Archive for ‘Translation’

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)

Monday, 23 March 2020

In the Loneliness of My Heart by Kasa no Iratsume

In the loneliness of my heart
I feel as if I should perish
Like the pale dew-drop
Upon the grass of my garden
In the gathering shades of twilight.

From: Keene, Donald, Seeds in the Heart: Japanes Literature from Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century, 1993, Henry Holt and Company: New York, p. 151.

Date: early 8th century (original in Japanese), 1993 (translation in English)

By: Kasa no Iratsume (early 8th century)

Translated by: Donald Lawrence Keene (1922-2019)

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Cupid Lost and Cried by Jacob Cats

The Child of Venus, wanton, wild,
The slyest rogue that ever smiled,
Had lately strayed—where? who shall guess?
His mother pines in sad distress;—

She calls the boy, she sighs, complains,
But still no news of Cupid gains:
For though her sorrow grows apace,
None knows the urchin’s resting-place.
She therefore vows the boy shall be
Cried o’er the country speedily:

“If there be any who can tell
Where little Cupid’s wont to dwell,
A fit reward he shall enjoy
If he track out the truant boy;
His recompense a fragrant kiss
From Venus’ ruby mouth of bliss;
But he who firmly holds the knave
Shall yet a sweeter guerdon have.
And lest ye should mistake the wight,
List to his form described aright:—
He is a little wayward thing
That’s panoplied on fiery wing;
Two pinions, like a swan, he carries,
And never for an instant tarries,
But now is here and now is there,
And couples many a curious pair.
His eyes like two bright stars are glowing,
And ever sidelong glances throwing:
He bears about a crafty bow,
And wounds before the wounded know:
His dart, though gilt to please the view,
Is dipp’d in bitter venom too:
His body, though ’tis bare to sight,
Has overthrown full many a knight:
His living torch, though mean and small,
Oft makes the hardiest warrior fall;
The highest dames with care invades,
And spares not e’en the tenderest maids;—
Nay, what is worse than all the rest,
He sometimes wounds his mother’s breast.

If such an urchin should be found,
Proclaim the joyous news around;
And should the boy attempt to fly,
O seize him, seize him daringly.
But if you have the child at last,
Be careful that you hold him fast,
Or else the roving bird he’ll play,
And vanish in thin air away;
And if he seem to pine and grieve,
You must not heed him— nor believe—
Nor trust his tears and feign’d distress,
His winning glance and bland caress;
But watch his cheek when dimples wreathe it,
And think that evil lurks beneath it;
For under his pretended smile
Are veil’d the deepest craft and guile.
If he a kiss should offer, shun
The proffer’d gift, or be undone;
His ruby lips thy heart would sentence
To brief delight, but long repentance:
But if the cunning boy will give
His dart to you—Oh! ne’er receive,
If you would hope for blissful years,
The present that so fair appears:
It is no pledge of love— but shame,
And danger and destroying flame.
Then, friends—to speak with brevity—
This wholesome warning take from me:
Let those who seize the wily ranger
Be on their guard ’gainst many a danger;
For, if they venture too securely,
Misfortunes will assail them surely;
And if they trust the boy in aught,
The catchers will themselves be caught.”

From: Bowring, John and van Dyk, Harry S., Batavian Anthology; or, Specimens of the Dutch Poets; with remarks on the poetical literature and language of the Netherlands, to the end of the Seventeenth century, 1824, Taylor and Hessey: London, pp. 74-77.

Date: 1625 (original in Dutch); 1824 (translation in English)

By: Jacob Cats (1577-1660)

Translated by: John Bowring (1792-1872) and Harry Stoe van Dyk (1798-1828)

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

At Saint Patrick’s Purgatory* attributed to Donnchadh mor O’Dala

Pity me on my pilgrimage to Loch Derg!
O King of the churches and the bells—
bewailing your sores and your wounds,
but not a tear can I squeeze from my eyes!

Not moisten an eye
after so much sin!
Pity me, O King! What shall I do
with a heart that seeks only its own ease?

Without sorrow or softening in my heart,
bewailing my faults without repenting them!
Patrick the high priest never thought
that he would reach God in this way.

O lone son of Calpurn—since I name him—
O Virgin Mary, how sad is my lot!—
he was never seen as long as he was in this life
without the track of tears from his eyes.

In a narrow, hard, stone-wall cell
I lie after all my sinful pride—
O woe, why cannot I weep a tear!—
and I buried alive in the grave.

On the day of Doom we shall weep heavily,
both clergy and laity;
the tear that is not dropped in time,
none heeds in the world beyond.

I shall have you go naked, go unfed,
body of mine, father of sin,
for if you are turned Hellwards
little shall I reck your agony tonight.

O only begotten Son by whom all men were made,
who shunned not the death by three wounds,
pity me on my pilgrimage to Loch Derg
and I with a heart not softer than a stone!

*”St Patrick’s Purgatory is an ancient pilgrimage site on Station Island in Lough Derg, County Donegal, Ireland. According to legend, the site dates from the fifth century, when Christ showed Saint patrick a cave, sometimes referred to as a pit or a well, on Station Island that was an entrance to Purgatory” (from Wikipedia).


Date: c1244 (original in Irish); 1938 (translation in English)

By: Donnchadh mor O’Dala (fl. c1244)

Translated by: Seán Proinsias Ó Faoláin (1900-1991)

Monday, 16 March 2020

Ceasefire by Simon Ó Faoláin

Come down, dismount your piebald pony,
Leave cloud of doubt and halo of fury,
And I’ll lay aside prejudice’s helmet.

Do you know me now, dark glowering man,
Or do we all look much the same in your eyes?
On the edge of Kilmallock you pulled a knife.

And although the point was turned on me,
It was as though you could not see,
It was as though you fought with shadows.

And although your hand controlled the hilt,
I felt like a surgeon observing a reflex,
For the knife was your answer to all your ills.

I never wish to deny free will,
But who can deny conditioning
Instils salivation in dogs and men?

Yet might both of us pull out of Pavlov’s disease
And see the face behind the mask,
No cloud or halo, no helmet or knife?


Date: 2008 (original in Irish); 2008 (translation in English)

By: Simon Ó Faoláin (1973- )

Translated by: Simon Ó Faoláin (1973- )

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)

Monday, 9 March 2020

To the Learned Gentleman Jacob Cats by Anna Roemers Visscher

When Phoebus yesterday had freed his weary steeds
From all the trappings of the race, and slowly eased
His head of burnished gold beneath the rim of sea,
Then I recalled I’d promised you some poetry.
I took my notebook, pen and ink, and duly put
My mind to writing. First the book kept falling shut.
The qull proved blunt, and when I tried to sharpen it,
The penknife slipped and gave my hand a painful cut.
The paper blotted through – the quality of ink
Was poor. I had no way to trim my candlewick,
No snuffers that would help me keep its low flame fed.
Death’s sister then appeared and dragged me off to bed.
And so, my learned friend, it was for my own good
That I should fail; for soon Dissatisfaction stood
Before me in a dream and showed me that my verse
Was crippled, limp and lame. Pale Envy made things worse:
‘You think you’re Homer!’ came her mocking sneer.
Black Slander followed, calling out for all to hear:
‘Your readers will be bored!’ At last Good Sense appeared
And said: ‘Just keep those lines you wrote well hid from view,
For then no one will envy, mock or slander you.’

From: van Gemert, Lia; Joldersma, Hermina; van Marion, Olga; van der Poel, Dieuwke; and Schenkeveld-van der Dussen, Riet (eds.), Women’s Writing from the Low Countries 1200-1875: A Bilingual Anthology, 2010, Amsterdam University Press: Amsterdam, p. 239.

Date: 1623 (original in Dutch); 2010 (translation in English)

By: Anna Roemers Visscher (1584-1652)

Translated by: Myra Heerspink Scholz (19??- )

Saturday, 7 March 2020

From “Return to Frankfurt” by Marie Luise von Holzing-Berslett Kaschnitz

The girl thinks     if I can only manage
not to step on any of these
delicate hands of shadow
cast on the sidewalk by the chestnut trees

The boy thinks     if I reach the trolley
in time and if it doesn’t have to wai
at the switch and the traffice policeman really
does his job and tries to clear the street

If     thinks the girl     before I reach that tree
the third on the left no nun comes out at me
and if not more than twice I pass small boys
crossing the street in groups, carrying toys
oh     then it’s certain that we’ll meet

Unless     the boy thinks     there’s a power failure
unless forked lightning strikes the driver
unless the trolley-car gets smashed to bits
surely we’ll meet     yes I can count on it

And many times the girl must shiver
And the boy think     will this last forever
until under the chestnut trees they meet,
wordless and smilling, in some quite street.

From: Philip, Neil (ed.), It’s A Woman’s World A Century of Women’s Voices in Poetry, 2000, Dutton Children’s Books: New York, p. 20.

Date: 1946 (original in German); 1983 (translation in English)

By: Marie Luise von Holzing-Berslett Kaschnitz (1901-1974)

Translated by: Esther Beatrice Cameron (1941- )