Diamond Speaks

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 480th birthday.

Mary, Queen of Scots
Scots
1542 – 1587

 

‘Tis not because my strength outranks both flame and brand,
Nor because my facets display a cunning hand,
Nor because, set in fine-wrought gold, I shine so bright,
Nor even that I’m pure, whiter than Phoebus’ light,
But rather because my form is a heart, like unto
My Mistress’ heart (but for hardness), that I’m sent to you.
For all things must yield to unfettered purity
And she is my true equal in each quality.
For who would fail to grant that once I had been sent,
My Mistress should thus, in turn, find favour and content?
May it please, from these omens I shall gather strength
And thus from Queen to equal Queen I’ll pass at length.
O would I could join them with an iron band alone
(Though all prefer gold) and unite their hearts as one
That neither envy, greed nor gossip’s evil play,
Nor mistrust, nor ravaging time could wear away.
Then they’d say among treasures I was most renowned,
For I’d have two great jewels in one setting bound.
Then with my glitt’ring rays I should confound the sight
Of all who saw me, dazzling enemies with my light.
Then, by my worth and by her art, I should be known
As the diamond, the greatest jewel, the mighty stone.

To Glory

Salvador Diaz Miron
Mexican
1853 – 1928

 

Don’t try to talk me out of clumsiness
with the delusions of your crazy mind:
my reason is both light and firmness,
firmness and light like rock crystal.

Like the nocturnal pilgrim,
my immortal hope does not look at the ground;
seeing nothing but a shadow on the road,
only contemplate the splendor of the sky.

Vain are the images that it carries
your child spirit, dark sanctuary.
Your soul, like gold on the mountain,
it is virginal and therefore impure.

Through this twitching vortex,
and eager to shine, I fly or crawl,
caterpillar in love with a spark
or eagle seduced by a star.

Useless is that with tenacious murmur
you exaggerate the set in which I get entangled:
I am haughty, and he who encourages pride
wears a buckler impenetrable to fear.

Trusting the instinct that pushes me,
I despise the dangers you point out.
“The bird sings even though the branch creaks:
like he knows what his wings are.”

Erect under the blow in the stubbornness,
I feel superior to victory.
I have faith in myself; adversity could
take away the triumph, but not the glory.

Let the vile pursue me!
I want to attract envy even if it overwhelms me!
The flower on which insects perch
It is rich in hue and perfume.

Evil is the theater in whose forum
virtue, that tragic, stands out;
is the sibyl with the golden word,
the shadow that makes the star stand out.

Lighting is burning! I’m on
It will be the raging fire that consumes me!
The pearl sprouts from the wounded mollusk
and Venus is born from the bitter foam.

The clear timbres of which I am proud
they must come out of the slander unscathed.
There are plumages that cross the swamp
and they don’t stain… My plumage is one of those!

Strength is that my passion suffers! The Palm
it grows on the shore that the waves whip.
Merit is the castaway of the soul:
live, sink; but dead, float!

Let go of your frown and let your voice lull me to sleep!
Comfort the heart of the one who loves you!
God said to the water of the torrent: it boils!
and to the river of the margin: embalm!

Make up, woman! We have come
to this valley of tears that brings down,
you, like the dove, for the nest,
and I, like the lion, for combat.

The Lives of Poets

Jose Emilio Pacheco
Mexican
1939 – 2014

 

In poetry there’s no happy ending.
Poets end up
living their madness.
And they’re quartered like cattle
(it happened to Darío).
Or they’re stoned or wind up
flinging themselves to the sea or with cyanide
salts in their mouths.
Or dead from alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty.
Or worse: canonical poets,
bitter inhabitants of a tomb
entitled Complete Works.

Translation by Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez

Look Up!

Tahirih
Persian
1814 – 1852

 

Look up! Our dawning day draws its first breath!
The world grows light! Our souls begin to glow!

No ranting shaykh rules from his pulpit throne.
No mosque hawks holiness it does not know.

No sham, no pious fraud, no priest commands!
The turban’s knot cut to its root below!

No more conjurations! No spell! No ghosts!
Good riddance! We are done with folly’s show!

The search of truth shall drive out ignorance.
Equality shall strike the despots low.

Let warring ways be banished from the world.
Let justice everywhere its carpet throw.

May friendship ancient hatred reconcile.
May love grow from the seed of love we sow!

Translation by Amin Banani with Jascha Kessler

The Storm and the Bush

Arthur Henry Adams
Kiwi
1872 – 1936

 

There are only two things in the world –
The storm in the air and the stretch of green leaves;
The flesh of the forest that quivers and heaves
As the blast on its bosom is hurled.
Above is the whip of the wind
That scourges the cowering forest beneath:
The Storm spits the hiss of the hail from his teeth,
And leaves the world writhing behind!
Like a beast that is bound in a cage
When the keeper’s lash lights and the keeper’s goad stings,
Each tree his great limbs to his torturer flings
In a groaning and impotent rage.
As the leaves to a fiercer gust lean
The wind throws their undersides upward to sight,
And the foam of the forest-sea flashes to white
Out over full fathoms of green.

Mount of Olives

Henry Vaughan
Welsh
1621 – 1695

 

Sweet, sacred hill! on whose fair brow
My Saviour sate, shall I allow
Language to love,
And idolize some shade, or grove,
Neglecting thee? such ill-plac’d wit,
Conceit, or call it what you please,
Is the brain’s fit,
And mere disease.

Cotswold and Cooper’s both have met
With learnèd swains, and echo yet
Their pipes and wit;
But thou sleep’st in a deep neglect,
Untouch’d by any; and what need
The sheep bleat thee a silly lay,
That heard’st both reed
And sheepward play?

Yet if poets mind thee well,
They shall find thou art their hill,
And fountain too.
Their Lord with thee had most to do;
He wept once, walk’d whole nights on thee:
And from thence—His suff’rings ended—
Unto glory
Was attended.

Being there, this spacious ball
Is but His narrow footstool all;
And what we think
Unsearchable, now with one wink
He doth comprise; but in this air
When He did stay to bear our ill
And sin, this hill
Was then His Chair.

Confinement

Christina Goh
French
b. 1977

 

We have become eagles
who glaze over the information peaks
from sunrise to sunset
trumpeted in all languages, in colors,
in plumes of sweetness and vigor
masters of the dreamlike airs…

Today we are lions
who roar their fury of life
or spread out, troubled in the sunlight
of their screens, watching the family
of the world, waiting for the best
and theories in the wind

But who would have believed it?
by the glow of virtual campfires
for a reconstructed holiday,
the shadows of the past took pity
and before disappearing,
they turned us into griffins.

Penance

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

John McCrae
Canadian
1872 – 1918

 

My lover died a century ago,
Her dear heart stricken by my sland’rous breath,
Wherefore the Gods forbade that I should know
The peace of death.

Men pass my grave, and say, “‘Twere well to sleep,
Like such an one, amid the uncaring dead!”
How should they know the vigil that I keep,
The tears I shed?

Upon the grave, I count with lifeless breath,
Each night, each year, the flowers that bloom and die,
Deeming the leaves, that fall to dreamless death,
More blest than I.

‘Twas just last year—I heard two lovers pass
So near, I caught the tender words he said:
To-night the rain-drenched breezes sway the grass
Above his head.

That night full envious of his life was I,
That youth and love should stand at his behest;
To-night, I envy him, that he should lie
At utter rest.

Fairy Song

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 190th birthday.

Louisa May Alcott
American
1832 – 1888

 

The moonlight fades from flower and rose
And the stars dim one by one;
The tale is told, the song is sung,
And the Fairy feast is done.
The night-wind rocks the sleeping flowers,
And sings to them, soft and low.
The early birds erelong will wake:
‘T is time for the Elves to go.

O’er the sleeping earth we silently pass,
Unseen by mortal eye,
And send sweet dreams, as we lightly float
Through the quiet moonlit sky;–
For the stars’ soft eyes alone may see,
And the flowers alone may know,
The feasts we hold, the tales we tell;
So’t is time for the Elves to go.

From bird, and blossom, and bee,
We learn the lessons they teach;
And seek, by kindly deeds, to win
A loving friend in each.
And though unseen on earth we dwell,
Sweet voices whisper low,
And gentle hearts most joyously greet
The Elves where’er they go.

When next we meet in the Fairy dell,
May the silver moon’s soft light
Shine then on faces gay as now,
And Elfin hearts as light.
Now spread each wing, for the eastern sky
With sunlight soon shall glow.
The morning star shall light us home:
Farewell! for the Elves must go.