The Value of a Man

We present this work in honor of the 530th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Jami
Persian
1414 – 1492

 

The price of a man consists not in silver and gold;
The value of a man is his power and virtue.
Many a slave has by acquiring virtue
Attained much greater power than a gentleman
And many a gentleman has for want of virtue,
Become inferior to his own slave.

Sonetto I

Matteo Maria Boiardo
Italian
1441 – 1494

 

The song of little birds from spray to spray,
The fragrant breeze that wafts among the flowers,
The lights that in transparent liquors play,
Awaking laughter in these eyes of ours,

Are here since nature and the heavens agree
With him who willeth that the whole world fall
Under love’s spell; hence sweetest melody
And fragrance thrill earth, wind, and waters all.

Wherever foot doth tread and eye doth rove
A passionate spirit kindleth, fraught with love,
Which giveth warmth before the summer days;
At his caressing smile and soft, sweet gaze

The flowers don brilliant hues, the grass grows green,
The waves are quieted, the skies serene.

Translation by Lorna de’ Lucchi

Jiviche jivlage majhe Krishnai Kanhai

We present this work in honor of Janmashtami.

Kanhopatra
Indian
15th century

 

O Krsna
mother
heart of my heart,

O dark one,
with beautiful eyes,
have mercy on me,
my birth is low,
my reputation black as night.

O dark one,
with beautiful eyes, please,
have mercy on me.
The Vedas proclaim you
champion of the low
savior of the downtrodden
like me.
Kanhopatra surrenders
again and again,
O dark one,
have mercy on me.

Translation by Sarah Sellergren

You, Azure Bird

We present this work in honor of the 550th anniversary of the poet’s death.

06-04 Nezahualcoyotl
Nezahualcoyotl
Mexican
1402 – 1472

 

You, azure bird, shining parrot, you walk flying. Oh Highest Arbiter, Life Giver: trembling, You extend Yourself here, filling my house, filling my dwelling, here.

With Your piety and grace one can live, oh Author of Life, on earth: trembling, You extend Yourself here, filling my house, filling my dwelling, here.

 

Translation by John Curl

Illusion and Reality

We present this work in honor of Diwali.

Kabir
Indian
c. 1398 – c. 1518

 

What is seen is not the Truth
What is cannot be said
Trust comes not without seeing
Nor understanding without words
The wise comprehends with knowledge
To the ignorant it is but a wonder
Some worship the formless God
Some worship His various forms
In what way He is beyond these attributes
Only the Knower knows
That music cannot be written
How can then be the notes
Says Kabir, awareness alone will overcome illusion

He Makes the Eagles and Ocelots Dance With Him

We present this work in honor of the Day of the Dead.

Nezahualcoyotl
Mexican
1402 – 1472

 

He makes the Eagles and Ocelots dance with him!
Come to see the Huexotzinca:

On the dais of the Eagle he shouts out,
Loudly cries the Mexica.

The battlefield is the place: where one toasts the divine liquor in war,
where are stained red the divine eagles,
where the tigers howl,
where all kinds of precious stones rain from ornaments,
where wave headdresses rich with fine plumes,
where princes are smashed to bits.

There is nothing like death in war,
nothing like the flowery death
so precious to Him who gives life:
far off I see it: my heart yearns for it!

And they called it Teotihulcan
because it was the place
where the lords were buried.
Thus they said:

‘When we die,
truly we die not,
because we will live, we will rise,
we will continue living, we will awaken
This will make us happy.’

Thus the dead one was directed,
when he died:

‘Awaken, already the sky is rosy,
already dawn has come,
already sing the flame-coloured guans,
the fire-coloured swallows,
already the butterflies fly.’

Thus the old ones said
that who has died has become a god,
they said: ‘He has been made a god there,
meaning ‘He has died.’

Even jade is shattered,
Even gold is crushed,
Even quetzal plume are torn . . .
One does not live forever on this earth:
We endure only for an instant!

Will flowers be carried to the Kingdom of Death:
Is it true that we are going, we are going?
Where are we going, ay, where are we going?
Will we be dead there or will we live yet?
Does one exist again?

Perhaps we will live a second time?
Thy heart knows:
Just once do we live!.
Like a quetzal plume, a fragrant flower,
friendship sparkles:
like heron plumes, it weaves itself into finery.

Our song is a bird calling out like a jingle:
how beautiful you make it sound!
Here, among flowers that enclose us,
among flowery boughs you are singing.

the earth is a grave and nothing escapes it, nothing is so perfect
that it does not descend to its tomb. Rivers, rivulets, fountains and
waters flow, but never return to their joyful beginnings; anxiously
they hasten on the vast realms of the rain god. As they widen their
banks, they also fashion the sad urn of their burial.

Filled are the bowels of the earth with pestilential dust once flesh and bone,
once animate bodies of man who sat upon thrones, decided cases, presided in
council, commanded armies, conquered provinces, possessed treasure, destroyed
temples, exulted in their pride, majesty, fortune, praise and power. Vanished
are these glories, just as the fearful smoke vanishes that belches forth from
the infernal fires of Popocatepetl. Nothing recalls them but the written page.

My Hovel

We present this work in honor of the Japanese holiday, Mountain Day.

Ikkyū
Japanese
1394 – 1481

 

The world before my eyes is wan and wasted just like me.
The earth is decrepit, the sky stormy, all the grass withered.
No spring breeze even at this late date,
Just winter clouds swallowing up my tiny reed hut.
Crazy Cloud is a demon in Daito’s line
But he hates the hellish bickering.
What good are old koans and faded traditions?
No use complaining any more, I’ll just rely on my inner treasures.
My real dwelling
Has no pillars
And no roof either
So rain cannot soak it
And wind cannot blow it down
Every day priests minutely examine the Dharma
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind and rain, the snow and moon.

Life

Jorge Manrique
Spanish
1440 – 1479

 

Oh! Let the soul its slumber break,
Arouse its senses and awake,
To see how soon
Life, with its glory, glides away,
And the stern footsteps of decay
Come rolling on.

And while we eye the rolling tide
Down which our flowing minutes glide
Away so fast,
Let us the present hour employ,
And dream each future dream of joy
Already past.

Let no vain hope deceive the mind;
No happier let us hope to find
Tomorrow than today.
Our golden dreams of yore were bright:
Like them, the present shall delight;
Like them, decay.

Our lives like hasting streams must be,
That into one engulfing sea
Are doomed to fall,—
The sea of death, whose waves roll on
O’er king and kingdom, crown and throne,
And swallow all.

Alike the river’s lordly tide,
Alike the humble rivulet’s glide,
To that sad wave;
Death levels poverty and pride,
And rich and poor sleep side by side
Within the grave;

Our birth is but the starting-place,
Life is the running of the race,
And death the goal;
There all those glittering toys are brought:
The path alone of all unsought
Is found of all.

Say, then, how poor and little worth
Are all those glittering toys of earth
That lure us here!
Dreams of a sleep that death must break:
Alas! before it bids us wake,
Ye disappear!