from The Virsimhdevcarit

We present this work in honor of Pongal.

01-14 Keshavdas
Keshavdas
Indian
1555 – 1617

When Generosity and Greed set out to see Jahangirpur
They saw a huge array of forts, towns and villages –
How could I possibly recount all their names?
They saw lakes and rivers that made them glad.
Then they approached the ‘Bir lake.’ Seeing the magnificent Bir lake
They sought the appropriate terms for describing it.
It gives such pleasure on earth, this body of water!
It is marvelous, clear, vast, and profound in its depths.
It is home to blossoming flowers, bright like a star-lit sky.
It is a place of great coolness, where the heat of summer is forbidden entry:
Abode of scents, a place of beauty, effacer of the world’s cares
Like the goddess Candika in its dark hue.
The tall waves are a cluster of clouds releasing their spray in the wind
At sunset the water takes on a red quality,
Waves shimmering like lightning, removing the sorrow of men’s hearts.
Night and day peacocks dance in all directions to the spray of the lake
The lotuses bloom, their white luster like moonlight…

Extinguished Smoldering

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 465th birthday.

12-17 Khan-I-Khana
Abdul Rahim Kahn-I-Khana
Indian
1556 – 1627

 

What good is this petty love of exchanging little gifts?
Wager your life on love, and see if you lose or win.

When the fish is cut up, it’s washed in water; eat it and you thirst for water.
How great is the fish’s love for its mate, that even when dead it yearns for water.

Some burn and then go out, and some never burn at all.
But those who burn with love go out and then flare again.

A sugarcane is full of juice all over.
Except where there’s a knot, and that’s how love is.

The path of love is arduous, not everyone makes it to the end.
You mount a horse made of wax and ride through a blazing fire.

Song of the Soul that Delights in Reaching the Supreme State of Perfection, that is, the Union with God, by the Path of Spiritual Negation

We present this work in honor of All Saints’ Day.

11-01 De La Cruz
Juan de la Cruz
Spanish
1542 – 1591

 

Upon a darkened night
on fire with all love’s longing
– O joyful flight! –
I left, none noticing,
my house, in silence, resting.

Secure, devoid of light,
by secret stairway, stealing
– O joyful flight! –
in darkness self-concealing,
my house, in silence, resting.

In the joy of night,
in secret so none saw me,
no object in my sight
no other light to guide me,
but what burned here inside me.

Which solely was my guide,
more surely than noon-glow,
to where he does abide,
one whom I deeply know,
a place where none did show.

O night, my guide!
O night, far kinder than the dawn!
O night that tied
the lover to the loved,
the loved in the lover there transformed!

On my flowering breast,
that breast I kept for him alone,
there he took his rest
while I regaled my own,
in lulling breezes from the cedars blown.

The breeze, from off the tower,
as I sieved through its windings
with calm hands, that hour,
my neck, in wounding,
left all my senses hanging.

Self abandoned, self forgot,
my face inclined to the beloved one:
all ceased, and I was not,
my cares now left behind, and gone:
there among the lilies all forgotten.

The Doleful Lay of Clorinda

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 460th birthday.

Mary Sidney,
Countess of Pembroke
English
1561 – 1621

 

Ay me, to whom shall I my case complaine,
That may compassion my impatient griefe!
Or where shall I unfold my inward paine,
That my enriven heart may find reliefe!
Shall I unto the heavenly powres it show?
Or unto earthly men that dwell below?

To heavens? ah they alas the authors were,
And workers of my unremedied wo:
For they foresee what to us happens here,
And they foresaw, yet suffred this be so.
From them comes good, from them comes also il
That which they made, who can them warne to spill.

To men? ah, they alas like wretched bee,
And subject to the heavens ordinance:
Bound to abide what ever they decree,
Their best redresse, is their best sufferance.
How then can they like wretched comfort mee,
The which no lesse, need comforted to bee?

Then to my selfe will I my sorrow mourne,
Sith none alive like sorrowfull remaines:
And to my selfe my plaints shall back retourne,
To pay their usury with doubled paines.
The woods, the hills, the rivers shall resound
The mournfull accent of my sorrowes ground.

Woods, hills and rivers, now are desolate,
Sith he is gone the which them all did grace:
And all the fields do waile their widow state,
Sith death their fairest flowre did late deface.
The fairest flowre in field that ever grew,
Was Astrophel: that was, we all may rew.

What cruell hand of cursed foe unknowne,
Hath cropt the stalke which bore so faire a flowre?
Untimely cropt, before it well were growne,
And cleane defaced in untimely howre.
Great losse to all that ever him did see,
Great losse to all, but greatest losse to mee.

Breake now your gyrlonds, O ye shepheards lasses,
Sith the faire flowre, which them adornd, is gon:
The flowre, which them adornd, is gone to ashes,
Never againe let lasse put gyrlond on:
In stead of gyrlond, weare sad Cypres nowe,
And bitter Elder, broken from the bowe.

Ne ever sing the love-layes which he made,
Who ever made such layes of love as hee?
Ne ever read the riddles, which he sayd
Unto your selves, to make you mery glee.
Your mery glee is now laid all abed,
Your mery maker now alasse is dead.

Death, the devourer of all worlds delight,
Hath robbed you and reft from me my joy:
Both you and me, and all the world he quight
Hath robd of joyance, and left sad annoy.
Joy of the world, and shepheards pride was hee,
Shepheards hope never like againe to see.

Oh death that hast us of such riches reft,
Tell us at least, what hast thou with it done?
What is become of him whose flowre here left
Is but the shadow of his likenesse gone.
Scarse like the shadow of that which he was,
Nought like, but that he like a shade did pas.

But that immortall spirit, which was deckt
With all the dowries of celestiall grace:
By soveraine choyce from th’ hevenly quires select,
And lineally deriv’d from Angels race,
O what is now of it become aread,
Ay me, can so divine a thing be dead?

Ah no: it is not dead, ne can it die,
But lives for aie, in blisfull Paradisse:
Where like a new-borne babe it soft doth lie,
In beds of lillies wrapt in tender wise.
And compast all about with roses sweet,
And daintie violets from head to feet.

There thousand birds all of celestiall brood,
To him do sweetly caroll day and night:
And with straunge notes, of him well understood,
Lull him asleepe in Angel-like delight:
Whilest in sweet dreame to him presented bee
Immortall beauties, which no eye may see.

But he them sees and takes exceeding pleasure
Of their divine aspects, appearing plaine,
And kindling love in him above all measure,
Sweet love still joyous, never feeling paine.
For what so goodly forme he there doth see,
He may enjoy from jealous rancor free.

There liveth he in everlasting blis,
Sweet spirit never fearing more to die:
Ne dreading harme from any foes of his,
Ne fearing salvage beasts more crueltie.
Whilest we here wretches waile his private lack,
And with vain vowes do often call him back.

But live thou there still happie, happie spirit,
And give us leave thee here thus to lament:
Not thee that doest thy heavens joy inherit,
But our owne selves that here in dole are drent.
Thus do we weep and waile, and wear our eies,
Mourning in others, our owne miseries.

Which when she ended had, another swaine
Of gentle wit and daintie sweet device,
Whom Astrophel full deare did entertaine,
Whilest here he liv’d, and held in passing price,
Hight Thestylis, began his mournfull tourne;
And made the Muses in his song to mourne.

And after him full many other moe,
As everie one in order lov’d him best,
Gan dight themselves t’ expresse their inward woe,
With dolefull layes unto the time addrest:
The which I here in order will rehearse,
As fittest flowres to deck his mournfull hearse.

Sonnet

10-23 Brembati
Isotta Brembati
Italian
1530 – 1586

 

Sublime thought always
unburdens my heart of other thought
like the brilliant sun lightens dark clouds
shows me the true path to heaven.

This alone rules my breast
and creates desire, forms rose and violet words,
as changing as April
under the majestic sun

Now, if Heaven and Nature
wish that the sun be within me
who is powerful enough then to take it away?

However much cruel Fortune might oppose this
she can never challenge
the mindful care of heaven.

Against Love

10-22 Philips
Katherine Philips
English
1631 – 1664

 

Hence Cupid! with your cheating toys,
Your real griefs, and painted joys,
Your pleasure which itself destroys.
Lovers like men in fevers burn and rave,
And only what will injure them do crave.
Men’s weakness makes love so severe,
They give him power by their fear,

And make the shackles which they wear.
Who to another does his heart submit,
Makes his own idol, and then worships it.
Him whose heart is all his own,
Peace and liberty does crown,
He apprehends no killing frown.
He feels no raptures which are joys diseased,
And is not much transported, but still pleased.

To the Flower of Gnido

We present this work in honor of the 485th anniversary of the poet’s death.

10-14 De La Vega
Garcilaso de la Vega
Spanish
1501 – 1536

 

I
Had I the sweet resounding lyre
Whose voice could in a moment chain
The howling wind’s ungoverned ire,
And movement of the raging main;
On savage hills the leopard rein,

II
The lion’s fiery soul entrance,
And lead along with golden tones
The fascinated trees and stones
In voluntary dance,
Think not, think not, fair Flower of Gnide,

III
It e’er should celebrate the scars,
Dust raised, bloodshed, or laurels dyed
Beneath the gonfalon of Mars;
Or borne sublime on festal cars,
The chiefs who to submission sank

IV
The rebel German’s soul of soul,
And forged the chains that now control
The frenzy of the Frank.
No, no! its harmonies should ring
In vaunt of glories all thine own,

V
A discord sometimes from the string
Struck forth to make thy harshness known;
The fingered chords should speak alone
Of Beauty’s triumphs, Love’s alarms,
And one who, made by thy disdain

VI
Pale as a lily dipt in twain,
Bewails thy fatal charms.
Of that poor captive, too, contemned,
I speak, his doom you might deploreIn
Venus’ galliot-shell condemned

VII
To strain for life the heavy oar.
Through thee no longer as of yore
He tames the unmanageable steed,
With curb of gold his pride restrains,
Or with pressed spurs and shaken reins

VIII
Torments him into speed.
Not now he wields for thy sweet sake
The sword in his accomplished hand,
Nor grapples like a poisonous snake,
The wrestler on the yellow sand;

IX
The old heroic harp his hand
Consults not now, it can but kiss
The amorous lute’s dissolving strings,
Which murmur forth a thousand things
Of banishment from bliss.

X
Through thee, my dearest friend and best
Grows harsh, importunate, and grave;
Myself have been his port of rest
From shipwreck and the yawning wave;
Yet now so high his passions rave

XI
Above lost reason ‘s conquered laws,
That not the traveller ere he slays
The asp, its sting, as he my face
So dreads, or so abhors.
In snows on rocks, sweet Flower of Gnide,

XII
Thou wert not cradled, wert not born,
She who has no fault beside
Should ne’er be signalized for scorn;
Else, tremble at the fate forlorn
Of Anaxarete, who spurned

XIII
The weeping Iphis from her gate,
Who, scoffing long, relenting late,
Was to a statue turned.
Whilst yet soft pity she repelled,
Whilst yet she steeled her heart in pride,

XIV
From her friezed window she beheld
Aghast, the lifeless suicide;
Around his lily neck was tied
What freed his spirit from her chains,
And purchased with a few short sighs

XV
For her immortal agonies,
Imperishable pains.
Then first she felt her bosom bleed
With love and pity; vain distress!
Oh what deep rigors must succeed

XVI
This first sole touch of tenderness!
Her eyes grow glazed and motionless,
Nailed on his wavering corse, each bone
Hardening in growth, invades her flesh,
Which, late so rosy, warm, and fresh,

XVII
Now stagnates into stone.
From limb to limb the frost aspire,
Her vitals curdle with the cold;
The blood forgets its crimson fire,
The veins that e’er its motion rolled;

XVIII
Till now the virgin’s glorious mould
Was wholly into marble changed,
On which the Salaminians gazed,
Less at the prodigy amazed,
Than of the crime avenged.

XIX
Then tempt not thou Fate’s angry arms,
By cruel frown or icy taunt;
But let thy perfect deeds and charms
To poets’ harps, Divinest, grant
Themes worthy their immortal vaunt;

XX
Else must our weeping strings presume
To celebrate in strains of woe,
The justice of some signal blow
That strikes thee to the tomb.

Sent to My Husband

09-03 Huang
Huang E
Chinese
1498 – 1569

 

“Wild geese have never flown as far as Hengyang”;
How then will my embroidered words be carried all the way to Yongchang?
Like the willow’s flowers by the end of spring, I am ill-fated indeed;
In the mists of that alien land, you feel the pangs of despair.
“Oh, to go home, to go home,” you mourn to the year’s bitter end.
“Oh, if it would rain, if it would rain,” I complain to the bright dawn.
One hears of vain promises that you could be set free;
When will the Golden Cock reach all the way to Yelang?

I See the World Falling

08-27 Terracina
Laura Terracina
Italian
1519 – 1577

 

I see the world falling, I see it beguiled,
I see virtue abandoned,
And the Muses contemptuously held,
So much that nearly is my heart entombed.

I see hate and envy all twisted
about thought of friends, and with false song;
I see the worthy betrayed by the vile,
And all to our loss, the heavens rebel.

None the standard of the common good hold firm,
Instead for private gain all declaim,
While heavy are their hearts with motives dark.

I see and in seeing hold even self hateful,
So that for loathing I would,
See myself sightless or the world entire, blind.

To Marco Venier

We present this work in honor of the 430th anniversary of the poet’s death.

07-22 Franco
Veronica Franco
Italian
1546 – 1591

 

If I could be certain of your love,
from what your words and face display,
which often conceal a changing mind;
if external signs revealed what the mind
conceals within, so that a person
were not so often entrapped by deceit,
I would cast aside this fear, for which,
however I tried to protect myself,
I would be mocked as simple and unwise;
“to the same place one can take many roads,”

the proverb says; and it is never safe
to change one’s direction according to appearances.
Let no one stray from the beaten path
who is trying to find safe shelter
before the night comes to catch up with him.
The path of hope is not straightforward,
for more often than not, it leads astray
with lying words and false pretense;
the path of certainty is the right way,
which always leads to peaceful rest

and is safe on both sides and from. behind;
to this path I raise up my eyes’ thought
and, disappointed by words and charm,
I leave behind all their misleading lures.
May you find this an acceptable excuse,
may it acquit me of the charge that I believe
neither your gestures nor your words.
And if you truly love me, it grieves me very much
that you do not reveal yourself by deeds,
as a man who loves truly usually does:

I am sorry, on one hand, that you feel pain,
and on the other, that you frustrate me
in my desire to satisfy your true love.
Since I will not believe that I am loved,
nor should I believe it or reward you
for the pledge you have made me up to now,
win my approval, sir, with deeds:
prove yourself through them, if I, too,
am expected to prove my love with deeds;
but if instead you long for fictions,

as long as you persist in spinning out tales,
my welcome to you will be just as false;
and, when, fatigued and annoyed by fictions,
you show me your love in deeds,
I will assure you of mine in the same way.
I will show you my heart open in my breast,
once you no longer hide yours from me,
and my delight will be to please you;
and if you think I am so dear to Phoebus
for composing poems, in the works of love
you’ll find me dearer still to Venus.

Certain qualities concealed within me,
I will reveal to you, infinitely sweetly,
which prose or verse has never shown another,
on this condition: that you prove your love to me
by other means than compliments, for I
take care not to be fooled by them;
please me more with deeds and praise me less,
and where your courtesy overflows into praise,
distribute it in some other way.
Does what I say seem right to you,

or do you instead perhaps think I am wrong,
lacking experience to choose the right path?
Sir, being mocked is a most painful thing,
especially in love; and let whoever
does not believe this show his reason why.
I am ready to walk in step with you,
and I will love you beyond any doubt,
just as your merit requires I should.
If in your breast you have love’s burning fire
I’ll feel it by your side, for it will have

The power to set my heart aflame, too;
it’s not possible to escape its blows,
and whoever feels truly loved
is bound to love the lover in return;
but attempting to make white pass for black
is something that everybody dislikes,
even those whose judgment is weak.
So show me the fruits of your love for me,
for only foolish folk are deceived
by the lure of empty words.

Despite what I now answer you,
I’d not want you to think me greedy for gain,
for that vice is not concealed in my breast;
but I would like you to believe
that when I love, my courteous desires,
if not chaste, are decidedly chary;
and as soon as I have understood
that a man is brave and that he loves me,
I’ve returned his principal with interest.
But whoever, on this account, should decide

to try to fool me is himself a fool;
and anyone he asks could tell him so.
And what I now request from you
is not that you express your love
for me with silver or with gold;
for to make a deal with a gentleman
in order to extract a treasure from him
is most improper if one’s not entirely venal.
Such an act doesn’t suit my profession,
but I want to see, I say it clearly,

your love in deeds instead of words.
You know well what I most cherish:
behave in this as I’ve already told you,
and you’ll be my special, matchless lover.
My heart falls in love with virtues,
and you, who possess so many of them
that in you all the finest wisdom dwells,
don’t deny me your effort in such a great cause
let me see you longing in this way
to acquire a lover’s claim upon me;

be diligent and eager in this task
and in order to grant my wish,
do not be idle in your free time.
This will be no burden to you
for to your prowess any undertaking,
however difficult, comes with ease.
And if such a small task weighs you down,
think of how iron and stone fly aloft,
when set in motion by a burning flame;
whatever by nature tends to sink downward

through the fury of fire, more than any other force,
turns to rise from the center to the rim;
so love for me has no place within you
since it lacks the power to make you do
what even without love would be a small thing.
And do you then hope to make me love
as if you believed that with one single leap
I should suddenly fall in love with you?
I don’t glory in this or exalt myself;
but, to tell you the truth, you want to fly

without wings and rise too high all at once;
let your desire match your ability,
for you can easily reach a height
that others, with effort, cannot attain.
I long to have a real reason to love you
and I leave it up to you to decide,
so that you have no right to complain.
There’ll be no gap between merit and reward
if you’ll give me what, though in my opinion
it has great value, costs you not a thing;

your reward from me will be
not only to fly but to soar so high
that your hope will match your desires.
And my beauty, such as it is,
which you never tire of praising,
I’ll then employ for your contentment;
sweetly lying at your left side,
I will make you taste the delights of love
when they have been expertly learned;
And doing this, I could give you such pleasure

that you could say you were fully content,
and at once fall more deeply in love.
So sweet and delicious do I become,
when I am in bed with a man
who, I sense, loves and enjoys me,
that the pleasure I bring excels all delight,
so the knot of love, however tight
it seemed before, is tied tighter still.
Phoebus, who serves the goddess of love,
and obtains from her as a sweet reward

what blesses him far more than being a god,
comes from her to reveal to my mind
the positions that Venus assumes with him
when she holds him in sweet embraces;
so that I, well taught in such matters,
know how to perform so well in bed
that this art exceeds Apollo’s by far,
and my singing and writing are both forgotten
by the man who experiences me in this way,
which Venus reveals to people who serve her.

If your soul is vanquished by love for me,
arrange to have me in far sweeter fashion
than anything my pen can declare.
Your valor is the steadfast knot
that can pull me to your lap,
joined to you more tightly than a nail in hard wood;
your skill can make you master of my life,
for which you show so much love
that skill that miraculously stands out in you.
Let me see the works I’ve asked for from you,

for then you’ll enjoy my sweetness to the full;
and I will also take pleasure in yours,
in the way that mutual love allows,
which provides delight free from all pain.
I yearn and long to have a good reason
to love you: decide what you think best,
for every outcome depends on your will.

I have no more to say; go in peace.