October 13, 2017

In The Early Pearly Morning - Song by Valgovind

Photo by Mrs. Eardley Wilmot, illustrating
a special edition of India's Love Lyrics
After an initial couple of coughs at start up, this third poem "In The Early Pearly Morning - Song by Valgovind" offers us a stepping stone into the sunlit garden of pleasurable tension that often pervades the atmosphere of a Hopian waking dream.  Placed where it is, one cannot help but feel it was one of the poet's own minor favorites.  Certainly she has slipped into her signature voice.  The Thous and Thys are banished as we lounge in an old temple garden, drums throbbing under azure skies, with abundant scarlet poppies and mango trees abloom. 

"The weirdly wistful wailing of the melancholy flute" is a drawn out phrase, calling for attention.   Krishna is known to play a flute, and is subtley invoked in the strange but hardly dreary music.  Dutiful affection has also been banished and the poet's invitation "Will you come to me today?" hints at an afternoon of pleasure, sandwiched "between the crushing years".  It is a period of indulgence recklessly worth any risk - even "eternities of tears."

This last sentiment is one of Hope's finest philosophies, which we encounter again in the The Teak Forest's "little noontide of love's delights, between two nights".  Thus despite the seemingly frivolous invitation, Valgovind's song leaves us in a rather profound space, like an awe inspiring
theatrical play with an overarching set - the great stages in human life of birth and death acting as parenthesis to our brief, fatal burst of human mortality.  Now the poet's reckless argument sounds almost sensible - why not find a little pleasure in the face of the obliteration before and behind?   She need not ask twice, I would come swiftly to her oasis among the ruins.

By Bruno Tinucci
"The fields are full of Poppies,
and the skies are very blue"
Valgovind is the "author" or singer of four poems found in the Love Lyrics.  Very likely the name is an idiomatic spelling of a common male name in the Gujarati language, "Balgovind"  which means Krishna, or "cow herder".   Poetry uses language economically allowing readers to unpack realms of meaning from each word.  Thus, I believe it may be fairly speculated that the name "Valgovind" could be invoking The Govinda, a 12th century Sanskrit narrative epic poem by Jayadeva.   In its time, this unique tract revitalised religious worship by steeping it in "...love, devotion and absolute submission, the instruments that dispelled duality and led the self to unite with the Supreme Self."  Sounds a lot like our girl, doesn't it?

Krishna on the river disguised as Boatman
with his companion Gopis
The title could also have simply referred to an ordinary boatman, singing as he worked the river.  Hope's keen senses would have caught many an aire of the working class on the wind, transporting her senses with words and tunes of devotion.  There are many episodes in Hope's canon of a narrator on a boat before, during or after a liaison.  Gossips speculated a great deal, never proving that Mrs. Nicolson had indulged in a real affair with either a handsome but poor Indian gondolier on the one hand, or a dreamboat Eastern Prince on the other.   And perhaps they wished it was both - a prince who had slipped away in disguise to find romance as a lowly boatman, an act that would not be unfamiliar to Krishna himself

The Boatman may be singing to us, or it may be that Violet is speaking to her Beloved.  Yet the ancient temple carvings of the second and third stanzas seem to invoke Krishna with a gopi, perhaps Rhada.  Their eternal pleasure is carved in stone - a unity of love manifested right out of the earth itself.  It is an almost eternal love, defying the vast unknown mysteries before birth and after death.  Those blank regions may or may not hold paradise, but they can definitely not service the peak of fleshy carnality that may be sought and found here on earth.  The poet tells us this sublime earthly union is well worth seeking at any price, if only for a day.  

For more on the Gita Govinda, and Krishna with Rhada in the pleasure garden, the book Unveiling the Garden of Love: Mystical Symbolism in Layla Majnun & Gita Govinda by Lalita Sinha is delightfully readable.

NOTE:  "In The Early Pearly Morning - Song by Valgovind" and the next four poems of India's Love Lyrics may be listened to here.  This is a sneak preview and will not be available on Librivox until the entire book has been recorded.   

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