Messenger Poems

By Kālidāsa, Dhoyī, and Rūpa Gosvāmin
Translated by Sir James Mallinson

Messenger Poems

Kali·dasa’s fifth-century CE “Cloud Messenger” is a beautiful and pure expression of an exiled lover’s love. That first messenger poem is imitated in the twelfth century in the “Wind Messenger,” its sentiment diluted with Dhoyi’s praise of his royal patron King Lákshmana·sena of Gauda (Bengal), and the “Swan Messenger,” in which romantic and religious love are combined, to produce a poem that shines with the intensity of love for Krishna, the godhead.

Sanskrit Messenger poems evoke the pain of separated sweethearts through the formula of an estranged lover pleading with a messenger to take a message to his or her beloved. The plea includes a lyrical description of the route the messenger will take and the message itself. The first was the “Cloud Messenger,” composed by Sanskrit’s finest poet, Kali·dasa, in the fifth century CE. The next was its imitator, the “Wind Messenger,” composed in praise of King Lákshmana·sena of Gauda (Bengal) in the twelfth century by Dhoyi, one of his court poets. Numerous more followed, including the third in the CSL selection, the sixteenth-century “Swan Messenger,” composed in Bengal by Rupa Gosvámin, a devotee of Krishna.

Wasted by anguish,
lying on one side in her bed of separation,
she will look like the last slender sliver
of the moon on the eastern horizon.
Wondering how she might join me,
if only in a dream,
she will be longing for sleep,
the sting of her tears preventing its arrival.
(The Cloud Messenger)

293 pp.  |  ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-5714-7  |  ISBN-10: 0-8147-5714-6  |  Co-published by New York University Press and JJC Foundation


“Rupa Go·svamin: The Swan Messenger”
(pp. 175–195) (28 pp, 1.36mb)

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Download the title page and table of contents and one chapter of the book (in English and Sanskrit on facing pages), bundled together as a .pdf file. You can also download the CSL Front Matter (6pp, 1.3mb). It describes how we transliterate the Sanskrit text in the Roman alphabet and includes a guide to pronunciation. It also explains our system of representing phonetic fusion (sandhi).

You can set Adobe Acrobat Reader to display the Sanskrit text and translation in facing page view. Simply go to “View” in the toolbar, select “Page Layout” and click on “Facing.”

About the Translator

Sir James Mallinson translates and edits Sanskrit literature for the JJC Foundation, co-publishers (with NYU Press) of the Clay Sanskrit Library. He also translated The Emperor of the Sorcerers (volume one), The Emperor of the Sorcerers (volume two), The Ocean of the Rivers of Story (volume one of seven) and The Ocean of the Rivers of Story (volume two of seven).