Celebrate Mahakavi Devkota’s birth anniversary by reading “Lunatic,” his most renowned poem and perhaps his finest

Devkota is best known for excellent use of the free verse. “Lunatic,” a poem about a self-acclaimed lunatic man, displays his unparalleled poetic prowess.

NL Today

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: Today marks the 112th birth anniversary of Laxmi Prasad Devkota, an eminent poet of Nepal, also known as the honorific Mahakabi, or the Great Poet. Creator of beautiful and immortal poems, Devkota is well-known for his excellent use of free verse. “Lunatic,” a poem about a self-acclaimed lunatic man, is one of Devkota’s most celebrated poems, and perhaps his finest.

Devkota was born on November 12, 1909, in Dilli Bazar, Kathmandu. He passed away when he was barely 50, leaving behind an unparalleled body of work. He was an accomplished poet, playwright, and novelist, having penned such famous works as Muna Madan, Sulochana, Kunjini, and Sakuntala.

The poem Lunatic, which we are republishing in its entirety below, begins with the speaker claiming himself as a lunatic. He justifies the reasons behind his lunacy in such apparently logic-defying terms to his friend:

I see sounds,
I hear sights,
I taste smells

The poet goes on to announce his iconoclastic nature in such swaggering terms, at once funny, unique, and beguiling:

You get along with five senses,
I with a sixth.
You have a brain, friend,
I have a heart.
A rose is just a rose to you—
to me it’s Helen and Padmini.

Read the poem in its entirety below.

1. Oh yes, friend! I’m crazy-

that’s just the way I am.

2.  I see sounds,

I hear sights,

I taste smells,

I touch not heaven but things from the underworld,

things people do not believe exist,

whose shapes the world does not suspect.

Stones I see as flowers

lying water-smoothed by the water’s edge,

rocks of tender forms

in the moonlight

when the heavenly sorceress smiles at me,

putting out leaves, softening, glistening,

throbbing, they rise up like mute maniacs,

like flowers, a kind of moon-bird’s flowers.

I talk to them the way they talk to me,

a language, friend,

that can’t be written or printed or spoken,

can’t be understood, can’t be heard.

Their language comes in ripples to the moonlit Ganges banks,

ripple by ripple-

oh yes, friend! I’m crazy-

that’s just the way I am.

3. You’re clever, quick with words,

your exact equations are right forever and ever.

But in my arithmetic, take one from one-

and there’s still one left.

You get along with five senses,

I with a sixth.

You have a brain, friend,

I have a heart.

A rose is just a rose to you-

to me it’s Helen and Padmini.

You are forceful prose

I liquid verse.

When you freeze I melt,

When you’re clear I get muddled

and then it works the other way around.

Your world is solid,

mine vapor,

yours coarse, mine subtle.

You think a stone reality;

harsh cruelty is real for you.

I try to catch a dream,

the way you grasp the rounded truth of cold, sweet coin.

I have the sharpness of the thorn,

you of gold and diamonds.

You think the hills are mute-

I call them eloquent.

Oh yes, friend!

I’m free in my inebriation-

that’s just the way I am.

4.  In the cold of the month of winter

I sat

warming to the first white heat of the star.

the world called me drifty.

When they saw me staring blankly for seven days

after I came back from the burning ghats

they said I was a spook.

When I saw the first marks of the snows of time

in a beautiful woman’s hair

I wept for three days.

When the Buddha touched my soul

they said I was raving.

They called me a lunatic because I danced

when I heard the first spring cuckoo.

One dead-quite moon night

breathless I leapt to my feet,

filled with the pain of destruction.

On that occasion the fools

put me in the stocks,

One day I sang with the storm-

the wise men

sent me off to Ranchi.

Realizing that same day I myself would die

I stretched out on my bed.

A friend came along and pinched me hard

and said, Hey, madman,

your flesh isn’t dead yet!

For years these things went on.

I’m crazy, friend-

that’s just the way I am.

5.  I called the Navab’s wine blood,

the painted whore a corpse,

and the king a pauper.

I attacked Alexander with insults,

and denounced the so-called great souls.

The lowly I have raised on the bridge of praise

to the seventh heaven.

Your learned pandit is my great fool,

your heaven my hell,

your gold my iron,

friend! Your piety my sin.

Where you see yourself as brilliant

I find you a dolt.

Your rise, friend-my decline.

That’s the way our values are mixed up,


Your whole world is a hair to me.

Oh yes, friend, I’m moonstruck through and through-


That’s just the way I am.

6.  I see the blind man as the people’s guide,

the ascetic in his cave a deserter;

those who act in the theater of lies

I see as dark buffoons.

Those who fail I find successful,

and progress only backsliding.

am I squint-eyed,

Or just crazy?

Friend, I’m crazy.

Look at the withered tongues of shameless leaders,

The dance of the whores

At breaking the backbone on the people’s rights.

When the sparrow-headed newsprint spreads its black lies

In a web of falsehood

To challenge Reason-the hero in myself-

My cheeks turn red, friend,

red as molten coal.

When simple people drink dark poison with their ears

Thinking it nectar-

and right before my eyes, friend!-

then every hair on my body stands up stiff

as the Gorgon’s serpent hair-

every hair on me maddened!

When I see the tiger daring to eat the deer, friend,

or the big fish the little,

then into my rotten bones there comes

the terrible strength of the soul of Dadhichi

and tries to speak, friend,

like the stormy day crashing down from heaven with the lightning.

When man regards a man

as not a man, friend,

then my teeth grind together, all thirty-two,

top and bottom jaws,

like the teeth of Bhimasena.

And then

red with rage my eyeballs rool

round and round, with one sweep

like a lashing flame

taking in this inhuman human world.

My organs leap out of theirs frames-

uproar! Uproar!

my breathing becomes a storm,

my face distorted, my brain on fire, friend!

with a fire like those that burn beneath the sea,

like the fire that devours the forests,

frenzied, friend!

as one who would swallow the wide world raw.

Oh yes, my friend,

the beautiful chakora am I,

destroyer of the ugly,

both tender and cruel,

the bird that steals the heaven’s fire,

child of the tempest,

spew of the insane volcano,

terror incarnate.

Oh yes, friend,

my brain is whirling, whirling-

that’s just the way I am.