Wednesday, 26 October 2016

No Jewel is Worth His Lady by Giacomo da Lentini

Sapphire, nor diamond, nor emerald,
Nor other precious stones past reckoning,
Topaz, nor pearl, nor ruby like a king,
Nor that most virtuous jewel, jasper call’d,
Nor amethyst, nor onyx, nor basalt,
Each counted for a verv marvellous thing,
Is half so excellently gladdening,
As is my lady’s head uncoronall’d.
All beauty by her beauty is made dim;
Like to the stars she is for loftiness;
And with her voice she taketh away grief.
She is fairer than a bud, or than a leaf.
Christ have her well in keeping, of His grace,
And make her holy and beloved, like Him!

From: Rosetti, Dante Gabriel (ed. and transl.), Dante and His Circle: with the Italian Poets Preceding Him. (1100-1200-1300). A Collection of Lyrics, 1887, Roberts Brothers: Boston, p. 201.

Date: 13th century (original in Sicilian dialect); 1861 (translation in English)

By: Giacomo da Lentini (13th century)

Translated by: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Viking Terror by Anonymous

Fierce is the wind tonight,
It ploughs up the white hair of the sea
I have no fear that the Viking hosts
Will come over the water to me.


Date: 7th or 8th century (original in Gaelic); 1949 (translation in English)

By: Anonymous

Translated by: Fred Norris Robinson (1871-1966)

Monday, 24 October 2016

The Apotheosis of Delacroix by Mary Maxwell

The heavens rumble. Clouds are raised by riderless thunder
that halts then storms unreined, snorts and halts again
in sweaty, wide-eyed frenzy. Black, the dog, is barking.
Pissarro has just set up parasol and easel. Cézanne looks up
from under broad-brimmed hat, paint-box burden strapped across
his back. farmers drop jaw and pitchfork and gape
in pious wonder. They behold Apollo’s chariot charge through
sky’s Mozarabic arches; they observe that beyond
those gates (opened by a turbaned servant) a fragrant Odalisque
welcomes the artist in sprawled nakedness. Kohl-rimmed
eyes of the divine tigress promise endless angelic wrestling. But
as mortal and immortal forms do at last commingle,
impassioned and violent, could Death’s voyeurs suppose that
the resplendent Delacroix himself composed this one last
painted ceiling, this celestial arabesque of his own soul’s uprising?


Date: 1999

By: Mary Maxwell (19??- )

Sunday, 23 October 2016

At Last It’s Come by Sulpicia

At last it’s come, and to be said to hide this kind of love
would shame me more than rumors that I’d laid it bare.
Won over by the pleading of my Muse, Cytherea
delivered him to me. She placed him in my arms.
Venus has fulfilled what she promised: Let my joys be told
by one who is said to have no joy of her own.
I would hate to keep what I’ve written under seal where none
could read me sooner than my lover, for pleasure
Likes a little infamy; discretion is nothing but a tedious pose.
Let it be known I have found a fitting partner.

From: Rayor, Diane J. and Batstone, William W. (eds.), Latin Lyric and Elegaic Poetry: An Anthology of New Translations, 1995, Routledge: New York, p. 84.

Date: 1st century BCE (original in Latin); 1994 (translation in English)

By: Sulpicia (1st century BCE)

Translated by: Mary Maxwell (19??- )

Saturday, 22 October 2016

A Nightingale Migrates by Thomas Ironmonger

Heat – where the river swells and flaps
like a flock of white birds taking flight.
Red – where the clouds with thunder
crack, and the sky’s cool gin mixes into the night.
Here – as drunken fruits fall and explode into
the furrowed orchard aisles as the dark forest crows inside
two slight lungs drink breath
to load the songs they will carry for miles; over the
hedgerows, over the stiles; over
the bright brown African roads.


Date: 2013

By: Thomas Ironmonger (19??- )

Friday, 21 October 2016

After All, White Doves by Geoffrey Edward Harvey Grigson (Martin Boldero)

They rose out of dead men,
out of their mouths,
gently, white doves,
to branches where they fidgeted
at first, a little,–
free, uncertainly.

It was something,
white doves for the souls of men,
instead of the roving idiots
of the morning, cuckoos,
or jackdaws cackling, or identical
factory chicken chelping, or worse,

White doves
even the souls of the worst.


Date: 1972

By: Geoffrey Edward Harvey Grigson (Martin Boldero) (1905-1985)

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Lines by Louisa Stuart Costello

If we should ever meet again
When many tedious years are past;
When time shall have unbound the chain,
And this sad heart is free at last;—
Then shall we meet and look unmov’d,
As though we ne’er had met—had lov’d!

And I shall mark without a tear
How cold and calm thy alter’d brow;
I shall forget thou once wert dear,
Rememb’ring but thy broken vow!
Rememb’ring that in trusting youth
I lov’d thee with the purest truth;
That now the fleeting dream is o’er,
And thou canst raise the spell no more!

From: Costello, Louisa Stuart, Songs of A Stranger, 1825, Taylor and Hessey: London, p. 7.

Date: 1825

By: Louisa Stuart Costello (1799-1870)

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Oh! Were I Sure That All the Lays by Guillaume Ademar

Oh! were I sure that all the lays
Which wake my idle strings
Would in her heart one moment raise
Kind thoughts of him who sings.
What ardour in my song would glow,
What magic in its numbers flow!

Yet what avails—though I despair
To gain one tender smile,
The world shall know that she is fair,
Although so cold the while.
Ungrateful though she be, too long,
To her I dedicate my song.
Better to suffer and complain,
Than thus another’s love obtain.

From: Costello, Louisa Stuart (ed. and trans.), Specimens of the Early Poetry of France: From the Time of the Troubadours and Trouveres to the Reign of Henri Quatre, 1835, William Pickering: London, p. 10.

Date: c1200 (original in Occitan); 1835 (translation in English)

By: Guillaume Ademar (1190/1195-1217)

Translated by: Louisa Stuart Costello (1799-1870)

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Hedge-Schoolmaster to His Love by Robin Ernest William Flower

O dearest of dear ones, O sweeter than sweetness!
Than the birds on the mountains more fleet in your fleetness,
With your hair on the wind like a stream of fine amber,
You came through the mist like the sun in September.

As I went at your side in the midst of your brightness,
Like a silver swayed birch was your lithe lissom lightness,
Your hand was in mine and our hearts beat together
And little we cared for the world and its weather.

Below in the town they were wrangling and brawling,
On the high hills of heaven the soft rain was falling,
The soft rain, the sweet rain, so silverly shining,
That it charmed us and lulled us till day was declining.

Then, hand clasped in hand, with a riot of laughter,
We ran to the town and the rain followed after,
Till he tired at the last of his splashing and streaming
And the lovely lit stars through our window came dreaming.

From: Flower, Robin, Eire, and Other Poems, 1910, Locke Ellis: London, p. 15.

Date: 1910

By: Robin Ernest William Flower (1881-1946)

Monday, 17 October 2016

The Scholar and His Cat, Pangur Bán by Anonymous

I and Pangur Bán my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.


Date: 9th century (original in Gaelic); 1934 (translation in English)

By: Anonymous

Translated by: Robin Ernest William Flower (1881-1946)