A Young Girl’s Complaint About Her Sweetheart

Elen Gwdman
Welsh
c. 1616

 

Every young woman in the world,
In pure mind and heart;
Be wary, watch that you be wicked
To a lad, O be faithful.

I know from my own wound
And I confess to you:
The spear of sadness is in my breast
Because of loving faithfully.

A fine, noble graceful man,
In the lusty age of youth,
As he passed by the place where I lived,
I often enjoyed his company.

His virtues and his speech in my presence
His appearing sudden like the snow
And his sobriety were causes
To make me think he liked me.

Cupid knew in a short time
That I liked his ways,
And he struck a heavy blow,
Yes, an arrow of lead to my heart.

Then we both became sick
But neither confessed his thoughts;
Each knew only his own wound
Even though both were in pain.

Being of frail confidence, he did not
Presume to ask
Mercy at my hand,
But suffered there like a little lamb.

And I too was shy or dumb,
Not daring to tell him
Nor giving any sign anywhere
Of my wound, that he might suspect.

I imagined that he was just
Feigning a fancy
And he thought it was not fit
To try to salve my bruise.

Thus we were not counting the stars
And lacking a go-between;
When fortune brought, Christ knows,
To me sad news.

I heard that his friends had
Bound him tightly to another
He had to suffer swiftly
Either the yoke or the axe.

Meeting each other after this
And starting to enquire in amazement;
Blame fell on Destiny
That our friends knew not our troubles.

Since he is saying goodbye,
I will further confess:
From now on, for his sake,
I will live a madi all my life.

Friends and kinfolk, foolish and wise,
I say farewell to you;
I’ll go to Rome, with God’s strength,
To live all my life in a nunnery.

Singing and dancing, processions, gossip
I renounce your company;
Gravity, fasting, and prayer,
For these I have a welcome.

A girl sang this, who has set her heart
On giving up the world;
And in praise to pure Jesus
I will not seek to sing anything but this.

By Night When Others Soundly Slept

We present this work in honor of the 350th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Anne Bradstreet
English
1612 – 1672

 

1

By night when others soundly slept
And hath at once both ease and Rest,
My waking eyes were open kept
And so to lie I found it best.

2

I sought him whom my Soul did Love,
With tears I sought him earnestly.
He bow’d his ear down from Above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.

3

My hungry Soul he fill’d with Good;
He in his Bottle put my tears,
My smarting wounds washt in his blood,
And banisht thence my Doubts and fears.

4

What to my Saviour shall I give
Who freely hath done this for me?
I’ll serve him here whilst I shall live
And Loue him to Eternity.

On the Death of the Late Queen

George Farquhar
Irish
1677 – 1707

 

Whilst heaven with envy on the earth looked down,
Saw us unworthy of the royal pair,
And justly claimed Maria as its own,
Yet kindly left the glorious William here:
The heaven and earth alike do in the blessing share.
He makes the earth, she heaven our great allies,
And though we mourn, she for our comfort dies,
Nor need we fear the rash presumptuous foe,
Whilst she’s our saint above, and he our king below.

Natural Progress

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 350th birthday.

06-11 Jonson
Ben Jonson
English
1572 – 1637

In all faith, we did our part:
generated punctually, prepared adequately,
ejected promptly,
and swam in the approved manner
in the appropriate direction;
did all instinctive things well,
even eagerly-
an exemplary start.
But then the barrier: unexpectedness
unexpectedly.
(They did not tell us this).
To go back impossible, unnatural:
so round; many times;
we tired ourselves.
Where were the promised homes,
embedded in the soft wall?
Or the anticipated achievement
so momentous, fulfilling?
So we died:
what else was there to do?
But in all faith, we did our part!

I Will Not Lift My Veil

We present this work in honor of the 320th anniversary of the poet’s death.

05-26 Zeb
Zeb-un Nissa
Indian
1638 – 1702

I will not lift my veil,—
For, if I did, who knows?
The bulbul might forget the rose,
The Brahman worshipper
Adoring Lakshmi’s grace
Might turn, forsaking her,
To see my face;
My beauty might prevail.
Think how within the flower
Hidden as in a bower
Her fragrant soul must be,
And none can look on it;
So me the world can see
Only within the verses I have writ—
I will not lift the veil.

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