The Nacreous Oughts

08 August 2008


The star, Maïr, shines in the sky above me--
   The star, Maïr.
A world is lighted by this star so lovely,
   So far from home.

The land, Oilay, floats on the waves of ether--
   The land, Oilay.
The glittering light of Maïr one can see there
   Is bright as day.

In that calm land of love, the Ligoy river--
   The lithe Ligoy--
Makes the bright face of Maïr softly quiver
   As waves deploy.

The flowers that smell, the lyres that strum (amazing
   Lyres, strumming clear),
And songs of women in one breath praising--
   Praising Maïr.

--Fyodor Sologub (tr Markov & Sparks)

END OF Florilegium Anthropocene.

    "Sailing to Byzantium"

THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

--Wiliam Butler Yeats


A lens of crystal whose transparence calms
Queer stars to clarity, and disentangles
Fox-fires to form austere refracted angles;
A texture polished on the horny palms
Of vast equivocal creatures, beast or human:
A flint, a substance finer-grained than snow,
Graved with the Graces in intaglio
To set sarcastic sigil on the woman.

This for the mind, and for the little rest
A hollow scooped to blackness in the breast,
The simulacrum of a cloud, a feather:
Instead of stone, instead of sculptured strength,
This soul, this vanity, blown hither and thither
By trivial breath, over the whole world's length.

--Elinor Wylie

    (They fle from me that sometyme did me seke)

They fle from me that sometyme did me seke
With naked fote stalking in my chambre.
I have sene theim gentill, tame, and meke
That nowe are wyld and do not remembre
That sometyme they put theimself in daunger
To take bred at my hand; and nowe they raunge
Besely seking with a continuell chaunge.

Thancked be fortune it hath ben othrewise
Twenty tymes better, but ons in speciall,
In thyn arraye after a pleasaunt gyse,
When her lose gowne from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her armes long and small,
Therewithall swetely did me kysse,
And softely said "dere hert, howe like you this?"

It was no dreme: I lay brode waking.
But all is torned thorough my gentilnes
Into a straunge fasshion of forsaking;
And I have leve to goo of her goodeness,
And she also to vse new fangilnes.
But syns that I so kyndely ame served,
I would fain knowe what she hath deserved.

--Sir Thomas Wyatt

    "Hothouse Flowers"

I hate the flower of wood or common field.
I cannot love the primrose nor regret
The death of any shrinking violet,
Nor even the cultured garden's banal yield.

The silver lips of lilies virginal,
The full deep bosom of the enchanted rose
Please less than flowers glass-hid from frosts and snows
For whom an alien heat makes festival.

I love those flowers reared by man's careful art,
Of heady scents and colours: strong of heart
Or weak that die beneath the touch or knife,

Some rich as sin and some as virtue pale,
And some as subtly infamous and frail
As she whose love still eats my soul and life.

--Theodore Wratislaw

    "Speech for the Repeal of the McCarran Act"

As Wulfstan said on another occasion,
The strong net bellies in the wind and the spider rides it out;
But history, that sure blunderer.
Ruins the unkempt web, however silver.
I am not speaking of rose windows
Shattered by bomb-shock; the leads touselled; the glass-grains broadcast;
If the rose be living a all
A gay gravel shall be pollen of churches.
Nor do I mean railway networks.
Torn-up tracks are no great trouble. As Wulfstan said.
It is oathbreach, faithbreach, lovebreach
Bring the invaders into the estuaries.
Shall one man drive before him ten
Unstrung from sea to sea? Let thought be free. I speak
Of the spirit's weaving, the neural
Web, the self-true mind, the trusty reflex.

--Richard Wilbur

07 August 2008


POETS to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known,
Arouse! for you must justify me.

I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.

--Walt Whitman

    "The House in Bonac Revisited"

I am in love with the impossible:
From the beginning, I have tried to bring
Into the toils of language the fierce thing
No word may gather and no tongue may tell--
And it was in this room that first the spell
Was cast upon me for a curse, to wring
My heart in labor and in suffering,
Under these rafters that I love so well.

How many a night, how many a lonely year,
With mind grown bitter and with blood gone dry,
I have wrought these cunning toils! Nevertheless,
All longing was repaid, all bitterness,
In moments when my heart stood still to hear,
Even for a moment, that fleet foot go by.

--John Hall Wheelock

    "Ballad (for the Contest at Blois)"

I die of thirst beside the fountain,
as hot as fire, trembling tooth on tooth;
in my own country I’m in far-off land;
beside a fire I shiver, all aflame;
as naked as a warm, yet richly dressed in furs;
I laugh through tears, and wait without a hope;
my only comfort is in sad despair;
I rejoice and have no pleasure;
I am strong, but have no force or power,
well received, rebuffed by all.

Nothing’s sure save what is yet uncertain,
nor more obscure than what is evident;
I have no doubts save when I’m positive;
in sudden accident is knowledge based;
I win all and yet remain the loser;
at break of day I say, “Goodnight”;
when I lie down I have great fear of falling;
I’m quite well off and yet don’t have a penny;
I always inheritance and yet am no man’s heir’
well received, rebuffed by all.

I’m never careful, but I make all efforts
to acquire wealth though I have none to claim;
who to me is nicest most annoys me;
who speaks the truth tells me most lies;
my friend is he who leads me to believe
white swan is nothing but black crow;
he who harms me does his best to help;
lies, truth are now the same to me;
I remember all, but can conceive of nothing,
well received, rebuffed by all.

Most clement prince, may you be pleased to know
that much I understand, but have no sense of reason;
I’m strongly partisan and yet agree with all.
What can I do? What? Redeem my things in pawn,
well received, rebuffed by all.

--François Villon (tr Anthony Bonner)



Tiger: till,I,burned,with,their,
 Gentle: most,

Dark,and,yet,most,Lit: in,me,an,
Eye,there,grew: springing,Vision,
  Its,wars. Then,



--Jose Garcia Villa

    Aeneid VI. 125-136

Gentle is the journey down to Hades
(by night and day the door of dark Dis gapes);
but to take back your stepping and escape
to the upper breezes, that's the work--this task.
A few whom jovial Jupiter had loved,
or ardent courage lifted to the skies,
god-born, could.
            Gliding Cocytus circles
a gloomy valley, and every kind of forest
occupies the middle.
            But if you have
so much love of heart, if so much lust
twice to sail on Stygian lakes, to see
midnight Tartarus--twice, and with outrageous
hardship, it's any use to yield,

accept what harrowings precede.

--Publius Vergilius Maro (my tr)

"Son of Anchises, born of blood divine,"
The priestess thus began, "easy the way
Down to Avernus: night and day the gates
Of Dis stand open. But to retrace thy steps
And reach the upper air, --here lies the task,
The difficulty here. A few by Jove,
Beloved, or to ethereal heights upborne
By virtue's force, sons of the gods,
The labor have achieved. Midway thick woods
The passage bar, and, winding all about,
Cocytus' black and sinuous river glides.
But if such strong desire be thine, to float
Twice o'er the Stygian lake; if the mad task
Delights thee, twice to see the gloomy realms
Of Tartarus--then learn what must first be done."

--(tr C P Cranch)

06 August 2008

    Trilce XXV

Thrips appear to adhere
to joints, to the base, to napes,
to the underface of numerators on foot.
Thrips and thrums from lupine heaps.

As the lee of each caravel, unraveled
without Americanizing, snorts loudly,
carriage perches collapse in a calamitous spasm,
with a puny pulse unfortunately given
to blowing its nose on the back of its wrist.
And the most high-pitched sopraneity
tonsures and hobbles itself, and gradually
ennazals toward icicles
of infinite pity.

Spirited loins wheeze hard
on bearing, dangling from musty breastplates,
cockades with their seven colors
below zero, from the guano islands
to the guano islands.
Thus the dirty honeycombs in the open air of little
Thus the hour of the records. Thus the one with a detour
to future planes,
when the innanimous gerfalcon reports solely
failed silence-deserving crusades.

Then thrips end up adhering
even in trap doors and in rough drafts.’

--Cesar Vallejo (tr Eshleman)

05 August 2008

The demon in me's not dead,
He's living, and well.
In the body as in a hold,
In the self as in a cell.
The world is but walls.
The exit's the axe.
("All the world's a stage,"
The actor prates.)
And that hobbling buffoon
Is no joker;
In the body as in glory,
In the body as in a toga.
May you live forever!
Cherish your life,
Only poets in bone
Are as in a lie.
No, my eloquent brothers,
We'll not have much fun,
In the body as with Father's
Dressing-gown on.
We deserve something better.
We wilt in the warm.
In the body as in a byre.
In the self as in a cauldron.
Marvels that perish
We don't collect.
In the body as in a marsh,
In the body as in a crypt.
In the body as in furthest
Exile. It blights.
In the body as in a secret,
In the body as in the vice
Of an iron mask.

--Marina Tsvetaeva (tr David McDuff)

    "Song of The Western Countries"

Oh the nighttime beating of the soul’s wings:
Herders of sheep once, we walked along the forests that were growing dark,
And the red deer, the green flower and the speaking river followed us
In humility. Oh the old old note of the cricket,
Blood blooming on the altarstone,
And the cry of the lonely bird over the green silence of the pool.

And you Crusades, and glowing punishment
Of the flesh, purple fruits that fell to earth
In the garden at dusk, where young and holy men walked,
Enlisted men of war now, waking up out of wounds and dreams about stars.
Oh the soft cornflowers of the night.

And you long ages of tranquillity and golden harvests,
When as peaceful monks we pressed out the purplegrapes;
And around us the hill and forest shone strangely.
The hunts for wild beasts, the castles, and at night,the rest,
When man in his room sat thinking justice,
And in noiseless prayer fought for the living head of God.

And this bitter hour of defeat,
When we behold a stony face in the black waters.
But radiating light, the lovers lift their silver eyelids:
They are one body. Incense streams from rose-colored pillows
And the sweet song of those risen from the dead.

--Georg Trakl (tr Wright & Bly)

    "Dark Symphony"

I. Allegro Moderato

Black Crispus Attucks taught
Us how to die
Before white Patrick Henry’s bugle breath
Uttered the vertical
Transmitting cry:
"Yea, give me liberty, or give me death."
Waifs of the auction block,
Men black and strong
The juggernauts of despotism withstood,
Loin-girt with faith that worms
Equate the wrong
And dust is purged to create brotherhood.

No Banquo's ghost can rise
Against us now,
Aver we hobnailed Man beneath the brute,
Squeezed down the thorns of greed
On Labor's brow,
Garroted lands and carted off the loot.

II. Lento Grave

The centuries-old pathos in our voices
Saddens the great white world,
And the wizardry of our dusky rhythms
Conjures up shadow-shapes of ante-bellum years:

Black slaves singing One More River to Cross
In the torture tombs of slave-ships,
Black slaves singing Steal Away to Jesus
In jungle swamps,
Black slaves singing The Crucifixion
In slave-pens at midnight,
Black slaves singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
In cabins of death,
Black slaves singing Go Down, Moses
In the canebrakes of the Southern Pharaohs.

III. Andante Sostenuto

They tell us to forget
The Golgotha we tread…
We who are scourged with hate,
A price upon our head.
They who have shackled us
Require of us a song,
They who have wasted us
Bid us condone the wrong.

They tell us to forget
Democracy is spurned.
They tell us to forget
The Bill of Rights is burned.
Three hundred years we slaved,
We slave and suffer yet:
Though flesh and bone rebel,
They tell us to forget!

Oh, how can we forget
Our human rights denied?
Oh, how can we forget
Our manhood crucified?
When justice is profaned
And plea with curse is met,
When Freedom’s gates are barred,
Oh, how can we forget?

IV. Tempo Primo

The New Negro strides upon the continent
In seven-league boots…
The New Negro
Who sprang from the vigor-stout loins
Of Nat Turner, gallows martyr for Freedom,
Of Joseph Cinquez, Black Moses of the Amistad Mutiny,
Of Frederick Douglass, oracle of the Catholic Man,
Of Sorjourner Truth, eye and ear of Lincoln’s legions,
Of Harriet Tubman, Saint Bernard of the Underground Railroad.

The New Negro
Breaks the icons of his detractors,
Wipes out the conspiracy of silence,
Speaks to his America:
"My history-moulding ancestors
Planted the first crops of wheat on these shores,
Built ships to conquer the seven seas,
Erected the Cotton Empire,
Flung railroads across a hemisphere,
Disemboweled the earth’s iron and coal,
Tunneled the mountains and bridged rivers,
Harvested the grain and hewed forests,
Sentineled the Thirteen Colonies,
Unfurled Old Glory at the North Pole,
Fought a hundred battles for the Republic."

The New Negro:
His giant hands fling murals upon high chambers,
His drama teaches a world to laugh and weep,
His music leads continents captive,
His voice thunders the Brotherhood of Labor,
His science creates seven wonders,
His Republic of Letters challenges the Negro-baiters.

The New Negro,
Hard-muscled, Facist-hating, Democracy-ensouled,
Strides in seven-league boots
Along the Highway of Today
Toward the Promised Land of Tomorrow!

V. Larghetto

None in the Land can say
To us black men Today:
You send the tractors on their bloody path,
And create Okies for The Grapes of Wrath
You breed the slum that breeds a Native Son
To damn the good earth Pilgrim Fathers won.

None in the Land can say
To us black men Today:
You dupe the poor with rags-to-riches tales,
And leave the workers empty dinner pails.
You stuff the ballot box, and honest men
Are muzzled by your demagogic din.

None in the Land can say
To us black men Today:
You smash stock markets with your coined blitzkriegs,
And make a hundred million guinea pigs.
You counterfeit our Christianity,
And bring contempt upon Democracy.

None in the land can say
To us black men Today:
You prowl when citizens are fast asleep,
And hatch Fifth Column plots to blast the deep
Foundations of the State and leave the Land
A vast Sahara with a Fascist brand.

--Melvin Tolson

    "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower"

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How my clay is made the hangman's lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

--Dylan Thomas

    from The Princess

NOW sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

--Alfred Tennyson

    "Full Moon (Santa Barbara)"

I listened, there was not a sound to hear
In the great rain of moonlight Pouring dawn,
The eucalyptus trees were carved in silver,
And a light mist of silver lulled the town.

I saw far off the grey Pacific bearing
A broad white disk of flame,
And on the garden-walk a snail beside me
Tracing in crystal the slow way he came.

--Sara Teasdale

    "Ave Atque Vale"

Black dreams; the pale and sorrowful desire,
Whose eyes have looked on Lethe, and have seen,
Deep in the sliding ebon tide serene,
Their own vain light inverted; ashen fire,
With wasted lilies, late and languishing;
Autumnal roses blind with rain; slow foam
From desert-sinking seas, with honeycomb
Of aconite and poppy--these I bring,
With this my bitter, barren love to thee;
And from the grievous springs of memory,
Far in the great Maremma of my heart,
I proffer thee to drink; and on my mouth,
With the one kiss wherein we meet and part,
Leave fire and dust from quenchless leagues of drouth.

--Clark Ashton Smith

(Next in sequence is Sologub.)


I met you at the parting of the ways,
And I have lingered with you certain days.

Over a little grave I had set a stone:
I had buried love, and I was all alone.

The roadway of the unforgotten past
Ended; the road in front lay vague and vast.

I met you at the parting of the ways,
And I have lingered with you certain days.

Because you took my hand in both your hands,
I think there may be help in other lands.

Because you laid your face against my face,
I wonder if hope lives in any place.

Because you laid my head upon your breast,
I know the earth holds yet a little rest.

--Arthur Symons

    "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

--Wallace Stevens

    "Susie Asado"

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Susie Asado.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
Susie Asado.
Susie Asado which is a told tray sure.
A lean on the shoe this means slips slips hers.
When the ancient light grey is clean it is yellow, it is a silver seller.
This is a please this is a please there are the saids to jelly.
These are the wets these say the sets to leave a crown to Incy.
Incy is short of incubus.
A pot. A pot is a beginning of a rare bit of trees. Trees tremble,
the old vats are in bobbles, bobbles which shade and shove and
render clean, render clean must.
Drink pups.
Drink pups drink pups lease a sash hold, see it shine and a bobolink
has pins. It shows a nail.
What is a nail. A nail is unison.
Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.

--Gertrude Stein

    "A Book Of Music"

Coming at an end, the lovers
Are exhausted like two swimmers. Where
Did it end? There is no telling. No love is
Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves' boundaries
From which two can emerge exhausted, nor long goodbye
Like death.
Coming at an end. Rather, I would say, like a length
Of coiled rope
Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths
Its endings.
But, you will say, we loved
And some parts of us loved
And the rest of us will remain
Two persons. Yes,
Poetry ends like a rope.

--Jack Spicer

   Amoretti LXXV

ONE day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washèd it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide and made my pains his prey.
Vain man (said she) that dost in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalise;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wipèd out likewise.
Not so (quod I); let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame;
My verse your virtues rare shall eternise,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
Where, when as Death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.

--Edmund Spenser


Ovals of opal on dislustred seas,
Skyshine, and all that indolent afternoon
No clash of arms, no shouting on the breeze;
Only the reeds moaned soft or high their empty rune.

The paladins played chess and did not care,
The crocus pierced the turf with random dart.
Then twanged a cord. Through space, from Oultremer
That other arrow veered toward your heart.

Charles Spear

04 August 2008

   "Sons' Loss"

Much doth it tax me
My tongue to move,
Through my throat to utter
The breath of song.
Poesy, prize of Odin,
Promise now I may not,
A draught drawn not lightly
From deep thought's dwelling.

Forth it flows but hardly;
For within my breast
Heavy sobbing stifles
Hindered stream of song--
Blessèd boon to mortals
Brought from Odin's kin,
Goodly treasure, stolen
From Giant-land of yore.

He, who so blameless
Bore him in life,
O'erborne by billows
With boat was whelmed.
Sea-waves-flood that whilom
Welled from giant's wound--
Smite upon the grave-gate
Of my sire and son.

Dwindling now my kindred
Draw near o their end,
Ev'n as forest-saplings
Felled or tempest-strown.
Not gay or gladsome
Goes he who beareth
Body of kinsman
On funeral bier.

Of a father fallen
First I may tell;
Of a much-loved mother
Must mourn the loss.
Sad store hath memory
For minstrel skill,
A wood to bloom leafy
With words of song.

Most woful the breach,
Where the wave in-brake
On the fencèd hold
Of my father's kin.
Unfilled, as I wot,
And open doth stand
The gap of son rent
By the greedy surge.

Me Ran, the sea-queen,
Roughly hath shaken:
I stand of beloved ones
Stript and all bare.
Cut hath the billow
The cord of my kin,
Strand of mine own twisting
So stout and strong.

Sure, if sword could venge
such cruel wrong,
Evil times would wait
Ægir, ocean-god.
That wind-giant's brother
Were I strong to slay,
'Gainst him and his sea-brood
Battling would I go.

But I in no wise
Boast, as I ween,
Strength that may strive
With the stout ships' bane.
For to eyes of all
Easy now 'tis seen
How the old man's lot
Helpless is and lone.

Me hath the main
Of much bereaved;
Dire is the tale,
The deaths of kin:
Since he, the shelter
And shield of my house,
Hied him from life
To heaven's glad realm.

Full surely I know,
in my son was waxing
The stuff and the strength
Of a stout-limbed wight:
Had he reached but ripeness
To raise his shield,
And Odin laid hand
On his liegeman true.

Willing he followed
His father's word,
Though all opposing
Should thwart my rede:
He in mine household
Mine honour upheld,
Of my power and rule
The prop and the stay.

Oft to my mind
My loss doth come,
How I brotherless bide
Bereaved and alone.
Thereon I bethink me,
When thickens the fight!
Thereon with much searching
My soul doth muse:

Who staunch stands by me
In stress of fight,
Shoulder to shoulder,
Side by side?
Such want doth weaken
In war's dread hour;
Weak-wing'd I fly,
Whom friends all fail.

'Son's place to his sire'
(Saith a proverb true)
'Another son born
Alone can fill.'
Of kinsmen none
(Though e'er so kind)
To brother can stand
In brother's stead.

O'er all our ice-fields,
Our northern snows,
Few now I find
Faithful and true.
Dark deeds men love,
Doom death to their kin,
A brother's body
Barter for gold.

Unpleasing to me
Our people's mood,
Each seeking his own
In selfish peace.
To the happier bees' home
Hath passed my son,
My good wife's child
To his glorious kin.

Odin, mighty monarch,
Of minstrel mead the lord,
On me a heavy hand
Harmful doth lay.
Gloomy in unrest
Ever I grieve,
Sinks my drooping brow,
Seat of sight and thought.

Fierce fire of sickness
First from my home
Swept off a son
With savage blow:
One who was heedful,
Harmless, I wot,
In deeds unblemished,
In words unblamed.

Still do i mind me,
When the friend of men
High uplifted
To the home of gods
That sapling stout
Of his father's stem,
Of my true wife born
A branch so fair.

Once bare I goodwill
To the great spear-lord,
Him trusty and true
I trowed for friend:
Till the giver of conquest,
The car-borne god,
Broke faith and friendship,
False in my need.

Now victim and worship
To Vilir's brother,
The god once honoured,
I give no more.
Yet the friend of Mimir
On me hath bestowed
Some boot for bale,
If all boons I tell.

Yea he, the wolf-tamer,
The war god skilful,
Gave poesy faultless
To fill my soul:
Gave wit to know well
Each wily trickster,
And force him to face me
As foeman in fight.

Hard am I beset;
Whom Hel, the sister
Of Odin's fell captive,
On Digra-ness waits.
Yet shall I gladly
With right good welcome
Dauntless in bearing
Her death-blow bide.

--Egil Skallagrimsson (tr W C Green)

    "Astrophel and Stella, XXXI"

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies !
How silently, and with how wan a face !
What, may it be that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries?
Sure, if that long with love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case;
I read it in thy looks; thy languisht grace
To me that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deemed there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there, ungratefulness?

--Sir Philip Sidney


Svelte with eventual sex, who could help
but gorge herself on low violet leaning everywhere?

The shine and shifting slate of the sky murmurs
its irresistible confession: I am more than blue

if you are the violent imprint. I am swollen,
vexed endlessly and only
finite against your bodies.

This slim stalk of silhouette slides via nimbus
down the eyelights without a skirmish.
Glossy with sly undoing, blisterlike.

We are disheveled, though too
skeptical to abandon our dimpled limbs

and fill the insides of slips with mere
threat and strop of thunderpeal.

We toss freely with fever this mirror
desilvered. And break into rain upon
finding such umber yielding of frost to febris.

This strumpet muscle under your breast describing
you minutely, Volupt, volupt.

--Brenda Shaughnessy

03 August 2008

    "In Imitation of a Thought"

He longs to meet with the girl of Zhang,
Reluctantly he sees off A Hou.
In vain he watches the "Small Hands Down" dance,
How can he bear to ask for a "Big Knife Ring" song?
This beauty is selected from a dogwood net,
She lives usually in an emerald house.
Cloud dresses do not provide warmth,
Moon fan does not cover her shyness.
What is the point of being able to dance on a man's palm?
Who says that a town toppler is free?
Courtesans of Chu compete to serve on pillows,
Empresses of Han together play hiding hooks.
She seeks a husband in a goat carriage,
And searches for a man in a phoenix-nest.
She practices calligraphy after the "Orchid Pavilion Preface,"
And sings a song called "Sorrows in Separation."
At night clothes beating is heard from the riverside,
In spring scissors cut out pomegranate skirts.
Ivory bed is surrounded by gauze curtains,
Rhino drapes are attached to the painted windows.
Bright mirrors are from the "Virtue-Longevity Hall,"
Colorful balls are from Chen Cang.
Sincerely she protects herself from "Scratcher Dance,"
In pretense she covers the reclining harp.
She washes her silken dress by peach flower pond,
And splashes her skirt at scented-grass isle.
Precious sword hangs from fish [handle],
Gold cup is encircled by a swallow [pattern].
Silver waterclock hastens the falling leaves,
Heartbreaking separation takes place at the grand party.
When will her angrily proud air dissipate?
From now on sadness of departure will linger in heart.
The sail is let down in gorges filled with crying monkeys,
Wine glasses are passing around in boat painted with colorful birds.
Strings are hastening, hearts are broken,
Candles are being trimmed, tears streaming down.
Who can wear the jade horse?
Gold, insect-shaped hairpins are no longer collected.
The Milky Way fills her intoxicated eyes,
Her pearl sounding throat is choked.
In dream she leaves with the river god Chuan Hou,
And waits for the coming of Shi You wind.
The orchid bush is covered by heavy dews,
Elm leaves are scattered around [like] dense stars.
No traces remain where the two fairies took out their pendants,
But in the waves there are the marks of their former trip.
In the past people wrote "Nineteen Ancient Poems,"
Silently she chants the one about the cow herd.

--Li Shangyin (tr Fusheng Wu)

02 August 2008

   from MacBeth

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

--William Shakespeare

01 August 2008

    "On Fatalism"

Not always wealth, not always force
A splendid destiny commands;
The lordly vulture gnaws the corpse
That rots upon yon barren sands.

Nor want, nor weakness still conspires
To bind us to a sordid state;
The fly that with a touch expires
Sips honey from the royal plate.

---The Holy Imam Shafay

Rivers level granite mountains,
Rains wash the figures from the sundial,
The plowshare wears thin in the furrow;
And on the fingers of the mighty
The gold of authority is bright
With the glitter of attrition.

--Sulpicius Lupercus Servasius, Jr (tr. Rexroth)

    "On Antiquity"

Everything that Mother Nature sent forth
however you might deem it solid, totters;
by time and long the frail and fleeting
   by use is broken.

The river to unwonted used to a valley route
alters and the fixed path, to steep new ways;
go burst when badly by repeated
   floodings their banks.

Falling rough excavates water, tufa;
the iron ploughshare dwindles in the fields;
shines on the fingers with worn, the honoring
   ring, its gold.

(my tr.)

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