Sunday, February 25


"Today the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon."

From top:

Ariston Men Hudor: Water is the chief of elements, i.e., as in being the origin of all things. (In classical mythology, Oceanus and Tethys were regarded as the parents of all the deities who preside over Nature.) Of Greek origin, a Georgian addition over the Roman Baths.

A tombstone to a fallen Roman soldier (an armourer?) raised by subscription by his fellows.

Braided bun, high fashion c. 100.

Lost Roman ring-stones from Bath drains. What heartache each loss must have caused the wearer.

Bas-relief (of supplicant?) from temple.

Original Roman era lead piping under the stones of Bath. The heavy seam seal shows water must have flowed under high pressure through this 'plumbing.' Plumbum is Latin for lead, it along with the Greek μολυβδος [molybdos] is borrowed from the same older language, from which the Georgian prpeni, brpeni = lead, tin, and the Baskian berán (beruna) might also be derived. The linguist van Windekens proposes that Pelasgian, a prehellenic Aegean language, was the donor language and unclosed the root *b(o)lub. Other see a proto-Iberian language as the donor of both words, since the Iberian peninsula is rich in lead. Some have also tried to locate the Latin plumbum with the help of Indogermanic languages in the suffix -bho-, often used for the names of animals and colours; thus to trace plumbum back to pl-on-bho and to include it in the family of the Greek πελιος [pelios] = bluish-black. Others see both these names derived from the Sanskrit bahu mala = very dirty. Unlike the Romans, the Indians may have suspected it to be toxic.

Roman temple courtyard statue, Bath.

More statues. This area had a vaulted ceiling in Roman times, brightly painted in gold, blue and red, lit by torches.

King's Bath -- in medieval times, monks would bring down the sick to the arched cubicles in this inner courtyard and administer to them the waters.

Today's streets around the old Bath structure.

Thursday, February 22


Somerset, with Hampshire, is Jane Austen country. Jane lived in Bath for several years in the late 1790s while her family moved from lodging to lodging in reduced circumstances. One visualizes her visiting a socially superior friend at the manor, gossiping tartly on a bench in the lawns about the gala last weekend. Sense and Sensibility is apparently to be remade. The last one won Emma Thompson an Oscar as well as Golden Globes for screenplay. Here's her report of the ceremony, pace Jane:

Four a.m., having just returned from an evening at the Golden Spheres, which despite the inconveniences of heat, noise and overcrowding was not without its pleasures. Thankfully, there were no dogs and no children. The gowns were middling. There was a good deal of shouting and behavior verging on the profligate, however, people were very free with their compliments and I made several new acquaintences. There was Lindsay Doran of Mirage, wherever that might be, who's largely responsible for my presence here, an enchanting companion about whom too much good cannot be said. Mr. Ang Lee, of foreign extraction, who most unexpectedly appeared to understand me better than I understand myself. Mr. James Shamis, a most copiously erudite person and Miss Kate Winslet, beautiful in both countenance and spirit. Mr. Pat Doyle, a composer and Scot, who displayed the kind of wild behavior one has learned to expect from that race. Mr. Mark Kenton, an energetic person with a ready smile who, as I understand it, owes me a great deal of money. Miss Lisa Hanson of Columbia, a lovely girl and Mr. Garrett Wiggin, a lovely boy. I attempted to converse with Mr. Sydney Pollack, but his charms and wisdom are so generally pleasing, that it proved impossible to get within ten feet of him. The room was full of interesting activity until 11 p.m. when it emptied rather suddenly. The lateness of the hour is due, therefore, not to the dance, but to waiting in a long line for a horseless carriage of unconscionable size. The modern world has clearly done nothing for transport.

Above: Bailbrook House, NE Somerset. Below: Bath Abbey.

Edgar, first King of all England, was crowned by Dunstan Archbishop of Canterbury in the Saxon Abbey on this site on Whitsunday A.D. 973.

Sunday, February 18


The Roman city of Bath was known throughout the ancient world, by virtue of it being endowed with an impressive complex of baths, built around the prodigious natural hot springs (the only natural geothermal ones in Britain.)

The baths were dedicated to the goddess Minerva Sulis, and the most sought-after R&R place in Roman Britain -- surrounded by country villas as well as temples of healing and worship. The waters from its spring were believed to be a cure for many ancient and medieval afflictions. As late as the 1770s, we find personages like 'Baron' Clive 'of Plassey' going to Bath to take the hot water cures.

Bath was a major focus in the Roman road system and was also served by the sea-port of Abona (Sea Mills) i.e. the mouth of the River Avon.

In the early second century Ptolemy's Geography attributed three towns to the Belgae tribes of Avon and Hampshire, one of which was named Aquae Calidae Sulis or The Hot waters of (Minerva) Sulis -- which in Britain can be nowt else but Bath. Ptolemy also mentions the capital Venta (Winchester) and the hitherto unknown town of Iscalis.

Bath and its temple-spa were sacked by the Saxons once the Romans withdrew in the 400s.

The bust is that of Minerva, found in the 1700s by workmen digging near the Roman ruins; the stone carving of Gorgon was at the pediment of the temple to Sulis; the spring source can also be seen 4th from top.

Saturday, February 17


London Docklands & Excel Center, Edinburgh Skyline from Customs House, Orchids at Kew (SMB), River Avon, Bath.

Wednesday, February 14

Jockey's Whips

Hint: Cockney rhyming slang.

Saturday, February 10


सखि हे हमर दुखक नहिं ओर
ई भर बादर माह भादर
सून्य मंदिर मोर।

Friend, I have no other sorrow
These torrential rains, this month of Bhadra
My empty temple.

Vidyapati Thakur -- the Maithili kokil (cuckoo) -- was born around 1350 in the village of Bispi in Madhubani, on the eastern side the Bengal - Bihar border. Claimed by both Bengali and Maithili speakers, Vidyapati wrote in Abahatta (a precursor to both languages), as well as Brajbuli, Prakrit and Desaj dialects.

In the tradition of medieval Indian poetry, Vidyapati's love-poems re-create and reveal the world of Radha and Krishna, the major erotic figures of Indian mythology and literature, conveying the ecstasy of Krishna's worshippers through the metaphor of human erotic love. While his precursor Jayadeva's poems celebrate Krishna's love and pays comparatively little attention to Radha the woman, Vidyapati is primarily concerned with the intensity of Radha's passion. At once sensuous and dramatic, Vidyapati's most popular songs find their place in the heart of a very human lover.

While Jayadeva wrote in Sanskrit, Vidyapati shunned the formal language and wrote in vernacular dialects; his position as a poet and creator of modern languages is akin to that of Dante and Chaucer. He did not disdain folk-speech, legends and thoughts for even the most complex of his work. Dante was blamed by the Latinate scholars of Italy, so was Vidyapati at odds with the Sanskrit pundits over the direct lasciviousness of his use of the vernacular.

जखन लेल हरि कंचुअ अचोरि
कत परि जुगुति कयलि अंग मोहि।।
तखनुक कहिनी कहल न जाय
लाजे सुमुखि धनि रसलि लजाय।।
कर न मिझाय दूर दीप
लाजे न मरय नारी कठजीव।।
अंकम कठिन सहय के पार
कोमल हृदय उखड़ि गेल हार।।
भनइ विद्यापति तखनुक झन
कओन कहय सखि होयत बिहन।।

When Hari stole my blouse away, what contortions did I not do to hide my body? What happened thereafter cannot be told -- in my shame I found what was to the front of me aroused me to even more shame. My palms couldn't extinguish the lamp, which was too far to reach. I just died of shame -- it was as though woman had petrified to wood. Beyond bearing was that harsh piercing embrace -- the necklace bruised my tender heart. Says Vidyapati what happened then -- Who could tell, sakhi, when dawn next came?

कि कहब हे सखि आजुक रंग।
सपनहिं सूतल कुपुरुष संग।।
बड़ सुपुक्ख बलि आयल धाइ।
सूति रहल मोर आँचर झँपाइ।।
काँचुलि खोलि आलिंगल देल।
मोहि जगाय आपु निंद गेल।
हे बिहि हे बिहि बड़ दुख देल।।
से दुख हे सखि अबहुँ न गेल।।
भनई विद्यापति एस रस इंद।
भेक कि जान कुसुम मकरंद।।

What can I report, O friend, for today's colourful gossip? An insensitive man dreamt away next to me all night. He came running to me all fine at the outset. But then he wrapped himself with the fringe of my sari and went to sleep. He had taken my blouse off and embraced me. So he roused me but then himself slumbered. O Fates, O Fates! what a tormented time I had -- that sorrow, Friend, hasn't gone away yet. Says Vidyapati this is just the hint of honey, what does a frog know of flower and pollen?

Chaitanya, it is said, would faint in ecstasy singing Vidyapati:

सखि, कि पुछसि अनुभब मोये ?
सोइ पिरिति अनुराग बखानिये
अनुखन नौतन होये
जनम जनम हम रूप नेहरलु
नयन न तिरपित भेला
लाख लाख युग हिये हिया राखलु
ह्र्दय जुड़न नँहि गेला।।

Friend, how can I answer how I feel? That Love defies description, is a new feeling every instant. Life after life I have seen His beauty, my eyes are still not sated. Millions of eons I have placed body on body, I could never cool my heart.

सैसव जीवन दुँहु सिलि गेल।
श्रवनक पथ दुँहु लोचन लेल।।
वचनक चातुरि नहुनहु हास।
धरनिये चान कयल परकास।।
मुकुर हाथ लय करम सिंगार।
सखइ पूछय कइसे सूरत-विहार।।
निरंजन अपन पयेचर हेरि।।
पहिले बदरि सम पुन नवरंग।
दिन-दिन अनंग अगोरल अंग।।
माधव पेखल अपरुप बाला।
सैसव जौवन दुँहु एक भेला।।
विद्यापति कह तुँहु अगेआनि।
दुँहु एक जोग इह के कह सयानि।।

Sri Aurobindo translated Vidyapati, published as 'Songs of Myrtilla':

Childhood and youth each other are nearing
Her two eyes their office yield to the hearing.
Her speech has learned sweet maiden craft
And low not as of old she laughed.
Her laughter murmurs. A moon on earth
Is dawning into perfect birth.
Mirror in hand she apparelsher now
And asks of her sweet girl-comrades to show
What love is and what love does
And all shamed delight that sweet love owes.
And often she sits by herself and sees
Smiling with bliss her breast's increase,
Her own milk-breasts that,plums at first,
Now into golden oranges burst.
Day by day Love's vernal dreams
Expand her lovely blossoming limbs.
Madhav I saw a marvellous flower
Of girls; childhood and youth one power,
One presence grown in one body fair.
Foolish maiden, not thus declare
The oneness of these contraries
Rather the two were yoked, say the wise.

जब गोधुलि-समय बेलि
तब मन्दिर-बाहिर भेलि
नबजलाधारे बिजुरी-रेहा
द्वन्द बधैय गेलि

से जे अल्प-बयसि बाला
जोनु गँथनि पुष्पमाला
थोड़ि दरशने आश न पुरलो
बढ़ल मदनज्वाला

When the time became dusk
I emerged from the temple
Zig-zag lightning in fresh puddle
Served only to increase doubt.

For she's only a young girl
That strings garlands of flowers;
A quick glimpse didn't satisfy
Burning desire grew.

Later in life, Vidyapati seems to have had a change of heart, away from all the wenching:

जनम अवधि नहि तुँय पद सेवल
जुबती रति रंग मेलि
अमिअ तेजि हालाएल पीउल
सम्पद आपदहि मेलि।

Never in my life did I serve at Your feet
I was too busy pleasuring girls

Forsook nectar, sipped poison
Got only troubles for my pains.


ताताल सैकते बारि बिन्दु सम
सुत मित रमणि समाजे
तोँहे विसँरि मन ताँहे समर्पल
अब मँझु हब कोन काजि?

Like offering a drop of water unto the burning hot sands of the beach, I have offered my mind unto the society of women, children, and friends, abandoning You; now what use am I?

माधव! हम परिणाम निरास
तुँहु जग तारण
दीन दया मय
अतय तोँहरि विसोआस ।

Madhav! In consequence I am despondent. You are the savior of the universe, and are merciful to the helpless. Therefore I place my belief only in You.

आध जनम हम निंदे गँवालुन
जरा सिसु कत दिन गेला
मधुबने रमणि रस रंगे मातल
तोँहे भजब कोन बेला?

Half my life I spent in sleep; so many days passed in childhood and now old age. I played and pleasured with women in honey forests -- when did I ever get a chance to worship You?

कत चतुरानन मरि मरि जावत
न तुँय आदि अवसान
तोँहे जनमि पुन तोँहे समावत
सागर लहरि समान ।

So many gods have died and died, You remain without beginning or end. All takes birth from You, and is again absorbed endlessly as in ocean waves.

भनये विद्यापति सेस समन भय
तुँय बिन गति नँहि आर
आदि अनादिक नाथ कहयसि
भव तारण भार तोँहर ।

Vidyapati confesses that at the end of his life he is fearful. There is no recourse other than You. You will always be called both the beginning and the beginningless. Now the responsibility for his deliverance from the material world is entirely Yours.