Poem by Satis Shroff
HERMANN HESSE: The Swiss Buddha
In Summer he walked through Tessin’s
Villages and chestnut forests.
Sat on his folding-chair,
Tried to capture
The magic around him,
In the warm nights
He tried to sing with words,
The song of the beautiful summer.
A lonely man,
Drunk in his loneliness,
Was elated by Nature
To new heights.
A year after World War I,
He journeyed to Montagnola,
A hamlet overlooking the Lugner lake,
On the southern tip of Switzerland.
Summer was for him
Triumph of the inner summer,
To burn away his inner depression,
That gnawed at him.
He began to write:
‘Klingsor’s last Summer,’
‘Siddhartha,’ ‘Narcis and Goldmund.’
His health didn’t improve in Tessin,
But it became a Heimat,
Away from home,
A much longed for refuge.
He had a personal crisis in 1919,
Like so often in his life.
He left his wife Mia and three kids,
The way Siddhartha Gautama did,
On his search for truth.
He belonged to the literati,
A suspected foreigner,
Who lived on milk,
Rice and macaroni.
He donned his old, worn-out suits,
Ate sweet chestnuts he’d gathered from the forest.
As he stood in his garden,
He saw Monte Bre,
Beyond the palms and magnolias.
By naughty Swiss farmer’s sons,
Who threw stones his way.
To the Swiss from the hamlet,
He was miserly, aloof, not given to talk.
One couldn’t get warm with him.
They did bestow upon him
A honorary citizenship,
After he received the Nobel Prize in ‘46.
The Make War, Not Peace Generation loved him,
He was discovered by beat Poets.
A rock band even called itself ‘Steppen Wolf.’
He took a rucksack and wine.
Trekked to Agra, Arasio,
Certenago and Gentilino.
Did you know they served
Cats with polenta in those days?
He was piqued when he came to know this.
Across the Rhine,
The Germans served prowling cats too,
Albeit with another name: roof-rabbits.
Hunger was widespread during and after the wars years.
He took his psychiatrist by word,
Devoted his life to colours.
3000 paintings were his passionate legacy.
The deep green Luganer lake
What Algeria was to Albert Camus,
Was Tessin to him.
Although he was one with Tessin,
He was unsentimental to his wife.
His entire sympathy was reserved
Only for his feline friend.
A stroke in his brain
Ended his solitary life
On August 11, 1062
Was buried in Tessin,
With a backdrop of San Abbondio,
Lined with Cypresses:
The Swiss Buddha.
Pix courtesy: pixabay