As the mirror to my hand

by Vidyapati

English version by Edward C. Dimock, Jr. and Denise Levertov
Original Language Maithili

As the mirror to my hand,
the flowers to my hair,
kohl to my eyes,
tambul to my mouth,
musk to my breast,
necklace to my throat,
ecstasy to my flesh,
heart to my home --

as wing to bird,
water to fish,
life to the living --
so you to me.
But tell me,
Madhava, beloved,
who are you?
Who are you really?

Vidyapati says, they are one another.

-- from In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali, Translated by Edward C. Dimock, Jr. / Translated by Denise Levertov

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Vidyapati here is writing from the perspective of Radha who is yearning for her beloved Krishna (Madhava). But, as I've pointed out before, this relationship plays out on two levels simultaneously. On the deeper level, it is a metaphor of spiritual union with the Divine. Krishna is understood to be an embodiment of God, and Radha is the individual soul who has yielded to the love of God.

So when Radha enumerates their many intimate connections, finally declaring, "as wing to bird, / water to fish, / life to the living -- / so you to me..." the ardent soul is finally acknowledging that it is the Divine Beloved which is her true nature. The soul sees that, at its core, it is inseparable from God. To then ask, "Who are you really?" is to seek to understand the fundamental nature of being.

Vidyapati's signature line sums it up so beautifully: "They are one another." Lover and Beloved ultimately melt into each other until there is no separation. The soul and God are finally recognized to be of the same essence.



Recommended Books: Vidyapati

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali





As the mirror to my