Sweet Nothings: Love Poems of Amaru
Translated by Lee Siegel

ISBN 978-1944521127, May 19, 2021
Softcover, 146 pages, 6 x 6 in.

ISBN: 978-1944521141
Kindle Print Replica Edition

Lee Siegel’s English translation of the Amarushataka, an aristocratic collection of eighth-century amorous Sanskrit poems, is at once playful and erudite, amusing and poignant, carnal and sublime. The stanzas are little scenes from a panoramic comedy of erotic love.

The characters: Innocent girls and passionate ladies; devoted husbands and faithless rogues; female confidantes who help, console, or betray their friends.

The plot: First love, sexual union, separation (because of parents, friends, or the woman’s jealous anger because the man has another mistress, or perhaps he must go on a journey), reunion, re-separation, re-reunion.

The theme is the delight of the game, the deliciousness of courtship, and the sweetness of sex.

The original poems manage to convey in a few words situations and relationships which are brimming with powerful emotion, and Siegel matches this complexity by using language which flows melodiously and yet naturally.

Richard Gombrich, Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit, Oxford University

The premodern world has given us no profounder statement on the relationship between sexual playfulness and emotional gravity than Amaru.

Siegel’s translations are a powerful tribute to the poems’ wisdom and ecstasy.

Amaru’s stanzas are here present in their lascivious sensuality, yet also in an English hewing meticulously to the literal meaning. This astonishing synthesis allows the reader to feel the poems’ unique and haunting candor, which is perhaps their most exquisite and defining feature, not to mention one of the rarest for a translator to capture.

Jesse Ross Knutson PhD, Associate Professor of Sanskrit Language and Literature, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Translator’s Note

The translation and num­ber­ing of the verses are of the text of the Amarushataka of Amaruka, as edited by Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Durgaprasada and Kashinath Pandurang Parab (2nd Revised Edi­tion; Kavyamala Series 18; Bombay: Nirnaya-Sagara Press, 1900). While this edition is primarily of the Western re­cension of the text with the commentary of Arjunavarmadeva (vss. 1–102), the editors have also in­cluded additional stanzas with commentaries from the versions of both Vemabhupala (vss. 103–116) and Rudramadevakumara (vss. 117–130).

AUDREY: I do not know what “poetical” is. Is it honest in deed and word? Is it a true thing?

TOUCHSTONE: No, truly, for the truest poetry is the most feigning, and lovers are given to poetry, and what they swear in poetry may be said as lovers they do feign.

Shakespeare, As You Like It