Le Canada

We present this work in honor of Canada Day.

Octave Crémazie
Canadian
1827 – 1879

 

There is a blessed land under the sun,
Where heaven has poured out its brightest gifts,
Where, responding to its goods, enlarged nature
With its vast forests mingles its giant lakes.

On these enchanted edges, our mother, France,
Has left of its glory an immortal furrow,
Precipitating its waves towards the immense ocean,
The noble Saint-Laurent repeats its name again.

Happy who knows it, happier who lives in it,
And never leaving to seek other heavens
The banks of the great river where happiness invites him,
Knows how to live and knows how to die where his ancestors sleep.

Two Doors

Hilde Domin
German
1909 – 2006

 

Only two doors
are bolted.
All the others invite you in
and open with the softest
pressure of your curiosity.

Only these doors are
so hard to open
that your strength runs out.
No joiner comes and
planes them down and oils
the stubborn bolts.

The door which closed
behind you and you
outside.
The door which locked
before you and you
inside.

Fahriye Abla

We present this work in honor of the 40th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Ahmet Muhip Dıranas
Turkish
1909 – 1980

 

The air filled with a pungent charcoal smell
And the doors closed before sunset;
From that neighborhood as languid as a laudanum
You are the only surviving trace in my memory, you
Who smiled at the vast light of her own dreams.
With your eyes, your teeth, and your white neck
What a sweet neighbor you were, Fahriye abla!

Your house was as small as a neat box;
Its balcony thickly intertwined and the shades
Of ivies at the tiny hours of the sunset
Washed over in a nearby hidden brook.
A green flowerpot stood in your window all year round
And in spring acacias blossomed in your garden
What a charming neighbor you were, Fahriye abla!

Earlier you had long hair, then short and styled;
Light-complexioned, you were as tall as an ear of corn,
Your wrists laden with ample golden bracelets
Tickled the heart of all men
And occasionally your short skirt swayed in the wind.
You sang mostly obscene love songs
What a sexy neighbor you were, Fahriye Abla!

Rumors had it that you were in love with that lad
And finally you were married to a man from Erzincan
I don’t know whether you still live with your first husband
Or whether you are in Erzincan of snowy mountaintops.
Let my heart recollect the long-forgotten days
Things that live in memory do not change by time
What a nice neighbor you were, Fahriye Abla!

Song

We present this work in honor of the 50th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Leopoldo Marechal
Argentine
1900 – 1970

 

The River of your Dreams will recite the alphabet of waters.
It will have trees, like greem flames
sparking out larks
and tall bamboos will net heliotrope moons
in the dream river only you can overleap.

Dawn will be a lotus that perfumes
the death of your nights;
so much pecking at stars will intoxicate hummingbirds.
You will find pools of still water and a pollen that drugs the wind
in the dream river only you can overleap.

Shouldering my oar, I have watched a hundred days set sail.
My brothers will peel the reddest of the world’s fruit.
I, with my stilled oar, night after night,
search for the dream river only you can overleap.

Returning to Live in the Country

In honor of Dragon Boat Day, we present this work by one of the great poets of the Six Dynasties.

Tao Yuanming
Chinese
365 – 427

 

Young, I was always free of common feeling.
It was in my nature to love the hills and mountains.
Mindlessly I was caught in the dust-filled trap.
Waking up, thirty years had gone.
The caged bird wants the old trees and air.
Fish in their pool miss the ancient stream.
I plough the earth at the edge of South Moor.
Keeping life simple, return to my plot and garden.
My place is hardly more than a few fields.
My house has eight or nine small rooms.
Elm-trees and Willows shade the back.
Plum-trees and Peach-trees reach the door.
Misted, misted the distant village.
Drifting, the soft swirls of smoke.
Somewhere a dog barks deep in the winding lanes.
A cockerel crows from the top of the mulberry tree.
No heat and dust behind my closed doors.
My bare rooms are filled with space and silence.
Too long a prisoner, captive in a cage,
Now I can get back again to Nature.

Doubtful Dreams

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

Adam Lindsay Gordon
Australian
1833 – 1870

 

Aye, snows are rife in December,
And sheaves are in August yet,
And you would have me remember,
And I would rather forget;
In the bloom of the May-day weather,
In the blight of October chill,
We were dreamers of old together,—
As of old, are you dreaming still?

For nothing on earth is sadder
Than the dream that cheated the grasp,
The flower that turned to the adder,
The fruit that changed to the asp;
When the day-spring in darkness closes,
As the sunset fades from the hills,
With the fragrance of perish’d roses,
With the music of parch’d-up rills.

When the sands on the sea-shore nourish
Red clover and yellow corn;
When figs on the thistle flourish,
And grapes grow thick on the thorn;
When the dead branch, blighted and blasted,
Puts forth green leaves in the spring,
Then the dream that life has outlasted
Dead comfort to life may bring.

I have changed the soil and the season,
But whether skies freeze or flame,
The soil they flame on or freeze on
Is changed in little save name;
The loadstone points to the nor’ward,
The river runs to the sea;
And you would have me look forward,
And backward I fain would flee.

I remember the bright spring garlands,
The gold that spangled the green,
And the purple on fairy far lands,
And the white and the red bloom, seen
From the spot where we last lay dreaming
Together—yourself and I—
The soft grass beneath us gleaming,
Above us the great grave sky.

And we spoke thus: ‘Though we have trodden
Rough paths in our boyish years;
And some with our sweat are sodden,
And some are salt with our tears;
Though we stumble still, walking blindly,
Our paths shall be made all straight;
We are weak, but the heavens are kindly,
The skies are compassionate.’

Is the clime of the old and younger,
Where the young dreams longer are nursed?
With the old insatiable hunger,
With the old unquenchable thirst,
Are you longing, as in the old years
We have longed so often in vain;
Fellow-toilers still, fellow-soldiers,
Though the seas have sundered us twain?

But the young dreams surely have faded!
Young dreams !—old dreams of young days—
Shall the new dream vex us as they did?
Or as things worth censure or praise?
Real toil is ours, real trouble,
Dim dreams of pleasure and pride;
Let the dreams disperse like a bubble,
So the toil like a dream subside.

Vain toil! men better and braver
Rose early and rested late,
Whose burdens than ours were graver,
And sterner than ours their hate.
What fair reward had Achilles?
What rest could Alcides win?
Vain toil ! ‘Consider the lilies,
They toil not, neither do spin.’

Nor for mortal toiling nor spinning
Will the matters of mortals mend;
As it was so in the beginning,
It shall be so in the end.
The web that the weavers weave ill
Shall not be woven aright
Till the good is brought forth from evil,
As day is brought forth from night.

Vain dreams! for our fathers cherish’d
High hopes in the days that were;
And these men wonder’d and perish’d,
Nor better than these we fare;
And our due at least is their due:
They fought against odds and fell;
‘En avant, les enfants perdus!’
We fight against odds as well.

The skies ! Will the great skies care for
Our footsteps, straighten our path,
Or strengthen our weakness? Wherefore?
We have rather incurr’d their wrath ;
When against the Captain of Hazor
The stars in their courses fought,
Did the sky shed merciful rays, or
With love was the sunshine fraught?

Can they favour man—can they wrong man—
The unapproachable skies?
Though these gave strength to the strong man,
And wisdom gave to the wise;
When strength is turn’d to derision,
And wisdom brought to dismay,
Shall we wake from a troubled vision,
Or rest from a toilsome day?

Nay! I cannot tell. Peradventure
Our very toil is a dream,
And the works that we praise or censure,
It may be, they only seem.
If so, I would fain awaken,
Or sleep more soundly than so,
Or by dreamless sleep overtaken,
The dream I would fain forgo.

For the great things of life are small things,
The longest life is a span,
And there is an end to all things,
A season to every man,
Whose glory is dust and ashes,
Whose spirit is but a spark,
That out from the darkness flashes,
And flickers out in the dark.

We remember the pangs that wrung us
When some went down to the pit,
Who faded as leaves among us,
Who flitted as shadows flit;
What visions under the stone lie?
What dreams in the shroud sleep dwell,
For we saw the earth pit only,
And we heard only the knell.

We know not whether they slumber
Who waken on earth no more,
As the stars of the heights in number,
As sands on the deep sea-shore.
Shall stiffness bind them, and starkness
Enthral them, by field and flood,
Till ‘the sun shall be turn’d to darkness,
And the moon shall be turn’d to blood?’

We know not !—worse may enthral men—
‘The wages of sin are death’;
And so death pass’d upon all men,
For sin was born with man’s breath.
Then the labourer spent with sinning,
His hire with his life shall spend;
For it was so in the beginning,
And shall be so in the end.
There is life in the blacken’d ember
While a spark is smouldering yet;
In a dream e’en now I remember
That dream I had lief forget—
I had lief forget, I had e’en lief
That dream with this doubt should die—
‘If we did these things in the green leaf,
What shall be done in the dry?’

Chang’an

Lu Zhaolin
Chinese
634 – 684

 

Chang’an’s broad avenues link up with narrow lanes,
There black oxen and white horses, coaches of fragrant woods,
Jade-fit palanquins go left and right, past the mansions of lords,
Gold riding whips in a long train move toward barons’ homes.
Dragons bite jeweled canopies, catching the morning sun,
The phoenix disgorges dangling fringe, draped with evening’s red clouds.
A hundred yards of gossamer strands strain to enwrap the trees,
While a single graceful flock of birds join their cries among flowers.
Cries among flowers, playful butterflies, by the palace’s thousand gates,
Emerald trees, silver terraces, in a thousand different colors.
Double-decked passage ways, intertwined windows make the union of lovers,
Paired tower gates, rising layers of tiles sweeping as phoenix wings.
The Liang clan’s mural tower rises into the skies,
The Emperor of Han’s golden columns jut straight beyond the clouds.
But those you gaze on before great buildings are those you do not know,
And those you meet upon the paths, no acquaintance of yours.
Tell me of her who plays the pipes off into purple mists —
She has spent her years of beauty studying dancing.
If we could become the sole fish, why would we flee from death?
Could we but be the mandarin ducks, no yearnings to be immortals.
The sole fish, the mandarin ducks; they are truly worth of our yearning —
They come and go in pairs, can’t you see them now?
Most I hate that the single phoenix woven in the top of the drapery;
Most I love the swallow pair fixed on the curtained door.
Pairs of swallows fly in their pairs around the painted beams,
There, gauze hangings, the kingfisher quilt, scent of tumeric.
Then one by one, hairdos like clouds, cicada-wing curls hanging,
Eyebrows slender like new moons above the tawny oils
Tawny with oil, white with powder, they step from coaches,
Charms within, loveliness within, hearts not fixed on one.
Bewitching boys on jeweled horses with ironblack spots,
And courtesans, pins of coiling dragons, golden legs bent under.
In the office of the Censorate the crows cry by night,
By the Constabulary gate the sparrows go to roost.
Mightily rising Vermillion Walls look down on roads like jade,
In the distance, azure carriages sink behind gold-fasten bastions.
Slings are clasped, falcons flown north of Duling,
Lots drawn for killing by sworn companions west of the Wei.
Greeting each other the bravos with lotus-hilted swords,
Spending nights together on peach and plum roads, the houses of singing girls.
At sunset in the singing girls’ houses are skirts of purple gauze,
And a verse of clear singing comes swelling from their mouths.
In the northern halls night after night, people move as the moon,
On southern paths at every dawn, riders move as the clouds.
Southward paths and northern halls link through the Northern Quarter,
Then great crossroads and wide highways rein in the Markets.
Plaint willows and green ash hang brushing the earth,
Sweet air and red dust rise darkening the skies.
Royal heralds of the House of Han come, a thousand outriders,
Kingfisher colored liquors in parrot shaped goblets.
Blouses of gauze and jeweled sashes are taken off for you,
The songs of Yan, the dances of Wu for you performed.
But there are others bold and splendid called “minister” and “general,”
The day turns, the heavens roll, and neither will yield to the other.
Haughty spirits ever willing to push aside a [morally upright] Guanfu,
A hold on power which cannot give in the least to a Minister Xiao.
Haughty spirits, hold on power, the stuff of ruthless heroes.
Blue Dragon and Purple Swallow, great steeds in the spring wind.
They said themselves their songs and dances would last a thousand years,
And claimed a pride and extravagance beyond the Great Lords.
But the glory of each thing in its season was not to wait on them,
Mulberry fields and green oceans interchange in an instant.
Where once were the golden stairs, the halls of white marble,
We now see only the green pines remaining.
Silent there in the emptiness the dwelling of Yang Xiong,
Year after year, every year, his whole bed covered with books.
Alone are the cassia flowers, blooming on South Mountain,
They fly back and forth, fly into his sleeves.

Illumined

We present this work in honor of the Canadian holiday, Discovery Day.

Tom MacInnes
Canadian
1867 – 1951

 

I woke in the Land of Night,
With a dream of Day at my heart;
Its golden outlines vanished,
But its charm would not depart;
Like music still remaining,
But its meaning–no man can say
In the Land of Night where they know not
Of Day, nor the things of Day.

I dwelt in the chiefest city
Of all the Land of Night;
Where the fires burn ever brighter
That give the people light;
Where the sky above is darkened,
And never a star is seen,
And they think it but children’s fancy
That ever a star hath been.

But out from that city early
I fled by a doubtful way;
And faltering oft and lonely
I sought my dream of Day;
Till I came at last to a Mountain
That rose exceeding high,
And I thought I saw on its summit
A glint as of dawn from the sky.

‘Twas midway on that Mountain
That I found an altar-stone,
Deep-cut with runes forgotten,
And symbols little known;
And scarce could I read the meaning
Of the legends carven there,
But I lay me out on that altar,
Breathing an ancient prayer:

‘By the God of the timeless Sky,
O Saint of the Altar, say
What gift hast thou for me?
For I have dreamed of Day:
But I seek nor gift nor power,
I pray for naught but light;
And only for light to lead me
Out of the Land of Night!’

Long I lay on that altar,
Up-gazing fearfully
Through the awful cold and darkness
That now encompassed me;
Till it seemed as I were lying drowned
Under a lifeless sea.

There shone as a pale blue Star,
Intangible–serene–
And I saw a spark from it fall
As it were a crystal keen;
And it flashed as it fell and pierced
My temples white and cold;
Then round that altar-stone once more
The awful darkness rolled.

But there was light on my brow,
And a calm that steeled me through,
And I was strong with a strength
That never before I knew;
With a strength for the trackless heights,
And scorn of the world below–
But I rose not up from that altar-stone,
I would not leave it so.

‘O Saint of the Altar, say
How may this light redeem?
For though on my brow like a jewel
Its Star hath left a gleam,
O Saint, ‘tis a light too cold and cruel
To be the light of my dream!’

Anon ‘twas a crimson Star
That over the Altar shone,
And there sank as a rose of flame
To my heart ere the Star was gone;
And out from the flames thereof
A subtle fragrance then
Went stealing down the mountain-side
O’er the lowly ways of men.

The Star was gone, but it brought
To light in its crimson glow
The lovely things forgotten
I dreamed of long ago;
And gladly then I had given
My life to all below;
Yet I rose not up from the altar-stone,
I would not leave it so.

And at last was a golden Star;
But I scarce know how nor where;
For it melted all around me,
And the other Stars were there;
And all in one blissful moment
The light of Day had come;
Then I reeled away from that altar-stone,
Old, and blind, and dumb.

I dwell again in the city,
I seek no more for light;
But I go on a mission of silence
To those who would leave the Night;
And for this–and this thing only,
Through the evil streets I stray;
I who am free to the timeless Sky
Illumined forever with Day.