Archive for June, 2018

Saturday, 30 June 2018

To Guo Xiang by Yu Xuanji

From dawn to dusk I’m drunk and singing,
lovesick with every new spring.
There’s a messenger with letters in the rain;
there’s a broken-hearted girl by the window.
Rolling up beaded blinds, I see mountains;
each sorrow’s renewed like the grass.
Since last we parted, at your feasts
how often has the rafter dust fallen?


Date: c860 (original); 2016 (translation)

By: Yu Xuanji (c844-c868)

Translated by: Leonard Ng (1979- )

Friday, 29 June 2018

Epigram: A Ship-Wreck’d Sailor by Theodoridas of Syracus

A ship-wreck’d sailor, buried on this coast,
Bids you set sail.
Full many a gallant ship, when we were lost,
Weathered the gale.

From: Wellesley, Henry, Anthologia Polyglotta. A selection of versions in various languages, chiefly from the Greek Anthology, 1849, John Murray: London, p. 300.

Date: 3rd century BCE (original in Greek); 1849 (translation in English)

By: Theodoridas of Syracuse (3rd century BCE)

Translated by: Henry Wellesley (1791-1866)

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Phone-Booths by Robert Gibb

Back before the private life went public
Like shares, they were a fixture of it, the old indoor
Wooden ones, sentinel or all in a line

With their seats and shelves and pleated fronts,
The lights coming on when they shut.

You sat in a glassed-faced closet the size of the confessional,
Dropping coins through their slots,
The clang of change tripping the circuitry open.

The dials were like the clocks back then,
Circumferenced with numbers,

The phones black-boxed to walls
On which clumsy glyphs and messages were scrawled.

So there you were, snugged in, out of earshot
And ready to have your say.

Landlines, sea-floor cables, the creosote-soaked poles—
You were connected to all of it.

Which has now turned all to cloud.


Date: 2015

By: Robert Gibb (1946- )

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

1941 by Ruth Stone

I wore a large brim hat
like the women in the ads.
How thin I was: such skin.
Yes. It was Indianapolis;
a taste of sin.

You had a natural Afro;
no money for a haircut.
We were in the seedy part;
the buildings all run-down;
the record shop, the jazz
impeccable. We moved like
the blind, relying on our touch.
At the corner coffee shop,
after an hour’s play, with our
serious game on paper,
the waitress asked us
to move on. It wasn’t much.

Oh mortal love, your bones
were beautiful. I traced them
with my fingers. Now the light
grows less. You were so angular.
The air darkens with steel
and smoke. The cracked world
about to disintegrate,
in the arms of my total happiness.


Date: 1999

By: Ruth Stone (1915-2011)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Lunar Stanzas by Henry Cogswell Knight

Night saw the crew, like pedlers with their packs
Altho’ it were too dear to pay for eggs;
Walk crank along, with coffins on their backs,
While in their arms they bore their weary legs.

And yet ’twas strange, and scarce can one suppose,
That a brown buzzard-fly should steal, and wear
His white-jean breeches, and black woollen hose,
But thence that flies have souls is very clear.

But, holy Father! what shall save the soul,
When cobblers ask three dollars for their shoes?
When cooks their biscuits with a shot-tower roll,
And farmers rake their hay-cocks with their hoes?

Yet ’twere profuse, to see, for pendant light,
A tea-pot dangle in a lady’s ear;
And ’twere indelicate, although she might,
Swallow two whales, and yet the moon shine clear.

But what to me are woven clouds? or what,
If dames from spiders learn to warp their looms?
If coal-black ghosts turn soldiers for the state,
With wooden eyes, and lightning-rods for plumes.

O too, too shocking! barbarous, savage taste!
To eat one’s mother ere itself was born!
And gripe the tall town-steeple by the waist,
And scoop it out to be his drinking-horn.

No more! no more! I’m sick, and dead, and gone;
Box’d in a coffin; stifled six feet deep;
Worms, fat and fearless, pick my skin and bone,
And revel o’er me, like a soulless sheep.

From: Knight, Henry C., Poems. In Two Volumes, Volume II, Second Edition, 1821, Wells and Lilly: Boston, pp. 159-160.

Date: 1815

By: Henry Cogswell Knight (1789-1835)

Monday, 25 June 2018

A Riddle by Nathaniel Evans

Written 1759.

Barricado’d with white bone,
Lab’ring under many a groan,
Curtain’d in my room with red,
And smoothly laid in crimson bed;
‘Tis I dissolve the stony heart,
And comfort’s balmy joys impart;
‘Tis I can rule the wav’ring croud,
Or tame the haughty and the proud;
‘Tis I o’er beauty oft prevail,
That queen of life’s capricious vale;
‘Tis I can fire the warrior’s soul,
Or passion’s giddy voice control;
Senates have felt my lordly sway,
And kings my magic pow’r obey;
‘Tis I, so garrulously gay,
That rouze the dames whose heads are grey;
Gilded o’er with truth and lies,
Under many a mixt disguise,
I dress to cheat unpractis’d youth,
With falsehood’s garb for honest truth;
XANTHIPPE bold, in dead of night,
Taught SOCRATES to own my might!

Strange enchantress, motely creature,
Oddest prodigy of nature!
As raging billows, now I’m wild,
And now as warbling fountains mild;
Now religion’s laws proclaiming,
And now the good and just defaming;
Now cementing patriotism,
And now in church provoking schism.
Enough, O muse!– kind reason cries,
The man who has this monster dies!
Expound my riddle, if you’re able,
For ‘twas this confounded BABEL!

From: Evans, Nathaniel, Poems on Several Occasions, with Some Other Compositions, 1772, John Dunlap: Philadelphia, pp. 19-20.

Date: 1759

By: Nathaniel Evans (1741-1767)

Sunday, 24 June 2018

On Death by William Winstanley

The death of all men is the total sum,
The Period unto which we all must come.
He lives but a short life that lives the longest
And he is weak in death, in life was strongest.
Our life’s like Cobwebs be we ne’re so gay,
And death the Broom which sweeps us all away.

From: Winstanley, William, The new help to discourse or, Wit, mirth, and jollity. intermixt with more serious matters consisting of pleasant astrological, astronomical, philosophical, grammatical, physical, chyrurgical, historical, moral, and poetical questions and answers. As also histories, poems, songs, epitaphs, epigrams, anagrams, acrosticks, riddles, jests, poesies, complements, &c. With several other varieties intermixt; together with The countrey-man’s guide; containing directions for the true knowledge of several matters concerning astronomy and husbandry, in a more plain and easie method than any yet extant. By W. W. gent., 2006, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, p. 197.

Date: 1680

By: William Winstanley (c1628-1698)

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Lines 1-14 from “A dutiful invective, against the moste haynous treasons of Ballard and Babington with other their adherents, latelie executed” by William Kempe

What madnes hath so mazd mens minds, that they cānot forsée,
The wretched ends of catives vile, which work by treacherie?
To overthrowe the blessed state, of happie common wealth,
or to deprive their soveraigne prince, of her long wished health.
If feare of God and of his lawes, were clearelie out of minde,
If feare of death (by Princes lawes) might not their dueties binde?
If vtter ruine of the Realme, and spoile of guiltlesse blood?
Might not suffice to stay the rage, of traitors cruell moode?
Yet, might they well consider, howe treasons come to nought,
And alwaies worke their overthrowe, by whom they first were wrought
And what they have pretended, that should on others light,
Hath happened on their cursed corpes, and them confounded quight.
Examples many have bene shewen, which plainly doe expresse,
How never traitor could prevaile, in that his wickednesse.

From: Kempe, William, A dutiful invective, against the moste haynous treasons of Ballard and Babington with other their adherents, latelie executed. Together, with the horrible attempts and actions of the Q. of Scottes and the sentence pronounced against her at Fodderingay. Newlie compiled and set foorth, in English verses: for a New yeares gifte to all loyall English subiects, 2003, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1587

By: William Kempe (d. 1603)

Friday, 22 June 2018

In the Summer by Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani

In the summer
I stretch out on the shore
And think of you
Had I told the sea
What I felt for you,
It would have left its shores,
Its shells,
Its fish,
And followed me.


Date: 19?? (original in Arabic); 1996 (translation in English)

By: Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani (1923-1998)

Translated by: Bassam Frangieh (1949- ) and Clementina R. Brown (19??- )

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Rain by Donald (Don) Paterson

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one long thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a rain-dark gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign,
and I’d read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.


Date: 2008

By: Donald (Don) Paterson (1963- )