Girl With The Dark Hair
Anon, trans W.S. Merwin

      Girl with the dark hair
If you are asleep, be warned:
Half of our life is a dream )
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink )
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)
( Apr. 29th, 2008 12:59 am)
from The Harper's Song For Inherkhawy
Egyptian, trans John L. Foster

All who come into being as flesh
           pass on, and have since God walked the earth;
                and young blood mounts to their places.
The busy fluttering souls and bright transfigured spirits
      who people the world below
                     and those who shine in the stars with Orion,
They built their mansions, they built their tombs –
      and all men rest in the grave.
So set your home well in the sacred land
           that your good name last because of it
Care for your works in the realm under God
           that your seat in the West be splendid.
The waters flow north, the wind blows south,
and each man goes to his hour.
from The Devil's Law Case
John Webster

All the flowers of the spring
Meet to perfume our burying;
These have but their growing prime,
And man doth flourish but his time:
Survey our progress from our birth;
We are set, we grow, we turn to earth.
Courts adieu, and all delights,
All bewitching appetites:
Sweetest breath and clearest eye,
Like perfumes, go out and die;
And consequently this is done
As shadows wait upon the sun,
Vain the ambition of kings
Who seek by trophies and dead things
To leave a living name behind,
And weave but nets to catch the wind.
Sir Patrick Spens

The king sits in Dumferling toune,
      Drinking the blude-reid wine:
‘O whar will I get a guid sailor,
      To sail this schip of mine?’

Up and spak an eldern knicht )
Diffugere Nives
Horace, trans A.E. Housman

The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
      And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
      And altered is the fashion of the earth.

The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear )
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( Apr. 23rd, 2008 04:17 pm)
The Seven
Anon (Akkadian), trans Jerome Rothenberg

They are 7 in number, just 7
In the terrible depths they are 7
Bow down, in the sky they are 7

In the terrible depths, the dark houses )
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)
( Apr. 22nd, 2008 03:21 pm)
To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough, November, 1785
Robert Burns

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion, )
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)
( Apr. 21st, 2008 11:21 pm)
Today’s poem, Jonson’s Hymn To Cynthia reminded me of a section in the introduction to John Brough’s Poems From The Sanskrit in which he demonstrates the difficulties of translation by ‘translating’ this same poem into various other English versions:

Extract here )

Hymn To Cynthia )
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)
( Apr. 20th, 2008 03:51 pm)
At The Round Earth's Imagined Corners
John Donne

At the round earth's imagined corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance, hath slain, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe.
But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,
For, if above all these, my sins abound,
'Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace,
When we are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach me how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou hadst seal'd my pardon, with thy blood.
from The Wanderer
trans Michael Alexander

A wise man may grasp how ghastly it shall be
when all this world's wealth standeth waste,
even as now, in many places, over the earth
walls stand, wind beaten,
hung with hoar-frost; ruined habitations.
The wine-halls crumble; their wielders lie )
Beauty, Sweet Love (Sonnet XLII)
Samuel Daniel

      Beauty, sweet love, is like the morning dew,
Whose short refresh upon the tender green,
Cheers for a time but till the sun doth show,
And straight 'tis gone as it had never been.
      Soon doth it fade that makes the fairest flourish,
Short is the glory of the blushing rose,
The hue which thou so carefully dost nourish,
Yet which at length thou must be forced to lose.
      When thou surcharged with burden of thy years
Shalt bend thy wrinkles homeward to the earth:
When time hath made a passport for thy fears,
Dated in age the Kalends of our death.
      But ah no more, this hath been often told,
      And women grieve to think they must be old.
Matthew Arnold

In this fair stranger's eyes of grey
Thine eyes, my love! I see.
I shiver; for the passing day
Had borne me far from thee. )
How can anyone pick just one Millay sonnet? By a process of jabbing my finger randomly at a list I present:

Admetus, From My Marrow's Core
Edna St Vincent Millay

Admetus, from my marrow's core I do
Despise you: wherefrom pity not your wife,
Who, having seen expire her love for you
With heaviest grief, today gives up her life.
You could not with your mind imagine this:
One might surrender, yet continue proud.
Not having loved, you do not know: the kiss
You sadly beg, is impious, not allowed.
Of all I loved, - how many girls and men
Have loved me in return? – speak! – young or old –
Speak! – sleek or famished, can you find me then
One form would flank me, as this night grows cold?
I am at peace, Admetus – go and slake
Your grief with wine. I die for my own sake.

Showing the power of poetry, I read the other day an entire essay on the virtues of Admetus (Anne Pippin Burnett on Euripides' Alcestis) and it quite failed to overwhelm the memory of a 14 line poem; I remain convinced at heart this is the One True Interpretation of the story.

And, because I am going to cheat about picking just one, a cut tag. )
Herewith two of Du Bellay's poems on Rome, one translated by Ezra Pound, the other by Yvor Winters. Also to be found below the cut are the same two poems translated by Spenser and, rather more recently (2002), Norman Shapiro. I admit that this is a little unfair to Shapiro, but then if you translate things you are pretty much bound to have your work put in comparison to its predecessors. Personally, I really love comparing translations. Here and here are the originals, saving me from having to type them out, and yet another translation, though not one I'd recommend.

Nouvaeu venu, qui cherches Rome en Rome
Joachim du Bellay, trans Ezra Pound

O thou new comer who seek'st Rome in Rome
And find'st in Rome no thing thou canst call Roman;
Arches worn old and palaces made common,
Rome's name alone within these walls keeps home.

Behold how pride and ruin can befall
One who hath set the whole world 'neath her laws,
All-conquering, now conqueréd because
She is Time's prey and Time consumeth all.

Rome thou art Rome's one sole last monument,
Rome that alone hast conquered Rome the town,
Tiber alone, transient and seaward bent,
Remains of Rome. O world, thou unconstant mime!
That which stands firm in thee Time batters down,
And that which fleeteth doth outrun swift Time.

trans Norman R. Shapiro )
trans Edmund Spenser )

Toy qui de Rome emerveillé contemples
Joachim du Bellay, trans Yvor Winters

You, who behold in wonder Rome and all
Her former passion, menacing the gods,
These ancient palaces and baths, the sods
Of seven hills, and temple, arch and wall,
        Consider in the ruins of her fall,
That which destroying Time has gnawed away –
What workmen built with labour day by day
Only a few worn fragments now recall.

        Then look again and see where, endlessly
Treading upon her own antiquity,
Rome has rebuilt herself with works as just:
        There you may see the demon of the land
Forcing himself with fatal hand
To raise the city from this ruined dust.

trans Norman R. Shapiro )
trans Edmund Spenser )
Rudel to the Lady of Tripoli
Robert Browning

I know a Mount, the gracious Sun perceives
First when he visits, last, too, when he leaves
The world; and, vainly favoured, it repays
The day-long glory of his steadfast gaze
By no change of its large calm front of snow.
And underneath the Mount, a Flower I know, )
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( Apr. 10th, 2008 02:03 am)
Gretel In Darkness
Louise Gluck

This is the world we wanted.
All who would have seen us dead
Are dead. I hear the witch's cry
Break in the moonlight through a sheet of sugar: God rewards.
Her tongue shrivels into gas....

        Now, far from women's arms,
And memory of women, in our father's hut
We sleep, are never hungry.
Why do I not forget?
My father bars the door, bars harm
From this house, and it is years.

No one remembers. Even you, my brother.
Summer afternoons you look at me as though you meant
To leave, as though it never happened. But I killed for you.
I see armed firs, the spires of that gleaming kiln come back, come back -
Nights I turn to you to hold me but you are not there.
Am I alone? Spies
Hiss in the stillness, Hansel we are there still, and it is real, real,
That black forest, and the fire in earnest.
quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)
( Apr. 7th, 2008 03:23 pm)
My Lute, Awake!
Sir Thomas Wyatt

My lute, awake! Perform the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And end that I have now begun;
For when this song is sung and past,
My lute, be still for I have done.

As to be heard where ear is none, )