Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Two strong oppositions run through “Vrindaban.” The first of these is the contrast between the poet and the saddu; the second, the distinction between the ego and consciousness on one hand and the concept of nirvana, the cessation of individual existence, on the other. In a broad sense these oppositions may be seen as part of the contrast between East and West (the Orient and the Occident). On a personal level, the poet Octavio Paz, concerned with the poetic process and the insights it affords to beauty, the moments of transparency with their sense of unification between the writer and the world, must reconcile his strongest inclinations with a tradition and a culture that is at once attractive and repulsive. The quandary is accentuated by the fact that Paz’s Mexican heritage also has roots in an Indian civilization that at first glance appears to be divorced from the western tradition brought by the Spaniards to Mexico.

The saddu disturbs the poet Paz because, as one concerned with poetic states of consciousness, he has respect for the ancient tradition of the Indian seers. Nevertheless, his own background is deeply involved in what might be called the Western European intellectual practice. East meets West in this poem, and it is unsettling. West sees the putrefaction, the drug-induced stare. Perhaps the saddu did see Krishna, the blue-black god, but the gaze that Paz encounters is different from the power of the visionary eye in “Same Time.”...

(The entire section is 498 words.)