Travel, fatigue, and the excitement of gathering submissions for our first issue of the Dante's Heart journal have kept me away from the blog too long. I'm back. I am reading Bill Buck's retellings of the Sanskrit epics, and had to share a passage - the prose is beautiful, the translation of Hindu mythwork into American English is stunning, an ennobling of our own native tradition and a great credit to the original. If you haven't run across Buck's and Mahabharata and Ramayana yet, this is very worth doing. Also Shirley Triest's illustrations are a wonder.
Once when Sanjaya had gone to get water, Dhritarashtra's holy fire tipped over in the dry leaves and grew to be a forest-fire, and Sanjaya at the river in the evening saw two sunsets through the trees, one to the west, one in the south.
Wild animals burst past then, yet Dhritarashtra and the two Queens could not move. The fire had cut them off on all sides; they met the flames in peace.
And after, Sanjaya rose from the water with the deer and bear and elephants and walked three times round where their camp had been. He poured some ashes into Ganga and went all alone up into the Hills, into the lonely Himalyas watched over by the gods.
Sanjaya's memories fell away like the dead ashes of a burnt-out fire--the bright stars of arrows in the sky, the rending sounds of the great bows, the sparks of shattered swords, the cries in the night, all were no more--and he thought to himself, "Earth my mother, how ungrateful and heartless were all those who rejected your bounty and instead chose to go to death. How could you appear to them as a mansion of sorrow, where no one could remain?"
How can one read this and not catch one's breath?
We are hoping to receive submissions for Dante's Heart that engage with many myth and fairytale traditions. The sanctus mundi that ripples beneath our cultural consciousness is rich and vivid, jungle and desert and dark deep all at once. Like Darwin and St. Francis, I am in love with the diversity of life. We become too used to encountering fairy tales and any accounts of marvels and wonders only within carefully bordered zoos and menageries - within encyclopedias of fairy tales, or children's carefully illustrated editions of Grimm. Even so with myth: we think of an almanac of Greek figures meticulously catalogued and distanced, rather than the vicious and vociferous bursting of myth into our daily lives. With Dante's Heart we will hope to break the zoo open a little bit more and try to catch glimpses of myth and fairy tale thriving in the literary and artistic wild.