Rose of Roses, and Flower of Flowers

01-13 Alfonso
Alfonso X, El Sabio, of Castile
Spanish
1221 – 1284

 

1.

Rose of beauty and fine appearance
And flower of happiness and pleasure,
lady of most merciful bearing,
And Lord for relieving all woes and cares;
Rose of roses and flower of flowers,
Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.

2.

Such a Mistress everybody should love,
For she can ward away any evil
And she can pardon any sinner
To create a better savor in this world.
Rose of roses and flower of flowers,
Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.

3.

We should love and serve her loyally,
For she can guard us from falling;
She makes us repent the errors
That we have committed as sinners:
Rose of roses and flower of flowers
Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.

4.

This lady whom I acknowledge as my Master
And whose troubadour I’d gladly be,
If I could in any way possess her love,
I’d give up all my other lovers.
Rose of roses and flower of flowers,
Lady of ladies, Lord of lords.

 

Translation by James J. Wilhelm

Striking the Tent

We present this work in honor of the Moroccan holiday, Proclamation of Independence.

z 01-11-21
Ibn al-Khabbaza
Moroccan
? – 1239


The pretender yields the crown;
See, his red tent tumbles down
When it sees red Mudar’s hosts
Standing nigh, to prick his boasts.

Tell me, if you can descry:
Who has better right to high
Sovereignty—foreign churls,
Or their lawful Arab earls?

Nay, he was too negligent
Of his duty; so his tent
Wonderfully bit the dust,
And foretold the way he must.

Donna me Prega

Portrait of Guido Cavalcanti (Florence, 1258 - Florence, 1300), Italian poet, oil on board by Cristofano dell'Altissimo (1525-1605), 69x44 cm
Guido Cavalcanti
Italian
1255 – 1300

 

A lady asks me – I speak for that reason
Of an effect – that so often – is daring
And so haughty – he’s called Amore:
He who denies him – now realise the truth!
I speak – to those present – with knowledge,
Owning no expectation – that the base-hearted
Can gain understanding through explanation:
Nor that – without practical demonstration
I have the talent – to prove at will
Where he lives, or who gave him creation,
Or what his power is, or what his virtue,
His essence too – and his every movement,
Nor the delight – so that we say: ‘to love’,
Nor whether a man can show him to gazing.

In the place – that memory inhabits
He has his station – and takes on form
Like a veil of light – born of that shadow
Which is of Mars – that arrives and remains;
He is created – has sensation – name,
From the soul, manner – from the heart, will.
And comes from visible form that takes on,
And embraces – in possible intellect,
As in the subject – location and dwelling.
And yet he has no weight in that state
Since he is not as a quality descending:
Shines out – of himself perpetual impression;
Takes no delight – except in awareness;
Nor can scatter his likenesses around.
He is not virtue – but out of that comes
Which is perfection – (so self-established),
And through feeling – not rationally, I say;
Beyond balance – yet proclaiming judgement,
That will itself – ’stead of reason – is valid:
Poor in discernment – so vice is his friend.
Oft from his power then death will follow,
He’s strong – and, virtue opposing him,
Thus runs counter to what brings succour:
Not that he is by nature in conflict;
But twisted awry from true perfection
By fate – no man possessor of life can say
That once established – he has no lordship.
Likewise he has power though men forget.

He comes into being – when will is such
That a further measure – of nature’s – at play;
Then he will never adorn himself – with rest.
Moving – changing colour, laughing through tears,
Contorting – the features – with signatures of fear;
Scarce pausing; – yet you will note of him
He’s most often found with people of worth.
His strange quality gives rise to sighing,
And makes a man gaze – into formless places
Arousing the passion that stirs a flame,
(No man can imagine him who’s not known him)
Unmoving – yet he draws all towards him,
Not turning about – to discover joy:
Nor minded to know whether great or small.
From his like he elicits – the complex glance
That makes – the pleasure – appear more certain:
Nor can stay hidden – when he is met with.
Not savage indeed – yet beauty his arrow,
So that desire – for fear is – made skilful:
Following all merit – in the piercing spirit.
Nor can be comprehended from the face:
Seen – as blankness fallen among objects;
Listening deep – yet seeing not form itself:
But led by what emanates from it.
Far from colour, of separate being,
Seated – in midst of darkness, skirting the light,
Yet far from all deceit – I say, worthy of trust,
So that compassion is born from him alone.

Canzone, confidently, now you may go
Wherever you please, I’ve adorned you so
Your reasoning – will be praised by everyone
Who makes the effort to comprehend you: though
You will reveal no art to other than them.

 

Translation by A.S. Kline

The Burning of the Law

07-15 Meir
Meir of Rothenburg
German
c. 1215 – 1293

 

Ask, is it well, O thou consumed of fire,

With those that mourn for thee,
That yearn to tread thy courts, that sore desire
Thy sanctuary;

That, panting for thy land’s sweet dust, are grieved,

And sorrow in their souls,
And by the flames of wasting fire bereaved,
Mourn for thy scrolls;

That grope in shadow of unbroken night,

Waiting the day to see
Which o’er them yet shall cast a radiance bright,

And over thee?

Ask of the welfare of the man of woe,
With breaking heart, in vain

Lamenting ever for thine overthrow,
And for thy pain;

Of him that crieth as the jackals cry,
As owls their moaning make,

Proclaiming bitter wailing far and nigh;
Yea, for thy sake.

And thou revealed amid a heavenly fire,

By earthly fire consumed,
Say how the foe unscorched escaped the pyre

Thy flames illumed!

How long shalt thou that art at ease abide

In peace, unknown to woe,
While o’er my flowers, humbled from their pride,

Thy nettles grow?

Thou sittest high exalted, lofty foe!

To judge the sons of God;
And with thy judgments stern dost bring them low

Beneath thy rod.

Yea, more, to burn the Law thou durst decree
God’s word to banish hence:

Then blest be he who shall award to thee
Thy recompense!

Was it for this, thou Law, my Rock of old
Gave thee with flames begirt,

That in thine after-days should fire seize hold
Upon thy skirt?

O Sinai! was it then for this God chose
Thy mount of modest height,

Rejecting statelier, while on thee arose
His glorious light?

Wast thou an omen that from noble state

The Law should lowly be?
And lo! a parable will I relate

Befitting thee.

Tis of a king I tell, who sat before

The banquet of his son

And wept: for ‘mid the mirth he death foresaw;

So thou hast done.

Cast off thy robe; in sackcloth folds of night,

O Sinai! cover thee;
Don widow’s garb, discard thy raiment bright

Of royalty.

Lo, I will weep for thee until my tears

Swell as a stream and flow
Unto the graves where thy two princely seers

Sleep calm below:

Moses; and Aaron in the Mountain Hor;

I will of them inquire:
Is there another to replace this Law

Devoured of fire?

O thou third month most sacred! woe is me

For treason of the fourth,

Which dimmed the sacred light that shone from thee

And kindled wrath;

And brake the tablets, yea, and still did rage:

And lo! the Law is burnt!
Ye sinful! is not this the twofold wage

Which ye have earnt?

Dismay hath seized upon my soul; how, then,

Can food be sweet to me,
When, O thou Law, I have beheld base men

Destroying thee?

They cast thee out as one despised, and burn

The wealth of God Most High;
They whom from thine assembly thou wouldst spurn

From drawing nigh.

I cannot pass along the highway more,
Nor seek thy ways forlorn;

How do thy paths their loneliness deplore!
Lo! how they mourn!

The mingled cup shall taste as honey sweet
Where tears o’erbrim the wine;

Yea, and thy chains upon my shackled feet
Are joy divine.

Sweet would it be unto mine eyes alway

A rain of tears to pour,
To sob and drench thy sacred robes, till they

Could hold no more.

But lo! my tears are dried, when, fast out-poured.

They down my cheeks are shed;
Scorched by the fire within: because thy Lord
Hath turned and fled.

Taking His holy treasure, He hath made

His journey far away;
And with Him hath not thy protecting shade

Vanished for aye?

And I am desolate and sore bereft,

Lo! a forsaken one:
Like a sole beacon on a mountain left,

A tower alone.

I hear the voice of singers now no more,
Silence their song hath bound;

The strings are broken which on harps of yore
Breathed forth sweet sound.

In sackcloth I will clothe and sable band,

For well-beloved by me

Were they whose lives were many as the sand

The slain of thee.

I am astonied that the day’s fair light

Yet shineth brilliantly
On all things: it is ever dark as night

To me and thee.

Send with a bitter cry to God above
Thine anguish, nor withhold:

Ah! that He would remember yet His love,
His troth of old!

Gird on the sackcloth of thy misery

For that devouring fire,
Which burst forth ravenous on thine and thee

With wasting dire.

E’en as thy Rock hath sore afflicted thee,

He will assuage thy woe,
Will turn again the tribes’ captivity,

And raise the low.

Yet shalt thou wear thy scarlet raiment choice,
And sound the timbrels high,

And yet amid the dancers shalt rejoice
With gladdened cry.

My neart shall be uplifted on the day
Thy Rock shall be thy light,

When He shall make thy gloom to pass away,
Thy darkness bright.

 

Translation by Nina Davis

Love and the Gentle Heart

Dante Alighieri
Italian
1265 – 1321

 

Love and the gentle heart are one thing,
just as the poet says in his verse,
each from the other one as well divorced
as reason from the mind’s reasoning.

Nature craves love, and then creates love king,
and makes the heart a palace where he’ll stay,
perhaps a shorter or a longer day,
breathing quietly, gently slumbering.

Then beauty in a virtuous woman’s face
makes the eyes yearn, and strikes the heart,
so that the eyes’ desire’s reborn again,
and often, rooting there with longing, stays,

Till love, at last, out of its dreaming starts.
Woman’s moved likewise by a virtuous man.

Absence

Ibn Sharaf
Arab Andalusian
1233 – 1277

 

Every night I scan
the heavens with my eyes
seeking the star
that you are contemplating.

I question travelers
from the four corners of the earth
hoping to meet one
who has breathed your fragrance.

When the wind blows
I make sure it blows in my face:
the breeze might bring me
news of you.

I wander over roads
without aim, without purpose.
Perhaps a song
will sound your name.

Secretly I study
every face I see
hoping against hope
to glimpse a trace of your beauty.

Was That Layla’s Flame

Ibn Al-Farid
Egyptian
1181 – 1234

 

Was that Layla’s flame that shone through the veils of night on Dhū-Salam?
Or lightning’s flash throughout the vales round Zawra and Al-Alam?
Have you but a sigh of dawn for me, O winds about Na’man?
Have you but a sip to offer me, O waters of Wajra?
O driver of laden camels rolling up the wayless sands
like a scroll of mighty writ beside the Sagebrush of Idam
Turn aside at the guarded safeground -God be your shepherd!- and seek the path
To yonder Lotus thicket, to the myrtle and laurel bay.
Then halt at Mount Sal, and ask at the curling vale of Raqmatayn:
Have the tamarisks grown and touched at last in the livening weep of the rain?
If you’ve crossed the waters of Aqīq in the mornlight, I implore you
By God, be unabashed and offer them my heart-felt Hail!
Tell everybody this: I have left behind a heart-felled man
Alive as a deadman, adding plague to plague through your domains.
From my heart like a burning bush there spreads a flame of more than fire.
From my eyes the pouring tears are like a ceaseless season of rains.
For such is lovers’ law: not one limb of the mortal body
When bound in love with a gazelle can ever be free of pain.
You ignoramus! You who defame and shame me for my love!
Desist and learn. You would not blame me, had your love been the same.
I swear by the sacred union, by the age-old love and by
Our covenant’s communion and all the things of bygone ages:
No consolation, no replacement turned me away from loving
For it is not who I am to move with the whims of solace and change.
Return the slumber to my eyes, and then perhaps I will see you
Visit my bed in the recklessness of dream as a revenant shade.
Alas for our days at Khayf! Had they but lasted each tenfold!
Alas for me, alas, how the last day couldn’t last or stay.
If only my grief could cure me, oh if only the “oh” of my woe
And my remorse could ever recover aught that is passed away,
Gazelles of the winding dell! Be kind and turn away from me
For I, to look on no one but my love, have bound my gaze
In deference to a Judge who has decreed a wondrous fatwa
That my blood be shed in every month, both sacred and profane.
Deaf, he did not hear my plea. Dumb, he could not reply.
He is stricken blind to the plight of one whom love has struck insane.

 

Translation by A.Z. Foreman