Archive for ‘Historical’

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Corona Sonnets: March 22, 2020 by John Lazear Okrent

You don’t know what I mean, but if beauty
is truth, truth beauty, then life is layered
in redundancy. It was fog on fog on fern-
moss this morning when I took
my daughter for a walk in the woods. From the palm
of my hand she picked bits of granola. Corona-
virus has killed its thousands now, and now it has killed
its tens of thousands . . . two teenage boys
jogged by us on the path and the smell of their deodorant
reminded me of a time when the world was exuberant,
or buoyant, at least. It’s sinking in,
this sinking thing. We didn’t see another soul all day.
The air felt prehistoric on my naked face.
I shaved my beard so that the mask might fit.


Date: 2020

By: John Lazear Okrent (19??- )

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Thoughts in Time of Plague by Albert Frank Moritz

When we set out, we knew
many would die on the way.
And yet, the journey was joyous.
When we made our home we knew
many would die there. And yet we loved
that house. All the views from its windows
we named “beauty”.
When we went down the road,
the light was different every mile.
What could be behind those mute windows
with sometimes a peering eye, what pleasure
in those almost empty gardens, what unknown work
in the factories, birds in the dense wood?
When dawn came in our bedroom
or we woke too late in the old
shattered kitchen amid food scraps, empty bottles,
didn’t our memory burn deeper? — the same
old scar, flaming anew, shifting, unmoved.
And when we were trembling by the sick
that we loved and feared — so many — was it different?
Whether on the road with nowhere
to lay them down, or in the room with nowhere
else to take them… When we had to watch
the threatened breathing or leave it
to go to work. When we had to hear they had died
without us — was it different? No. No different.
Except that we saw something we always knew
in the dark. Failure was not
and success had never been
the end. The end was care.


Date: 2020

By: Albert Frank Moritz (1947- )

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Cholera by Nazik Al-Malaika

It is night.
Listen to the echoing wails
rising above the silence in the dark

the agonized, overflowing grief
clashing with the wails.
In every heart there is fire,
in every silent hut, sorrow,
and everywhere, a soul crying in the dark.

It is dawn.
Listen to the footsteps of the passerby,
in the silence of the dawn.
Listen, look at the mourning processions,
ten, twenty, no… countless.

Everywhere lies a corpse, mourned
without a eulogy or a moment of silence.

Humanity protests against the crimes of death.

Cholera is the vengeance of death.

Even the gravedigger has succumbed,
the muezzin is dead,
and who will eulogize the dead?

O Egypt, my heart is torn by the ravages of death.


Date: 1947 (original in Arabic); 2001 (translation in English)

By: Nazik Al-Malaika (1923-2007)

Translated by: Husain Haddawy (19??- ) and Nathalie Handal (1969- )

Monday, 30 March 2020

Majestic Valley by Chu Yi-tsun

Birds become frightened when the mountain moon sets;
Trees stand still when the valley wind dies.
When the monastery drum rolls through the deep forest,
The hermit monks have already prepared their meal.

From: Liu, Wu-chi and Lo, Irving Yucheng (eds.), Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, 1990, Indiana University Press: Bloomington and Indianopolis, p. 476.

Date: 17th century (original in Chinese); ?1958 (translation in English)

By: Chu Yi-tsun (1629-1709)

Translated by: Yangulaoren (1867-1941) and Lewis Calvin Walmsley (1897-1998)

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Torna’s Lament for Corc and Niall by Torna Éices

My foster-children were not slack;
Corc or Neal ne’er turned his back;
Neal, of Tara’s palace hoar,
Worthy seed of Owen More;
Corc, of Cashel’s pleasant rock,
Con-cead-cáhá’s” honoured stock.
Joint exploits made Erin theirs—
Joint exploits of high compeers;
Fierce they were, and stormy strong;
Neal, amid the reeling throng,
Stood terrific ; nor was Corc
Hindmost in the heavy work.
Neal Mac Eochy Vivahain,
Ravaged Albin, hill and plain;
While he fought from Tara far,
Corc disdained unequal war.
Never saw I man like Neal,
Making foreign foemen reel;
Never saw I man like Corc,
Swinging at the savage work;
Never saw I better twain,
Search all Erin round again—
Twain so stout in warlike deeds—
Twain so mild in peaceful weeds.

These the foster-children twain
Of Torna, I who sing the strain;
These they are, the pious ones,
My sons, my darling foster-sons!
Who duly every day would come
To glad the old man’s lonely home,
Ah, happy days I’ve spent between
Old Tara’s Hall and Cashel-green
From Tara down to Cashelford,
From Cashel back to Tara’s lord.
When with Neal, his regent, I
Dealt with princes royally.
If with Corc perchance I were,
I was his prime counsellor.

Therefore Neal I ever set
On my right hand—thus to get
Judgments grave, and weighty words,
For the right hand loyal lords;
But, ever on my left hand side,
Gentle Corc, who knew not pride,
That none other so might part
His dear body from my heart.
Gone is generous Corc O’Yeon—woe is me!
Gone is valiant Neal O’Con—woe is me!
Gone the root of Tara’s stock—woe is me!
Gone the head of Cashel rock—woe is me!
Broken is my witless brain–
Neal, the mighty king, is slain!
Broken is my bruised heart’s core—
Core, the Righ More, is no more!
Mourns Lea Con, in tribute’s chain,
Lost Mac Eochy Vivahain,
And her lost Mac Lewy true—
Mourns Lea Mogha, ruined too!

From: Montgomery, Henry R., Specimens of the Early Native Poetry of Ireland, in English Metrical Translations, by Miss Brooke, Dr Drummond, Samuel Ferguson, J C Mangan, T Furlong, H Grattan Curran, Edward Walsh, J D’Alton, and John Anster, etc, with Historical and Biographical Notices, 1846, James McGlashan: Dublin and W S Orr and Co: London, pp. 51-53.

Date: 5th century (original in Irish); 1846 (translation in English)

By: Torna Éices (5th century)

Translated by: Samuel Ferguson (1810-1886)

Friday, 13 March 2020

Lines from “On the Loves of Hero and Leander” by Musaeus Grammaticus

Speak Goddesse, of the Torch, a witnesse made
To love stoln, Nuptials convoy’d through the shade,
Ne’re seene by th’ incorrupted morning-light;
Of Sestos and Abydos: here by night
Leander swimming, Hero marry’d there.
Hearke, the Torch ruffled by the wind I heare,
The steering Torch that did to Venus guide,
The flaming Signall of the clowded Bride,
The Torch that for night-service aiery Jove
Should make a Starre, the starre of wandring Love,
The marriage-starre, because it still gave ayme,
And watcht the marriage-houres with sleeplesse flame;
Till by the rude wind th’ envious Gust was blowne;
And then (aye me) change Hymen’s softer tone,
And let our Verse with one sad close be crown’d,
O’th’ Torch extinguisht, and Leander drown’d.
Vpon the Sea-shore, parted by the floud
Two Cities Sestos and Abydos stood,
Iust o’rethwart neighbours; his bow Cupid bent,
And to both Cities the same Arrow sent,
Wherewith a youth and virgin were inflam’d,
He sweet Leander, she chast Hero nam’d,
He at Abydos, she at Sestos borne;
Starres, like each other, which their Townes adorne.
Do mee a favour if you passe that way,
Aske for the Tow’r where Sestian Hero lay,
And held the Torch, wafting Leander o’re:
Aske for his Dwelling on the adverse shore,
Where still his fun’rals old Abydos keepes,
And in his Love’s and Death’s remembrance weepes.
But dwelt he at Abydos? how then came
He to love Hero, she to catch his flame?

From: Musaeus Grammaticus and Stapylton, Robert (transl,), [Erotopaignion] The loves of Hero and Leander : a Greeke poem / written by Musæus ; translated by Sir Robert Stapylton, 1645, Henry Hall: Oxford, pp. 1-[unnumbered].

Date: 6th century (original in Greek); 1645 (translation in English)

From: Musaeus Grammaticus (6th century)

Translated by: Robert Stapylton (?-1669)

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

The Russian God by Pyotr Andreyevich Vyazemsky

Do you need an explanation
what the Russian god can be?
Here’s a rough approximation
as the thing appears to me.

God of snowstorms, god of potholes,
every wretched road you’ve trod,
coach-inns, cockroach haunts, and rat holes,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of frostbite, god of famine,
beggars, cripples by the yard,
farms with no crops to examine,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of breasts and…all sagging,
swollen legs in bast shoes shod,
curds gone curdled, faces dragging,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of brandy, pickle vendors,
those who pawn what serfs they’ve got,
of old women of both genders,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of medals and of millions,
god of yard-sweepers unshod,
lords in sleighs with two postilions,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

Fools win grace, wise men be wary,
there he never spares the rod,
god of everything contrary,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of all that gets shipped in here,

unbecoming, senseless, odd,
god of mustard on your dinner,
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.

God of foreigners, whenever
they set foot on Russian sod,
god of Germans, now and ever –
that’s him, that’s your Russian god.


Date: 1828 (original in Russian); 2009 (translation in English)

By: Pyotr Andreyevich Vyazemsky (1792-1878)

Translated by: Alan Myers (1933-2010)

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Lines 275-298 [Eros Shoots Medea] from “Book 3: The Tale of the Argonauts” by Apollonius of Rhodes

But Eros the while through the mist-grey air passed all unseen
Troubling them, even as heifers that hear the piping keen
Of the gadfly — ‘the breese’ do the herders of oxen name the thing.
In the forecourt beneath the lintel swiftly his bow did he string :
From his quiver took he a shaft sigh-laden, unshot before :
With swift feet all unmarked hath he passed the threshold o’er,
Keen-glancing around : he hath glided close by Aison’s son:
He hath grasped the string in the midst, and the arrow-notch laid thereon.
Straightway he strained it with both hands sundered wide apart,
And he shot at Medea ; and speechless amazement filled her heart.
And the God himself from the high-roofed hall forth-flashing returned
Laughing aloud. Deep down in the maiden’s bosom burned
His arrow like unto flame; and at Aison’s son she cast
Side-glances of love evermore ; and panted hard and fast
‘Neath its burden the heart in her breast, nor did any remembrance remain
Of aught beside, but her soul was melted with rapturous pain.
And as some poor daughter of toil, who hath distaff ever in hand,
Heapeth the slivers of wood about a blazing brand
To lighten her darkness with splendour her rafters beneath, when her eyes
Have prevented the dawn; and the flame, upleaping in wondrous wise
From the one little torch, ever waxing consumeth all that heap;
So, burning in secret, about her heart did he coil and creep,
Love the destroyer: her soft cheeks’ colour went and came,
Pale now, and anon, through her soul’s confusion, with crimson aflame.

From: Apollonius and Way, Arthur Sanders (transl.), The Tale of the Argonauts, 1901, J. M. Dent and Co: London, pp. 101-102.

Date: 3rd century BCE (original in Greek); 1901 (translation in English)

By: Apollonius of Rhodes (3rd century BCE)

Translated by: Arthur Sanders Way (1847-1930)

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

In Praise of Her Own Beauty by Zeb-un-Nissa

When from my cheek I lift my veil,
The roses turn with envy pale,
⁠And from their pierced hearts, rich with pain,
Send forth their fragrance like a wail.

Or if perchance one perfumed tress
Be lowered to the wind’s caress,
⁠The honeyed hyacinths complain,
And languish in a sweet distress.

And, when I pause, still groves among,
(Such loveliness is mine) a throng
⁠Of nightingales awake and strain
Their souls into a quivering song.


Date: ?1690 (original in Persian); 1905 (translation in English)

By: Zeb-un-Nissa (1638-1702)

Translated by: Sarojini Chattopadhyay Naidu (1879-1949)

Monday, 10 February 2020

A Drop of Sea-Water by Mahmoūd Shabestarī

Behold how this drop of sea-water
Has taken so many forms and names;
It has existed as mist, cloud, rain, dew, and mud,
Then plant, animal, and Perfect man;
And yet it was a drop of water
From which these things appeared.
Even so this universe of reason, soul, heavens, and bodies,
Was but a drop of water in its beginning and ending.

…When a wave strikes it, the world vanishes;
And when the appointed time comes to heaven and stars,
Their being is lost in not being.

From: Shabestarī, Mahmoūd and Lederer, Florence (ed.), The Secret Rose Garden of Sa’d ud din Mahmūd Shabistarī, rendered from the Persian with an Introduction, 1920, John Murray: London, p. 36.

Date: c1311 (original in Persian), 1920 (translation in English)

By: Mahmoūd Shabestarī (1288–1340)

Translated by: Florence Lederer (18??-19??)