the pleasures of this ephemeral world. 

In such a state of nothingness, on a dusty and weary shelf, I caught hold of an old book co-edited by my grandfather. Flying through the first few pages, I came across a supplication by Hazrat Mulla Moin Kashifi (R.a), which is often recited in mosques and Khanaqah’s of Kashmir. I knew a few lines but to recite it in its totality was a blessing. Specially, coming to know…

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A Poet’s Creed




Harvard Lectures


The Parliament of Fowls

And upon pilers grete of Iasper longe_Parliament_of_Fowles

The Parliament of Fowls


Geoffrey Chaucer


The life so short, the craft so long to learn,
The assay so hard, so sharp the conquering,
The fearful joy that slips away in turn,
All this mean I by Love, that my feeling
Astonishes with its wondrous working
So fiercely that when I on love do think
I know not well whether I float or sink.

For although I know not Love indeed
Nor know how he pays his folk their hire,
Yet full oft it happens in books I read
Of his miracles and his cruel ire.
There I read he will be lord and sire;
I dare only say, his strokes being sore,
‘God save such a lord!’ I’ll say no more.

By habit, both for pleasure and for lore,
In books I often read, as I have told.
But why do I speak thus? A time before,
Not long ago, I happened to behold
A certain book written in letters old;
And thereupon, a certain thing to learn,
The long day did its pages swiftly turn.

For out of old fields, as men say,
Comes all this new corn from year to year;
And out of old books, in good faith,
Comes all this new science that men hear.
But now to the purpose of this matter –
To read on did grant me such delight,
That the day seemed brief till it was night.

This book of which I make mention, lo,
Entitled was, as I shall quickly tell,
‘Cicero, on the dream of Scipio’;
Seven Chapters it had on heaven and hell
And earth and the souls that therein dwell:
As briefly as I can treat of its art,
I’ll tell you, of its meaning, the main part.

First it tells how when Scipio came
To Africa, he met Massinissa,
Who in his arms embraced the same.
Then it tells of their speeches, all the bliss there
That lay between them till the shadows gather,
And how at night his grandfather, so dear,
Scipio the Elder, did appear.

Then it tells how, from a starry place,
His grandfather had him Carthage shown,
And told him in advance of all his grace
And taught him how a man, learned or rude,
Who loves the common good and virtue too
Shall unto a blissful place yet wend,
There where joy is that lasts without an end.

Then he asked if folk that have died here
Have life and dwelling in another place;
And his grandfather said, ‘Have no fear,’
And that our present world’s brief space
Is but a kind of death, whose path we trace,
And virtuous folk after they die shall go
To heaven; and the galaxy did him show.

Then showed him how small our Earth appears
Compared to the heavens’ quantity;
And then he showed him the nine spheres,
And after that the melody heard he
That comes from those spheres thrice three,
The source of music and of melody
In this world here, and cause of harmony.

Then he told him, since Earth is so slight,
And full of torment and so little grace,
That he should never in this world delight.
And then he said, that in a certain space
Of time, return the stars would to their place
Where they had been at first, and out of mind
Pass all things in this world done by mankind.

Then Scipio prayed he would tell him all
The way to come into that heavenly bliss;
And he said: ‘Know yourself first immortal,
Be sure to work busily, wisely in this
World for the common good, you’ll not miss
The path that leads swift to that place dear,
That full of bliss is, and of souls clear.

But breakers of the law, he did explain,
And lecherous folk, after they are dead,
Shall whirl about the Earth ever in pain
Till many an age be past, and then indeed
Forgiven for their every wicked deed,
Then shall they come unto that blissful place,
To come to which may God send you his grace!’

The day began to fail, and the dark night
That relieves all creatures of their business
Bereft me of my book for lack of light,
And to my bed I began me to address
Filled full of thought and anxious heaviness,
For I yet had the thing that I wished not,
And the thing that I wished I had not got.

Yet finally my spirit at the last
Full weary of my labour all the day
Took its rest, sent me to sleep so fast
That in my sleep I dreamed there as I lay
How that Elder in selfsame array
Whom Scipio saw, who long ago had died,
Came and stood there right at my bedside.

The weary hunter sleeping in his bed
To the woods again his mind will go;
The judge he dreams how his pleas are sped;
The carter dreams of drawing carts below;
The rich, of gold; the knight fights with his foe;
The sick person dreams he drinks a tun;
The lover dreams he has his lady won.

I cannot say if it was reading fair
Of Scipio the Elder just before,
That made me dream that he stood there;
But thus said he: ‘Yourself so well you bore
In looking at that ancient book of lore,
Macrobius himself thought not so slight,
That I would something of your pain requite.’ –

Cytherea, you blissful lady sweet
Whose firebrand at your wish robs us of rest
And made me to dream this dream complete,
Be you my help in this, your aid works best;
As surely as I saw you north-northwest,
When I began my dream for to write,
So give me power to rhyme and indite.

Scipio the Elder grasped me anon,
And forth with him unto a gate brought
Encircled with a wall of green stone;
And over the gate, in large letters wrought,
There were verses written, as I thought,
On either side, between them difference,
Of which I shall reveal to you the sense.

‘Through me men go into that blissful place
Of heart’s healing, and deadly wounds’ cure;
Through me men go unto the well of Grace
Where green and lusty May shall ever endure;
This is the way to all fairest adventure;
Be glad, oh Reader, and your sorrow off-cast,
All open am I; pass in, and speed you fast!’

‘Through me men go,’ then spoke the other side,
‘Unto the mortal blow of the spear,
Which Disdain and Haughtiness do guide,
Where tree shall never fruit nor leaves bear.
This stream leads you to the grim trap where
The fish in its prison’s lifted out all dry;
Avoidance is the only remedy nigh!’

In gold and black these verses written were,
Which I in some confusion did behold,
For with the one ever increased my fear,
Yet with the other did my heart grow bold.
The one gave heat to me, the other cold;
Fearing error, no wit had I to choose
To enter or flee, to save myself or lose.

As between adamantine magnets two
Of even strength, a piece of iron set
That has no power to move to or fro –
For though one attracts the other will let
It move – so I, that knew not whether yet
To enter or leave, till that Scipio my guide
Grasped me and thrust me in at the gates wide,

And said, ‘It appears written in your face,
Your error, though you tell it not to me;
But fear you not to come into this place,
Since this writing is never meant for thee,
Nor any unless he Love’s servant be;
For you for love have lost your taste, I guess,
As a sick man has for sweet or bitterness.

But nonetheless, although you are but dull,
What you cannot do, you yet may see;
For many a man that can’t resist a pull
Still likes at the wrestling for to be
And deems whether he does best, or he,
And if you have the cunning to indite,
I’ll show you matter of which you may write.

With that my hand in his he grasped anon,
From which I took comfort, and entered fast;
And, Lord, I was so glad that I had done!
For everywhere that I my eyes did cast
Were trees clad with leaves that always last,
Each of its kind, of colour fresh and green
As emerald, that a joy ‘twas to be seen.

The builder’s oak, and then the sturdy ash;
The elm, for pillars and for coffins meant;
The piper’s box-tree; holly for whip’s lash;
Fir for masts; cypress, death to lament;
The ewe for bows; aspen for arrows sent;
Olive for peace, and too the drunken vine;
Victor’s palm; laurel for those who divine.

A garden saw I full of blossoming boughs
Beside a river, through a green mead led,
Where sweetness evermore bountiful is,
With flowers white, blue, yellow and red,
And with cold well-streams, nothing dead,
Which are full of fish, small and light,
With red fins and scales silver bright.

On every bough I heard the birds sing
Angelic voices in their harmony;
Some their fledglings forth did bring;
And little rabbits to their play went by.
And further all about I did espy
The fearful roe, the buck, the hart, the hind,
Squirrels, and small beasts of noble kind.

Instruments, their strings all in accord
I heard played with ravishing sweetness
That God, who maker is of all and lord,
Never heard better, or so I guess;
Therewith a breeze that could scarce be less,
Made in the leaves green a noise soft
In harmony with the fowls’ song aloft.

The air of that place so temperate was
There was no awkwardness of hot or cold;
There waxed every wholesome herb or grass,
Nor no man there is ever sick or old;
Yet was there joy more a thousand-fold
Than man might tell; nor was it ever night
But ever clear day to every man’s sight.

‘Neath a tree, by a well, saw I displayed
Cupid, our lord, his arrows’ forge and file;
And at his feet his bow all ready lay,
And Will, his daughter, tempered all this while
The arrow-heads in the well, and with hard file
She notched them afterwards so as to serve
Some for to slay; some to wound and swerve.

Then was I aware of Pleasure nigh,
And of Adornment, Lust and Courtesy,
And of Cunning, able and with the might
To force a person to perform a folly –
I will not lie, disfigured all was she –
And by himself under an oak I guess
I saw Delight, standing with Nobleness.

I saw Beauty, lacking all attire,
And Youth, full of games and jollity,
Foolhardiness, Flattery, and Desire,
Message-sending, Bribery, and three
Others – whose names shall not be told by me –
And upon pillars tall of jasper long
I saw a temple of brass, sound and strong.

About the temple dancing every way
Went women enough, of whom some were
Fair in themselves and some dressed full gay;
In gowns, hair dishevelled, danced they there –
That was their duty always, year on year –
And on the temple, of doves white and fair
Saw I sitting many a hundred pair.

Before the temple door full soberly
Dame Peace sat with a curtain in her hand:
And beside her wondrous discreetly,
Dame Patience sitting there I found
With pale face upon a hill of sand;
And next to her, within and without,
Promise and Artfulness, and their rout.

Within the temple, from sighs hot as fire
I heard a rushing sound that there did churn;
Which sighs were engendered by desire,
That made every altar fire to burn
With new flame; and there did I learn
That all the cause of sorrows that they see
Comes from the bitter goddess Jealousy.

The god Priapus saw I, as I went,
Within the shrine, pre-eminent did stand,
Placed as when the ass foiled his intent
By braying at night, his staff in his hand;
Full busily men tried as they had planned
To set upon his head, of sundry hew,
Garlands full of fresh flowers new.

And in a quiet corner did disport
Venus and her doorkeeper Richness,
She was full noble, haughty in her sport;
Dark was the place, but afterwards lightness
I saw, a light that could scarce be less,
And on a bed of gold she lay to rest
Till the hot sun sank into the west.

Her golden hair with a golden thread
Was lightly tied, loose-haired as she lay,
And naked from her breast to her head
Men could view her; and truly I must say
The rest was well covered in its way
Just with a subtle veil from Valence;
No thicker cloth served for her defence.

The place gave out a thousand savours sweet,
And Bacchus, god of wine, sat there beside,
And Ceres next who does our hunger sate;
And as I said, the Cyprian there did lie,
To whom, on their knees, two young folk cried,
For her help; but there I passed her by,
And further into the temple I did spy

That, all in spite of Diana the chaste,
Full many a broken bow hung on the wall
Of maidens such as their time did waste
In her service; and pictured over all
Full many a story, of which I shall recall
A few, as of Callisto and Atalanta
And many a maiden whose names I lack here;

Semiramis, Candace and Hercules,
Biblis, Dido, Thisbe and Pyramus,
Tristram, Iseult, Paris and Achilles,
Helen, Cleopatra and Troilus,
Scylla, and then the mother of Romulus:
All these were painted on the other side,
And all their love, and in what way they died.

When I had come again unto the place
Of which I spoke, that was so sweet and green,
Forth I walked to bring myself solace.
Then was I aware, there sat a queen:
As in brightness the summer sun’s sheen
Outshines the star, right so beyond measure
Was she fairer too than any creature.

And in a clearing on a hill of flowers
Was set this noble goddess, Nature;
Of branches were her halls and her bowers
Wrought according to her art and measure;
Nor was there any fowl she does engender
That was not seen there in her presence,
To hear her judgement, and give audience.
For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,
And then so huge a crowd did they make,
That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake
Was so full, that there was scarcely space
For me to stand, so full was all the place.

And as Alain, in his Complaint of Nature,
Describes her array and paints her face,
In such array might men there find her.
So this noble Empress, full of grace,
Bade every fowl to take its proper place
As they were wont to do from year to year,
On Saint Valentine’s day, standing there.

That is to say, the birds of prey on high
Were perched, then small fowls without fail,
That eat, as Nature does them so incline,
Worms, or things of which I’ll tell no tale.
And waterfowl sat lowest in the dale;
But fowl that live on seeds sat on the green
So many there it was a wondrous scene.

There might men the royal eagle find
Who with his keen glance pierces the sun,
And other eagles of a lesser kind
On which scholars love to run.
There was the tyrant with his feathers dun
And grey – I mean the goshawk, who’ll distress
Others with his outrageous greediness.

The noble falcon, who with his feet will strain
At the king’s glove; sparrow-hawk sharp-beaked,
The quail’s foe; the merlin that will pain
Himself full oft the lark for to seek;
There was the dove with her eyes meek;
The jealous swan, that at his death does sing;
The owl too, that portent of death does bring;

The crane, the giant with his trumpet-sound;
The thief, the chough; the chattering magpie;
The mocking jay; the heron there is found;
The lapwing false, to foil the searching eye;
The starling that betrays secrets on high;
The tame robin; and the cowardly kite;
The rooster, clock to hamlets at first light;

The sparrow, Venus’ son; the nightingale,
That calls forth all the fresh leaves new;
The swallow, murderer of the bees hale
Who make honey from flowers fresh of hue;
The wedded turtledove with her heart true;
The peacock with angelic feathers bright;
The pheasant, scorner of the cock by night;

The wakeful goose; the cuckoo all unkind;
The parrot cram full of lechery;
The drake, destroyer of his own kind;
The stork, avenger of adultery;
The cormorant hot for gluttony;
The raven wise; the crow, the voice of care;
The thrush old; the wintry fieldfare.

What can I say? Fowl of every kind
That in this world have feathers and stature,
Men might in that place assembled find
Before the noble goddess Nature,
And each of them took care, every creature,
With a good will, its own choice to make,
And, in accord, its bride or mate to take.

But to the point: Nature had on her hand
A female eagle, of shape the very noblest
That ever she among her works had found,
The most gracious and the very kindest;
In her was every virtue there expressed
So perfectly Nature herself felt bliss
In gazing at her and her beak would kiss.

Nature, deputy of the almighty Lord,
Who hot, cold, heavy, light, moist and dry
Has knit in balanced measure in accord,
In gentle voice began to speak and sigh,
‘Fowl, heed my judgement now, pray I,
And for your ease, in furthering of your need,
As fast as I can speak, I will you speed.

You know that on Saint Valentine’s day,
By my statute and through my governance,
You come to choose – and then fly your way –
Your mates, as I your desires enhance.
But nonetheless my rightful ordinance
I may not alter, for all the world to win,
That he that is most worthy must begin.

The male eagle, as you all must feel,
The royal fowl, above you in degree,
The wise and worthy, secret, true as steel,
Whom I have formed, as you can see,
In every part as it best pleases me,
It needs not that his form I must portray,
He shall choose first, and speak in his own way.

And after him in order shall you choose
According to your kind, as you devise,
And, as your luck is, shall you win or lose;
But that one of you on whom love most lies,
God send him she that sorest for him sighs.’
And therewithal the eagle she did call,
And said: ‘My son, the choice on you does fall.

But nonetheless, bound by this condition
Must be the choice of everyone that’s here,
That she shall yet agree to his decision,
Whoever it is that shall her mate appear;
This is our custom ever, from year to year;
And he who at this time would find grace,
At blessed time has come unto this place.

With head inclined, humble, without fear,
This royal eagle spoke and tarried not:
‘My sovereign lady, with no equal here,
I choose, and choose with will and heart and thought,
The female on your hand so finely wrought,
Whose I am all, and ever will serve her I,
Do what she please: to have me live or die.

Beseeching her of mercy and of grace,
As she that is my lady sovereign,
To let me die right now, here in this place.
For certain, I’ll not live long in such pain,
Since in my heart is bleeding every vein;
Having regard only for my truth,
My dear heart, for my sorrow show some ruth.

And if that I be found to her untrue,
I disobey, or am blindly negligent,
Boastful, or in time chase after new,
I pray to you, on me be this judgement,
That by these fowls I be all torn then,
The very day that she should ever find
I am false to her or wilfully unkind.

And since none loves her as well as me,
Though she never promised me her love,
Then she should be mine, in her mercy,
For I’ve no other claim on her to move.
For never, for any woe, shall I prove
Faithless to her, however far she wend;
Say what you wish, my tale is at an end.’

Just as the fresh, the red rose new
In the summer sunlight coloured is,
So from modesty all waxed the hue
Of the female when she heard all this;
She neither answered, nor said aught amiss,
So sore abashed was she, till Nature
Said: ‘Daughter, fear you not, I you assure.’

Another male eagle spoke anon,
Of lesser rank, and said: ‘This shall not be.
I love her more than you do, by Saint John,
Or at the least I love her as well as ye,
Serving her longer in my degree,
And if she should have love for long-loving,
To me alone they should the garland bring.

I dare state too, that if she finds me yet,
False, indiscreet, unkind, rebellious,
Or jealous, you may hang me by the neck!
And if I do not fulfil in service
As well as my wits can, this promise,
In all respects her honour for to save,
Take she my life, and all my goods I pray.’

A third male eagle answered so:
‘Now, sirs, you know we’ve little leisure here;
For every fowl cries out to fly, and go
Forth with her mate, or with his lady dear;
And Nature herself would rather not hear,
By tarrying here, half that I would sigh;
Yet unless I speak, I must for sorrow die.

Of long service I may offer nothing,
Yet it’s as possible for me to die today
For woe, as he that has been languishing
These twenty winters, and happen it may
That a man may serve better and more repay
In half a year, although it were no more,
Than some man does who has served a score.

I say this not for myself, since I can
Do no service that may my lady please;
But, I dare state, I am her truest man
And, in my opinion, best seek her ease;
Briefly to speak, till death does me seize
I will be hers, whether I wake or wink,
And true in all that heart may bethink.’

In all my life since the day I was born,
So noble a plea in love or anything
Never heard any man but me before,
As would be clear if any had the cunning
And leisure to echo their way of speaking;
And from the morning did their speech last
Till downward went the sun wondrous fast.

The cries of fowls, now, to be delivered
Rang out so loud: ‘Have done, and let us wend!’
That I thought all the woods to pieces shivered.
‘Come on!’ they cried, ‘Alas, you us offend!
When will your cursed pleading have an end?
How should a judge for either party move
A yea or nay, without a shred of proof?’

The goose, the duck, and the cuckoo also
‘Kek, kek!’ ‘Cuckoo!’ ‘Quack, quack!’ cried so high
That through both ears the noise did flow.
The goose said: ‘All this is not worth a fly!
But find a remedy thereof can I,
And I will give my verdict fair and swiftly
For water fowl, whoever’s pleased or angry.’

‘And I for worm-eaters,’ said fool cuckoo,
For I will on my own authority,
For the public good, take up the charge now,
Since to free us quickly is great charity.’
‘You must abide a while yet, indeed!’
Said the turtle-dove,’ If it’s your will
That one may speak, who’d better shut his bill.’

I’m a seed-eater, one of the un-worthiest,
As I well know, and little own to learning;
But better it is a creature’s tongue rest
Than that he meddle in those doings
Of which he can neither speak nor sing.
And he who does so, his cause destroys,
For a service not requested oft annoys.’

Nature, who had always kept an ear
On the foolish murmuring behind,
With eloquent voice said: ‘Hold your tongues there!
And I shall soon, I hope, a method find
To release you, and from this noise unbind;
I decree that every group on one shall call
To announce the verdict for you all.’

Agreeable to this same conclusion
Were all the fowls: and the birds of prey
Chose the first by open election,
The male falcon to speak out and say
All their judgements, and adjudicate;
And, to Nature, himself he did present,
And she accepted him with glad intent.

The eagle spoke then in this manner:
‘It were full difficult to prove by reason
Who loves best this noble female here;
Each so puts forward his justification
That none by argument may be beaten.
I cannot see that arguments avail;
Then by battle it seems one must prevail.’

‘We’re ready!’ the male eagles quoth anon.
‘Nay, sirs! quoth he, ‘If I may dare to say,
You do me wrong, my tale is not yet done!
For sirs, take no offence of me I pray,
It may not, though you wish, happen this way;
Ours is the voice whose decision is at hand,
And the judge’s judgement you must stand;

And therefore, peace! I say, so works my wit,
That to me it seems that the worthiest
In knighthood, who’s longest practiced it,
Highest in rank, and of blood the noblest,
Were most fitting for her, if she so wished;
And of these three she herself knows, also
Which that one is, since easy ‘tis to know.’

The waterfowl had all their heads laid
Together and, after short argument,
When each of them had his large mouthful said,
Agreed truly, by mutual assent,
That the goose, who was so eloquent,
‘Who so yearns to pronounce what we agreed,
Shall tell our tale,’ and prayed her God speed.

And, for these water fowl, then began
The goose to speak, and in her cackling
She said: ‘Peace! Now take heed every man
And hear the judgement I shall forth bring;
My wit is sharp, I hate all tarrying;
I advise him, though he were my brother,
Unless she loves him, let him love another!’

‘Lo, here’s a reason fitting for a goose!’
Quoth the sparrow-hawk, ‘Never prosper she!
Lo such it is to have a tongue that’s loose!
Now, by God, fool, it were better for thee
To have held your peace, than show stupidity!
It lies not in his wit, nor in his will,
But true it is, “a fool’s tongue’s never still.”’

Laughter arose from the noble fowls all,
And anon the seed-eaters chosen had
The turtle true, and to them her did call,
And prayed her to tell the plain truth
Of the matter, and say what she would do;
And she answered that plainly her intent
She would speak and truly what she meant.

‘Nay, God forbid that a lover should change,’
The dove said, and blushed for shame all red,
‘Though his lady evermore seem estranged,
Yet let him serve her ever till he be dead.
For truly, I praise not what the goose has said,
For though she died, no other mate I’d take,
I would be hers till death my end should make.’

‘A fine jest,’ quoth the duck, ‘by my hat!
That men should love forever causeless,
Who can find reason or wit in that?
Dances he merrily who is mirthless?
Who cares for him who couldn’t care less?’
‘Quack ye,’ quoth yet the duck, ‘full well and fair!
There are more stars above than just one pair!’

‘Shame on you, churl!’ quoth the noble eagle,
‘Out of the dunghill come the words you cite.
You cannot see whatever is done well.
You fare in love as owls do in the light;
The day blinds them though they see by night.
Your kind is of so low a wretchedness
That what love is, you cannot see or guess.’

Then the cuckoo did the moment seize
For the worm-eating fowls, and did cry:
‘So long as I may have my mate in peace,
I care not how long you all may strive.
Let both of them stay single all their lives!
This I advise, since there’s no agreeing;
This short lesson does not bear repeating.’

‘Yea, so the glutton gets to fill his paunch,
Then all is well!’ said the merlin for one;
‘You murderer of the sparrow on the branch,
Who brought you forth, you wretched glutton!
Live you single then, worms’ destruction!
Useless even the defects of your natures;
Go you ignorant while the world endures!’

‘Now peace,’ quoth Nature, ‘I command here!
Since I have heard all your opinions,
And in effect our end is yet no nearer;
Finally now this is my own conclusion:
That she herself shall make her own decision
Choose whom she wish, whoe’er be glad or angry,
Him that she chooses, he shall have her as quickly.

For since it may not here resolved be
Who loves her best, as said the eagle yet,
Then will I grant her this favour, that she
Shall have him straight on whom her heart is set,
And he’ll have her whom his heart can’t forget.
This I decide, Nature, for I may not lie;
To naught but love do I my thought apply.

But as for advice in what choice to make,
If I were Reason, then would I
Advise that you the royal eagle take,
As said the eagle there most skilfully,
As being the noblest and most worthy,
Whom I wrought so well for my pleasure;
And that to you should be the true measure.’

With fearful voice the female gave answer,
‘My rightful lady, goddess of Nature,
Truth it is, your authority I am under
As is each and every other creature,
And must be yours while my life endure,
And therefore grant me my first boon,
And my intent I will reveal right soon.’

‘I grant it you,’ quoth she, and right anon
The female eagle spoke in this degree,
‘Almighty queen, until this year be done
I ask a respite to think carefully,
And after that to make my choice all free.
This is the sum of what I’d speak and say;
You’ll get no more although you do me slay.

I will not serve fair Venus nor Cupid
In truth, as yet, in no manner of way.’
‘Now since there is no alternative,’
Quoth Nature, ‘there is no more to say;
Then wish I that these folks were away
Each with its mate, not tarrying longer here’ –
And spoke to them as you shall after hear.

‘To you I speak, you eagles,’ quoth Nature,
‘Be of good heart and serve you, all three;
A year is not too long to endure,
So each of you take pains in his degree
To do well; for, God knows, free is she
Of you this year; whatever may then befall,
This same delay is served upon you all.’

And when this task was all brought to an end,
Each fowl from Nature his mate did take
In full accord, and on their way they went.
And, Lord, the blissful scene they did make!
For each of them the other in wings did take,
And their necks round each other’s did wind,
Thanking the noble goddess, kind by kind.

But first were fowl chosen for to sing,
As was ever their custom year on year
To sing out a roundel at their parting
To do Nature honour and bring cheer.
The tune was made in France, as you may hear;
The words were such as here you’ll find
In the next verse, I have now in mind.

‘Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this winter’s weather does off-shake,
And the long nights’ black away does take!

Saint Valentine, who art full high aloft –
Thus sing the small fowls for your sake –
Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this winter’s weather does off-shake.

Well have they cause to rejoice full oft,
Since each a marriage with its mate does make;
Full joyous may they sing when they wake;
Now welcome summer, with your sun soft,
That this wintry weather does off-shake,
And the long nights’ black away does take.’

And with the cries, when their song was done,
That the fowls made as they flew away,
I woke, and other books to read upon
I then took up, and still I read always;
I hope in truth to read something someday
Such that I dream what brings me better fare,
And thus my time from reading I’ll not spare.

End of the Parliament of Fowls
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2007

On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition



“On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition; and particularly on the works of Ernest Theodore William Hoffmann”

by  Sir Walter Scott

First published in  Foreign Quarterly Review  vol. 1, no. 1 (1827): 60-98.

No source of romantic fiction, and no mode of exciting the feelings of interest which the authors in that description of literature desire to produce, seems more directly accessible than the love of the supernatural. It is common to all classes of mankind, and perhaps is to none so familiar as to those who assume a certa degree of scepticism on the subject; since the reader may have often observed in conversation, that the person who professes himself most incredulous on the subject of marvellous stories, often ends his remarks by indulging the company with some well-attested anecdote, which it is difficult or impossible to account for on the narrator’s own principles of absolute scepticism. The belief itself, though easily capable of being pushed into superstition and absurdity, has its origin not only in the facts upon which our holy religion is bounded, but upon the principles of our nature, which teach us that while we are probationers in thissublunary state, we are neighbours to, and encompassed by the shadowy world, of which our mental faculties are too obscure to comprehend the laws, our corporeal organs too coarse and gross to perceive the inhabitants.

All professors of the Christian Religion believe that there was a time when the Divine Power showed itself more visibly on earth than in these our latter days; controlling and suspending, for its own purposes, the ordinary laws of the universe; and the Roman Catholic Church, at least, holds it as an article of faith, that miracles descend to the present time. Without entering into that controversy, it is enough that a firm belief in the great truths of our religion has induced wise and good men, even in Pro- [61] testant countries, to subscribe to Dr. Johnson’s doubts respecting supernatural appearances.“That the dead are seen no more, said Imlac, I will not undertake to maintain against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages, and of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion, which perhaps prevails as far as human nature is diffused, could become universal only by its truth; those that never heard of one another could not have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers, can very little weaken the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues, confess it by their fears.”

Upon such principles as these there lingers in the breasts even of philosophers, a reluctance to decide dogmatically upon a point where they do not and cannot possess any, save negative, evidence. Yet this inclination to believe in the marvellous gradually becomes weaker. Men cannot but remark that (since the scriptural miracles have ceased,) the belief in prodigies and supernatural events has gradually declined in proportion to the advancement of human knowledge; and that since the age has become enlightened, the occurrence of tolerably well attested anecdotes of the supernatural character are so few, as to render it more probable that the witnesses have laboured under some strange and temporary delusion, rather than that the  From Samuel Johnson’s Oriental tale  Rasselas  (1759), Chapter 31.laws of nature have been altered or suspended.  At this point of human knowledge, the marvellous is so much identified with fabulous, as to be considered generally as belonging to the same class. It is not so in early history, which is full of supernatural incidents; and although we now use the word romance  as synonymous with fictitious composition, yet as it originally only meant a poem, or prose work contained in the Romaunce language, there is little doubt that the doughty chivalry who listened to the songs of the minstrel, “held each strange tale devoutly true,”  and that the feats of knighthood which he recounted, mingled with tales of magic and supernatural interference, were esteemed as veracious as the legends of the monks, to which they bore a strong resemblance. This period of society, however, must have long past before the Romancer began to select and arrange with care, the nature of the materials out of which he constructedhis story. It was not when society, however differing in degree and station, was levelled and confounded by one dark cloud of ignorance, involving the noble as well as the mean, that it need be scrupulously considered to what class of persons the author addressed himself, or with what species of decoration he ornamented his story.  “Homo was  [62]  then a common name for all men,” and all were equally pleased with the same style of composition.  this, however, was gradually altered.  As the knowledge to which we have before alluded made  more general progress, it became impossible to detain the attention of the better instructed class by the simple and gross fables to which the present generation would only listen in childhood, though they had been held in honour by their fathers during youth, manhood, and old age.
It was also discovered that the supernatural in fictitious composition requires to be engaged with considerable delicacy, as criticism begins to be more on the alert. The interest which it excites is indeed a powerful spring; but it is one which is peculiarly subject to be exhausted by coarse handling and repeated pressure. It is also of a character which it is extremely difficult to sustain, and of which a very small proportion may be said to be better than the whole. The marvellous, more than any other attribute of fictitious narrative, loses its effect by being brought much into view. The imagination of the reader is to be excited if possible, without being gratified. If once, like Macbeth, we “sup full with horrors,” our taste for the banquet is ended, and the thrill of terror with which we hear or read of a night-shriek, becomes lost in that sated indifference with which the tyrant came at length to listen to the most deep catastrophes that could affect his house. The incidents of a supernatural character are usually those of a dark and undefinable nature,such as arise in the mind of the Lady in the Mask of Comus, –incidents to which our fears attach more consequence, as we cannot exactly tell what it is we behold, or what is to be apprehended from it:—

“A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes and beck’ning shadows dire,
And aery tongues that syllable men’s names
On sands, and shores, and desart wildernesses.”

Burke observes upon obscurity, that it is necessary to make any thing terrible, and notices “how much the
notions of ghosts and goblins, of which none can form clear ideas, affect minds which give credit to thepopular tales concerning such sorts of beings.”   He represents also, that no person “seems better to have
understood the secret of heightening, or of setting terrible things in their strongest light, by the force of audicious obscurity, than Milton. His description of Death, in the second book; is admirably studied; it isastonishing with what a gloomy pomp, with what a significant and expressive uncertainty of strokes andcolouring, he has finished the portrait of the king of terrors.  [63 ]
2  From William Collins’ “Ode to Fear.”
3 From Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which Macbeth says “I have almost forgot the taste of fears; / The time has been, my
senses would have cool’d / To hear a night-shriek; and my fell of hair / Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir / As
life were in’t: I have supp’d full with horrors; / Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts / Cannot once start me”
(V.v.9-15). 4  From John Milton’s  Comus  (1634), 205-209.
5  From Edmund Burke’s  A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful  (1756), Part 2, sec. 3.Burke argues that obscurity is essential to terror: “To make anything very terrible, obscurity seems in general to be necessary.” The discussion of Milton is from the same section.

‘The other shape,—
If shape it might be called, which shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb:
Or substance might be called that shadow seemed,–
For each seemed either; black he stood as night;
Fierce as ten furies; terrible as hell;
And shook a deadly dart.  What seemed his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.’

In this description all is dark, uncertain, confused, terrible and sublime to the last degree.” The only quotation worthy to be mentioned along with the passage we have just taken down, is the well-known apparition introduced with circumstances of terrific obscurity in the book of Job: “Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ears received a little thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face: the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes; there was silence, and I heard a voice.”

From these sublime and decisive authorities, it is evident that the exhibition of supernatural appearances in fictitious narrative ought to be rare, brief, indistinct, and such as may become a being to us so incomprehensible, and so different from ourselves, of whom we cannot justly conjecture whence he comes, or for what purpose, and of whose attributes we can have no regular or distinct perception. Hence it usually
happens, that the first touch of the supernatural is always the most effective, and is rather weakened and defaced, than strengthened, by the subsequent recurrence of similar incident. Even in Hamlet, the second entrance of the ghost is not nearly so impressive as the first; and in many romances to which we could refer, the supernatural being forfeits all claim both to our terror and veneration, by condescending to appear too often; to mingle too much in the events of the story, and above all, to become loquacious, or, as it is familiarly called,  chatty .  We have, indeed, great doubts whether an author acts wisely in permitting his goblin to speak at all, if at the same time he renders him subject to human sight. Shakspeare [ ], indeed, has sic contrived to put such language in the mouth of the buried majesty of Denmark as befits a supernatural being, and is by the style distinctly different from that of the living persons in the drama. In another passage he has had the boldness to intimate, by two expressions of similar force, in what manner and with what tone supernatural beings would find utterance:

“ A n d  th e  s h e e  te d  d e a d
Did and gibber in the Roman streets.”

squeak   But the attempt in which the genius of Shakespeare has succeeded would probably have been ridiculous in any meaner hand; and hence it is, that, in many of our modern tales of terror, our feelings of fear have, long before the conclusion, given way under the influence of that familiarity which begets contempt.

A sense that the effect of the supernatural in its more obvious application is easily exhausted, has occasioned the efforts of modern authors to cut new walks and avenues through the enchanted wood, and to revive, if possible, by some means or other, the fading impression of its horrors.

The most obvious and inartificial mode of attaining this end is, by adding to, and exaggerating the supernatural incidents of the tale. But far from increasing its effect, the principles which we have laid down, incline us to consider the impression as usually weakened by exaggerated and laborious description. Elegance is in such cases thrown away, and the accumulation of superlatives, with which the narrative is encumbered, renders it tedious, or perhaps ludicrous, instead of becoming impressive or grand.

There is indeed one style of composition, of which the supernatural forms an appropriate part, which applies itself rather to the fancy than to the imagination, and aims more at amusing than at affecting or interesting the reader. To this species of composition belong the eastern tales,  which contribute so much to the amusement of our youth, and which are recollected, if not re-perused, with so much pleasure in our more advanced life. There are but few readers of any imagination who have not at one time or other in their life sympathized with the poet Collins,  “who,” says Dr. Johnson, “was eminently delighted with those flights of imagination, which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the mind is reconciled only by a passive acquiescence in popular traditions. He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delighted to rove through the meadows of enchantment, to gaze on the magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the waterfalls of Elysian gardens.”  It is chiefly the young and the indolent who love to be soothed by works of this character, which require little attention in the perusal. In our riper age we remember them as we do the joys of ourinfancy, rather because we loved them once, than that they still continue to afford us amusement. The extravagance of fiction loses its charms for our riper judgment; and notwithstanding that these wild fictions contain much that is beautiful and full of fancy, yet still, unconnected as they are with each other, and conveying no result to the understanding, we pass them by as the championess Britomart rode along the rich strand.

Which as she overwent,
She saw bestrewed all with rich array
Of pearls and precious stones of great assay,
And all the gravel mixt with golden ore:
Whereat she wondered much, but would not stay
For gold, or pearls, or precious stones, one hour;
But them despised all, for all was in her power.

With this class of supernatural composition may be ranked, though inferior in interest, what the French call Contes des Fées;  meaing, by that title, to distinguish them from the ordinary popular tales of fairy folks which are current in most countries. The  Conte des Fées  is itself a very different composition, and the fairies engaged are of a separate class from those whose amusement is to dance round the mushroom in the moonlight, and mislead the belated peasant. The French  Fée  more nearly resembles the Peri of Eastern, or the Fata of Italian poetry.  She is a superior being, having the nature of an elementary spirit, and possessing magical powers enabling her, to a considerable extent, to work either good or evil. But whatever merit this species of writing may have attained in some dexterous hands, it has, under the management of others, become one of the most
absured, flat, and insipid possible.  Out of the whole  Cabinet des Fées,  when we get beyond our old acquaintances of the nursery, we can hardly select five volumes, from nearly fifty,  with any probability of receiving pleasure from them.It often happens that , when any particular style becomes somewhat antiquated and obsolete, somecaricature, or satirical imitation of it, gives rise to a new species of composition. Thus the English Opera arose from the parody upon the Italian stage, designed by Gay, in the Beggar’s Opera.   In like manner, when the public had been inundated,  ad nauseam,  with Arabian tales, Persian tales, Turkish tales, Mogul tales , and

9  What are now commonly referred to as “Oriental tales,” such as William Beckford’s  Vathek  (1786).
10  William Collins (1721-1759); Collins is regarded as one of the “Graveyard School” poets, and his  Persian Eclogues  is in
the “eastern” mode Scott is discussing.  Collins was a favorite poet of Ann Radcliffe.
11  From Edmund Spenser’s  The Faerie Queene  (1590), Book III, canto 4; Britomart, the chaste warrior hero of Book III, is noted for her calm and heroic martial character as well as her unwavering commitment to her future husband, Arthegall.
12  A Peri is a superhuman being, typically represented as good, from Persian mythology; a “Fata” is a “fay” or woman of
supernatural power in Italian folklore.
13  John Gay’s  The Beggar’s Opera  (1728) is a satiric  “opera” (actually a play with a lot of songs) poking fun at the
conventions of Italian opera of the day.  It was the inspiration for Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil’s  The Three-Penny Opera (1928), which gives us, via adaptation and translation, the jazz classic “Mack the Knife,” the roguish highwayman from  Gay’s work having become a roguish hitman.
14  Mogul, used generally as here, referes to any aspect of the Mogul Dynasty, which ruled parts of the Indian subcontinent, from current-day northern India into what is now southern China, from the 15  to the 19  Centuries.
the legends of every nation east of the Bosphorus,  and were equally annoyed by the increasing publication of all sorts of fairy tales, —Count Anthony Hamilton,  like a second Cervantes, came forth  with his satirical tales, destined to overturn the empire of Dives, of Genii, of Peris,  et hoc genus omne. Something too licentious for a more refined age, the Tales of Count Hamilton subsist as a beautiful illustration, showing that literary subjects, as well as the fields of the husbandman, may, when they seem most worn out and effete, be renewed and again brought into successful cultivation by a new course of management. The wit of Count Hamilton, like manure applied to an exhausted field, rendered the eastern sea more piquant, if not more edifying, than it was before.  Much was written in imitation of Count Hamilton’s style; and it was followed by Voltaire  in particular, who in this way rendered the supernatural romance one of the most apt vehicles for circulating his satire. This,  [66]  therefore, may be termed the comic side of the supernatural, in which the author plainly declares his purpose to turn into jest the miracles which he relates, and aspires to awaken ludicrous sensations without affecting the fancy—far less exciting the passions of the reader.  By this species of delineation the reader will perceive that the supernatural style of writing is entirely travestied and held up to laughter, instead of being made the subject of respectful attention, or heard with at least that sort of imperfect excitement with which we listened to a marvellous tale of fairy-land. This species of satire—for it is often converted to satirical purposes—has never been more happily executed than by the French authors, although Wieland,  and several other German writers, treading in the steps of Hamilton, have added the grace of poetry to the wit and to the wonders with which they have adorned this species of composition. Oberon, in particular, has been identified with our literature by the excellent translation of Mr.Sotheby, and is nearly as well known in England as in Germany. It would, however, carry us far too wide from our present purpose, were we to consider tbe comi-heroic poetry which belongs to this class, and which includes the well-known works of Pulci, Berni – perhaps, in a certain degree, of Ariosto himself, who, in
some passages at least, lifts his knightly vizor so far as to give a momentary glimpse of the smile which mantles upon his countenance.

One general glance at the geography of this most pleasing “Londe of Faery,”  leads us into another province, rough as it may seem and uncultivated, but which, perhaps, on that very account, has some scenes abounding in interest. There are a species of antiquarians who, while others laboured to reunite and ornament highly the ancient traditions of their country, have made it their business,  antiquos accedere fontes ,  to visit the ancient springs and sources of those popular legends which, cherished by the grey and superstitious Elde, had been long forgotten in the higher circles, but are again brought forward and claim, like the old ballads of a country, a degree of interest even from their rugged simplicity.  The Deutsche Sagen of the brothers Grimm,  is an admirable work of this kind; assembling, without any affectation either of ornamental diction or improved incident, the various traditions existing in different parts of Germany respecting popular superstitions and the events ascribed to supernatural agency.  There are other works of the same kmd, in the same language, collected with great care and apparent fidelity. Sometimes trite, sometimes tiresome, sometimes childish, the legends which these authors have collected with such indefatigable zeal form nevertheless a step in the history of the human race;

15  The Bosphorus Strait connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara in present-day Turkey.  It has long been regarded as the dividing line between Europe and Asia. 16  Count Anthony Hamilton (1646? – 1720) was an Irish-born writer and courtier from a well-known Scottish family, and spent much of his life in France and England.  Among his literary works is a collection of satiric fairy tales, intended,
Miguel de Cervantes’ classic novel  Don Quixote , to ridicule what was seen as a stale and  passé  literary mode.
17  Latin for “and all [stories] of that type.” 18  Voltaire: pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), French writer, satirist, and philosopher.
19  Christoph Martin Wieland  (1733-1813), German poet and writer, well-known for works drawing on classical myth and folklore; one of his most famous works was the romantic epic poem  Oberon  (1780; translated 1798).
20  Scott uses this term in one of his footnotes to his poem  The Lady of the Lake  (1810).
( 21  Adapted from Lucretius’  De Rerum Natura On the Nature of Things ), this translates roughly to “the older ones approach the source.”
22  These are the “Brothers Grimm,” best known for their “fairy tales,” the first edition of which was published in 1812.
( The  Deutsche Sagen German Legends ) to which Scott referes were published in two volumes, in 1816 and 1818. and, when compared with similar collections in other countries, seem to infer traces of a common descent which has placed one general stock of superstition within reach of the various tribes of mankind. What are we to think when we find the Jutt and the Fin  telling their children the same traditions which are to be found in the nurseries of the Spaniard and Italian; or when we recognize in our own instance the traditions of Ireland or Scotland as corresponding with those of Russia? Are we to suppose that their similarity arises from the
limited nature ofhuman invention, and that the same species of fiction occurs to the imaginations of different authors in remote countries as the same species of plants are found in different regions wit.hout the possibility of them having been propagated by transportation from the one to others?  Or ought we, rather,  refer them to a common source, when mankind formed but the same great family, and suppose that as philologists trace through various dialects the broken fragments of one general language, so antiquaries may recognize in distant countries parts of what was once a common stock of tradition? We will not pause on this inquiry, nor observe more than generally that, in collecting these traditions, the industrious editors have been throwing light, not only on the history of their own country in particular, but on that of mankind in general. There is generally some truth mingled with the abundant falsehood, and still more abundant exaggeration of the oral legend; and it may be frequently and unexpectedly found to confirm or confute the meagre statement of some ancient chronicle. Often, too, the legend of the common people, by assigning peculiar features, localities, and specialities to the incidents which it holds in memory, gives life and spirit to the frigid and dry narrative which tells the fact alone, without the particulars which render it memorable or interesting. It is, however, in another point of view, that we wish to consider those popular traditions in their collected state: namely, as a peculiar mode of exhibiting the marvellous and supernatural in composition. And here we must acknowledge, that he who peruses a large collection of stories of fiends, ghosts, and prodigies, in hopes of exciting  in his mind that degree of shuddering interest approaching to fear, which is the most valuable triumph of the supernatural, is likely to be disappointed. A whole collection of ghost stories inclines us as little to fear as a jest book moves us to laughter. Many narratives, turning upon the same interest, are apt to exhaust it: as in a large collection of pictures an ordinary eye is so dazzled with the variety of brilliant or glowing colours as to become less able to distinguish the merit of those pieces which are possessed of any.

23  “Jutt” is an archaic term referring to a people of northern and northwest India; “Finn” is a reference to inhabitants of Finland. “… the attachment of the Germans to the mysterious has invented another species of composition, which, perhaps, could hardly have made its way in any other country or language.  This may be called the FANTASTIC mode of writing,– in which the most wild and unbounded license is given to an irregular fancy….”

[72] “We do not mean to say that the imagination of Hoffmann was either wicked or corrupt, but only that it was ill-regulated and had an undue tendency to the horrible and the distressing.” [81] “…the exhibition of supernatural appearances in fictitious narrative ought to be rare, brief, indistinct, and Re: Hoffmann’s “The Sand-man”: “It is impossible to subject tales of this nature to criticism.  They are not the visions of a poetical mind, they have scarcely even the seeming authenticity which the hallucinations of lunacy convey to the patient; they are the feverish dreams of a light-headed patient….” [97] “…we possess in a much greater degree the power of exciting in our minds what is fearful, melancholy, or horrible, than of commanding thoughts of a lively & pleasing character.  The grotesque, also, has a natural alliance with the horrible; for that which is out of nature can be with difficulty reconciled to the beautiful.”



Remarks on Maithili Literature

Harimohan Jha

Harimohan Jha

Ati pavitra mangal karan, ramjanm ke din. Akbar Tushit Maheshko Tirhut Raja kaun?

Navgrah Ved Vasundhara, Shakme Akbar Shah, Pandit subudh Maheshko, kinho Mithila Raj.

Harimohan Jha, Renaissance man of the language of great Vidyapati and Jyotireshwar Thakur was born on September 18, 1908, third after two elder sisters and among four sisters and two brother, his father Pandit Janardan Jha “Janshidan” was a great scholar and had credit of being first novelist in Maithil language besides ushering it to the modern pattern of literary craft.

His maternal uncle Pandit Chandramani Kumar was hailing from the famous ruling Oinwar dynasty although prosperity had been diminished till the Janardan Jha had attained the age to enter in worldly affairs.

So, that phase was full of anxiety for Janardan Jha until he was conferred patronage by the king of Srinagar (A Zamindari in Mithila region, modern Purnia district), Kamlanand Singh in 1901 who had been from generations relentlessly constituted the fabulous environment for art, culture and literature by awarding similar patronage to the luminaries of different field. Meanwhile Janardan Jha also established a regular correspondence with the Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi than the editor of pioneering Hindi magazine “Saraswati”; further he also penned for this magazine on several occasions, these curricular inheritance proved very beneficial in shaping of the mind of young Harimohan Jha who since his childhood developed great literary taste under the visionary guidance and proximity of his father.

In 1919, Janardan Jha was appointed as editor of “Mithila Mihir” (under Patronage of the Darbhanga Raj) and moved to Darbhanga where he remained until 1922; these years were formative for the child Harimohan as he saw and involved in top-notch contemporary scholaric circle of Darbhanga Raj. He was an avid informal learner from both the oral tradition as well as from modern practices; consequently he became able to produce his first published work “Ajib Bandar” at the little age of twelve and even before his formal joining of school straight to the standard tenth at G.B.B Collegiate School in Muzzapharpur in 1923.

Then, guardianships were formidable and conventions usually considered conspicuous, so he had to married at the juvenile age of sixteen in 1924. Next year, he passed Matriculation with first class distinction from the prestigious Patna University, than still Bihar and Orissa was a combined state. Meanwhile, his father moved to Calcutta (1923) in search of livelihood and literary pursuits, albeit it was an emotional jolt over him nevertheless he constructively surpassed it and secured first class first in Combined State Intermediate Examination (1927) with complex subjects like-Sanskrit, Logic and History.

Further he moved to Patna College for his university education and became a resident of historic Minto hostel, this time he experimented with his field of studies and opted subjects like-English (Honours), Philosophy and Sanskrit for under graduation. Then his Alma matter, Patna University was witnessing its golden time and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration that he too significantly epitomized the glorious story of this institution-both as student and later faculty throughout his long professional stint. Although till then, the British colonialism was on the brink of decline, despite this, the usual characteristics of elitist education were still in place.

During those days, the principle of Patna College was Mr. Horn and warden of Minto hostel was Mr. Armer who was also the head of English department and ofcourse one more person A.P.Banerjee Shastri, who was despite being a teacher of Sanskrit, entirely accustomed in anglicized manners. Common things of these educationists were their hard discipline and focused approach for their role; in their inquisitions, they found young entrant Harimohan Jha with full of potential and snobbish qualities. These impressions raised his chance to groom to a height in both academic and extra-curricular activities.

Very soon he headed College team in All India Debate Competition in Allahabad where he topped and honoured to receive the prize from non other than the great educationist and doyen of Allahabad University-Sir Ganga Nath Jha, who was then the Vice-Chancellor of this University. In 1929, he earned his graduation in second class albeit in entirely juxtaposed situation, where he received distinction in Philosophy but on the other side due to wrong time management and over answering he couldn’t maintain his erstwhile performances-possibly his scholaric commitment had outwitted the numeral incentives. Although he performed at his next stage in fine swing and succeeded to secure gold meddle at this academic ladder (M.A, 1932) in the special discipline of Philosophy.

Meanwhile, his father had back from the city of Calcutta and was in deep concern for son’s future prospects. So far, Darbhanga had been still availing the great fortune at many counts- likewise vibrant entrepreneurship and intellectualities were both in place. Ramlochan Sharan, a very remarkable man and founder-owner of PUSHTAK BHANDAR, created an unparalleled hangout for book-lovers and scholars. For a considerable time, his shop remained in fine pace albeit now it’s a matter of historical inquiries-Janardan Jha; father of Harimohan Jha was an ingredient component of that literary circle which greatly benefited the budding scholarships of Harimohan Jha.

He spent his transitive time in Darbhanga in close association with Pushtak Bhandar, until he joined Bihar National College in 1933; afterwards a very glittering career was waiting for him. The year 1933 was also proved epoch making for Maithili literature and for that, big contribution goes to Harimohan Jha, since his magnum-opus novel “Kanyadan (Marriage)” stroked with the unprecedented wave of response from literary circle as well as of common folks and later it became a household name. It’s worthwhile to notice that, this book he had penned during his undergraduate years in Patna University and even at the time of release he was only in his mid twenties.

This novel proved milestone of success in Maithili literature besides in popularity and reach, it remains unparalleled for everyone including of Harimohan Jha himself whose own successive works have been trailing much behind from such precedent mark. Though he adopted satirical canopy to express his dissatisfaction with the prevailing starkness and ignorance in the life of Maithili women; female protagonist “Buchhi Dai’s” feeble awareness of worldly knowledge reflects the grim situation of education and progressive approaches in contemporary Maithili society.

Her devoid persona from the expectation of young University student groom “C.C.Mishra” earmarked the narration of entire further text, obviously to an extent, it was Harimohan Jha’s own experience that compelled him to write for female emancipation; only he slightly changed the locale and used Banaras Hindu University as Alma matter of protagonist instead of Patna University where he went through the feelings and conceptualization of his rock-solid thoughts for “Kanyadan”. Legendary mark of his first work encouraged him for its sequel “Dwiragman”, which came in 1949 and proved equally sensational since it was seen as footprint of women’s emancipation.

Harimohan Jha was the men of focus and also endowed with the gifted multitasking instinct, so he also remarkably contributed to the stream of philosophy-“Nyay Darshan” in 1940 and “Vaisheshik Drshan” in 1943 was his remarkable contribution in that phase, it’s essential to find that along with the superb pace of writing, he equally stood with his familiar responsibility. He kept these flamboyance till 1960 and produced iconic works like-“Pranamya Devta (1945)”, “Khattar Kakak Tarang (1948)”, “Rangsala (1949)”, “Tirth Yatra (1953)”, “Charchari (1960)”, “Nigman Tarkshastra (1952)”, “Bhartiya Darshan (Translation, 1953).

This vigorous phase was of dual reality for him as had been availing great success in literary and academic circle, but on the other side he also struck through tragedies-sad demise of nephew (1947), brother (1949), father (1951), all these unexpected jolt weakened him internally and also weaken the pace of writing. In the 1950’s, he was promoted to the rank of head of Philosophy department, and later University professor. Moreover, his extra-ordinary pursuits also helped him being nominated as council member of Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR); in these new roles, he actively attended numbers of seminars-conferences and produced significant papers in his academic discipline.

His wife Subhadra Jha, who was an esteemed lady with progressive ideas, had co-incidentally also shown her utmost interest for the development of Maithili language and literature; in this regard, she even headed to Delhi in 1955 as entourage of a delegation from Patna to attend a cultural festival in Akashwani (All India Radio) besides she also maneuvered with path finding act to enter on stage through “Chetana Samiti) in 1958…than such progressiveness was not less than a phenomenon for Maithil ladies. Prevailing conservatism was the cause of Harimohan Jha’s anguish which he thought as reason behind discriminatory dual treatment on the narrow line of gender in contemporary Maithil society, that concern always pushed him for activism against these mindsets, both in the ambit of writing and academic sphere.

His gifted oration greatly benefited him to deliver the monumental lectures on wide range of subjects across the Universities of India and Nepal; in 1948- Oriental Conference of Darbhanga, his candid elocution on social conservatism was indeed a daring step in contemporary socio-political order. He was true repository of verbal intelligence and had equal commitment for verses; he composed numerous meaningful poems to unleash those especialties as well as the prevailing social starkness of that time. His poems like-“Maach”, “Dhala Jha”, “Buchkun Baba”, “Pandit o Mem”, “Pandit” etc were constructed through vigorous energy and had wide catchment areas as Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Lal Nehru was greatly influenced through his poetic intellect which he noticed during chairing an exhibition cum poetry recitation from Maithili books in Delhi,1963-he avidly tried to comprehend the meaning of many complex Maithili terms from a towering political colleague from Bihar and than Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr. Satya Narayan Singh.

Indeed Harimohan Jha consolidated great moments in Maithili literature along with his contemporaries-Baidyanath Mishra “Yatri” (Nagarjun), Fanishwar Nath “Renu”, Rajkamal Chaudhary, Lalit, Dhumketu etc through great literary activities in their lifetime. It would be proper, if this period could be recalled as golden time of this ancient language. He kept his creative fervor till the end of his life, his research work “Trends of Linguistic Analysis in Indian Philosophy (Post retirement) justifies his perfectionist commitment. The only regret of his creative life remaind the cinematic adaptation of his magnum-opus novel” Kanyadan”-its alien direction and cold response from viewers further restrained him to allow such more experiments.

Things were in good shape until the death of mother Janani Devi (1975) at the age of 92; just a year after he met with an unfortunate tragedy by losing his loving grandson (Daman Jee), merely at the age of six in 1976 which entirely shattered him in old age. That adversity hit him so pathetically, further he couldn’t survive for long; he passed away in late nineteen eighties in the city of Darbhanga at the residence of his son-in-law Prof. Shailendra Mohan Jha. Harimohan Jha was a man with great family values which he did uphold throughout his life and spent even his last years in same light amidst his dear ones and was solaced to see his next generations’ involvement in literature.

Son, Rajmohan Jha and son-in-law Shailendra Mohan Jha lightened the further ray of hope in this regard; they succeeded with some qualities of Harimohan Jha and came out with some of matured literary pieces. Harimohan Jha, had an additional quality of editing which he displayed in “Jayanti Smarak” (Pushtak Bhandar, 1942) along with the Acharaya Shivpujan Sahay and Achutanand Datta; this work is so unique in some way.  That it’s become sacrosanct during the in-depth historical inquiries of Mithila region; this work is full with the vital insights in fine compilation. Indeed his vision has relentless universal values and would remain undeniable with his prolific literary contributions-numbers of novels, dozens of stories and poetries, numerous articles, memoir, travelogue etc are suffice to sensitize the minds of every enthusiast in the area of Maithili literature.

His literary journey was closer to the soul-searching of his loving region…he precisely tried to cover all intricacies such as-life style, food habits, humors, oral tales, pseudo characters, ignorance, intellects, pastorals lives etc through a new dynamicism and vigour, which pushed the inferences straight to the mind of his readers. He was very much a fun loving, food loving and great oral traditionist with the amazing philosophical command over “Mimansa” (a philosophical arm, originated from Mithila)…”khattar Kakkak Tarang” is best outcome with those experimental metaphors which justifies the Maithil’s beliefs in their social life; such close inquiries of life style is even difficult to canvass in voluminous philosophical work. For true finding on Mithila region, one must go to the literary world of Harimohan Jha where tells are contrast to idleness and closer to the dynamic lives.

(Courtesy of Atul Kumar Thakur)


The     Raj    Darbhanga

Darbhanga Raj, also known as Raj Darbhanga and the Royal Family of Darbhanga, were a family of Zamindars and rulers of territories that are now part of Mithila and Darbhanga district, Bihar, India. Their seat was at the city of Darbhanga. The estate of Darbhanga Raj was estimated to cover an area of 2,410 square miles (6,200 km2), incorporating 4,495 villages within 18 circles in Bihar and Bengal and employing over 7,500 officers to manage the estate. It was the largest zamindari in India and was the best managed estate at the time of abolition of Zamindari. The Raj Darbhanga trace their origin to Mahesh Thakur at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

North Bihar was under a state of lawlessness at the end of the empire of the Tughlaq dynasty. Tughlaq had attacked and taken control of Bihar, and from the end of the Tughlaq Empire until the establishment of the Mughal Empire in 1526 there was anarchy and chaos in Bihar. Emperor Akbar (ruled 1556–1605) realized that taxes from Mithila could only be collected if there was a Brahmin king who could ensure peace in the Mithila region. The Brahmins were dominant in the Mithila region and Mithila had Brahmin kings in the past.

Emperor Akbar summoned Rajpandit (Royal Priest) Chandrapati Thakur to Delhi from Garh Mangala (now in Madhya Pradesh) and asked him to name one of his sons who could be made caretaker and tax collector for his lands in Mithila. Chandrapati Thakur named his middle son, Mahesh Thakur, and Emperor Akbar declared Pandit Mahesh Thakur as the caretaker of Mithila on the day of Ram Navami in 1577 AD. A poet has written about this event:
Ati pavitra mangal karan, ramjanm ke din. Akbar Tushit Maheshko Tirhut Raja kaun?
Navgrah Ved Vasundhara, Shakme Akbar Shah, Pandit subudh Maheshko, kinho Mithila Raj.
(A very good omen has happened on the day of Ram Navami. Akbar asked Mahesh, “Who is King of Tirhut?” [Mahesh replied]: “Nine Planets, Vedas, and Mother Nature.” Hearing this, Akbar made the wise Pandit Mahesh King of Mithila.)

The family and descendants of Mahesh Thakur gradually consolidated their power in social, agrarian, and political matters and came to be regarded as kings of Madhubani. Darbhanga became the seat of power of the Raj Darbhanga family from 1762. They also had a palace at Rajnagar Bihar situated in Madhubani district. They bought land from local people. They became known as a Khandavala family (the richest landlord). This family was not regarded as kings by the British Raj but they were allowed to use the prefix Maharaja, and later Maharajadhiraj, by the British. There is no documentation for this as it was a verbal commitment. Although the British never granted them formal status as a ruling princely state, they had all the trappings of a princely state.

For a period of twenty years (1860–1880), Darbhanga Raj was placed under Ward of Court by the British government. During this period, Darbhanga Raj was involved in litigation regarding succession. This litigation decided that the estate was impartible and succession was to be governed by primogeniture.

The estate of Darbhanga Raj was estimated to cover an area of 2,410 square miles (6,200 km2). It had an indigo concern in Sarahia and Bachaur in Muzaffarpur district, Pandaul in Madhubani District, and Gonswara in Purnea district. Raj Darbhanga started several companies. Newspaper & Publication Pvt. Ltd. published newspapers and periodicals such as The Indian Nation, Aryavarta, and ‘Mithila Mihir. The Walford company was a chain of automobile dealterships having branches at Calcutta, Guwahati, and Imphal. The family owned Ashok Paper Mills, Pandaul Sugar Factory, Sakri Sugar Factory, and others. Darbhanga Raj contained 4,495 villages under 18 circles in Bihar and Bengal and employed over 7,500 officers to manage the estate.[2][not in citation given] Darbhanga Raj was said to be the best managed estate at the time of abolition of Zamindari.
Raj Darbhanga had several Palaces in Darbhanga: Rambagh Palace, Lakshmeshwar Vilas Palace, Nargona Palace, Bela Palace, and at Rajnagar in Madhubani District. Raj Darbhanga had properties at almost every prominent city in British India.

Raj Darbhanga under Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh (1858–1898) and Maharaja Rameshwar Singh became a model estate in India. Several works pertaining to famine relief, road construction, and canal and bridge construction were carried out. Raj Darbhanga came to be known for its benevolent management. During the Bihar famine of 1873–74 Maharaj Lakshmeshwar Singh contributed Rs.300,000.00 towards relief works.

The Maharajas of Darbhanga were devoted to Sanskrit traditions and maintained an orthodox viewpoint of religion and caste. However, their views did not prevent them from having a broader nationalistic outlook. Even though the Royal Family of Darbhanga’s contribution to the Indian independence movement is ignored, the Maharajas of Darbhanga, while maintaining their loyalty to the British government, were major financial supporters of the Indian National Congress. In a letter dated 21 March 1947 Mahatma Gandhi acknowledged his friendship with the royal family of Darbhanga and said Maharaja Kameshwar Singh Bahadur was as a son to him.
Maharaja Kameshwar Singh, last Maharaja of Darbhanga
After the independence of India from British rule in 1947, the Government of India initiated several land reform actions and the Zamindari system was abolished. The fortunes of Darbhanga Raj dwindled.

The last Maharaja of Darbhanga Raj was Maharaja Bahadur Sir Kameshwar Singh, K.C.I.E. He died heirless

Dino Buzzati



Dino Buzzati-Traverso (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdino butˈtsati]; 16 October 1906 – 28 January 1972) was an Italian novelist, short story writer, painter and poet, as well as a journalist for Corriere della Sera. His worldwide fame is mostly due to his novel Il deserto dei Tartari, translated into English as The Tartar Steppe.





A powerful attempt of E Morricone in
approaching the Myth of the Tartar Desert
can be found here in this audio excerption :







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