Archive for August, 2016

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Sonnet by Pietro Bembo

Thou too then, Brother, in the tide of spring
Dying, hast left me solitary here,
Whence life, before so bright and glad a thing,
Is shadowed over with dismay and fear;
Justice it would have been and passionate
Desire of mine that hitherwards the dart
Firstly had sped, that as I was not late
In coming, so I might betimes depart.
Then I would not have known such deep despair,
Nor seen myself’s best portion borne away,
Nor been subjected to such misery;
But now, since I before thee might not fare,
God grant, Who loveth equity, I may
Be liberated soon and follow thee.


Date: 1530 (original in Italian), 1922 (translation in English)

By: Pietro Bembo (1470-1547)

Translated by: Lorna de’Lucchi (?-?)

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Wife’s Lament by Anonymous

I make this song of myself, deeply sorrowing,
my own life’s journey. I am able to tell
all the hardships I’ve suffered since I grew up,
but new or old, never worse than now –
ever I suffer the torment of my exile.

First my lord left his people
for the tumbling waves; I worried at dawn
where on earth my leader of men might be.
When I set out myself in my sorrow,
a friendless exile, to find his retainers,
that man’s kinsmen began to think
in secret that they would separate us,
so we would live far apart in the world,
most miserably, and longing seized me.

My lord commanded me to live with him here;
I had few loved ones or loyal friends
in this country, which causes me grief.
Then I found that my most fitting man
was unfortunate, filled with grief,
concealing his mind, plotting murder
with a smiling face. So often we swore
that only death could ever divide us,
nothing else – all that is changed now;
it is now as if it had never been,
our friendship. Far and near, I must
endure the hatred of my dearest one.

They forced me to live in a forest grove,
under an oak tree in an earthen cave.
This earth-hall is old, and I ache with longing;
the dales are dark, the hills too high,
harsh hedges overhung with briars,
a home without joy. Here my lord’s leaving
often fiercely seized me. There are friends on earth,
lovers living who lie in their bed,
while I walk alone in the light of dawn
under the oak-tree and through this earth-cave,
where I must sit the summer-long day;
there I can weep for all my exiles,
my many troubles; and so I may never
escape from the cares of my sorrowful mind,
nor all the longings that have seized my life.

May the young man be sad-minded
with hard heart-thoughts, yet let him have
a smiling face along with his heartache,
a crowd of constant sorrows. Let to himself
all his worldly joys belong! let him be outlawed
in a far distant land, so that my friend sits
under stone cliffs chilled by storms,
weary-minded, surrounded by water
in a sad dreary hall! My beloved will suffer
the cares of a sorrowful mind; he will remember
too often a happier home. Woe to the one
who must suffer longing for a loved one.


Date: c950 (original in Anglo-Saxon English); ?1990 (translation in modern English)

By: Anonymous

Translated by: Roy M. Liuzza (19??- )

Alternative Title: The Wife’s Complaint

Monday, 29 August 2016

Jiu Bian (Nine Changes): VI by Song Yu

Dew falls and the bitter frost follows to afflict me,
And my heart is distraught and will not be comforted.
Sleet and snow, thickly commingling, harder and harder come down,
And I know that the time is near when I must meet my end.
I wish that by some lucky chance I might be forgiven;
But I shall soon die, along with the moorland grasses.
I wish I could set off unbidden and fly straight to him,
But the road to him is blocked and impassable.
I wish I could follow the others’ route and ride the easy way,
But that, too, is no good: I do not known how to do it.
And so I stop midway in perplexity,
Grieving and hesitant; unable to turn back.
And though dull and stupid by nature and poor in talents,
I restrain myself and learn to mourn in verses.
Orchid and iris are mixed with worthless mugwort:
Truly I am not skilled to imitate their fashion.

From: Hawkes, David (translator and editor), The Songs of the South. An Anthology of Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets, 2011, Penguin: London, pp. [unnumbered].

Date: 3rd century BCE (original); 1985 (translation)

By: Song Yu (c319-298 BCE)

Translated by: David Hawkes (1923-2009)

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Owls by Meirion Jordan

In February Mark began to grow a beak.
Nose and jaw meshed, hardening,
orbits expanded to the two discs of a face.
Somehow his eyes deepened and his head learnt
to turn in ever increasing arcs:
He was the first to go. Then Aled,
breath misting on the sight of his shock-white plumage
one evening in the mirror,
flapped himself through the bathroom window
and returned by hag-light with a throat full of vole.
Two weeks later I found Sam and Marie
preening each other in my hay-loft,
heard the low hooting and the scuffle of sharp feet.
I knew it. My neighbours were turning into owls.
At first I thought nothing of it, except that my barns
stank of the cold sweat of mice each morning,
I grew used to the ghost of wings crossing my windows,
eyes gliding in the woods after dark.
Then solitary populations retreated to their attics
and my street became a gust of boarded doorways,
gales hunted over the empty fields.
Now each dusk I watch them rise
through the skeletons of the old roofs and listen
to tufted ears pricking the silence. In winter
the houses rise windowless into a blear sky,
an owls’ citadel of rafters and roosts.
And each night I sit under the last lamp in the house
hearing the clink and rasp of their claws at the slate,
each night I dream of snow under a huge moon,
my shadow broad and beating it like down.


Date: 2016

By: Meirion Jordan (1985- )

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Cats by Francis Scarfe

Those who love cats which do not even purr
Or which are thin and tired and very old,
Bend down to them in the street and stroke their fur
And rub their ears, and smooth their breast, and hold
Them carefully, and gaze into their eyes of gold.

For how can they pass what does not ask for love
But draws it out of those who have too much,
Frustrated souls who cannot use it all, who have
Somewhere too tight and sad within them, such
A tenderness it flows through all they touch.

They are the ones who love without reward,
Those on whom eyes are closed, from whom heads turn,
Who know only too well they can afford
To squander love, since in the breast it burns
With the cold anguish every lover learns.

So they pass on, victims of silent things,
And what they love remains indifferent
And stretches in the sun and yawns, or licks the rings
That sheathe its claws, or sleeps and is content,
Not knowing who she was, or what she meant.


Date: 1950

By: Francis Scarfe (1911-1986)

Friday, 26 August 2016

To My Dear Grandmother, On Her 80th Birth Day by Grizelda Elizabeth Cottnam Tonge

How oft from honor’d Certia’s* hallow’d lyre
In tones harmonious this lov’d theme has flowed —
Each strain, while breathing all the poet’s fire,
The feeling heart and fertile fancy showed;
Oft times, in childhood, my young mind has glowed
While dwelling on her sweet descriptive lay —
Oh, that the power had been on me bestowed!
A tribute fitting for the theme to pay! —
With joy I’d touch each string to welcome in this day.

But thou wilt not despise the humbler song
Though genius decks it not; — though rude and wild
Its numbers are: — ah! surely no, for long
Thy kindness I have proved: while yet a child,
Pleased I have sought the Muse, and oft beguiled
With her low plaintive tones the passing hour;
On the young effort thou has sweetly smiled,
And reared my mind, even as an opening flower,
Watching with anxious love each new expanding power.

Oh! more than parent! friend unequalled! how
Can I my love for thee express! or say
With what a fervent, what a hallowed glow,
I hail thy mental beauty through decay!
While I thy venerable form survey,
Though eighty lengthened years have scatter’d snow
Upon thy honored head; though sorrow’s seal
Is stamped with heavy pressure on thy brow,
Thine is an angel’s mind, and oh! I feel
It gives an angel’s look, which age can never steal!

Thy soul has long been ripening for its God,
And when he calls it I should not repine;
But nature still must mourn, and o’er thy sod
I know no tears will faster fall than mine:
I know the bitter anguish that will twine
Around my heart strings: — but the thought is pain;
I will not think that I must soon resign
What I can never find on earth again —
Oh, that blessed prize has not been lent in vain!

For I do hope thy firm but mild controul,
Thy precepts and example may have shone
With rays of brightness o’er my youthful soul,
Which will my pathway light when thou art gone;
And when before thy Father’s mercy throne
Thou join’st with myriads in the holy song,
If it may be, wilt thou on me look down,
And watch my faultering footsteps while along,
This busy maze I pass, and warn me still from wrong?

*The poet is addressing her great grandmother, Deborah How Cottnam, who is said to have published her poetry under the name Portia. However, Certia is what was printed in this publication.

From: “The Fount” in Acadian Reporter, 5 March 1825 Vol. 13 No. 10, p. 4.

Date: 1825

By: Grizelda Elizabeth Cottnam Tonge (1803-1825)

Thursday, 25 August 2016

On Being Asked What Recollection Was by Deborah How Cottnam

What Recollection is – Oh! Wouldst thou know?
’Tis the soul’s highest privilege below:
A kind indulgence, by our Maker given –
The mind’s perfection, and the stamp of Heaven;
In this, alone, the strength of reason lies –
It makes us happy, and it makes us wise.

What does not man to Recollection owe?
What various joys from calm reflection flow?
What but this power – this faculty divine.
Can Time recall, and make it once more thine? –
By this unaided, mortals could no more
Review the past, explore the future hour.

What dominant pangs would rend the feeling heart,
Doomed with the lover and the friend to part –
If with the object, Memory, too, should fail –
And dark oblivion draw her sable veil
O’er every pleasing scene of former love,
Our present bliss, our future hopes above?

Who could survive a friend’s departed breath,
If all were blank before, and after death?
What smoothes the bed of pain, and brow of care,
If happy Recollection dwell not there?
’Tis this alone bids virtuous hopes arise,
And makes the awakening penitent grow wise.

When joys tumultuous rush upon the soul,
Or grief or rage its faculties controul,
’Tis this bids tyrannizing passion cool –
Calms and resigns the mind to reason’s rule;
When false delusive flattery would invade –
This guards the heart ’gainst treachery and surprise,
And teaches to bestow on worth the prize.

The pleasing retrospect of blameless youth –
Boundless benevolence – unblemish’d truth –
Are joys whose full extent Eliza knows,
When sweet Recollection in her bosom glows.
Hark! Recollection whispers while I write –
Condemns the rash attempt, the adventurous flight,
To paint those beauties – or that Power define
Which loudly speaks our origin divine;
To explain what baffles all descriptive arts –
The Deity implanted in our hearts;
Struck and convinced, I drop the onequal task,
Nor further dare though my Eliza ask.


Date: 178?

By: Deborah How Cottnam (1725-1806)

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

His Petition to God, for King, and Parliament. 1645 by John Barford

O God, thou God of Truth, I pray thee heare
My Soules request, for all that doe Thee feare.
Ther’s but one Truth; to which both hold & bring
All thy owne People, to our soveraigne King.
And He to them, and all to joyne in One,
To cast out factious Sects, and suffer none:
Which doe Gods sacred Ordinance refuse,
Led by their Fancies, and doe Truth abuse.
All Sinnes foule plotters; let them be to him
As Gangrens, to the State, and to each limbe.
A Body perfect, may no Member misse;
Nor Kingdome stand, that long devided is:
No more blind Bullets, Fire, nor bloody Sword,
Dissentions end, but let just Law accord:
Brute bankerupt Ruffians, and Blasphemers are
All chiefe rejoycers, when true Christians jarre;
That they may Plunder, Pillage, Drink, and Whore,
And mourne when Mischief they can doe no more.
O GOD! thou needest no Instrument of Hell
Fight for thy Truth, thy Breath can them expell:
Let not our Foure-score yeares of Joy, thus turne
To horrid Out-cryes, and just cause to Mourne.
But let our King be guided whole by Thee:
In Happinesse to keepe his Kingdomes three:
And Banish all the Jesuitick crew,
That wee may sing Thee praises old and new.
Now heare sweet GOD, and settle Truth and Peace,
AMEN, I cry, Amen and never cease.

From: Barford, John, His Petition to God, for King, and Parliament, 2009, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford.

Date: 1646

By: John Barford (fl. 1646)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Rivers by Thomas Storer

Fair Danubie is praised for being wide;
Nilus commended for the sevenfold head;
Euphrates for the swiftness of the tide,
And for the garden whence his course is led;
The banks of Rhine with vines are overspread:
Take Loire and Po, yet all may not compare
With English Thamesis for buildings rare.


Date: 1599

By: Thomas Storer (c1571-1604)

Monday, 22 August 2016

Description of the Phoenix from “The Phoenix” by Anonymous

The bird is handsome of colouring at the front, tinted with
shimmering hues in his forepart about the breast. His head is
green behind, exquisitely variegated and shot with purple.
Then the tail is handsomely pied, part burnished, part
purple, part intricately set about with glittering spots. The
wings are white to the rearward, and the throat, downward
and upward, green, and the bill, the beautiful beak, inside
and out, gleams like glass or a gem. The mien of his eye is
unflinching, in aspect most like a stone, a brilliant gem,
when by the ingenuity of the craftsmen it is set in a foil of
gold. About the neck, like a circlet of sunlight, there is a
most resplendent ring woven from feathers. The belly below
is exquisite, wondrously handsome, bright and beautiful. The
shield above, across the bird’s back, is ornately yoked. The
shanks and the tawny feet are grown over with scales.


Date: 9th century (original in Old English); 1998 (translation in modern English)

By: Anonymous

Translated by: Sidney Arthur James Bradley (1936- )