Willis Barnstone, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington, has unearthed a dazzlingly diverse and consistently fascinating collection of mystical poems covering a 3,000-year time span. "Poetry is our most direct way of making ecstatic connections," he notes in the introduction to this paperback. "There is a moment of vision, otherness, apparent timelessness, erotic sublimity, where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, for which there is no easy verbal equivalent except in the metaphors of poetry. These experiences are called 'ineffable' and relegated to oblivion, but in the instance of our authors, the unsayable has been refashioned into the precision of poetry."
Check out the biblical "Song of Songs" with its link between spiritual and carnal love. Or wander amidst Barnstone's translations of the Aphrodite poems of Sappho, who is a connoisseur of the sublime. I was especially impressed by the philosophical pieces of Herakleitos and the Daoist Buddhist poems of Wang Wei. Also included are the Bestiary of Bishop Theobaldus, the mystical poems of Mirabai, selections from St. John of the Cross, and the sonnets to Orpheus of Rainer Maria Rilke.