Stone Breaking

In honor of Civic Day, we present this work by a noteworthy Canadian civil servant.

Duncan Campbell Scott
Canadian
1862 – 1947

 

March wind rough
Clashed the trees,
Flung the snow;
Breaking stones,
In the cold,
Germans slow
Toiled and toiled;
Arrowy sun
Glanced and sprang,
One right blithe
German sang:
Songs of home,
Fatherland:
Syenite hard,
Weary lot,
Callous hand,
All forgot:
Hammers pound,
Ringing round;
Rise the heaps,
To his voice,
Bounds and leaps
Toise on toise:
Toil is long,
But dear God
Gives us song,
At the end
Gives us test,
Toil is best.

The Frog

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Hilaire Belloc
French
1870 – 1953

 

Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As ‘Slimy skin,’ or ‘Polly-wog,’
Or likewise ‘Ugly James,’
Or ‘Gap-a-grin,’ or ‘Toad-gone-wrong,’
Or ‘Bill Bandy-knees’:
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).

Lassitude

In honor of Bastille Day, we present this work by one of France’s most revolutionary 19th century poets.

Louise Colet
French
1810 – 1876

 

It is from these long days of indescribable sickness
Where we would like to sleep the heavy sleep of the dead;
From these hours of anguish where existence weighs
On the soul and on the body.

So we search in vain for a gentle thought,
A joyful image, a rich memory;
The soul fights for an instant, and finally falls again, drooping
Under its deep troubles.

So all that enchants and all that we enjoy
Has for our open eyes only deceptive brightness;
And the dreamed happiness, if it comes, cannot exactly
Overpower our fatigue.

The Bloody Fight Has Ceased

We present this work in honor of the 110th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Eusebio Lillo
Chilean
1826 – 1910

 

I

The bloody fight has ceased;
and yesterday’s invader is now our brother;
three centuries we washed the affront
fighting in the field of honor.
That who yesterday was a slave
is free and triumphant today;
freedom is the heritage of the brave,
Victory lies shameful to his feet.

II

Rise, Chile, with a spotless forehead;
you conquered your name on the fight;
always noble, constant and courageous
the children of the Cid found you.
May your free calmly crown
the arts, industry and peace,
and may they sing songs of your triumph
to intimidate the daring despot.

III

Your names, brave soldiers
who have been Chile’s mainstay,
they are engraved in our chests;
our children will know them as well.
May they be the death cry
that comes out when we march to the fight,
and ringing in the mouth of the strong
they always make the tyrant tremble.

IV

If the foreign cannon intends
to invade, daring, our people;
let’s draw our arms
and know victory or death.
With its blood the proud Araucanian
inherited its courage to us;
and the sword doesn’t tremble in the hand
of that who defends the honor of Chile.

V

How pure, Chile, is your blue sky
And how pure the breezes that blow across you
And your countryside embroidered with flowers
Is a wonderful copy of Eden
How majestic are the snow-covered mountains
That were given to you by God as protection
And the sea that tranquilly bathes your shores
Promises future splendor for you

VI

That pride, oh, Homeland!, those flowers
growing on your fertile soil,
may they never be stepped on by invaders;
may your shadow cover them with peace.
Our chests will be your bastion
in your name we will know how to win,
or your noble, glorious emblem
will see us fall in the fight.

Beloved Homeland, receive the vows
That Chile gave you on your altars
That you be either the tomb of the free
Or a refuge from oppression

Twilight

Juana Borrero
Cuban
1877 – 1896

 

All is peace and calm… In the twilight
The aroma of jasmines can be smelled,
And, over the glassy surface of the river,
Is heard the flapping wings of the swans

Which, like a bunch of snowy flowers,
Glide over the smooth water surface.
Now the dusky bats reemerge
From their many secret hiding places,

And a thousand turns, and capricious spins
They make in the tranquil atmosphere;
Or fly very close to the ground,

Barely grazing with their gray wings
The yellow petal of the bitter thistle,
Or the virgin corolla of the humble mallow.

On the Tower

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff
German
1797 – 1848

 

I stand aloft on the balcony,
The starlings around me crying,
And let like maenad my hair stream free
To the storm o’er the ramparts flying.
Oh headlong wind, on this narrow ledge
I would I could try thy muscle
And, breast to breast, two steps from the edge,
Fight it out in a deadly tussle.

Beneath me I see, like hounds at play,
How billow on billow dashes;
Yea, tossing aloft the glittering spray,
The fierce throng hisses and clashes.
Oh, might I leap into the raging flood
And urge on the pack to harry

The hidden glades of the coral wood,
For the walrus, a worthy quarry!
From yonder mast a flag streams out
As bold as a royal pennant;
I can watch the good ship lunge about
From this tower of which I am tenant;
But oh, might I be in the battling ship,
Might I seize the rudder and steer her,
How gay o’er the foaming reef we’d slip
Like the sea-gulls circling near her!

Were I a hunter wandering free,
Or a soldier in some sort of fashion,
Or if I at least a man might be,
The heav’ns would grant me my passion.

But now I must sit as fine and still
As a child in its best of dresses,
And only in secret may have my will
And give to the wind my tresses.

Le Canada

We present this work in honor of Canada Day.

Octave Crémazie
Canadian
1827 – 1879

 

There is a blessed land under the sun,
Where heaven has poured out its brightest gifts,
Where, responding to its goods, enlarged nature
With its vast forests mingles its giant lakes.

On these enchanted edges, our mother, France,
Has left of its glory an immortal furrow,
Precipitating its waves towards the immense ocean,
The noble Saint-Laurent repeats its name again.

Happy who knows it, happier who lives in it,
And never leaving to seek other heavens
The banks of the great river where happiness invites him,
Knows how to live and knows how to die where his ancestors sleep.

Doubtful Dreams

We present this work in honor of the 150th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Adam Lindsay Gordon
Australian
1833 – 1870

 

Aye, snows are rife in December,
And sheaves are in August yet,
And you would have me remember,
And I would rather forget;
In the bloom of the May-day weather,
In the blight of October chill,
We were dreamers of old together,—
As of old, are you dreaming still?

For nothing on earth is sadder
Than the dream that cheated the grasp,
The flower that turned to the adder,
The fruit that changed to the asp;
When the day-spring in darkness closes,
As the sunset fades from the hills,
With the fragrance of perish’d roses,
With the music of parch’d-up rills.

When the sands on the sea-shore nourish
Red clover and yellow corn;
When figs on the thistle flourish,
And grapes grow thick on the thorn;
When the dead branch, blighted and blasted,
Puts forth green leaves in the spring,
Then the dream that life has outlasted
Dead comfort to life may bring.

I have changed the soil and the season,
But whether skies freeze or flame,
The soil they flame on or freeze on
Is changed in little save name;
The loadstone points to the nor’ward,
The river runs to the sea;
And you would have me look forward,
And backward I fain would flee.

I remember the bright spring garlands,
The gold that spangled the green,
And the purple on fairy far lands,
And the white and the red bloom, seen
From the spot where we last lay dreaming
Together—yourself and I—
The soft grass beneath us gleaming,
Above us the great grave sky.

And we spoke thus: ‘Though we have trodden
Rough paths in our boyish years;
And some with our sweat are sodden,
And some are salt with our tears;
Though we stumble still, walking blindly,
Our paths shall be made all straight;
We are weak, but the heavens are kindly,
The skies are compassionate.’

Is the clime of the old and younger,
Where the young dreams longer are nursed?
With the old insatiable hunger,
With the old unquenchable thirst,
Are you longing, as in the old years
We have longed so often in vain;
Fellow-toilers still, fellow-soldiers,
Though the seas have sundered us twain?

But the young dreams surely have faded!
Young dreams !—old dreams of young days—
Shall the new dream vex us as they did?
Or as things worth censure or praise?
Real toil is ours, real trouble,
Dim dreams of pleasure and pride;
Let the dreams disperse like a bubble,
So the toil like a dream subside.

Vain toil! men better and braver
Rose early and rested late,
Whose burdens than ours were graver,
And sterner than ours their hate.
What fair reward had Achilles?
What rest could Alcides win?
Vain toil ! ‘Consider the lilies,
They toil not, neither do spin.’

Nor for mortal toiling nor spinning
Will the matters of mortals mend;
As it was so in the beginning,
It shall be so in the end.
The web that the weavers weave ill
Shall not be woven aright
Till the good is brought forth from evil,
As day is brought forth from night.

Vain dreams! for our fathers cherish’d
High hopes in the days that were;
And these men wonder’d and perish’d,
Nor better than these we fare;
And our due at least is their due:
They fought against odds and fell;
‘En avant, les enfants perdus!’
We fight against odds as well.

The skies ! Will the great skies care for
Our footsteps, straighten our path,
Or strengthen our weakness? Wherefore?
We have rather incurr’d their wrath ;
When against the Captain of Hazor
The stars in their courses fought,
Did the sky shed merciful rays, or
With love was the sunshine fraught?

Can they favour man—can they wrong man—
The unapproachable skies?
Though these gave strength to the strong man,
And wisdom gave to the wise;
When strength is turn’d to derision,
And wisdom brought to dismay,
Shall we wake from a troubled vision,
Or rest from a toilsome day?

Nay! I cannot tell. Peradventure
Our very toil is a dream,
And the works that we praise or censure,
It may be, they only seem.
If so, I would fain awaken,
Or sleep more soundly than so,
Or by dreamless sleep overtaken,
The dream I would fain forgo.

For the great things of life are small things,
The longest life is a span,
And there is an end to all things,
A season to every man,
Whose glory is dust and ashes,
Whose spirit is but a spark,
That out from the darkness flashes,
And flickers out in the dark.

We remember the pangs that wrung us
When some went down to the pit,
Who faded as leaves among us,
Who flitted as shadows flit;
What visions under the stone lie?
What dreams in the shroud sleep dwell,
For we saw the earth pit only,
And we heard only the knell.

We know not whether they slumber
Who waken on earth no more,
As the stars of the heights in number,
As sands on the deep sea-shore.
Shall stiffness bind them, and starkness
Enthral them, by field and flood,
Till ‘the sun shall be turn’d to darkness,
And the moon shall be turn’d to blood?’

We know not !—worse may enthral men—
‘The wages of sin are death’;
And so death pass’d upon all men,
For sin was born with man’s breath.
Then the labourer spent with sinning,
His hire with his life shall spend;
For it was so in the beginning,
And shall be so in the end.
There is life in the blacken’d ember
While a spark is smouldering yet;
In a dream e’en now I remember
That dream I had lief forget—
I had lief forget, I had e’en lief
That dream with this doubt should die—
‘If we did these things in the green leaf,
What shall be done in the dry?’

from Martin Fierro

We present this work in honor of Argentina’s National Flag Day.

José Hernández
Argentine
1834 – 1886

 

He lashed the air with two bola shots,
Round his head like rings they spun;
One grazed my arm with a glancing hit,
A hair’s breadth would have splintered it:
Those balls of stone whizz through the air
Like bullets from a gun.

Aijuna! I’ll say he was quick and sly—
He missed me by simple luck;
The blood worked up to his ugly head,
Till like a colt he was seeing red:
He would feint at me with the right-hand ball
Before with the left he struck.

But a bitter turn Fate served me there
As we circled round and round,
I saw my chance and went rushing in,
While he backed away to save his skin.
My foot tripped up in my chiripá
And headlong I hit the ground.

Not a moment’s grace to commend my soul
To the hands of Almighty God
Did the savage give; as he saw me fall
He sprang like a ravening animal.
As I twisted my head, beside my ear
I heard the bolas thud.

And onto my back with tooth and nail
He leapt like a clawing brute
He was reckless then that I’d still my knife,
He was blind with his rage to have my life,
Not a ghost of a chance he let me have,
To strengthen and get my foot.

No trick or dodge could the brute on unlodge
Though I tried the every one;
Flat under him I lay full length,
I couldn’t turn over with all my strength.
As strong as a bull that Indian was
And he seemed to weigh a ton.

The captive that lay in her tears and blood
Half killed by the murderous whip,
When she saw my plight forgot her pang,
Like an arrow there to my help she sprang,
She gave the Indian a sudden tug
That made him loose his grip.

As soon as again to my feet I got
At each other again we tore,
Not a pause for a breather could I get
I was soaking wet with my dripping sweat,
In all my fights I’ve never been in
Such a touch-and-go before.

As madder and madder the savage grew
I calmed down more and more—
Until the Indian has made his kill
There’s nothing his ravening rage can still—
Till one of his whirling cords I cut
And began to press him sore.

As he staggered back, I leapt and closed
With lightning thrust and slash.
Though he kept his feet and escaped my grip
He lost the fight by that fatal slip;
I got home once with a scalping chop
And once with a belly-gash.

I got him again with a ripping lunge,
He began to hmpf and puke;
He was failing fast with each breath he took,
He knew he was done, but even then,
With never a flinch he rushed again,
With such a yell that it seemed to me
That the earth and the heavens shook.

And there, thank God, I finished him;
Well home I rammed my knife.
I was weary and sore, but desperate;
I lifted him up as one lifts a weight;
And gutted there, from the raking steel
I threw him off when I knew by the feel,
That he hadn’t a spark of life.

When I saw him dead I crossed myself,
The help of heaven to thank;
The kneeling woman beside me there,
At the Indian’s body could only stare,
And the to the skies she raised her eyes,
And in tears on the ground she sank.

The Arrival

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 175th birthday.

Dolors Monserdà
Spanish
1845 – 1919

 

Even here from the foot of the rise
I see those stand-out roses all
embroidering with tender branch
along the faces of the wall.
Already I feel those scents of yours
of jasmine and of lemon trees,
the unmistakable scent of home;
confused with another it cannot be.
Now I see my room beloved…
the windows there are open wide
just like dear friends that offer me
a safe and sheltered sleep inside.
I reach the top! And now, I am home
and all around I feel at ease.
Oh, the dear beloved plants
of my garden evergreen!
What splendid bounty of new leaves
the acacias and the almond trees!
And the branches of the pear
above the bench have spread their boughs
and the jasmine with its white flowers
infuse incense into the air.
Worthy of God! And the mimosa?
With what a bloom itself has dressed!
How lovely! there, at the crest of the tree
what seems like a crib yet must be a nest!
And high up in the canopy
a flock of little birds find rest!
Welcome all! for where they nest
is a home, they say, that God will bless.