POETRY OF THE BELOVED

This page celebrates the sacred union between the feminine and the masculine. We recognize this union on both an energetic level as well as an embodied level, where each of us contains within us the potential for a healthy union between these two sacred energies. The deepest longing for the sacred feminine is to feel safe, protected, and encouraged to flourish and dance with the sacred masculine. Here, you will find many aspects of this sacred dance that we mean to celebrate!

 

Mystical Poets of Indian: Akkamahadevi, Andal, and Mirabai

There are a number of well known female mystics from India whose poetry pulsates devotional bhakti for their beloveds, Krishna and Shiva, respectively. These women defied the traditional customs and duties expected of a woman and wife while fulfilling their spiritual aims and calling to express their love in song, poetry, and pilgrimage. Ultimately, they embodied Shakti as archetypal lovers and consorts of Krishna and Shiva, but also, in their powerful ability and courage to align with their own innate sakti— their inner power—to live as a full expression of the sacred feminine, Shakti. These poets include Akkamahadevi and Andal, as well as Mirabai.

 

MIRABAI

Come To My Pavilion

Come to my pavilion, O my King.
I have spread a bedmade of
delicately selected buds and blossoms, And have arrayed myself in bridal garb From head to toe.
I have been Thy slave during many births, Thou art the be-all of my existence.
Mira’s Lord is Hari, the Indestructible. Come, grant me Thy sight at once.
— Mirabi
The one I longed for has come home;
The raging fire of separation is quenched.
Now I rejoice with Him, I sing in bliss.

The peacocks at the cloud’s roar
Dance with unbound joy;
I rejoice in ecstasy
At the sight of my Beloved.

I am absorbed in His love;
My misery of wandering
In the world has ended.
The lily bursts into bloom
At the sight of the full moon;
Seeing Him, my heart blossoms in joy.
Peace permeates this body of mine;
His arrival has filled my home with bliss.

That very Lord has become my own
Who is ever the redeemer of His devotees.
Mira’s heart, scorched by the blaze of separation,
Has become cool and refreshed;
The pain of duality has vanished.
— English version by V. K. Sethi
 

AKKAMAHADEVI

I have fallen in love, O mother with the
Beautiful One, who knows no death,
knows no decay and has no form;

I have fallen in love, O mother with the
Beautiful One, who has no middle, has
no end, has no parts and has no features;

I have fallen in love, O mother with the
Beautiful One, who knows no birth and
knows no fear.

I have fallen in love, O mother with the
Beautiful One, who is without any family,
without any country and without any peer;
Chenna Mallikarjuna, the Beautiful, is my husband.
Fling into the fire the husbands who are subject
to death and decay.
— AkkaMahadevi
Akka Mahadevi idol at temple in Udathadi in Karnataka, India.  Public Domain Image .

Akka Mahadevi idol at temple in Udathadi in Karnataka, India. Public Domain Image.

Like a silkworm weaving
her house with love
from her marrow,
and dying
in her body’s threads
winding tight, round
and round,
I burn
desiring what the heart desires.

Cut through, O Lord,
my heart’s greed,
and show me
your way out,

O Lord white as jasmine
— AkkaMahadevi
 

ANDAL

Tamil poet-Saint, Andal . 14thc scuplture.  Publc Domain Image .

Tamil poet-Saint, Andal. 14thc scuplture. Publc Domain Image.

Cool clouds place the plea of this servant
at the feet of the one with beautiful lotus eyes
him who churned the ocean filled with conch.
Beseech him to enter me for a single day
to wipe away the vermilion smeared upon my breasts
only then can I survive.
— Excerpt from "The Song to Rain Clouds" viṇ nīla mēlāppu Clouds spread like blue cloth. Quoted in: Venkatesan,The Secret Garland: Andal’s Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli. New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2016.

. . . From that day onwards, through endless cycles
of birth, Nampi, our lord Narayana, would remain
my constant companion, sure as the lotus-hand
he placed at my feet, compelling as the appearance
of my handsome brothers who dreamt dreams

of their own, not mine, with archer’s eyebrows
curving around brightened eyes. They drew me
forward and placed my hand on his, heaping
handfuls of puffed rice into flames burning blue.
In dream, I had awakened to the dream in progress.

They smeared us with saffron and sandalwood paste,
as we rode out on an elephant to circle the water-
sprinkled streets, joyous cries and fragrant water
showered upon us, man and wife for the first time,
never to be apart again, even outside the dreamtime. . .
— Excerpt from "I Dreamt this Dream My Friend (Varanam aayiram)." Translation by Priya Sarukkai Chabria. As quoted in "Andal The Autobiography of a Goddess," published by Zubaan, New Delhi in 2015 and University of Chicago Press, 2016.
 

Mystical Poets of Europe: Mechtild of Magdeburg & Teresa of Ávila

The Middle Ages in Europe saw a flowering of Christian mystical poetry. This poetry exalted the love between the poet and the divine beloved and many times it was expressed as if this loving embrace and longing were between two human lovers. Of the more well known female poets are Mechtild of Madgeburg and Teresa of Ávila.

MECHTILD OF MADGEBURG

Lord, you are my lover, my longing, my flowing stream, my sun, and I am your reflection.
— Mechtild of Madgeburg
Lord, now I am a naked soul
And you in yourself All-Glorious God.
Our mutual intercourse
Is eternal life without end.
— Mechtild of Magdeburg
Mechtild of Madgeburg.  Public Domain Image .

Mechtild of Madgeburg. Public Domain Image.

 

TERESA OF ÁVILA

François Gérard. Sainte Thérèse.  Public Domain Image .

François Gérard. Sainte Thérèse. Public Domain Image.

If the love you have for me,
My God, is like that I have for you,
Tell me, what holds me back from you?
Or what holds you back from me?

“O soul, what do you want from me?”
“My God, nothing more than to see you.”
“And what do you fear most?”
“What I fear most is to lose you.”

A soul hidden in God
What more can it desire
But to love and love more,
And in love, totally inflamed,
To turn again and love?

I ask you for a love which occupies,
My God, that my soul might have you,
To make a sweet nest
Where love may more gather.
— Teresa of Ávila
Just these two words He spoke
changed my life.
”Enjoy Me.”
What a burden I thought I was to carry—
a crucifix, as did He.
Love once said to me, “I know a song,
would you like to hear it?”
And laughter came from every brick in the street
and from every pore
in the sky.
After a night of prayer, He
changed my life when
He sang,
”Enjoy Me.”
— Teresa of Ávila
God
dissolved
my mind – my separation.
I cannot describe my intimacy with Him.
How dependent is your body’s life on water and food and air?
I said to God, ‘ I will always be unless you cease to Be,’
And my Beloved replied, ‘And I
would cease to Be
if you
died
— Teresa of Ávila
 

Mystical Poets of Sufism: Rabia al-Basri

Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam. Although today the most well known and loved Sufi poets are Rumi and Hafiz of Shiraz, the poetry of the lesser-known female poet, Rabia al-Basai, is exceptionally potent and rich, and certainly worth celebrating!

RABIA al-BASRI

Rabia al-Basri . 717–801 C.E  Public Domain Image .

Rabia al-Basri. 717–801 C.E Public Domain Image.

If I adore You out of fear of Hell,
Burn me in Hell!
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,
Lock me out of Paradise.
But if I adore you for Yourself alone,
Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.
— Rabia al-Basri
I have loved Thee with two loves –
a selfish love and a love that is worthy of Thee.
As for the love which is selfish,
Therein I occupy myself with Thee,
to the exclusion of all others.
But in the love which is worthy of Thee,
Thou dost raise the veil that I may see Thee.
Yet is the praise not mine in this or that,
But the praise is to Thee in both that and this.
— Rabia al-Basri
 

Beloved Poetry of the Ancient World

The Ancient Near Eastern worlds of Egypt and Mesopotamia had rich cultural traditions that celebrated the erotic and loving relations between beloveds. A unique feature of these poems is that many are written from a woman’s perspective. While it is unclear if the poems were authored by women or men, or both, this poetry remains a powerful example of female agency and desire in a world largely marked by elite male rule.

 

SUMERIAN LOVE POETRY

THE BIBLICAL “SONG OF SONGS”

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.

You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,
You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.
Lion, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.

Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey-filled,
Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey.

Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,
Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,
My father, he will give you gifts.

Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,
Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn,
Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,
Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.

You, because you love me,
Give me pray of your caresses,
My lord god, my lord protector,
My Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil’s heart,
Give my pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay your hand on it,
Bring your hand over like a gishban-garment,
Cup your hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment
— "The Love Song of Shu-Sin" translated by Samuel Noah Kramer
Marriage of Inanna and Dummuzi.  Public Domain Image .

Marriage of Inanna and Dummuzi. Public Domain Image.

Queen of Sheba.  Public Domain Image .

Queen of Sheba. Public Domain Image.

SHE:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.
FRIENDS:
We rejoice and delight in you[b];
we will praise your love more than wine.
SHE:
How right they are to adore you! . . .
HE:
I liken you, my darling, to a mare
among Pharaoh’s chariot horses.
Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings,
your neck with strings of jewels.
We will make you earrings of gold,
studded with silver.
SHE:
While the king was at his table,
my perfume spread its fragrance.
My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
resting between my breasts.
My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
from the vineyards of En Gedi.
HE:
How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes are doves.
SHE:
How handsome you are, my beloved!
Oh, how charming!
And our bed is verdant.
HE:
The beams of our house are cedars;
our rafters are firs . . .
— Exceprt from the Song of Songs, NIV translation
 

EGYPTIAN LOVE POETRY

 
Queen Neferetiabet . Stele housed at the Louvre Museum.  Public Domain Image .

Queen Neferetiabet. Stele housed at the Louvre Museum. Public Domain Image.

. . .
VI.
Thou beautiful one! My heart’s desire is
To procure for you your food as your husband,
My arm resting upon your arm.

You have changed me by your love.
Thus say I in my heart,
In my soul, at my prayers:
”I lack my commander tonight,
I am as one dwelling in a tomb.”

Be you but in health and strength,
Then the nearness of your countenance
Sheds delight, by reason of your well-being,
Over a heart, which seeks you with longing.

VII.
The voice of the dove calls,
It says: “The earth is bright.”
What have I to do outside?
Stop, thou birdling! You chide me!

I have found my brother in his bed,
My heart is glad beyond all measure.
We each say:
”I will not tear myself away.”

My hand is in his hand.
I wander together with him
To every beautiful place.
He makes me the first of maidens,
Nor does he grieve my heart.
. . .
— Egyptian Love Poetry. 2000-11000 BCE. From: George A. Barton, Archaeology and The Bible, 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1920), pp. 413-416. Sourced from Fordham.edu
 

MODERN POETESSES

 
Maya Angelou.  Public Domain Image .

Maya Angelou. Public Domain Image.

REFUSAL

Beloved,
In what other lives or lands
Have I known your lips
Your Hands
Your Laughter brave
Irreverent.
Those sweet excesses that
I do adore.
What surety is there
That we will meet again,
On other worlds some
Future time undated.
I defy my body’s haste.
Without the promise
Of one more sweet encounter
I will not deign to die.
— Maya Angelou
 
My River”

”My river runs to thee.
Blue sea, wilt thou welcome me?
My river awaits reply.
Oh! Sea, look graciously…
— Emily Dickinson
Is it too late to touch you, Dear?
We this moment knew —
Love Marine and Love terrene —
Love celestial too —
— Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson.  Public Domain Image .

Emily Dickinson. Public Domain Image.

 
Sara Teasdale.  Public Domain Image .

Sara Teasdale. Public Domain Image.

The Kiss”

”Before you kissed me only winds of heaven
Had kissed me, and the tenderness of rain –
Now you have come, how can I care for kisses
Like theirs again?…
— Sara Teasdale
 
Sonnet XLIII”

”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
— Elizabeth Barret Browning
Elizabeth Barret Browning.  Public Domain Image .

Elizabeth Barret Browning. Public Domain Image.

 
Poem II”

”I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I’ve been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carries the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.
— Adrienne Rich, "Twenty-One Love Poems." From "The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977" by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1978 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Blue”

”Blue, but you are Rose, too,
and buttermilk, but with blood
dots showing through.
A little salty your white
nape boy-wide. Glinting hairs
shoot back of your ears’ Rose
that tongues like to feel
the maze of, slip into the funnel,
tell a thunder-whisper to.
When I kiss, your eyes’ straight
lashes down crisp go like doll’s
blond straws. Glazed iris Roses,
your lids unclose to Blue-ringed
targets, their dark sheen-spokes
almost green. I sink in Blue-
black Rose-heart holes until you
blink. Pink lips, the serrate
folds taste smooth, and Rosehip-
round, the center bud I suck.
I milknip your two Blue-skeined
blown Rose beauties, too, to sniff
their berries’ blood, up stiff
pink tips. You’re white in
patches, only mostly Rose,
buckskin and saltly, speckled
like a sky. I love your spots,
your white neck, Rose, your hair’s
wild straw splash, silk spools
for your ears. But where white
spouts out, spills on your brow
to clear eyepools, wheel shafts
of light, Rose, you are Blue.
— May Swanson. From Nature: Poems Old and New by May Swenson, published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
A Woman’s Heart”

”Who really knows a woman’s heart
But the woman wherein it dwells,
She guards its contents like rare jewels,
Deepest secrets, she never tells

Her heart.... a book you’ll never read,
Written in code and dialect,
Mysterious and passionate,
But isn’t that what you’d expect?

With secrecy’s mantle torn away,
A most precious treasure’s revealed....
Her love for a man vibrates her,
Such rapture cannot be concealed

When he is enthroned in her heart,
She places him on love’s altar,
Faithfully worshiping each day,
Her sacred trust does not falter

For his love, she surrenders peace,
Trading it for delirium,
And in calmer hours finds herself
Longing again to be with him

A woman’s heart, chamber of birth,
Sunshine comes to reclaim its ray,
Dreams are brought here to be revived,
Love is reborn, day after day

A woman’s heart does not complain,
Silently it suffers and cries,
When it’s unloved and scorned by him,
It seeks its own graveyard.... and dies
— Lora Colon