Lines Composed while Feasting Censor He on a Day in Autumn

Xue Susu
Chinese
c. 1564 – c. 1650

 

Inside the city walls of stone in the pleasure quarter
I feel deeply mortified that my talents outshine all the others
The river glitters, the waters clear, and the seagulls swim in pairs
The sky looks hollow, the clouds serene, and the wild geese fly in rows
My embroidered dress partly borrows the hue of hibiscus
The emerald wine shares the scent of lotus
If I did not reciprocate your feelings
Would I dare to feast with you, Master He?

The Definition of Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 400th birthday.

Andrew Marvell
English
1621 – 1678

 

My love is of a birth as rare
As ’tis for object strange and high;
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing
Where feeble Hope could ne’er have flown,
But vainly flapp’d its tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt,
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect loves, nor lets them close;
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic pow’r depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant poles have plac’d,
(Though love’s whole world on us doth wheel)
Not by themselves to be embrac’d;

Unless the giddy heaven fall,
And earth some new convulsion tear;
And, us to join, the world should all
Be cramp’d into a planisphere.

As lines, so loves oblique may well
Themselves in every angle greet;
But ours so truly parallel,
Though infinite, can never meet.

Therefore the love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the mind,
And opposition of the stars.

Against Constancy

Earl of Rochester
English
1647 – 1680

 

Tell me no more of constancy,
The frivolous pretense
Of cold age, narrow jealousy,
Disease, and want of sense.

Let duller fools, on whom kind chance
Some easy heart has thrown,
Despairing higher to advance,
Be kind to one alone.

Old men and weak, whose idle flame
Their own defects discovers,
Since changing can but spread their shame,
Ought to be constant lovers.

But we, whose hearts do justly swell
With no vainglorious pride,
Who know how we in love excel,
Long to be often tried.

Then bring my bath, and strew my bed,
As each kind night returns;
I’ll change a mistress till I’m dead—
And fate change me to worms.

If Love is Chaste

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 400th birthday.

Sibylla Schwarz
German
1621 – 1638

 

If love is chaste, what bears adultery?
If love is good, and does no evil own,
How can its fire so many flames propone?
If love is joy, why’s it called cruelty?

Who love adores, sails on a lustful sea,
And lets himself into death’s net be sewn,
Which does not tear; he lives for sin alone,
Is stripped of virtue, worships vanity.

For life eternal totally he dies,
And sees his grief but when his grave he spies.
Whoever has been found in loving’s fit,

Let him hate love and flee it in all haste.
Does love taste sweet? Let him despise its taste.
Is love his bread? Let him feed dogs with it.

from Primavera Indiana

We present this work in honor of the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora
Mexican
1645 – 1700

 

I am Mary, of Omnipotent God
the Humble Mother, Virgin sovereign,
a torch whose eternal light
is the splendid North Star of Mankind’s hope:
Let a perfumed altar in a holy temple
Be instilled for me in Mexico, once Pluto’s
profane dwelling whose horrors
my foot dispels in a storm of flowers.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

In honor of Guy Fawkes Night, we present this work by one of 17th century England’s most beloved poets.

Robert Herrick
English
1591 – 1674

 

Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to day,
To morrow will be dying.

The glorious Lamp of Heaven, the Sun,
The higher he’s a getting;
The sooner will his Race be run,
And neerer he’s to Setting.

That Age is best, which is the first,
When Youth and Blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times, still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time;
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Light of Light, O Sun of Heaven

Martin Opitz
German
1597 – 1639

 

Light of light, O Sun of heaven,
O Thou bright and morning Star,
To mankind in mercy given,
Send Thy radiance from afar,
Bringing light to all the earth,
Health and strength, and joy and mirth;
Darkness past, the dawn is breaking,
All creation is awaking.

Still my soul is thickly shrouded
In the chilling mist of sin,
And my conscience is beclouded
By the ignorance within.
Lead me by the hand, I pray,
Lest in error’s path I stray;
Make Thy light my sole attraction,
Guiding every thought and action.

Spirit of the heavenly morning,
Shine into my darkened heart,
That, the way of life discerning,
I may choose the better part.
Make my erring walk secure,
Every thought and action pure;
Whereso’er my feet be turning,
Keep Thy zeal within me burning.

Deign Thy feeble flock to strengthen
By the bonds of sacred love,
And Thy lines of empire lengthen
By Thy power from above.
Help us govern in Thy sight,
That our laws be just and right;
That we suffer no oppression,
Make our land Thine own possession.

Let our lamp of faith be burning
On that awful judgment day.
While in sin’s domain sojourning,
Guide us in the heavenward way:
Then their praise and thanks to Thee,
Lord, in all eternity
Shall Thy happy children render,
For Thy mercies, kind and tender.

from Ardhakathānaka

Banarasidas
Indian
1586 – 1643

 

Samvat 1662.
Came the month of Kartik and the end of the rainy season.
The great Emperor Akbar
Died in the city of Agra.

The news of his death reached Jaunpur.
The people, bereft of their emperor, felt orphaned and helpless.
The townsfolk were afraid,
Their hearts troubled, their faces pale with fear.

Banarasi suddenly
Heard of Akbar’s death.
He had been sitting on the stairs,
The news struck him like a blow upon the heart.

He swooned and fell,
He could not help himself.
He cracked his head and began bleeding profusely.
The word ‘God’ slipped from his mouth.

He had hurt his head on the stone floor
Of the courtyard, which turned red with his blood.
Everyone began making a great fuss;
His mother and father were frantic.

His mother held him in her arms,
Applied a piece of burnt cloth to his wound.
Then, making up a bed, she laid her son upon it
His mother wept unceasingly.

Meanwhile there was chaos in the city,
Riots broke out everywhere.
People sealed shut the doors of their houses,
Shopkeepers would not sit in their shops.

Fine clothes and expensive jewellery–
These, people buried underground.
Books recording their business transactions they buried somewhere else,
And hid their cash and other goods in safe and secure places.

In every house, weapons were gathered.
Men began to wear plain clothes
And casting off fine shawls, wrapped themselves in rough blankets.
The women too began to dress plainly.

No one could tell the difference between the high and the low.
The rich and the poor were alike.
No thieves or robbers were to be seen anywhere,
People were needlessly afraid.

The chaos and confusion continued for ten days.
Then peace returned:
A letter came from Agra saying that all was well.
This was what the letter said–

“The great Akbar was emperor
For fifty-two years.
Now in Samvat 1662,
He died in the month of Kartik.”

“Akbar’s oldest son
Sahib Shah Salim,
Has, in the city of Agra, assumed the throne
In Akbar’s palace.”

“He has taken the name of Nuruddin
Jahangir Sultan.
This news is being given all over the kingdom,
In every place where the emperor’s authority holds sway.”

This was the news contained in the letter
Which was read from house to house
And spread around Jaunpur
Causing the people to give thanks in relief.

There was joy in Kharagsen’s house
A state of well-being prevailed, gone were sorrow and strife;
Banarasi recovered, and bathed;
The family rejoiced and gave alms generously in their joy.

Lament for Clairac

Theophile de Viau
French
1590 – 1626

 

Sweet place where I adored Phyllis of yore,
Sun-hallowed walls that held my soul in charms,
Today beneath our sundered roofs no more
Than bloody spoil for prideful men at arms,

Cloth of the altar gone in smoke and scorned,
Temple in ruins, mysteries undone,
Horrific relicts of a city burned:
Men, horses, palaces, buried as one.

Deep moats packed with debris from shattered walls,
Tableaux of horror, shrieks and burials,
River where blood has not stopped running high,

Slaughterfields where the wolves and crows gorge free,
Clairac! For the one birth you gave to me
How many, many deaths you make me die.