For the Dead Gregorians

Ignacio Ramirez
1818 – 1879


What! would you have the fatal sister lend
an ear to sorrow’s pleas? Vain intercession!
Rabble of spectres, get you to your dens!

Separated brother was from brother!
To sit us down at table it is too late;
to get us gone with you it is too soon!

For you, unhappy ones, no longer burns
a single log upon the hearth; no do
I see that any cup awaits your kisses.

A sigh goes after you, a sigh, no more!
Peace be with your going; and may fortune
not bar the way to your retreat to light.

I hate the sepulcher, changed to the cradle
of a vile insect or a venomous snake,
where the sun never rises, nor the moon.

May among your bones a rose take root,
reigned over by the painted butterfly,
and with its fragrance permeate the dew.

Hearken fearless to the impious thunder:
and smile in contemplation, near at hand,
of a stream swollen, overflowing with life.

To get us gone with you it is too soon!
Let her consent at least, the Furious One,
to wait until the cup slips from our hand.

Why, more swiftly still alas! than you,
why does she strip us of existence bare?
From one she steals his forehead’s ornament,

another with her rude hand bends in twain:
some she envelops in a yellow veil:
and others in their entrails feel a claw

that rends, and in their veins an icy cold.
Alas! the spring will come again and find
sorrow in our gates, and lamentation.

And we shall watch the feasters from without.
Perhaps for one the hour has come to go!
The throng of spectres watches for his going.

The course that we are setting, do you know
for what port it is bound? The tomb. Our ship
already founders. Shivered, the mast falls.

Some lie drifting in the waters, dying.
Others commit them to the fragile raft;
and for him who climbed into the shrouds

hope’s despairing light still gutters on,
while wind and wave concert their batteries
and the implacable sky lets loose its bolts.

The flames mount to the lowering of the pennons,
unknown to all save to the bird of rapine,
the sullen west and monsters of the deep.

What is our life but an ill-fashioned vase
whose worth is but the worth of the desire
shut up in it by nature and by chance?

When I see it spilt by age I know
that in the hand of the wise earth alone
it can receive new form and new employ.

Life is not life, but prison, in which want
and pain and lamentation pine in vain;
pleasure flown, who is afraid of death?

Mother nature, there are no more flowers
along the slow paths of my stumbling feet.
I was born without hope or fear;
fearless and hopeless I return to thee.

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