The Floweret

Vasily Zhukovsky
Russian
1783 – 1852

 

Floweret, faded and forsaken,
Fragile beauty of the lea,
Autumn’s cruel hand hath taken
All thy summer charms from thee.

Heigho! that the years must bring
This same destiny to all;
One by one our joys take wing,
One by one your petals fall.

So each evening rings the knell
Of some dream or rapture perished,
And the fleeting hours dispel
Each some vision fondly cherished.

Life’s illusions lie unmasked,
And the star of hope burns paler.
Has not some sage long since asked:
Men or blossoms — which are frailer?

Tears Are Alike

In honor of V-E Day, we present this work by a poet of the French Resistance.

Louis Aragon
French
1897 – 1982

 

In the grey sky were porcelain angels
In the grey sky were stifled cries
I remember those days at Mainz
The Black Rhine and the weeping Loreleis

You would find sometimes at the end of an alley
A Frenchman dead with a knife-blade in the back
You would find sometimes that the peace was cruel
For all the young white wine of the terraces

I drank their transparent Kirschwasser
I drank the vows they whispered with clasped hand
How lovely were the palaces and churches
I was twenty then, I did not understand

What did I know about days of defeat
When you r country is a love forbidden
When you need the voice of false prophets
To bring lost hope to life again ?

I remember songs that touched the heart
I remember signs chalked in red
Found in the morning scribbled on walls
We never once deciphered what they said

Who can say where memory begins
Who can say where the present ends
Where the past becomes a sentimental ballad
And sorrow a paper yellowed with age?

Like a child surprised among his dreams
The blank looks of the vanquished made you
Then, at the tramp of guard relieving guard
The Rhenish silence shuddered to its heart.

On the Nature of Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 160th birthday.

Rabindranath Tagore
Indian
1861 – 1941

 

The night is black and the forest has no end;
a million people thread it in a million ways.
We have trysts to keep in the darkness, but where
or with whom – of that we are unaware.
But we have this faith – that a lifetime’s bliss
will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips.
Scents, touches, sounds, snatches of songs
brush us, pass us, give us delightful shocks.
Then peradventure there’s a flash of lightning:
whomever I see that instant I fall in love with.
I call that person and cry: `This life is blest!
for your sake such miles have I traversed!’
All those others who came close and moved off
in the darkness – I don’t know if they exist or not.

Qasadi 25 in Praise of Sultan Suleyman

Hayâlî
Turkish
c.1500 – 1557

 

In the garden, the rose commanded a cavalry of flowers,
And put to flames again the dwelling place of the bulbul.

In the crucible of the bud the nightingale purifies gold,
That the rose might craft itself a ring for its ear.

The rose will not open the opium-vial of the bud to the knowers of mysteries,
So long as it is withdrawn, master of the secret of the trance.

The bulbul teaches the Parliament of birds to the garden of children,
Like the Perfumer, ‘Attar, the rose makes clear its every chapter.

Eager waiting opens wounds in the nightingale’s heart.
O Lord! Why does the rose keep such a tight collar on the bud?

Know this! In the rosebower every leaf is a page of delicate meaning,
Each bud The treasury of inner truth, each rose The dawn of illumination.

Truly, the flame and cotton can have no dance together.
The roses enfold the bulbul, like a salamander, in flames.

It is the black burn at its breast that makes each poppy loved,
So the rose in the meadow cannot shy from the cruelty of the thorn.

No wonder the flames of jealousy turn the bulbul to ash;
The playful rose hangs, laughing from the neck of every branch.

The rose made the bulbul’s nest a howdah for its kin,
Thus it seems to have made ready its caravan of exile.

It is time the rose caused the mouths of baby nightingales to open,
And thus make shepherd’s pipes of the bulbul’s nest.

The rose begs the morning breeze for the dust of the Monarch’s feet
As salve to cure the eye of the ailing narcissus of the garden.

What a Lord is Sultan Suleyman, the sound and firm of heart,
For whom the sun is but a gilded rosette on the portico of his palace!

The scent that wafts from the markets of China is but a trace of his virtue’s scent.
The rose, lord of flowers, is but a leaf in the chapter of his generosity.

Were it not, once a year, to bow its head in the dust at his feet,
The rose would not have bejewelled its ruby crown with pearls of dew.

Your enemy’s head, drenched in blood on the point of your spear,
Is like that tall and slender sapling tipped by a rose.

In the era of your justice, it is time that the rose beg mercy, O Shah!
For taking the blood of the bulbul, to rouge its face.

The bud is ever tight-lipped but in describing your justice;
And the rose recites no litany but that of your kind gifts.

My Lord, I came but to rub my face in the tracks of your hounds.
To me they are the only thornless roses in the bower of this world.

The rose made the nest of the bulbul a bowl for begging,
And thus came importunate to your court like a ragged dervish.

The rose-bush has adorned itself with brands all bloody,
O lord of beauty, since it became the lover of your face.

Tears made of dew are born on the rose’s face,
As it bewails the ill fortune of your slave Hayâlî.

O you, mighty as Jemshid, though I be transitory, my words live on.
The rose itself is destroyed but its traces remain in the rose-water.

Though I have come after Necâtĺ and Nevâyî, why sorrow?
The thorn sprouts first from the branch and after the thorn, a rose.

Though the thorn of grief bloodied my heart like the bud,
The fruit of the sprout of my fortune’s garden is a rose.

Just as every point of rain has for its source a cloud,
As the roses are drawn without compasses in the shapes of circles,

Let prosperity be the bud of the rose-bower of your reign,
And you, with rose-garden cheeks, smile like a rose at every breath.

The Lion and Albert

We present this work in honor of the 70th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Marriott Edgar
Scots
1880 – 1951

 

There’s a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That’s noted for fresh air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.

A grand little lad was young Albert,
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
With a stick with an ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle,
The finest that Woolworth’s could sell.

They didn’t think much of the Ocean:
The waves, they were fiddlin’ and small,
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.

So, seeking for further amusement,
They paid and went into the Zoo,
Where they’d Lions and Tigers and Camels,
And old ale and sandwiches too.

There were one great big Lion called Wallace;
His nose were all covered with scars –
He lay in a somnolent posture,
With the side of his face on the bars.

Now Albert had heard about Lions,
How they was ferocious and wild –
To see Wallace lying so peaceful,
Well, it didn’t seem right to the child.

So straightway the brave little feller,
Not showing a morsel of fear,
Took his stick with its ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle
And pushed it in Wallace’s ear.

You could see that the Lion didn’t like it,
For giving a kind of a roll,
He pulled Albert inside the cage with ‘im,
And swallowed the little lad ‘ole.

Then Pa, who had seen the occurrence,
And didn’t know what to do next,
Said ‘Mother! Yon Lion’s ‘et Albert’,
And Mother said ‘Well, I am vexed!’

Then Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom –
Quite rightly, when all’s said and done –
Complained to the Animal Keeper,
That the Lion had eaten their son.

The keeper was quite nice about it;
He said ‘What a nasty mishap.
Are you sure that it’s your boy he’s eaten?’
Pa said “Am I sure? There’s his cap!’

The manager had to be sent for.
He came and he said ‘What’s to do?’
Pa said ‘Yon Lion’s ‘et Albert,
‘And ‘im in his Sunday clothes, too.’

Then Mother said, ‘Right’s right, young feller;
I think it’s a shame and a sin,
For a lion to go and eat Albert,
And after we’ve paid to come in.’

The manager wanted no trouble,
He took out his purse right away,
Saying ‘How much to settle the matter?’
And Pa said “What do you usually pay?’

But Mother had turned a bit awkward
When she thought where her Albert had gone.
She said ‘No! someone’s got to be summonsed’ –
So that was decided upon.

Then off they went to the P’lice Station,
In front of the Magistrate chap;
They told ‘im what happened to Albert,
And proved it by showing his cap.

The Magistrate gave his opinion
That no one was really to blame
And he said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
Would have further sons to their name.

At that Mother got proper blazing,
‘And thank you, sir, kindly,’ said she.
‘What waste all our lives raising children
To feed ruddy Lions? Not me!’

That Evening

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

Salah Abdel Sabour
Egyptian
1931 – 1981

  

You spoke to me
Of winged horse-shoes
Sparking all round,
Flashing, igniting
The golden crescents
Of city minarets;
You spoke to me
Of a bunch of swords hard,
Stuck in a rock so stark,
To be drawn only on a spell:
Namely, the names, the charmed names of
your bunch,
How great, how formidable,
How good, how nice, how sweet – unconquerable!
‘O minstrel’, you ordered, ‘Sing us a song
‘(But keep your eyes down
‘In our presence)
‘Sing us a lay
‘To tickle our pride
‘In the victory of the side,
‘And when the appointed hour comes
‘(An hour unveiled
‘By a cloud dispelled)
‘We’ll drink up the dregs
‘When the devil’s helmet begs
‘To be a goblet bright
‘For the wine of superior knight’.

Ruby Was Never Seen Again 25/9/03

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

Lisa Bellear
Australian
1961 – 2006

 

Weep for this wounded desperate soul that never
seems to heal, alone, vocalising to any passer by.
Uncomfortable for some, they turn away, but that won’t stop
her swaying, or mend her destructive pain

Pray for this tired old and embittered lady
who fought courageously against the colonisers
classified as ‘tribal’ whose love across the
racial lines meant government sanctioned
interference: the Bullyman, welfare, local
school teacher – informant, would not relent
till Ruby was removed

Three long years of hiding from the
tentacles of institutionalised racism,
till a moments lapse and then she’s gone
Ruby’s gone, like she never existed,
nor was ever loved. Rocking to and fro,
she still dreams of little Ruby
and of that fateful day and wonders
what their life could’ve been
like without this government
sanctioned cruelty

Written at an Early Period of the Revolutionary War

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 270th birthday.

Judith Sargent Murray
American
1751 – 1820

 

When will these rude tumultuous clamours cease,
When shall we hear the genial voice of peace;
My tir’d soul is sick of these alarms,
This vain parade, this constant din of arms.
I wish, devoutly wish, for some retreat,
Where but the shepherd’s pipe my ear may greet,
Where I may calmly hail the rising day,
On life’s eventful threshold while I stray.
I would in its variety enjoy,
The mental feast I would my hours employ,
To cull the flowers of wisdom as they grow,
To reap the fruits which love and truth bestow.

But ah! Alas! On a rough Ocean tost,
To all the bliss of social pleasures lost;
My little back by winds of passion driv’n,
Blown to, and fro, by each opinion giv’n;
Sees in perspective no auspicious shore

Which can its safety, or its hopes restore;
Terrifick visions in succession rise,
A host of fears the trembling soul surprise.

And can it be, will dark vindictive rage,
‘Gainst helpless towns revengeful battle wage,
When far removed from the hostile scene
When cities rise, when Oceans roll between

Must Glous’ter though obscure be doom’d to feel,
The British thunder, and the British steel,
Forbid it British valour, British grace,
And spare so little, so remote a place.

When First My Way to Fair I Took

We present this work in honor of the 85th anniversary of the poet’s death.

A.E. Housman
English
1859 – 1936

 

When first my way to fair I took
Few pence in purse had I,
And long I used to stand and look
At things I could not buy.

Now times are altered: if I care
To buy a thing, I can;
The pence are here and here’s the fair,
But where’s the lost young man?

—To think that two and two are four
And neither five nor three
The heart of man has long been sore
And long ’tis like to be.