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!

Let Us Eat and Drink Today

Juan del Encina
Spanish
1468 – 1529

 

Let us eat and drink today.
Let us sing and enjoy life,
for tomorrow we fast.

In honor of this day of Carnival,
let us do ourselves proud,
and stuff our stomachs,
and stretch the skin.

Such custom is good advice,
that we should fill ourselves today,
for tomorrow we fast.

Let us enjoy ourselves today,
for tomorrow is like death.
Let us eat and drink everything
as we head for our flocks.

We won’t lose even a mouthful.
we’ll eat on the way,
for tomorrow we fast.

The Fifth Feed of the Furrier

François Villon
French
1431 – 1463?

 

A furrier once, as one reports,
Espoused a lady young and fair
Who craved that best of indoor sports
And made him run the gamut there,
Who, though he blamed her not, could bear
Only a little, so ‘twas said,
And loved a jug of wine to share
Better than any woman’s bed.

A curate, seeing how things stood,
Of the said wife grew amorous,
And thought that to his house he would
Invite this beggar of Bacchus.
Wherefore he sought him, all joyous,
Because he’d found the way to tup her,
Saying: “Neighbor, I am desirous
Of having you this night to supper.”

The furrier liked this well enough,
Who always liked a fine free feast,
And took his belly there to stuff
And make good cheer with this said priest,
Who, using compliments for yeast,
Said: “Since the lining’s worn away,
I wish you’d mend my robe—at least
Tell me what I shall have to pay.”

“Ah well,” replied the furrier,
“I’ll do so since you wish it done;
Provided that you pay me, sir,
I’m yours: I never work for fun.”
With bargain made the work’s begun,
It being agreed, as you may think,
That, more than ten sous, such a one
Would ask sufficient wine to drink.

In order there be no delay,
Because he needed it to wear,
It was arranged he’d start straightaway,
The priest’s clerk for his fellow there.
He was content of this affair,
And master curate locked them up
(To drink and labour, not for prayer),
Then left the house and went to tup.

The curate to the furrier’s house
Came thus by way of sterling debts,
And found so fine a chance to chouse
He sang right well in love’s duets.
In all shirts do with chemisettes
He bore his part well, so it seems,
And parting then without regrets,
Went out and home to pleasant dreams.

And thus the furrier, for his feed,
Was made a cuckold, as was meant;
And his good wife, who’d found her need,
Begged curate be not indolent,
And charged him, by the Sacrament,
That he remember her and do
As much again, expedient,
Whenever he’d a fancy to.

Nevertheless, a man should guard,
Who’s got a wife that’s young and fair,
Lest he acquire some plumage hard
For a free feed: they’re ill to wear:
The scandal’s gossiped everywhere
And shames a man through all his days.
Remember and avoid the snare,
For feeds are found in divers ways.

Voyage of Love or Death

Ausiàs March
Spanish
1400 – 1459

 

The power of sails and winds shall work my wish,
Setting a chancy course across the sea.
Ponente and Mistral rise to resist.
Levante and Sirocco fight for me
Backed by their allies Midi and Gregal
Beseeching the North Mountain Wind to turn
Its storms aside in their support, so all
Five winds may blow the way of my return.

The sea shall seethe like boiling casserole,
Change colors, taking on unnatural form,
Showing its ill will at full blast to all
That stray on it one second in that storm.
The fish will panic all throughout the sea
And seek out secret shelter in the deep,
Till from the sea that gave them life they flee
To their deaths on dry land with desperate leap.

The pilgrim passengers aboard my ship
Will call on God, pledge votive gifts in tears,
And fear force every secret from their lips
That never fell on a confessor’s ears.
Through those dangers, you will not leave my mind.
Before the God that joined us two I swear
Nothing shall weaken this resolve of mine,
And you’ll be with me always, everywhere.

I fear death – lest it break my heart from yours,
For death can cancel love out with its still,
Not that I think even death’s severing force
Could overcome my strength of loving will.
I wish I could believe your love for me
Would not leave me forgotten when I die,
And though while we two live this could not be
One thought makes all life’s pleasure out a lie:

That on the day I died, your love as well
Would die, and be transformed to hate that night.
While I, cast from this world, would feel full Hell
Never again to hold you in my sight.
Oh God, if only there were bounds to love
So I at love’s extreme might stand apart!
I’d face the future without fear or hope
Knowing the cutoff limit of your heart.

I am the most extreme of all in love
Save those who’ve breathed in love their life’s last breath.
The anguish of my heart I cannot prove
Without the good faith agony of death.
For good or ill at love’s command I wait
Though Fortune still withholds my fate from me.
She’ll find the gates unbarred, and me awake,
Prepared to humbly follow her decree.

Getting what I so wish may cost me dear
Yet this alone consoles the soul in strife:
If it turns out my fate is what I fear
I only ask that God not spare my life.
For then people will see the outward fact
Of love at work within, needing no faith.
Capacity will be revealed in act,
And my words’ credit backed by deed of death.

Envoi:
Love! I who feel you don’t know you at all,
And so can only win the loser’s prize.
No one who knows you is within your thrall.
Your simile: addictive game of dice.