Friendship Fortnight 2020: A Little Night Music

ff20x Ranjit Hoskote, poet, art critic, cultural theorist and independent curator, readily agreed to select a poem for Friendship Fortnight.  “It is a poem by Vikram Seth, from his early collection, The Humble Administrator’s Garden – and has been with me for more than three decades. It is set in China, where, as you know, Seth did his doctoral work; it speaks of how music can bring about a sense of connection across distances and divides, with no words spoken. It speaks to the hope of friendship despite all odds.”

A Little Night Music

by Vikram Seth


White walls. Moonlight. I wander through
The alleys, skein-drawn by the sound
Of someone playing the erhu.
A courtyard; two chairs on the ground.

As if he knew I’d come tonight
He gestures, only half-surprised.
The old hands poise. The bow takes flight
And unwished tears come to my eyes.

He pauses, tunes, and plays again
An hour beneath the wutong trees
For self and stranger, as if all men
Were brothers within the enclosing seas.

From: Vikram Seth, The Humble Administrators Garden, 1985

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