Vikram Seth CBE, FRSL is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards such as Padma Shri, Sahitya Academy Award.
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Famous Vikram Seth Poems
I will be easy company; the blur
Of what I longed for once will fade to space.
No thought that could discomfort you will stir.
My eyes will painlessly survey your face.
My need has frayed with time; you said it would.
It has; I can walk again across the flood
Of gold sil popples on the straw-gold hills
Under a deep Californian sky that expels
All truant clouds; watch squads of cattle graze
By the radio-telescope; blue-battered jays
Flash raucous squaking by my swivelling head
While squirrels sine-wave past over the dead
Oak-leaves, and not miss you_although I may
Admit that near the telescope yesterday
By a small bushcovered gully I blundered on
Five golden fox-cubs playing in the sun
And wished you had been there to see them play;
But that I only mention by the way.
Let me now sleep, let me not think, let me
Not ache with inconsistent tenderness.
It was untenable delight; we are free–
Separate, equal–and if loverless,
Love consumes time which is more dear than love,
More unreplicable. With everything
Thus posited, the choice was clear enough
And daylight ratified our reckoning.
Now only movement marks the birds from the pines;
Now it’s dark; the blinded stars appear;
I am alone, you cannot read these lines
Who are with me when no one else is here,
Who are with me and cannot hear my voice
And take my hand and abrogate the choice.
My love, I love your breasts, I love your nose.
I love your accent and I love your toes.
I am your slave. One word, and I obey.
But please don’t slurp your morning brew that way.
Awake for hours and staring at the ceiling
Through the unsettled stillness of the night
He grows possessed of the obsessive feeling
That dawn has come and gone and brought no light.
Last night your faded memory came to me
As in the wilderness spring comes quietly,
As, slowly, in the desert moves thew breeze,
As to a sick man, without cause, comes peace
A Style Of Loving
Light now restricts itself
To the top half of trees;
The angled sun
Slants honey-coloured rays
That lessen to the ground
As we bike through
The corridor of Palm Drive
Have reached a safety the years
Can claim to have created:
Picnic, movie, ice-cream;
Talk; to clear my head
Hot buttered rum – coffee for you;
And so not to bed
And so we have set the question
Were we to become lovers
Where would our best friends be?
You do not wish, nor I
To risk again
This savoured light for noon’s
High joy or pain.
I smiled at you because I thought that you
Were someone else; you smiled back; and there grew
Between two strangers in a library
Something that seemes like love; but you loved me
(If that’s the word) because you thought that I
Was other than I was. And by and by
We found we’d been mistaken all the while
From that first glance, that first mistaken smile.
Across these miles I wish you well.
May nothing haunt your heart but sleep.
May you not sense what I don’t tell.
May you not dream, or doubt, or weep.
May what my pen this peaceless day
Writes on this page not reach your view
Till its deferred print lets you say
It speaks to someone else than you.
How Rarely These Few Years
How rarely all these few years, as work keeps us aloof,
Or fares, or one thing or another,
Have we had days to spend under our parents’ roof:
Myself my sister, and my brother.
All five of us will die; to reckon from the past
This flesh and blood is unforgiving.
What’s hard is that just one of us will be the last
To bear it all and go on living.
What’s in it?
I heard your name the other day
Mentioned by someone in a casual way.
She said she thought that you were looking great.
A waiter passed by with a plate.
She reached out for a sandwich, and your name
Went back from where it came.
But like a serious owlet I stood there,
Staring in mid-air.
I frowned, then followed her around
To hear, just once more, that sirenic sound –
Those consonants, those vowels – what a fool!
I show more circumspection as a rule.
I love you more than I can say.
Try as I do, it hasn’t gone away.
I hoped it would once, and I hope so still.
Someday, I’m sure, it will.
No glimpse, no news, no name will stir me then.
But when? But when?
You don’t love me at all? O God. O Shit.
You still ‘respect me.’ Thanks. I value it
About as much as one who’s asked to use
A second hat when he’s in need of shoes.
Since, I discover, my own self-respect
Is quite enough to keep my spine erect
Why is it true my ample self-affection
Will not suffice to buoy me in rejection?
Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile.
You’re twenty-six, and still have some life ahead.
No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I’ll
Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.
The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.
This twenty minutes’ rendezvous will make my day:
To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,
Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.
The Golden Gate – I (A Novel In Verse)
To make a start more swift and weighty,
Hail Muse. Dear Reader, once upon
A time, say, circa 1980,
There lived a man. His name was John.
Successful in his field though only
Twenty-six, respected, lonely,
One evening as he walked across
Golden Gate Park, the ill-judged toss
Of a red frisbee almost brained him.
He thought, “Who’d gloat? Who would be glad?
Would anybody? ” As it pained him,
He turned from this dispiriting theme
To ruminations less extreme.
He tuned his thoughts to electronic
Circuitry. This soothed his mind.
He left irregular (moronic)
He thought of or-gates and of and-gates,
Of ROMs, of nor-gates, and of nand-gates,
Of nanoseconds, megabytes,
And bits and nibbles… but as flights
Of silhouetted birds move cawing
Across the pine-serrated sky,
Dragged from his cove, not knowing why,
He feels an urgent riptide drawing
Him far out, where, caught in the kelp
Of loneliness, he cries for help.
John’s looks are good. His dress is formal.
His voice is low. His mind is sound.
His appetite for work’s abnormal.
A plastic name tag hangs around
His collar like a votive necklace.
Though well-paid, he is far from reckless,
Pays his rent promptly, jogs, does not
Smoke cigarettes, and rarely pot,
Eschews both church and heavy drinking,
Enjoys his garden, like to read
Eclectically from Mann to Bede.
(A surrogate, some say, for thinking.)
friends claim he’s grown aloof and prim.
(His boss, though, is well-pleased with him.)
Grey-eyed, blond-haired, aristocratic
In height, impatience, views, and face,
Discriminating though dogmatic,
Tender beneath a carapace
Of well-groomed tastes and tasteful grooming,
John, though his corporate stock is booming,
For all his mohair, serge, and tweed,
Senses his life has run to seed.
A passionate man, with equal parts of
Irritability and charm,
Without as such intending harm,
His flaring temper singed the hearts of
Several woman in the days
Before his chaste, ambitious phase.
John notes the late September showers
Have tinged the blond hills round the bay
With a new green. He notes the flowers
In their pre-winter bloom. The way
That, when he was a child, the mystery
Of San Francisco’s restless spark,
It strikes him now as, through the park,
Wrested from old dunes by the westward
Thrust of the greenbelt to the slow
Pacific swell, his footsteps go.
But it is late. The birds fly nestward
Towards the sunset, and the arc
Of darkness drifts across the park.
It’s Friday night. The unfettered city
Resounds with hedonistic glee.
John feels a cold cast of self-pity
Envelop him. No family
Cushions his solitude, or rather,
His mother’s dead, his English father,
Retired in his native Kent,
Rarely responds to letters sent
(If rarely) by his transatlantic
Offspring. In letters to The Times
He rails against the nameless crimes
Of the post office. Waxing frantic
About delays from coast to coast,
He hones his wit and damns the post.
A linkless node, no spouse or sibling,
No children – John wanders alone
Into an ice cream parlor. Nibbling
The edges of a sugar cone
By turns, a pair of high school lovers
Stand giggling. John, uncharmed, discovers
His favorite flavors, Pumpkin Pie
And Bubble Gum, decides to buy
A double scoop; sits down; but whether
His eyes fall on a knot of three
Schoolgirls, a clamorous family,
Or, munching cheerfully together,
A hippie and a Castro clone,
It hurts that only he’s alone.
He goes home, seeking consolation
Among old Beatles and Pink Floyd —
But “Girl” elicits mere frustration,
While “Money” leaves him more annoyed.
Alas, he hungers less for money
Than for a fleeting Taste of Honey.
Murmuring, “Money — it’s a gas! …
The lunatic is on the grass,”
He pours himself a beer. Desires
And reminiscences intrude
Upon his unpropitious mood
Until he feels that he requires
A one-way Ticket to Ride — and soon —
Across the Dark Side of the Moon.
He thinks back to his day at college,
To Phil, to Berkeley friends, to nights
When the pursuit of grades and knowledge
Foundered in beery jokes and fights.
Eheu fugaces… Silicon Valley
Lures to ambition’s ulcer alley
Young graduates with siren screams
Of power and wealth beyond their dreams,
Ejects the lax, and drives the driven,
Burning their candles at both ends.
Thus files take precedence over friends,
Labor is lauded, leisure riven.
John kneels bareheaded and unshod
Before the Chip, a jealous God.