Archive for ‘Historical’

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Lines 248-293 [Description of London] from “The Love of Gain: A Poem. Imitated from the Thirteenth Satire of Juvenal” by Matthew Gregory Lewis

Ye giddy, gay, and proud,
Who swell great London’s ever-bustling crowd,
London, where all extremes together meet,
Folly’s chief throne, and Wisdom’s gravest seat;
Where disagreements in agreement lie,
Our close-knit mass of contrariety;
Where throng the rich and poor, the fool and knave,
Where statesmen juggle, and where patriots rave;
Where balls for advocates prepare their work,
And embryo law-suits in a whisper lurk;
Where Cupid pays in specie for his wiles,
And judges frown whene’er a lady smiles;
Where equal farce continual sport affords
At Covent-Garden, or the House of Lords;
Where beggars with feigned tears and ready smiles,
Cringe to St. James, or blubber to St. Giles;
Ye who confusedly sail in motley trim
Down this full flood of pleasure, business, whim,
Whether you frame smooth, glib, and specious lies
To cheat a tradesman, or to raise supplies,
With private or with public misery sport,
Cheats upon ‘Change, or Parasites at Court,
Now pause awhile!—For one reflecting hour
Forego your hopes of gain, your dreams of power,
And hark, while tells the Muse what monstrous crimes,
What new-found sins reserv’d for our strange times,
Their hideous forms to Addington betray,
From morn’s first languish to the death of day.
Here mark the thankless child, the unnatural sire,
The Pandar slave who lets his spouse for hire,
The adulterous friend, the trusted wanton wife,
The brother aiming at the brother’s life,
The rake who cools in beauty’s arms his heat,
Then lets her starve, or ply for bread the street,
And that dark train of foes to moral rules,
Thieves, Bawds, Assassins, Gamblers, Knaves, and Fools,
Fools, who would fain be knaves …… No more I’ll write,
Hence, odious forms, nor longer shock my sight!
Else by disgust and scorn to madness driven,
Bursting those chains which bind my soul to Heaven,
I shall disdain to breathe such tainted air,
Shall blush an human form like these to wear,
For present ease shall barter future bliss,
And sure no world can be more black than this,
Deep in my swelling heart shall plunge the knife,
And cry, while flies my soul from mortal strife,
“Heaven bless my father, though he gave me life!”

From: Lewis, M. G., The Love of Gain: A Poem. Imitated from the Thirteenth Satire of Juvenal, 1799, J. Bell: London, pp. 27-33.

Date: 1799

By: Matthew Gregory Lewis (1775-1818)

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Lines 232-245 from “The Life of Saint Katherine, Prologue” by John Capgrave with rough rendering into modern English by flusteredduck

Aftyr him nexte I take upon me
To translate this story and set it more pleyne,
Trostyng on other men that her charyté
Schall help me in this caas to wryght and to seyne.
Godd send me part of that hevynly reyne
That Apollo bare abowte, and eke Sent Poule;
It maketh vertu to growe in mannes soule.

If ye wyll wete what that I am,
My cuntré is Northfolke, of the town of Lynne;
Owt of the world to my profyte I cam
Onto the brotherhode whech I am inne.
Godd geve me grace nevyr for to blynne
To folow the steppes of my faderes before,
Whech to the rewle of Austen were swore.

After him next I take upon me
To translate this story and set it more plain,
Trusting on other men that her charity
Shall help me in this cause to write and to say,
God send me part of that heavenly rain
That Apollo bore about, and also Saint Paul:
It makes virtue to grow in man’s soul.

If you will know what that I am,
My country is Norfolk, of the town of Lynn;
Out of the world to my profit I came
Onto the brotherhood which I am in,
God give me grace never for to cease
To follow the steps of my fathers before,
Which to the rule of Austen were swore*.

*In other words, he is a monk of the order of Saint Augustine.


Date: 1440s

By: John Capgrave (1393-1464)

Monday, 8 April 2019

Reading by Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn ʿAmmār

My eye frees what the page imprisons:
the white the white and the black the black.


Date: 11th century (original in Arabic); 1971 (translation in Spanish);1989 (translation in English)

By: Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn ʿAmmār (1031-1086)

Translated by: Emilio García Gómez (1905-1995) and Cola Franzen (1923-2018)

Friday, 5 April 2019

Skolion [Drinking Song] attributed to Hybrias the Cretan

I have great wealth: a spear and a sword
and a fine leather shield to protect my skin.
For with this I plough, with this I reap,
with this I trample the sweet wine from the vines,
with this I am called master of serfs.
Those who do not dare to have a spear and a sword
and a fine leather shield to protect their skin
all cower at my knee and prostrate themselves,
calling me master and great king.


Date: 6th century BCE (original in Greek); 1927-1941 (translation in English)

By: Hybrias the Cretan (6th century BCE)

Translated by: Charles Burton Gulick (1868-1962)

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Lines 1-17 of “The Chatelaine of Vergi” by Anonymous

There are people who pretend
Loyalty, say they intend
To keep your confidence so well
That you may without danger tell
Your secrets; and when they discover
Proof that someone has a lover
Make it their pleasure and their pride
To send the news out far and wide,
And afterward make fun of those
Who lose their joy because they chose
To have it known. The greater the love
The more will be the sorrow of
The true lover who must start
Doubting the one who rules his heart.
And oftentimes such harm is done
By this that love will quickly run
Its course, to end in grief and shame.

From: Terry, Patricia (ed. and transl.), The Honeysuckle and the Hazel Tree: Medieval Stories of Men and Women, 1995, University of California Press: Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, Section 8.

Date: 13th century (original in French); 1995 (translation in English)

By: Anonymous

Translated by: Patricia Terry (1929- )

Monday, 11 March 2019

Love Keeps Me Pondering How I May Best by Guillem de Cabestany

Love keeps me pondering how I may best
Compose for my belov’d a joyous song,
For her to whom my heart and soul belong,
Whom Love made me to choose from all the rest,
And whom he hath ordained I must adore
And serve and honour faithfully and purely;
And I do, my love for her full surely
From day to day grows better and grows more.

Full well has Love cured me of the despair
Which long he made me suffer, and the woe;
Unjust it was of him to treat me so,
For almost I was forced to turn elsewhere.
If he is wise, now let him bear in mind
That in a little while luck often changes;
He who ill-treats his subjects oft estranges
Others who’d serve him well if he were kind.

For you must know, my lords, I have heard tell
How once a powerful Emperor of yore
Oppressed his barons grievously, wherefore
His pride was humbled and his power fell.
And so I pray my noble beauteous one
Not to ill-treat her lover too extremely,
For gentleness in everything is seemly,
And one repents too late when harm is done.

Dear lady, best of all the best that can be,
In whom all charm and all delight do meet,
Love for your sake holds me in prison sweet;
I tell you this that it may profit me.
God grant me life until the day is past
When I shall lie within your arms’ embraces,
For unto me than this no greater grace is
In all the world, and while the world shall last.

And lady, since of treasure you’ve great store
—For the world holds none nobler or more fair—
Let not, I pray, my true love and my care
Be vain; the richer a man is, the more
Should he reward good service which men do,
For it is just and right, I tell you truly,
Evil should be repaid by evil duly
And good by good—nought else I ask of you.

My tears and sighs have been a thousand quite,
Also, so fear I nought to gain of worth
When I reflect upon your noble birth
And how you are of all the flower and light,
And how I know you precious, sweet and fair,
And how you are true, pure, in faith unbroken,
And how by all men it is sworn and spoken
That never woman like you breathed the air.

Take pity of your goodness on my plight,
Heed not your greatness, lady, but have care
For the true love that in my heart you’ve woken,
And for my faith that never will be broken,
Since all my love for you alone I bear.

From: Smythe, Barbara (ed. and transl.), Trobador Poets: Selections from the Poems of Eight Trobadors, 2000, In parentheses Publications: Cambridge, Ontario, pp. 167-168.

Date: c1200 (original in Occitan); 1911 (translation in English)

By: Guillem de Cabestany (1162-1212)

Translated by: Barbara Smythe (1882-19??)

Friday, 8 March 2019

Plain Living and High Thinking by Lucian of Samosata

Stern Cynicus doth war austerely wage
With endive, lentils, chicory, and sage;
Which shouldst thou thoughtless proffer, “Wretch,” saith he,
“Wouldst thou corrupt my life’s simplicity?”
Yet is not his simplicity so great
But that he can digest a pomegranate;
And peaches, he esteems, right well agree
With Spartan fare and sound philosophy.

From: Garnett, Richard, Vallée, Leon and Brandl, Alois (eds.), The Universal Anthology: A Collection of the Best Literature, Ancient, Mediaeval and Modern, with Biographical and Explanatory Notes, Volume 5, 1899, The Clarke Company Ltd: London, p. 97.

Date: 2nd century (original in Greek); 1869 (translation in English)

By: Lucian of Samosata (c125-c180)

Translated by: Richard Garnett (1835-1906)

Friday, 1 March 2019

In Honour of St. David’s Day by Anonymous

When good St. David, as old writs record,
Exchanged his sacred Crosier for a sword,
Nor drum nor standard kept his men together,
Each smelt his neighbour’s vegetable feather.
In heart and stomach stout they turned not crupper:
The Foe their breakfast was, the Leek their supper.

From: Jones, Gwyn (ed.), The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse in English, 1977, Oxford University Press: Oxford, p. 116.

Date: 18th century

By: Anonymous

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Lausavisur 10 by Hallfreðr Óttarsson (vandræðaskáld)

The whole race of men to win
Óðinn’s grace has wrought poems
(I recall the exquisite
works of my forebears);
but with sorrow, for well did
Viðrir’s [Óðinn’s] power please the poet,
do I conceive hate for the first husband of
Frigg [Óðinn], now I serve Christ.


Date: 10th century (original in Old Norse); 2012 (translation in English)

By: Hallfreðr Óttarsson (vandræðaskáld) (c965-c1007)

Translated by: Diana Whaley (19??- )

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Another Episode Buried at Sea: Overhead by Jeanne Larsen

shearwaters veer, debating his chances, his girlish
facile infidelities, which they admire,
pass on. He passes on, or will, our mobile
Odysseus, remembering immemorial singers,
how they placed in the sea’s abyss the whole
in small: lie well & learn; feint & stay true;
forgotten is dry bones. But what song’s that
for a sailor boy, sea dog, pollywog, old tarpaulin,
storm-scoured gob? Those gals are fathomless.
Out of control, they break the code. They offer
mooring—a new unauthorized field of view.

Maybe sisters, maybe lovers, they show us
every song’s a chronicle of Sing!
Show, on their unnamed island, wasted Troy’s corpse.


Date: 2018

By: Jeanne Larsen (1950- )