“The lunatic, the lover and the poet, are of imagination all compact.”
The statement appears in Shakespear’s play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
Somebody who does not confirm to our logical mind, we call him/her mad. Love is beyond logic. So is poetry. Love is so much beyond logic, some say love is blind. So one factor common among premi, paagal and kavi is that none can be understood or judged by our logical minds.
Take the example of the Bauls of Bengal – a group of wandering mystical singers. Baul has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Vaatul’ which means the mad person. They are some of the greatest lovers – lovers of life, lovers of human values and lovers of divinity in us, which are expressed through their enchanting songs.
One thing common in all three is their wild imagination. They may see things that do not exist and may create something out of nothing.
According to some versions of the stories about Laila and Majnu, Laila was so ugly people wondered what made Majnu maddeningly fall in love with Laila. May be, he saw things in her that others missed.
It seems these type of people do not care for the world. To the contrary, these are the people who make the world a beautiful place to live in. Take the example of the Bauls. They never accumulated wealth for themselves or their family. They incessantly travel from place to place to sing the song of humanity, urging people to rise above petty differences of religion, caste, creed and other man made divisions. So have been the great poets. In fact another name give for the ancient seers (rishis) of India is kavi – the poet. And what beautiful poetry they created in the form of Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas. In fact these are the people who laid the foundation of Indian Civilization.
Of course there are also mad people without any love or poetry in them. They are filled with hatred, fanaticism. The world has much to fear from these kind of mad people, who do not have any iota of love in their hearts. Or, their love for a particular imaginary cause has been distorted into hatred for those whom they consider not belonging to them.
These fringe elements are killing the poets and the lovers. The Sufis, who like Bauls can be said to be lunatics, lover and poets at the same time, continue to face prosecution and extinction in Pakistan and elsewhere by the radical elements. In recent times even the Bauls in India have been targets of fanatic Hindu and Muslim Groups in Indian and Bangladesh.
Now coming to the dialogue of Theseus from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, scene I, here it is:
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.