The Young Captive

We present this work in honor of the 225th anniversary of the poet’s death.

André Chénier
French
1762 – 1794

 

“The corn in peace fills out its golden ear;
Through the long summer days, the flowers without a fear
Drink in the strength of the noon.
And I, a flower like them, as young, as fair, as pure,
Though at the present hour some trouble I endure,
I would not die so soon!

“No, let the stoic heart call upon Death as kind!
For me, I weep and hope; before the bitter wind
I bend like some lithe palm.
If there be long, sad days, others are bright and fleet;
Alas! what honeyed draught holds nothing but the sweet?
What sea is ever calm?

“And still within my breast nestles illusion bright;
In vain these prison walls shut out the noonday light;
Fair Hope has lent me wings.
So from the fowler’s net, again set free to fly,
More swift, more joyous, through the summer sky,
Philomel soars and sings.

“Is it my lot to die? In peace I lay me down,
In peace awake again, a peace nor care doth drown,
Nor fell remorse destroy.
My welcome shines from every morning face,
And to these downcast souls my presence in this place
Almost restores their joy.

“The voyage of life is but begun for me,
And of the landmarks I must pass, I see
So few behind me stand.
At life’s long banquet, now before me set,
My lips have hardly touched the cup as yet
Still brimming in my hand.

“I only know the spring; I would see autumn brown;
Like the bright sun, that all the seasons crown,
I would round out my year.
A tender flower, the sunny garden’s boast,
I have but seen the fires of morning’s host;
Would eve might find me here!

“O Death, canst thou not wait? Depart from me, and go
To comfort those sad hearts whom pale despair, and woe,
And shame, perchance have wrung.
For me the woods still offer verdant ways,
The Loves their kisses, and the Muses praise:
I would not die so young!”

Thus, captive too, and sad, my lyre none the less
Woke at the plant of one who breathed its own distress,
Youth in a prison cell;
And throwing off the yoke that weighed upon me too,
I strove in all the sweet and tender words I knew
Her gentle grief to tell.

Melodious witness of my captive days,
These rhymes shall make some lover of my lays
Seek the maid I have sung.
Grace sits upon her brow, and all shall share,
Who see her charms, her grief and her despair:
They too “must die so young”!

Elysium

Friedrich Schiller
German
1759 – 1805

 

Past the despairing wail—
And the bright banquets of the Elysian vale
Melt every care away!
Delight, that breathes and moves forever,
Glides through sweet fields like some sweet river!
Elysian life survey!
There, fresh with youth, o’er jocund meads,
His merry west-winds blithely leads
The ever-blooming May!
Through gold-woven dreams goes the dance of the hours,
In space without bounds swell the soul and its powers,
And truth, with no veil, gives her face to the day.
And joy to-day and joy to-morrow,
But wafts the airy soul aloft;
The very name is lost to sorrow,
And pain is rapture tuned more exquisitely soft.

Here the pilgrim reposes the world-weary limb,
And forgets in the shadow, cool-breathing and dim,
The load he shall bear never more;
Here the mower, his sickle at rest, by the streams,
Lulled with harp-strings, reviews, in the calm of his dreams,
The fields, when the harvest is o’er.
Here, he, whose ears drank in the battle roar,
Whose banners streamed upon the startled wind
A thunder-storm,—before whose thunder tread
The mountains trembled,—in soft sleep reclined,
By the sweet brook that o’er its pebbly bed
In silver plays, and murmurs to the shore,
Hears the stern clangor of wild spears no more!
Here the true spouse the lost-beloved regains,
And on the enamelled couch of summer-plains
Mingles sweet kisses with the zephyr’s breath.
Here, crowned at last, love never knows decay,
Living through ages its one bridal day,
Safe from the stroke of death!

The Tyger

William Blake
English
1757 – 1827

 

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Thourios

Rigas Feraios
Greek
1757 – 1798

 

Until when are we, oh brave young men, going to live in constraint,
Lonely like likons, on the ridges of the mountains?
Better have an hour of free life
Than forty years of slavery and prison.

Shall we dwell in caves, just looking out at the branches,
Leaving from the world into the bitter slavery?
Better live one hour in freedom
Than forty years in slavery and prison.

Do we lose our brothers, homeland, and parents,
Our friends, children, and all of our kin?
Better live one hour in freedom
Than forty years in slavery and prison.

You work all day, and no matter what he tells you,
He strives again, only to drink your blood.
Soutzos, as well as Mourouzis, Petrakis, Skanavis
Grikas and Mavrogenis, mirror is for your reflection.

Epistle to Don Gaspar de Jovellanos, Sent from Rome

Leandro Fernández de Moratín
Spanish
1760 – 1828

 

Yes! the pure friendship, that in kindly bonds
Our souls united, durable exists,
Illustrious Jovino! nor can time,
Nor distance, nor the mountains us between,
Nor stormy seas hoarse roaring, separate
Remembrance of thee from my memory.

The sound of Mars, that now sweet peace awhile
Suspends, has long unhappy silence placed
On my affection. Thou I know content
Livest in obscure delicious quietude,
For ever with untiring zeal inspired
To aid the public weal; of virtue e’er.
And talent, the protector and the friend.

These verses which I frame unpolish’d, free,
Though not corrected with thy learned taste,
In truth announce to thee my constant faith.
And so may Heaven but soon to me return
The hour again to see thee, and relate
Familiarly discoursing, to my view
Whatever of its varied scenes the world
Presented. From my native shores to those
Which bathes the Seine, blood-stain’d and turbulent;
The daring Briton’s, master of the sea,
To the bold Belgian’s; from the deep-flowing Rhine
To the high tops of Apennine snow-crown’d,
And that height further, which in burning smoke
Covers and ashes over Naples wide,
The different nations I have visited,
Acquiring useful knowledge, never gain’d
By learned reading in retired abodes.
For there we cannot see the difference great
Which climate, worship, arts, opinions,
And laws occasion. That is found alone,
If thou wouldst study man, in man himself.

Now the rough Winter, which augments the waves
Of Tiber, on his banks has me detain’d,
Inhabitant of Rome. O! that with thee
’Twere granted me to rove through her, to scan
The wonderful remains of glories past,
Which Time, whose force can naught resist, has spared!
Thou nursling of the Muses and the Arts,
Faithful oracle of bright history,
What learning thou wouldst give the affluent lip;
What images sublime, by genius fired,
In the great empire’s ruin thou wouldst find!
Fell the great city, which had triumph’d o’er
The nations the most warlike, and with her
Ended the Latin valour and renown.
And she who to the Betis from the Nile
Her eagles proudly bore, the child of Mars,
The Capitol with barbarous trophies deck’d,
Conducting to her car of ivory bound
Great kings subdued, amid the hoarse applause
Of wide-throng’d forums, and the trumpet’s sounds,
Who to the world gave laws, now horrible
Night covers her. She perish’d, nor expect
More tokens of her ancient worth to find.

Those mouldering edifices, which the plough
Breaks through in shapeless masses, once they were
Circuses, strong palaces, and theatres;
Proud arches, costly baths, and sepulchres;
Where thou mayst hear perchance, for so ’tis said,
In the deep silence of the gloomy shade,
A funeral lament, they only tell
The glory of the people of Quirinus.
And this to future races but remains
The mistress of the world, illustrious Rome!
This and no more remain’d? of all her arts
And dreaded power? What could not aught avail
Her virtue, wisdom, valour, all conjoin’d,
With such her opulence, the law severe
To mitigate, or stay the blows of fate?

Alas! if all is mortal—if to Time
Alike the strong wall and the tender flower
Must yield—if that will bronze and porphyry break,
Destroying them and burying in dust,
For whom so guards unhappy Avarice
His treasuries untouch’d? for whom foretells
Immortal fame, the adulation vile
That crimes and violence traitorous exalts?
For what so hastening to the tomb runs on
The human race, revengeful, envious,
And haughty? Why, if all that e’er exists,
And what man sees is all but ruins? all.
For never to return the hours fly past
Precipitate, and to their end but lead,
Of the most lofty empires of the earth,
The perishable splendour. The Deity,
That hidden animates the universe,
Alone eternal lives, and He alone
Is powerful and great.

Auld Robin Gray

Lady Anne Barnard
Scots
1750 – 1825

 

When the sheep are in the fauld, and the kye at hame,
And a’ the warld to rest are gane,
The waes o’ my heart fa’ in showers frae my e’e,
While my gudeman lies sound by me.

Young Jamie lo’ed me weel, and sought me for his bride;
But saving a croun he had naething else beside:
To make the croun a pund, young Jamie gaed to sea;
And the croun and the pund were baith for me.

He hadna been awa’ a week but only twa,
When my father brak his arm, and the kye was stown awa’;
My mother she fell sick, – and my Jamie at the sea –
And auld Robin Gray came a-courtin’ me.

My father couldna work, and my mother couldna spin;
I toiled day and night, but their bread I couldna win;
Auld Rob maintained them baith, and wi’ tears in his e’e
Said, ‘Jennie, for their sakes, O, marry me!’

My heart it said nay; I looked for Jamie back;
But the wind it blew high, and the ship it was a wrack;
His ship it was a wrack – Why didna Jamie dee?
Or why do I live to cry, Wae’s me!

My father urged me sair: my mother didna speak;
But she looked in my face till my heart was like to break:
They gi’ed him my hand, though my heart was in the sea;
Sae auld Robin Gray he was gudeman to me.

I hadna been a wife a week but only four,
When mournfu’ as I sat on the stane at the door,
I saw my Jamie’s wraith, – for I couldna think it he,
Till he said, ‘I’m come hame to marry thee.’

O, sair, sair did we greet, and muckle did we say;
We took but ae kiss, and we tore ourselves away:
I wish that I were dead, but I’m no like to dee;
And why was I born to say, Wae’s me!

I gang like a ghaist, and I carena to spin;
I daurna think on Jamie, for that wad be a sin;
But I’ll do my best a gude wife aye to be,
For auld Robin Gray he is kind unto me.

Hope

Johann Ludwig Tieck
German
1773 – 1853

 

Love came out of a distant land
But no one followed her.
So the goddess beckoned me,
And bound me with sweet bands.

As I began to feel the pain,
Tears darkened my eyes.
— Ah! What is Love’s happiness?
I cried, why this game?

— I have not yet found anyone,
Said the figure kindly.
— Feel now the power
Which has bound other hearts.

All my desires fled
Into the blue and airy expanse.
Fame seemed to me but a daydream:
The sound of waves breaking on the shore.

Ah! Who will release me from my chains?
For my arms are bound fast,
A swarm of sorrows flies around me.
Will no one, no one at all, save me?

Dare I look in the mirror
Which Hope holds up before me?
Ah, the world is but a delusion!
No, I cannot put my trust in it.

O, but do not let that waver
Which is your only strength.
If your soul mate does not love you,
Your only fate is the bitter death of the invalid.

London

Joanna Baillie
Scots
1762 – 1851

 

It is a goodly sight through the clear air,
From Hampstead’s heathy height, to see at once
England’s vast capital in fair expanse,
Towers, belfries, lengthened streets and structures fair.
St. Paul’s high dome amidst the vassal bands
Of neighb’ring spires, a regal chieftain stands,
And over fields of ridgy roofs appear,
With distance softly tinted, side by side,
In kindred grace, like twain of sisters dear,
The Towers of Westminster, her Abbey’s pride;
While, far beyond, the hills of Surrey shine
Through thin soft haze, and shew their wavy line.
View’d thus, a goodly sight! but when survey’d
Through denser air when moisten’d winds prevail,
In her grand panoply of smoke arrayed,
While clouds aloft in heavy volumes sail,
She is sublime.—She seems a curtained gloom
Connecting heaven and earth,—a threat’ning sign of doom.
With more than natural height, reared in the sky
‘Tis then St. Paul’s arrests the wondering eye;
The lower parts in swathing mist concealed,
The higher through some half-spent shower revealed,
So far from earth removed, that well, I trow,
Did not its form man’s artful structure shew,
It might some lofty alpine peak be deemed,
The eagle’s haunt with cave and crevice seamed.
Stretched wide on either hand, a rugged skreen,
In lurid dimness, nearer streets are seen
Like shore-ward billows of a troubled main,
Arrested in their rage. Through drizly rain,
Cataracts of tawny sheen pour from the skies,
Black furnace-smoke in curling columns rise,
And many-tinted vapours, slowly pass
O’er the wide draping of that pictured mass.
So shews by day this grand imperial town,
And, when o’er all the night’s black stole is thrown,
The distant traveller doth with wonder mark
Her luminous canopy athwart the dark,
Cast up, from myriads of lamps that shine
Along her streets in many a starry line:—
He wondering looks from his yet distant road,
And thinks the northern streamers are abroad.
‘What hollow sound is that?’ approaching near,
The roar of many wheels breaks on his ear.
It is the flood of human life in motion!
It is the voice of a tempestuous ocean!
With sad but pleasing awe his soul is filled,
Scarce heaves his breast, and all within is stilled,
As many thoughts and feelings cross his mind,—
Thoughts, mingled, melancholy, undefined,
Of restless, reckless man, and years gone by,
And Time fast wending to Eternity.

The Flowers of the Forest

Jean Elliot
Scots
1727 – 1805

 

I’ve heard them lilting at our ewe-milking,
Lasses a-lilting before the dawn of day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning—
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

At bughts, in the morning, nae blythe lads are scorning,
The lasses are lonely, and dowie, and wae;
Nae daffin’, nae gabbin’, but sighing and sabbing,
Ilk ane lifts her leglin and hies her away.

In har’st, at the shearing, nae youths now are jeering,
Bandsters are lyart, and runkled, and gray;
At fair or at preaching, nae wooing nae fleeching—
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

At e’en, in the gloaming, nae younkers are roaming
‘Bout stacks wi’ the lasses at bogle to play;
But ilk ane sits drearie, lamenting her dearie—
The Flowers of the Forest are weded away.

Dool and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border!
The English, for ance, by guile wan the day;
The Flowers of the Forest, that fought aye the foremost,
The prime of our land, are cauld in the clay.

We’ll hear nae mair lilting at our ewe-milking;
Women and bairns are heartless and wae;
Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning—
The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

Hoping to Blossom (One Day) Into a Flower

In honor of Buddha Purmina, we present this work by one of the great 18th century Indian poets.

Mah Laqa Bai
Indian
1768 – 1824

 

Hoping to blossom (one day) into a flower,
Every bud sits, holding its soul in its fist.

Between the fear of the fowler and (approaching) autumn,
The bulbul’s life hangs by a thread.

Thy sly glance is more murderous than arrow or sword;
It has shed the blood of many lover.

How can I like a candle to thy (glowing) cheek?
The candle is blind with the fat in its eyes.

How can Chanda be dry-lipped. O Saqi of the heavenly wine!
She has drained the cup of thy love.