Archive for ‘Historical’

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- )

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Fragment 44: War by Heraclitus

War, as father
of all things, and king,
names few
to serve as gods,
and of the rest makes
these men slaves,
those free.

From: Heraclitus and Haxton, Brooks (transl.), Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus, 2001, Viking: New York, p. 44.

Date: 6th century BCE (original in Greek); 2001 (translation in English)

By: Heraclitus (c535 BCE-c475 BCE)

Translated by: Brooks Haxton (1950- )

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Arabia by John Meade Falkner

Hogarth’s Penetration of Arabia

Who are these from the strange, ineffable places,
From the Topaze Mountain and Desert of Doubt,
With the glow of the Yemen full on their faces,
And a breath from the spices of Hadramaut?

Travel-apprentices, travel-indenturers,
Young men, old men, black hair, white,
Names to conjure with, wild adventurers,
From the noonday furnace and purple night.

Burckhardt, Halévy, Niebuhr, Slater,
Seventeenth, eighteenth-century bays,
Seetzen, Sadleir, Struys, and later
Down to the long Victorian days.

A thousand miles at the back of Aden,
There they had time to think of things;
In the outer silence and burnt air laden
With the shadow of death and a vulture’s wings.

There they remembered the last house in Samna,
Last of the plane-trees, last shepherd and flock,
Prayed for the heavens to rain down manna,
Prayed for a Moses to strike the rock.

Famine and fever flagged their forces
Till they died in a dream of ice and fruit,
In the long-forgotten watercourses
By the edge of Queen Zobeide’s route.

They have left the hope of the green oases,
The fear of the bleaching bones and the pest,
They have found the more ineffable places—
Allah has given them rest.

From: Larkin, Philip (ed.), The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse, 1973, Clarendon Press: Oxford, pp. 43-44.

Date: 1925

By: John Meade Falkner (1858-1932)

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Hosts of Faery by Anonymous

White shields they carry in their hands,
With emblems of pale silver;
With glittering blue swords,
With mighty stout horns.

In well-devised battle array,
Ahead of their fair chieftain
They march amid blue spears,
Pale-visaged, curly-headed bands.

They scatter the battalions of the foe,
They ravage every land they attack,
Splendidly they march to combat,
A swift, distinguished, avenging host!

No wonder though their strength be great:
Sons of queens and kings are one and all;
On their heads are
Beautiful golden-yellow manes.

With smooth comely bodies,
With bright blue-starred eyes,
With pure crystal teeth,
With thin red lips.

Good they are at man-slaying,
Melodious in the ale-house,
Masterly at making songs,
Skilled at playing fidchell.

From: Meyer, Kuno (ed. and transl.), Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry, 1911, Constable & Company: London, p. 20.

Date: 12th century (original in Gaelic); 1911 (translation in English)

By: Anonymous

Translated by: Kuno Meyer (1858-1919)

Friday, 4 January 2019

Prologue from “Life of St. Anne” by Osbern Bokenham with rough translation into almost modern English by flusteredduck

If I hadde cunnyng and eloquens
My conceytes craftely to dilate,
Als whilom hadde the fyrsh rethoryens
Gowere, Chauncere, and now Lytgate,
I wolde me besyn to translate
Seynt Anne Lyf into oure langage.
But sekyr I fere to gynne so late,
Lest men wolde ascryven it to dotage.
For wel I know that fer in age
I am runne, and my lyves date
Aprochith faste, and the fers rage
Of cruel Deth – so wyl my fate
Inevytable – hath at my gate
Set hys carte to carye me hens;
And I ne may ne can, thau I hym hate,
Ageyn hys fors make resistens.

Wherfore me thinkyth, and sothe it ys,
Best were for me to leve makynge
Of Englysh, and suche as ys amys
To reformyn in my lyvynge.
For that ys a ryght sovereyn cunnynge:
A man to knowen hys trespasce,
Wyth ful purpos of amendynge,
As ferforth as God wyl grawnte hym grace.
For whil a man hath leysere and space
Here in this wordlys abydynge,
Or than that Deth his brest enbrace,
To ransake his lyf in alle thynge
And wyth his conscience to make rekenynge
And ryhtyn ageyn al that wronge is,
He may not fayle, at his partynge
Owt of his lyf, to gon to blys.

If I had cunning and eloquence
My craftly conceits to dilate,
As in former days had the first rhetoricians
Gower, Chaucer, and now Lydgate,
I would me attempt to translate
Saint Anne’s life into our language.
But truly I fear to begin so late,
Lest men should ascribe it to dotage.
For well I know that far in age
I am run, and my life’s date
Approaches fast, and the fears rage
Of cruel Death – so will my fate
Inevitable – have at my gate
Set his cart to carry me hence;
And I may not nor can, though I him hate,
Against his force make resistance.

Wherefore me thinks, and truly it is,
Best were for me to leave making
Of English, and such as is amiss
To reform in my living.
For that is a right sovereign cunning;
A man to know his trespasses,
With full purpose of amending,
As insofar as God will grant him grace.
For while a man has leisure and space
Here in this world’s abiding,
Before that Death his breast release,
To ransack his life in all things
And with his conscience to make reckoning
And right again all that wrong is,
He may not fail, at his parting
Out of his life, to go on to bliss.


Date: c1447

By: Osbern Bokenham (?1393-?1494)

Monday, 17 December 2018

The House-Goblin (Tomten) by Abraham Viktor Rydberg

Cold is the night, and still, and strange,
Stars they glitter and shimmer.
All are asleep in the lonely grange
Under the midnight’s glimmer.
On glides the moon in gulfs profound;
Snow on the firs and pines around,
Snow on the roofs is gleaming.
All but the goblin are dreaming.

Gray he stands at the barnyard door,
Gray by the drifts of white there,
Looks, as oft he has looked before,
Up at the moon so bright there;
Looks at the woods, where the fir-trees tall
Shut the grange in with their dusky wall;
Ponders — some problem vexes,
Some strange riddle perplexes —

Passes his hand o’er beard and hair,
Shaking his head and cap then:
“Nay, that riddle’s too hard, I swear,
I’ll ne’er guess it mayhap then.”
But, as his wont is, he soon drives out
All such thoughts of disturbing doubt.
Frees his old head of dizziness.
And turns him at once to business.

First he tries if the locks are tight,
Safe against every danger.
Each cow dreams in the pale moonlight
Summer dreams by her manger.
Dobbin, forgetful of bits that gall,
Dreams like the cows in his well-filled stall,
Leaning his neck far over
Armfuls of fragrant clover.

Then through the bars he sees the sheep,
Watches how well they slumber.
Eyes the cock on his perch asleep,
Round him hens without number.
Carlo wakes at the goblin’s tread,
Wags then his tail and lifts his head;
Well acquainted the two are,
Friends that both tried and true are.

Last the goblin slips in to see
How all the folk are faring.
Long have they known how faithfully
He for their weal is caring.
Treading lightly on stealthy toes,
Into the children’s room he goes,
Looks at each tiny treasure:
That is his greatest pleasure.

So has he seen them, sire and son,
Year by year in that room there
Sleep first as children every one.
Ah, but whence did they come there?
This generation to that was heir,
Blossomed, grew old, and was gone — but where?
That is the hopeless, burning
Riddle ever returning.

Back to the barn he goes to rest,
Where he has fixed his dwelling
Up in the loft near the swallow’s nest,
Sweet there the hay is smelling.
Empty the swallow’s nest is now,
Back though he’ll come when the grass and bough
Bud in the warm spring weather,
He and his mate together.

Always they twitter away about
Places through which they’ve travelled,
Caring naught for the goblin’s doubt,
Though it were ne’er unravelled.
Through a chink in one of the walls
Moonlight on the old goblin falls,
White o’er his beard it wanders;
Still he puzzles and ponders.

Forest and field are silent all,
Frost their whole life congealing,
Save that the roar of the waterfall
Faintly from far is stealing.
Then the goblin, half in a dream,
Thinks it is Time’s unpausing stream,
Wonders whither ‘t is going,
And from what spring ‘t is flowing.

Cold is the night, and still, and strange,
Stars they glitter and shimmer.
All yet sleep in the lonely grange
Soundly till morn shall glimmer.
Now sinks the moon in night profound;
Snow on the firs and pines around,
Snow on the roofs is gleaming.
All but the goblin are dreaming.

From: Stork, Charles Wharton (ed. and transl.), Anthology of Swedish Lyrics From 1750 to 1915, 1917, The American-Scandinavian Society: New York, pp. 114-117.

Date: 1881 (original in Swedish); 1917 (translation in English)

By: Abraham Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895)

Translated by: Charles Wharton Stork (1881-1971)

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Gwalchmai’s Delight by Gwalchmai ap Meilyr

Swift rising dawn of joyful gliding June,
Melodious song of birds, calm, lustrous noon!
A gold-torqued Chief am I that know not fear,
A fierce, host-facing lion, rout in my rear!
At night I guard with bound-protecting sword
The babbling flow of Dygen Freiddin’s ford.

How green the untrodden grass! How pearly pale
Its stream! And oh, its amorous nightingale!
The sea-mews playing o’er its bed of flood
Shake their white plumes in boisterous multitude;
Till, whiter breasted one, the lover’s season
With dreams of thee distract my very reason.
Far, far art thou from Mona’s pleasant leas,
Where folk in splendid solitude take their ease,
Where truth by choicest lips is ever told,
Where poesy pours in one pure stream of gold.

My falchion flashes quick to guard the brave,
My round shield glitters glory by the wave;
While dulcet harmonies from morn till eve
Wood-birds and waters delicately interweave.

My mind inflamed shoots like a shivering star
O’er all the land to Evernwy afar;
Over white budding apple-tree, blossoming flowers,
Woods one wide emerald at this hour of hours,
To Caerwys’ nymph, within her bower of bowers.

Gwalchmai my name, the Saxon’s steadfast foe,
For Mona’s prince I struck a battle blow;
Before a fortress I made blood to flow,
For Llywy’s sake, fair as on trees the snow.

The nightingale that shortens sleep in May
And Llywy’s lily looks I’ll praise alway.

I saw in Rhuddlan a flaming rush before
Owain, carnage of spears, lettings of gore.
With mortal combats I heard the Vale outring;
I saw a hundred Captains’ silencing.

But when War’s mighty music had sunk to rest,
Sweet sang the nightingale above his nest.

From: Graves, Alfred Perceval (ed. and transl.), Welsh Poetry Old and New in English Verse, 1912, Longmans, Green, and Co.: London, pp. 16-17.

Date: 12th century (original in Welsh); 1912 (translation in English)

By: Gwalchmai ap Meilyr (fl. 1130-1180)

Translated by: Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931)

Friday, 12 October 2018

Locker Room Talk by John Adams

I keep dirty things in my locker,
I keep dirty things in my locker,
I keep dirty things, I keep dirty things
and I talk dirty in my locker room

Unbelievable support I’m receiving,
Unbelievable support I’m receiving,
I’m closing one eye, I’m rating very high,
to be honest, it’s just unbelievable.

I’d lock people out of my country,
I’d lock people out of my country,
I’d lock people out, I’d lock people out –
my country could become a locker room.
I keep dirty things in my locker,
I keep dirty things in my locker,
I keep dirty things, I keep dirty things
and I talk dirty in my locker room.


Date: 2017

By: John Adams (19??- )