Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Dispute Between Day and Night by Abu Mansur Ali ibn Ahmad Asadi Tusi

Day and Night, who each can yield
Joy and solace to the earth,
Thus contended for the field,
Claiming both the highest birth—
Night spoke frowningly: ”Twas I
Who from all eternity
Ruled the chaos of the world,
When in dim confusion hurled.
The fervent prayer is heard at night;
Devotion flies day’s glaring light.
Twas night, the Mount when Moses left;
At night was Lot avenged by fire:
At night the moon our prophet cleft,
And saw Heaven’s might revealed entire.
The lovely moon for thirty days
Spreads radiant glory from afar:
Her charms for ever night displays,
Crowned, like a queen, with many a star:
Her seal-bearer is Heav’n, a band
Of planets wait on her command.
Day can but paint the skies with blue,
Night’s starry hosts amaze the view.
Man measures time but by the moon;
Night shrouds what day reveals too soon.
Day is with toil and care oppressed,
Night comes, and with her, gentle rest.
Day, busy still, no praise can bring,
All night the saints their anthems sing;
Her shade is cast by Gabriel’s wing!

The moon is pure, the sun’s broad face
Dark and unsightly spots deface:
The sun shines on with changeless glare,
The moon is ever new and fair.’

Day rose, and smiled in high disdain:
‘Cease all this boasting, void and vain;
The Lord of heaven, and earth, and thee,
Gave me a place more proud than thine,
And men with joy my rising see,
And hail the beams that round me shine.
The holy pilgrim takes by day
To many a sacred shrine his way;
By day the pious fast and pray;
And solemn feasts are held by day.

On the last day the world’s career is run,
As on the first its being was begun.

Thou, Night, art friendly, it may be,
For lovers fly for help to thee.
When do the sick thy healing see?

Thieves, by thy aid, may scatheless prowl;
Sacred to thee the bat and owl;
And, led by thee, pale spectres grimly howl!

I sprang from heaven, from dust art thou;
Light crowns my head with many a gem,
The collier’s cap is on thy brow—
For thee a fitting diadem.
My presence fills the world with joy;
Thou com’st all comfort to annoy.
I am a Moslem white my vest:
Thou a vile thief, in sable drest
Out, negro-face ! dar’st thou compare
Thy cheeks with mine, so purely fair?
Those ” hosts of stars,” thy boast and pride,
How do they rush their sparks to hide,
How to their native darkness run,
When, in his glory, comes the sun!

True, death was first; but, tell me, who
Thinks life least worthy of the two?
‘Tis by the moon the Arab counts;
The lordly Persian tells his year
By the bright sun, that proudly mounts
The yielding heavens, so wide and clear.
The sun is ruddy, strong, and hale;
The moon is sickly, wan, and pale.
Methinks ’twas ne’er in story told
That silver had the worth of gold!
The moon, a slave, is bowed and bent,
She knows her light is only lent;
She hurries on, the way to clear
Till the great Shah himself appear

What canst thou, idle boaster, say
To prove the night excels the day?
If stubborn still, let Him decide
With whom all truth and law abide;
Let Nasur Ahmed, wise as great,
Pronounce, and give to each his state.’

From: Costello, Louisa Stuart, The Rose Garden of Persia, 1899, Gibbings and Company, London, pp. 48-53.

Date: c1070 (original in Persian); 1845 (translation in English)

By: Abu Mansur Ali ibn Ahmad Asadi Tusi (c1000-c1080)

Translated by: Louisa Stuart Costello (1779-1870)

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Sonnet I by John Herman Merivale

Yon party zealot, ignorant as warm,
Has taunted me with change—a charge untrue.
I ne’er was one with that deceitful crew,
Who mean Destruction when they roar ” Reform;”
My purpose ever to prevent the storm
‘Tis theirs to excite. The wholesome air I drew
With my first breath was Loyalty. I grew
In childhood reverence of her sacred form:
And, as she beam’d upon my youthful eye,
Link’d with her mountain sister Liberty,
In holiest union, all the more she won
My love and worship; and so made me shun
The fellowship of those who madly try
To rend asunder what heaven join’d in one.

From: Merivale, John Herman, Poems, Original and Translated, Volume 2, 1838, William Pickering: London, pp. 296-297.

Date: 1834

By: John Herman Merivale (1779-1844)

Monday, 12 June 2017

The High Immortal Gods are Free by Bacchylides

The high immortal gods are free
From taint of man’s infirmity;
Nor pale diseases round them wait,
Nor pain distracts their tranquil state.

From: Merivale, John Herman, Poems, Original and Translated, Volume 1, 1838, William Pickering: London, p. 238.

Date: 5th century BCE (original in Greek); 1813 (translation in English)

By: Bacchylides (5th century BCE)

Translated by: John Herman Merivale (1779-1844)

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Canto XIII: Suiceder from “The Chomedy” by Ollie Evans

No none not nothing
is no thing thought
but nothingness.

Noting this he credits
me incrementally
with one caught

in knots in what
I thought could not
in noting nothing

be taught but torn
in truth from a twist
that saps and hurts.

From: Evans, Ollie, The Chomedy. Corrupted Canticles after Dante’s Commedia, 2013, Red Ceiling Press: London, p. 14.

Date: 2013

By: Ollie Evans (19??- )

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Had Death Not Had Me in Tears by Kofi Awoonor (George Awoonor-Williams)

Had death not had me in tears
I would have seen the barges
on life’s stream sail.
I would have heard sorrow songs
in groves where the road was lost
where men foot prints mix with other men foot prints
By the road I wait
“death is better, death is better”
came the song
I am by the roadside
looking for the road
death is better, death is much better
Had death not had me in tears
I would have seen the barges
I would have found the road
and heard the sorrow songs.
The land wreathes in rhythm
with your soul, caressed by history
and cruel geography
landscape ineffable yet screaming
eloquent resonant like the drums
of after harvests.
We pile rocks on terracing love
Carry the pithy cloth
to cover the hearths of our mother.

Come now, you lucky ones
come to the festival of corn and lamb
to the finest feast of this land
come, now,
your lovers have unfurled
their cloths
their thighs glistening like golden knives
ready for the plunging,
for the plentiful loving time.
To whom shall I turn
to what shall I tell my woes?
My kinsmen, the desert tree
denied us sustenance
long before the drought.
To whom shall I turn
to whom shall I tell my woes?
Some say tell the mother goat
she too is my kinswoman
elemental sister of your clan
But I cannot tell the mother goat
for she is not here.


Date: 1987

By: Kofi Awoonor (George Awoonor-Williams) (1935-2013)

Friday, 9 June 2017

Mocking-Bird by Julia Zitella Cocke

Full-throated, trim,
Dapper of limb,
Agile, alert,
Nimbly expert,
Hanging somehow
On topmost bough,
A-top of trees, —
Saying with ease
What other birds
Strive to attain, —
Weaving their words
Over again
In his refrain! —

Deep in the wood
Tormenting owls
Changing his mood,
Home to farm-brood
Teasing the fowls:
Out on the grass
Quick to surpass
Fleetest insect,
Running erect,
Darts at his prize,
Then swiftly flies
To myrtle bower,
There in full power
The world to capture
With his wild rapture, —

Calling and cooing,
Wailing and wooing:
An ode to his love,
A lyric to Dove,
A challenge to Wren,
To Blue-bird and Hen,
To Bob-white and Kildee,
To Catbird and Pewee,
To Robin and Thrush:
Until the whole tree-full
Of sweet singers gleeful
Lose heart and hush:
Outsung and confounded,
Enchanted, astounded,
And flying afar, seek a covert to light on,
Away from this wonderful, maddening Chrichton!

From: Cocke, Zitella, A Doric Reed, 1895, Copeland and Day: Boston, pp. 25-26.

Date: 1895

By: Julia Zitella Cocke (1840-1929)

Thursday, 8 June 2017

No Libel to Think by “T.G.”

In a state of oppression, we’ll sigh our complaints;
It may seal our destruction, to tell out our wants;
For we’ve freedom enough, while we’ve freedom to think.

We may speak (it is true) if we mind what we say;
But to speak all we think, will not suit in our day:
Tho’ our tongues be cut out, or chain’d fast with this link,
Who dares say we’re not free, while we’ve freedom to think?

They tell us our state is both perfect and pure,
The ills we point out do not want any cure;
To believe such a doctrine, our reason must sink;
So we’ll think as we please, while we’ve freedom to think.

Can a man clothe his back, or eat his own bread?
Can he marry his wife, or bury his dead?
All such matters as these, will make his coin chink –
We can think of such things while we’ve freedom to think.

Can a man use his eyes, his hands, or his tongue,
But must pay for the services these members have done?
And yet more than all these are just on the brink;
What strange thoughts we have when we’ve freedom to think!

From the sole of the foot, to the crown of the head,
They stamp us, and tax us, both living and dead!
And yet at such hardship they wish us to wink;
But we cannot do this —  while we’ve freedom to think.

When the sunshine of LIBERTY breaks on our sight,
The reform of abuses we’ll claim as our RIGHT:
“The Friends of Reform” is the toast we will drink,
And we’ll think of our Rights —  while we’ve Freedom to THINK!


Date: 1793

By: “T.G.” (fl. 1793)

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A Melancholly Fit by Nicholas Hookes

Sad newes was sent me that a friend was dead,
It dash’t my braines, and my dull heavy head,
Drowsie with thoughts of death, could hardly be
Supported in its doleful agonie;
Nature was lost, grief stop’t, my circling blood,
All things alike were ill, and nothing good;
Awak’t I dream ‘t, then round about I saw
Death sable Curtains of confusion draw;
All things were black where e’re I cast my eye,
The wainscot walls mourn ‘d in dark Ebonie,
My giddy fancie into th’ earth did sink,
I wept, and saw the clouds weep teares of ink;
Ruine and death me thoughts were penitent,
And did in sheets and vailes their sinnes lament:
Then ghosts and shades in mourning did I see,
All threw deaths-heads, and dead mens bones at me;
But when the pale Idea of my friend
Past by, I wish’t my life were at an end;
And courting-night to shut my sullen eyes,
In came Amanda, and did me surprise;
Taught me to live in death, kist me, and then
Out of a Chaos made me man agen.

From: Hookes, Nicholas, Amanda, A Sacrifice to an Unknown Godesse, or, A Free-Will Offering of a Loving Heart to a Sweet-Heart, 1923, Elkin Mathews Ltd: London, pp. 22-23.

Date: 1653

By: Nicholas Hookes (1628-1712)

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

An Other Saying Concerning the Same by Katherine Dowe

To rise betimes, thy selfe to recreate
To looke well to thine owne, & to kéepe a sober estate
Long ere thou eatest, and not to sup late,
To lie high with thy head, and to sléepe moderate
Maketh man rich, long life and fortunate.

From: Tasso, Torquato, The housholders philosophie VVherein is perfectly and profitably described, the true oeconomia and forme of housekeeping. With a table added thereunto of all the notable thinges therein contained. First written in Italian by that excellent orator and poet Signior Torquato Tasso, and now translated by T.K. Whereunto is anexed a dairie booke for all good huswiues, 2003, Text Creation Partnership: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Oxford, p. [unnumbered].

Date: 1588

By: Katherine Dowe (fl. 1588)

Monday, 5 June 2017

The New York Poem by Sam Hamill

I sit in the dark, not brooding
exactly, not waiting for the dawn
that is just beginning, at six-twenty-one,
in gray October light behind the trees.
I sit, breathing, mind turning on its wheel.

Hayden writes, “What use is poetry
in times like these?” And I suppose
I understand when he says, “A poet
simply cannot comprehend
any meaning in such slaughter.”

Nevertheless, in the grip of horror,
I turn to poetry, not prose,
to help me come to terms—
such as can be— with the lies, murders
and breathtaking hypocrisies

of those who would lead a nation
or a church. “What use is poetry?”
I sat down September twelfth,
two-thousand-one in the Common Era,
and read Rumi and kissed the ground.

And now that millions starve
in the name of holy war? Every war
is holy. It is the same pathetic story
from which we derive
“biblical proportion.”

I hear Pilate’s footsteps ring
on cobblestone, the voice of Joe McCarthy
cursing in the senate, Fat Boy exploding
as the whole sky shudders.
In New York City, the crashes

and subsequent collapses
created seismic waves. To begin to speak
of the dead, of the dying… how
can a poet speak of proportion any more
at all? Yet as the old Greek said,

“We walk on the faces of the dead.”
The dark fall sky grows blue.
Alone among ash and bones and ruins,
Tu Fu and Basho write the poem.
The last trace of blind rage fades

and a mute sadness settles in,
like dust, for the long, long haul. But if
I do not get up and sing,
if I do not get up and dance again,
the savages will win.

I’ll kiss the sword that kills me if I must.


Date: 2005

By: Sam Hamill (1943- )