The Country Justice

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

07-08 Fontaine
Jean de la Fontaine
French
1621 – 1695

 

Two lawyers to their cause so well adhered,
A country justice quite confused appeared,
By them the facts were rendered so obscure
With which the truth remained he was not sure.
At length, completely tired, two straws he sought
Of diff’rent lengths, and to the parties brought.
These in his hand he held:—the plaintiff drew
(So fate decreed) the shortest of the two.
On this the other homeward took his way,
To boast how nicely he had gained the day.

The bench complained: the magistrate replied
Don’t blame I pray—’tis nothing new I’ve tried;
Courts often judge at hazard in the law,
Without deciding by the longest straw.

The City and the Country

06-24 Al Yusi
Al-Yusi
Moroccan
1631 – 1691

 

Man resorts to the urban mode of living to enjoy commerce and industry,
and all the other techniques his system of living can accommodate,
and also to gain mutual aid, and in view of religious or secular advantages.
In general, all of this can only be achieved by the gathering of many people
likely to furnish the markets, each trade, art, technique, or activity
lending one or more specialists. Now, these conditions are not present
inside a single family, or even inside a single tribe.
They result from the variety of the mix and the size of the mass.
This is so for two reasons. First, because such is the opinion of the collectivity
that takes on those needs. And then, because natural law does not want
a small group to keep the exclusivity of knowledge, or have sole use and possession
of religious or secular advantages, or free itself from other creaturely characteristics
so as to constitute an order proper and useful to itself,
by excluding any consideration of the others.
To the contrary, in His solicitude and wisdom,
God has widely distributed qualifications and advantages among the humans.
Thus it is that one finds a savant among such and such a group, a poet among another,
in yet another an artisan or a merchant, in such manner that mutual aid
can be complete and that everyone can participate in God’s beneficence
by taking on a specific task.

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.