I laughed and cried over Love's Last Madness. I have long admired the poems of Darshan Singh even though only a limited number had been translated into English. Now, the Lerner and Bedi translation brings 86 of his wonderful ghazals to us in English for the first time. As in the poetry of Hafiz and Rumi, image after startling image evokes the moods and struggles of a serious mystic traveler.
While reading, I sharply felt Darshan's sense of urgency as he struggles into awakening consciousness. He says:
"If only I'd awaken, I'd perceive what this life means;
My existence now, an obsessive confusion of dreams." (4:4)
I sighed with him as he sees the world falling short of expectation. Darshan's perceptive criticisms do not spare the social institutions, both religious and philosophical, from which he turns his face. For example:
"I, too, walked the path explored by the rationalists:
The wayfarers were half asleep, their guides wandering lost." (8:3)
I shared his empathy with despairing humanity, entangled in delusion:
"Every hour is grief, each breath a sigh for the times -
Am I really living or paying for some crime?" (21:1)
I thrilled with him as he glimpses the faces of those who may guide him into reality:
"They were clothed in poverty, as humble as the dust,
But waiting at their door I saw the sovereigns of the age." (7:1)
I agonized with him as he suffers the transforming blows and testing of his guides. For this subject Darshan often uses imagery of worldly love:
"How unexpected is your visit - and to ask of my condition!
What new ingenious torture prompts you, my dear?" (83:4)
I took heart as Darshan hints at the great turning points of the mystic's immense journey.