from As You Like It

We present this work in honor of the 405th anniversary of the poet’s death.

William Shakespeare
English
1564 – 1616

 

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

I Live on This Depraved and Lonely Cliff

Vittoria Colonna
Italian
1492 – 1547

I live on this depraved and lonely cliff
like a sad bird abhorring a green tree
or splashing water. I move forcefully
away from those I love, and I am stiff
even before myself so that my thoughts
may rise and fly to him: sun I adore
and worship. Though their wings could hurry more,
they race only to him. The forest rots
until the instant when they reach that place.
Then deep in ecstasy, though quick, they feel
a joy beyond all earthly joy. I reel,
and yet if they could recreate his face
as my mind craving and consuming would,
then here perhaps I’d own the perfect good.

Translation by Willis Barnstone

The Rose

We present this work in honor of the 435th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Pierre Ronsard
French
1524 – 1585

 

See, Mignonne, hath not the Rose,
That this morning did unclose
Her purple mantle to the light,
Lost, before the day be dead,
The glory of her raiment red,
Her colour, bright as yours is bright?

Ah, Mignonne, in how few hours,
The petals of her purple flowers
All have faded, fallen, died;
Sad Nature, mother ruinous,
That seest thy fair child perish thus
‘Twixt matin song and even tide.

Hear me, my darling, speaking sooth,
Gather the fleet flower of your youth,
Take ye your pleasure at the best;
Be merry ere your beauty flit,
For length of days will tarnish it
Like roses that were loveliest.

Within This Body

In honor of Gandhi Jayanti, we present this work by one of India’s greatest Hindi language poets.

Tulsidas
Indian
1532 – 1623

 

Within this body
breathes the secret essence.
Within this body
beats the heart of the Vedas.

Within this body
shines the entire Universe,
so the saints say.

Hermits, ascetics, celibates —
all are lost
seeking Him
in endless guises.

Seers and sages perfectly parrot
the scriptures and holy books,
blinded by knowledge.

Their pilgrimage,
and fasting,
and striving
but delude.
Despite their perfect practice,
they discover no destination.

Only the saints
who know the body’s heart
have attained the Ultimate, O Tulsi.
Realize this, and you’ve found your freedom.

While teachers trapped in tradition
know only the mirage
in the mirror.

Against an Avaricious Judge

Fray Luis de Leon
Spanish
1527 – 1591

 

Even if in copious mountains you lift the attained, useless gold;
and even if your possessions you improve with the hurt and tears of others;

And even if, cruel tyrant, you oppress the truth,
and your avarice, dressed in a false name, converts justice to buying and selling;

Even if you fool the eyes of the world that you adore,
it will nonetheless not stop sharp thistles to be born in your heart;

Nor will fear stop sleeping in your bed;
nor will you escape worries and agony, the ultimate spite;

Nor will good hope in pleasure ever cross your threshold;

Nor will la Meguera, with infernal flames, and serpentine whip
in a raised and ferocious skilled arm, leave your bedchamber for a moment;

Nor will you stop the wheel of fortune, despite all you can do,
the hungry and cruel consumer of time is coming with death as a co-conspirator,
to leave you naked of the gold and all that you love most;

And you will be left immersed in interminable harm and oblivion.

To the Sun Because it Rose When He Was With a Woman and He Had to Leave Her

Luis de Góngora
Spanish
1561 – 1627

 

Already kissing two crystalline hands,
Already clinging to a white, smooth neck,
Already scattering ‘round it all that hair,
which Love from the gold in its mines had torn;

already breaking on those precious pearls
a thousand sweet words, not deserving it,
already plucking from each lovely lip
crimson roses with no fear of thorns,

was I, oh shimmering and jealous Sun,
when your light, shattering my eyes,
killed my delight and stopped what I’d begun.

If heaven has not yet become too weak,
in order that yours cease to give me pain,
may its rays kill you as they did your son.

Today I Drank Wine and Was Drunk

Pir Sultan Abdal
Turkish
1480 – 1550

 

Today I drank wine and was drunk
I swear, I cannot hold my tongue
Today I was so pleased with my Dervish
I swear, I forgot all about death

The world appears completely empty
My Dervish brings me pleasure
He is exuberant whenever he loves
I swear, I love my Dervish

The morsel the Dervish proffers is permitted for me
The tavern is my pilgrim‘s kabaa
The barking of the patrolling hounds
I swear, does not block my way

Let the Dervish come and be cross with me
Let my arm embrace his neck
Let the arms that are drawn away be broken
I swear, I cannot withdraw my arm

If I enter his embrace uncovered
If he sleeps and I love silently
If he awakes and he speaks rudely
I swear, I cannot withdraw my hand

I am Latife I am so shameless
I love greatly and I am so brazen
I know nothing of shame and honour
I swear, I will pluck my rose

Done is a Battle

We present this work in honor of Corpus Christi.

William Dunbar
Scots
1459 – 1520

 

Done is a battle on the dragon black,
Our champion Christ confoundit has his force;
The yetis of hell are broken with a crack,
The sign triumphal raisit is of the cross,
The devillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis are borrowit and to the bliss can go,
Christ with his bloud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungan is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The cruewall serpent with the mortal stang;
The auld kene tiger, with his teith on char,
Whilk in a wait has lyen for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clawis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it were so,
He made him for to failye of that fang.
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice was dicht,
Is lyk a lion risen up agane,
And as a gyane raxit him on hicht;
Sprungen is Aurora radious and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorious Apollo,
The blissful day departit fro the nicht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The grit victour again is rissen on hicht,
That for our querrell to the deth was woundit;
The sun that wox all pale now shynis bricht,
And, derkness clearit, our faith is now refoundit;
The knell of mercy fra the heaven is soundit,
The Christin are deliverit of their wo,
The Jowis and their errour are confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The fo is chasit, the battle is done ceis,
The presone broken, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeon temit,
The ransoun made, the prisoneris redeemit;
The field is won, owrecomen is the fo,
Dispuilit of the treasure that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.