Armitage's 'Lockdown' draws inspiration from Sanskrit poet Kalidasa

Monday 23rd March 2020 16:05 EDT

Simon Armitage, has written a poem to address the coronavirus and a lockdown that is slowly being implemented across the UK. Amritage is an English poet, playwright and novelist who has been the Poet Laureate since 10 May 2019.

The Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom is an honorary position appointed by the monarch of the United Kingdom, currently on the advice of the Prime Minister. Armitage is also professor of poetry at the University of Leeds.

His new poem Lockdown, moves from the 17th century bubonic plague outbreak in Eyam to the epic poem Meghaduta (cloud messenger) by the famous poet Kalidasa. It recounts how a yaksha (spirit), a subject of King Kubera (the god of wealth), after being exiled for a year to Central India for neglecting his duties, convinces a passing cloud to take a message to his wife at Alaka in the Himalayan mountains.

Armitage, who is at home with his family in West Yorkshire, reportedly said that “as the lockdown became more apparent and it felt like the restrictions were closing in, the plague in Eyam became more and more resonant” to him.

His poem references Eyam’s boundary stone, which contained holes that the quarantined villagers would put their money in to pay for provisions from outside, and then fill with vinegar in the hope it would cleanse the coins. It also touches on the doomed romance between a girl who lived in Eyam and a boy outside the village who talked to her from a distance, until she stopped coming, the Guardian reported.

Drawing inspiration from Meghadūta Armitage said, “The cloud is convinced to take the message because the’yaksha’, which I think is sort of an attendant spirit to a god of wealth, tells him what amazing landscapes and scenery he’s going to pass across. I thought it was a kind of hopeful, romantic gesture.”

He thought in these poems there was a message to be learned and told The Guardian- “about taking things easy and being patient and trusting the Earth and maybe having to come through this slightly slower, and wiser, at the other end – given that one thing that’s accelerated the problem is our hectic lives and our proximities and the frantic ways we go about things.”

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