The Beginning of Poetry

mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhā tvamagamaḥ śāśvatīḥ samāḥ

You will find no rest for the long years of Eternity

yat krauñcamithunādekam avadhīḥ kāmamohitam

For you killed a bird in love and unsuspecting

The first shloka in the Sanskrit literature was emerged spontaneously from the mouth of Valmiki , the harbinger-poet, who composed The Ramayana , the first Indian epic poem . There is a story associated with this shloka. Valmiki was roaming on the bank of Ganga. He heard sweet chirping of two krouncha birds. Moving towards the sound , he saw one male and another
female birds were romancing beautifully . Suddenly, a hunter shot the male bird with an arrow . The wounded bird cried painfully and loudly that saddened Valmiki deeply, and he uttered the shloka. This story can be interpreted as symbolising transitoriness of life and happiness . The act of the hunter represents ruthlessness of destiny. 

The history of poetry relates us to a time preceding the beginning of literary history . Poetry were at first orally transmitted from mouth to mouth in forms of hymns, chants , ballads and songs etc. In ancient monoliths, runestones and stalae, there were records of fragmentary poetry practised in world’s most literate cultures. 

From Delight we grow At the end of our journey’s close Into delight we retire “The Upanishadas”

Hymns and mantras in Vedas , the first Hindu scripts were memorized in oral tradition , chanted by priests. In the Anglo-saxon literature, Beowulf was originally in oral form. It was only in eighth century some Christian monk recorded it in written form . Epic of Gilgamish ( 2100 B.C.) , a Mesopotamian series of poems and tales , delineating the story of Noah and the Great Flood , which has been discovered in a British Museum storeroom has been regarded the oldest epic poetry ever known in world literature. In Greek literature, Homer’s two epics The Illiad and The Odyssey are the earliest surviving works dating back to the Archaic period. These two epics, Homeric Hymns and Hesiod’s Theogony , and Works and Days were the foundations of ancient Greek literature comprising the classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods . In Africa , poetry of prehistoric times includes hunting poetry , and panegyric and count poetry . These poetry were composed during the times of the empires of the Nile, Niger and Volta river valleys.

 

Entheduana , a high Priestess of the Goddess and the Moon God Nana is known as the world’s first poet ( 23rd B.C.). She was Sumerian and some book scribed to her are great contributions to Sumerian literature .Philip Sidney in his Apology For Poesy says , ” Poetry has been the first light given to ignorance , and first nurse , whose milk by little and little enabled them to feed afterwards of tougher knowledge . ” The antiquity of poetry adds to its value and importance in the literary history existing through ages .

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