The Steadfast Shepherd

We present this work in honor of the 455th anniversary of the poet’s death.

05-02 Wither
George Wither
English
1588 – 1667

 

Hence away, thou siren, leave me,
Pish! unclasp those wanton arms,
Sugared words can ne’er deceive me
Though thou prove a thousand charms.
Fie, fie, forbear, no common snare
Can ever my affection chain.
Thy painted baits and poor deceits
Are all bestowed on me in vain.

I’m no slave to such as you be,
Neither shall that snowy breast,
Rolling eye and lip of ruby,
Ever rob me of my rest.
Go, go, display thy beauty’s ray
To some more soon enamoured swain,
Those common wiles of sighs and smiles
Are all bestowed on me in vain.

I have elsewhere vowed a duty,
Turn away that tempting eye,
Show me not a painted beauty,
These impostures I defy.
My spirit loathes where gaudy clothes
And feigned oaths may love obtain.
I love her so, whose looks swear no,
That all your labours will be vain.

Advice

We present this work in honor of the 310th anniversary of the poet’s death.

04-10 Nabi
Yusuf Nabi
Turkish
1642 – 1712

 

Look you, most poetry of novice poets
Is lovelocks and hyacinths,
Roses and nightingales,
Wine and cup

They cannot leave
The orbit of the beloved
The body and cheek,
Lip and moist eye

Now they wander to spring,
Then to the meadow
And touch upon the cypress,
The rose and jasemin

They cannot walk
The untrodden path
Nor turn on
The less-travelled road

They can neither hunt
Poetry’s exalted ideas
Nor lasso the unseen world’s game

They make their way
On commonplaces
On well-known and experienced words

That double couplet bends
Under two donkey-loads of stuff
The cloth of its meaning
Cannot be fresh

So do not compose poetry
With empty words
Do not draw your net
Fishless from the sea

65th Poem from Daasarathii Satakam

We present this work in honor of Uzhavar Tirunal.

01-16 Ramadasu
Bhadrachala Ramadasu
Indian
1620 – 1680

Wonder was it when a rock touched by your foot became a youthful woman,
Wonder was it when a multitude of boulders floated on water in steadiness,
But, what wonder it is when a man by constant thinking of you obtains salvation? on
This earth, pleasant one to the daughter of earth, Daasarathii, ocean of kindness!

from Tartuffe

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

01-15 Moliere
Moliere
French
1622 – 1673

 

A love of heavenly beauty does not preclude
A proper love for earthly pulchritude;
Our senses are quite rightly captivated
By perfect works our Maker has created.
Some glory clings to all that Heaven has made;
In you, all Heaven’s marvels are displayed.
On that fair face such beauties are displayed.
On that fair face such beauties have been lavished,
The eyes are dazzled and the heart is ravished;
How could I look on you, O flawless creature,
And not adore the Author of all Nature,
Feeling a love both passionate and pure
For you, his triumph of self-portraiture?
At first, I trembled lest that love should be
A subtle snare that Hell had laid for me;
I vowed to flee the sight of you, eschewing
A rapture that might prove my soul’s undoing;
But soon, fair being, I became aware
That my deep passion could be made to square
With rectitude, and with my bounden duty.
I thereupon surrendered to your beauty.
It is, I know, presumptuous on my part
To bring you this poor offering of my heart,
And it is not my merit, heaven knows,
But your compassion on which my hopes repose.
You are my peace, my solace, my salvation;
On you depends my bliss—or desolation;
I bide your judgment and, as you think best,
I shall be either miserable or blest.
I may be pious, but I’m human too:
With your celestial charms before his eyes,
A man has not the power to be wise.
I know such words sound strangely, coming from me,
But I’m no angel, nor was meant to be,
And if you blame my passion, you must needs
Reproach as well the charms on which it feeds.
Your loveliness I had no sooner seen
Than you became my soul’s unrivalled queen;
Before your seraph glance, divinely sweet,
My heart’s defenses crumbled in defeat,
And nothing fasting, prayer, or tears might do
Could stay my spirit from adoring you.
My eyes, my sighs have told you in the past
What now my lips make bold to say at last,
And if, in your great goodness, you will deign
To look upon your slave, and ease his pain—
If, in compassion for my soul’s distress,
You’ll stoop to comfort my unworthiness,
I’ll raise to you, in thanks for that sweet manna,
An endless hymn, an infinite hosanna.
With me, of course, there need be no anxiety,
No fear of scandal or of notoriety.
These young court gallants, whom all the ladies fancy,
Are vain in speech, in action rash and chancy;
When they succeed in love, the world soon knows it;
No favor’s granted them but they disclose it
And by the looseness of their tongues profane
The very altar where their hearts have lain.
Men of my sort, however, love discreetly,
And one may trust our reticence completely.
My keen concern for my good name insures
The absolute security of yours;
In short, I offer you, my dear Elmire,
Love without scandal, pleasure without fear.

 

Translation by Richard Wilbur

A Woman to Her Lover

11-12 Kshevtrayya
Kshetrayya
Indian
1600 – 1680

“Your body is my body,”
you used to say,
and it has come true,
Muvva Gopala.

Though I was with you
all these days,
I wasn’t sure.

Some woman has scratched
nail marks on your chest,
but I’m the one who feels the hurt.

You go sleepless all night,
but it’s my eyes
that turn red.
“Your body is my body,” you used to say

Ever since you fell for that woman,
it’s my mind
that’s in distress.

When I look at those charming love bites
she has left on your lips,
it’s my lip that shakes.
“Your body is my body,” you used to say

Maybe you made love
to another woman,
for, O lord who rules me,
my desire is sated.

Forgive me, Gopala,
but when you come back here,
I’m the one who feels small
with shame.
“Your body is my body,” you used to say

On Death

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

11-05 Killigrew
Anne Killigrew
English
1660 – 1685

 

Tell me thou safest End of all our Woe,
Why wreched Mortals do avoid thee so:
Thou gentle drier o’th’ afflicteds Tears,
Thou noble ender of the Cowards Fears;
Thou sweet Repose to Lovers sad dispaire,
Thou Calm t’Ambitions rough Tempestuous Care.
If in regard of Bliss thou wert a Curse,
And then the Joys of Paradise art worse;
Yet after Man from his first Station fell,
And God from Eden Adam did expel,
Thou wert no more an Evil, but Relief;
The Balm and Cure to ev’ry Humane Grief:
Through thee (what Man had forfeited before)
He now enjoys, and ne’r can loose it more.

No subtile Serpents in the Grave betray,
Worms on the Body there, not Soul do prey;
No Vice there Tempts, no Terrors there afright,
No Coz’ning Sin affords a false delight:
No vain Contentions do that Peace annoy,
No feirce Alarms break the lasting Joy.

Ah since from thee so many Blessings flow,
Such real Good as Life can never know;
Come when thou wilt, in thy afrighting’st Dress,
Thy Shape shall never make thy Welcome less.
Thou mayst to Joy, but ne’er to Fear give Birth,
Thou Best, as well as Certain’st thing on Earth.
Fly thee? May Travellers then fly their Rest,
And hungry Infants fly the profer’d Brest.
No, those that faint and tremble at thy Name,
Fly from their Good on a mistaken Fame.
Thus Childish fear did Israel of old
From Plenty and the Promis’d Land with-hold;
They fancy’d Giants, and refus’d to go,
When Canaan did with Milk and Honey flow.

Come, My Soul, Awake, ‘Tis Morning

In honor of German Unity Day, we present this work by one of Germany’s most celebratory poets.

Friedrich von Canitz
German
1654 – 1699

 

Come, my soul, awake, ‘t is morning,
Day is dawning
O’er the earth, arise and pray;
Come, to Hime who made this splendour
Thou must render
All thy feeble pow’rs can pay.

Soul, thy incense also proffer;
Thou shouldst offer
Praise to Him, who from thy head
Kept afar the storms of sorrow,
And the morrow
Finds the night in peace hath fled.

Bid Him bless what thou art doing,
If pursuing
Some good aim; but if there lurks
Ill intent in thine endeavour,
May He ever
Thwart and turn thee from thy works.

From God’s glances shrink thou never,
Meet them ever;
Who submits him to His grace,
Finds that earth no sunshine knoweth
Such as gloweth
O’er his pathway all his days.

Wakenest thou again to sorrow,
Oh! then borrow
Strength from Him, whose sun-like might
On the mountain-summit tarries,
And yet carries
To the vales their mirth and light.

Pray that when thy life is closing,
Calm reposing
Thou mayst die, and not in pain;
That, the night of death departed,
Thou, glad-bearted,
Mayst behold the Sun again.

You’re Gone—I’m Alone

In honor of the Turkish holiday, Victory Day, we present this work by one of the country’s most heartfelt poets.

08-30 Nesati
Neşâtî
Turkish
1623 – 1674

 

You’re gone—I’m alone in the company of longing
I no longer want sweet talk with friends if you’re not there

I dare not go to the garden without you
The laughing rose seems red as fire, the swaying cypress a pointed flame

Let me tear a cry from my breast, let me voice such pain
The wheel of the sky turns backward, along with the shining sun

The passing cup at the party is a whirlpool of sadness without you
A whirlpool of bright wine inside the turning bowl

What a shame! Poor Neşâtî is so sick with grief and pain
Both the skirt of companionship, and its collar, are torn by separation’s thorn