Monday, 26 September 2016

Vākh 124 by Lal Ded (Lalleshwari)

Some, who have closed their eyes, are wide awake.
Some, who look out at the world, are fast asleep.
Some who bathe in sacred pools remain dirty.
Some are at home in the world but keep their hands clean.


Date: c1350 (original in Kashmiri); 2013 (translation in English)

By: Lal Ded (Lalleshwari) (1320-1392)

Translated by: Ranjit Hoskote (1969- )

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Banks of a Canal by Seamus Justin Heaney

(Banks of a Canal, near Naples, painting by Gustave Caillebotte, c1872)

Say ‘canal’ and there’s that final vowel
Towing silence with it, slowing time
To a walking pace, a path, a whitewashed gleam
Of dwellings at the skyline. World stands still.
The stunted concrete mocks the classical.
Water says, ‘My place here is in dream,
In quiet good standing. Like a sleeping stream,
Come rain or sullen shine I’m peaceable.’
Stretched to the horizon, placid ploughland,
The sky not truly bright or overcast:
I know that clay, the damp and dirt of it,
The coolth along the bank, the grassy zest
Of verges, the path not narrow but still straight
Where soul could mind itself or stray beyond.


Date: 2013

By: Seamus Justin Heaney (1939-2013)

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Deor’s Lament by Deor

Weland the blade-winder      suffered woe,
That steadfast man      knew misery.
Sorrow and longing      walked beside him,
wintered in him,      kept wearing him down
after Nithad      hampered and restrained him,
lithe sinew-bonds      on the better man.
That passed over,       this can too.

For Beadohilde      her brother’s death
weighed less heavily      than her own heartsoreness
once it was clearly      understood
she was bearing a child.      Her ability
to think and decide      deserted her then.
That passed over,      this can too.

We have heard tell      of Mathilde’s laments,
the grief that afflicted      Geat’s wife.
Her love was her bane,      it banished sleep.
That passed over,      this can too.

For thirty winters—      it was common knowledge—
Theodric held      the Maerings’ fort.
That passed over,      this can too.

Earmonric      had the mind of a wolf,
by all accounts      a cruel king,
lord of the far flung      Gothic outlands.
Everywhere men sat      shackled in sorrow,
expecting the worst,      wishing often
he and his kingdom      would be conquered.
That passed over,      this can too.

A man sits mournful,      his mind in darkness,
so daunted in spirit      he deems himself
ever after      fated to endure.
He may think then      how throughout this world
the Lord in his wisdom      often works change—
meting out honor,      ongoing fame
to many, to others      only their distress.
Of myself, this much      I have to say:
for a time I was poet      of the Heoden people,
dear to my lord.      Deor was my name.
For years I enjoyed      my duties as minstrel
and that lord’s favor,      but now the freehold
and land titles      he bestowed upon me once
he has vested in Heorrenda,      master of verse-craft.
That passed over,      this can too.


Date: ?10th century (original in Anglo-Saxon); 2011 (translation in English)

By: Deor (?10th century)

Translated by: Seamus Justin Heaney (1939-2013)

Friday, 23 September 2016

If I Was by Mark Waldron

If I was,

I don’t know, walking down, say, a street
and I happened to come across

a group of, I don’t know, firemen
who were fighting, say, a fire,

then I might imagine, might I not,
their fire hose to be a long and beige salami.

And then I might imagine, might I not,
that I could take a slice of that salami,

that I could peel it of its ring of canvas skin
and then I’d have a lens,

the freshest monocle through which,
if I held it to my open eye, I’d probably see

a group of firemen with a cut hose
shouting angrily.


Date: 2009

By: Mark Waldron (1960 – )

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Cokkils by Sydney Goodsir Smith

Doun through the sea
A rain o’ cokkils, shells
Rains doun
Frae the ceaseless on-ding
O’ the reefs abune

Slawlie through millennia
Biggan on the ocean bed
Their ain subaqueous Himalaya
Wi a fine white rain o’ shells
Faa’an continuallie
Wi nae devall.

Sae, in my heid as birdsang
Faas throu simmer treen
Is the thocht o’ my luve
Like the continual rain
O’ cokkils throu the middle seas
Wi nae devall –
The thocht o’ my true-luve


Date: 1953

By: Sydney Goodsir Smith (1915-1975)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Processional by Alice Archer Sewall James

My love leads the white bulls to sacrifice.
He is white, and he leans against their folded necks.
Blue is the sky behind them, and the dust from the highway yellows his ivory limbs.
He leans and moves, restraining, yet drawn on by tossing heads.
He feels the festal music; rapid and strong are his arms and breast;
Yet from his waist beneath, loose and slow is his resting pace,
Flowers are in his hair, and he is fair.
He thinks he is but strong; he can overcome,
And his mind sees only the impatient horns;
But my heart sees his slimness, and would care for him like a mother.
My love leads the white bulls to sacrifice.


Date: 1899

By: Alice Archer Sewall James (1870-1955)

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Epigram by Johan Gabriel Oxenstierna

From her man the Queen Sophie received,
his painting, richly dressed in diamonds way.
But perchance if she had had her stay,
There’d be less stones thus conceived
and more in her own tray.


Date: c1777 (original in Swedish); 1997 (translation in English)

By: Johan Gabriel Oxenstierna (1750-1818)

Translated by: David Oxenstierna (19??- )

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Argument by Thomas Goffe

A Suppos’d Victory by AMURATH
Obtain’d in Greece, where many captives take,
One among the rest, IRENE, conquers him;
For taken with her love, he sounds retreat.
Eternally from Warre: but after, mov’d
With murmur of his Nobles, in her Bed
Before his Councels face, strikes off her head.
Then ruinating former bloudy broyles,
He straight ore’ comes all Christian Provinces,
Invades the Confines of his Sonne in Law,
Fires Caramania, and makes Aladin
With’s Wife and Children suppliant for their lives;
At length appointed his greatest Field to fight,
Upon Cassanae‘s Plaines, where having got
A wondrous Conquest ‘gainst the Christians,
Comes the next morne to overview the dead,
‘Mongst whom a Christian Captaine Cobelitz,
Lying wounded there, at sight of Amurath,
Rising and staggering towards him, desperately
With a short dagger wounds him to the heart,
And then immediately the Christian dyes.
The Turke expiring, Bajazet his Heyre
Strangles his younger brother: Thus still springs
The Tragick sport which Fortune makes with Kings.

From: Goffe, Thomas, The couragious Turke, or, Amurath the First A tragedie. Written by Thomas Goffe Master of Arts, and student of Christ-Church in Oxford, and acted by the students of the same house, 2003, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan & Oxford,. p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1618

By: Thomas Goffe (1591-1629)

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Canto XXXIX from “Willobie His Avisa” by Henry Willobie

Then jugling mates do most deceave,
And most delude the dazeled sight,
When up they turne their folded sleeve,
With bared armes to woorke their slight,
When sharpe-set Foxe begins to preach,
Let goslings keepe without his reach.

And will you have me set a day,
To feede your hope with vaine delayes?
Well, I will doo as you do say,
And posse you up with fainting stayes,
That day shall breake my plighted faith,
That drawes my last and gasping breath.

If you will hope, then hope in this,
Ile never grant that you require:
If this you hope, you shall not misse,
But shall obtaine your hopes desire,
If other hope you do retaine,
Your labor’s lost, your hope is vaine.

The child that playes with sharpned tooles.
Doth hurt himselfe for want of wit,
And they may well be counted fooles,
That wrastle neere a dangerous pit:
Your loose desire doth hope for that,
Which I must needes deny you flat.

Send mee no tokens of your lust,
Such gifts I list not to receive,
Such guiles shall never make me trust,
Such broad-layde baytes cannot deceive,
For they to yeeld do then prepare,
That grant to take such proffred ware.

If this be it you have to say,
You know my mynd which cannot change,
I must be gon, I cannot stay,
No fond delight can make me range,
And for a farewell, this I sweare,
You get not that I hold so deare.

From: Willobie, Henry and Hughes, Charles, Willobie His Avisa with an Essay towards its interpretation by Charles Hughes, 1904, Sherratt and Hughes: London, pp. 81-82.

Date: 1594

By: Henry Willobie (?1575-?1596)

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Like Two Negative Numbers Multiplied by Rain by Jane Hirshfield

Lie down, you are horizontal.
Stand up, you are not.

I wanted my fate to be human.

Like a perfume
that does not choose the direction it travels,
that cannot be straight or crooked, kept out or kept.

Yes, No, Or
—a day, a life, slips through them,
taking off the third skin,
taking off the fourth.

And the logic of shoes becomes at last simple,
an animal question, scuffing.

Old shoes, old roads—
the questions keep being new ones.
Like two negative numbers multiplied by rain
into oranges and olives.


Date: 2015

By: Jane Hirshfield (1953- )