Fatality

Rubén Darío
Nicaraguan
1867 – 1916

 

The tree is happy because it is scarcely sentient;
the hard rock is happier still, it feels nothing:
there is no pain as great as being alive,
no burden heavier than that of conscious life.

To be, and to know nothing, and to lack a way,
and the dread of having been, and future terrors…
And the sure terror of being dead tomorrow,
and to suffer all through life and through the darkness,

and through what we do not know and hardly suspect…
And the flesh that temps us with bunches of cool grapes,
and the tomb that awaits us with its funeral sprays,
and not to know where we go,
nor whence we came!

The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House

We present this work in honor of the 85th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Rudyard Kipling
English
1865 – 1936

 

That night, when through the mooring-chains
The wide-eyed corpse rolled free,
To blunder down by Garden Reach
And rot at Kedgeree,
The tale the Hughli told the shoal
The lean shoal told to me.

‘Twas Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house,
Where sailor-men reside,
And there were men of all the ports
From Mississip to Clyde,
And regally they spat and smoked,
And fearsomely they lied.

They lied about the purple Sea
That gave them scanty bread,
They lied about the Earth beneath,
The Heavens overhead,
For they had looked too often on
Black rum when that was red.

They told their tales of wreck and wrong,
Of shame and lust and fraud,
They backed their toughest statements with
The Brimstone of the Lord,
And crackling oaths went to and fro
Across the fist-banged board.

And there was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
Who carried on his hairy chest
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

And there was Jake Without-the-Ears,
And Pamba the Malay,
And Carboy Gin the Guinea cook,
And Luz from Vigo Bay,
And Honest Jack who sold them slops
And harvested their pay.

And there was Salem Hardieker,
A lean Bostonian he—
Russ, German, English, Halfbreed, Finn,
Yank, Dane, and Portuguee,
At Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
The rested from the sea.

Now Anne of Austria shared their drinks,
Collinga knew her fame,
From Tarnau in Galicia
To Jaun Bazaar she came,
To eat the bread of infamy
And take the wage of shame.

She held a dozen men to heel—
Rich spoil of war was hers,
In hose and gown and ring and chain,
From twenty mariners,
And, by Port Law, that week, men called
Her Salem Hardieker’s.

But seamen learnt—what landsmen know—
That neither gifts nor gain
Can hold a winking Light o’ Love
Or Fancy’s flight restrain,
When Anne of Austria rolled her eyes
On Hans the blue-eyed Dane.

Since Life is strife, and strife means knife,
From Howrah to the Bay,
And he may die before the dawn
Who liquored out the day,
In Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
We woo while yet we may.

But cold was Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
And laughter shook the chest beneath
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

“You speak to Salem Hardieker;
“You was his girl, I know.
“I ship mineselfs to-morrow, see,
“Und round the Skaw we go,
“South, down the Cattegat, by Hjelm,
“To Besser in Saro.”

When love rejected turns to hate,
All ill betide the man.
“You speak to Salem Hardieker”—
She spoke as woman can.
A scream—a sob—“He called me—names!”
And then the fray began.

An oath from Salem Hardieker,
A shriek upon the stairs,
A dance of shadows on the wall,
A knife-thrust unawares—
And Hans came down, as cattle drop,
Across the broken chairs.

…In Anne of Austria’s trembling hands
The weary head fell low:—
“I ship mineselfs to-morrow, straight
“For Besser in Saro;
“Und there Ultruda comes to me
“At Easter, und I go

“South, down the Cattegat—What’s here?
“There—are—no—lights—to guide!”
The mutter ceased, the spirit passed,
And Anne of Austria cried
In Fultah Fisher’s boarding-house
When Hans the mighty died.

Thus slew they Hans the blue-eyed Dane,
Bull-throated, bare of arm,
But Anne of Austria looted first
The maid Ultruda’s charm—
The little silver crucifix
That keeps a man from harm.

The Bells of Limerick

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 205th birthday.

Frances Browne
Irish
1816 – 1879

 

Oh! bright on the silvery Shannon lies
The light of the setting sun,
And stately the city’s spires arise,
Where the isle’s last field was won!
But now, no stain of the battle’s blood
Remains, to sully that peaceful flood,—
Nor sound in the summer-evening swells,
Save that of St. Mary’s vesper bells.

There came a late and a lonely boat,
O’er the shining river’s breast;
And it bore, from a land far, far remote,
A sad and a stranger guest:—
A darker tint had tinged his brow
Than the skies that bent above him, now,
Could give their sons—and a brighter beam
Had shone on his youth, by Tiber’s stream.

His was the peerless land of song,
By the Muses blest, of yore;
But his steps had wandered, far and long,
From the bright Hesperian shore:
And his early home was a darkened spot,—
For the love, that brightened his hearth, was not;
And heavy and chill the clouds of age
Fell on his lonely pilgrimage.

But still, in his memory’s echo, swelled
A sweet and a solemn chime,—
That oft, through the golden twilight pealed,
In his own far southern clime:—
Oh! many a city and many a shore
Had the weary pilgrim wandered o’er,—
But they never sent to his aged ear
The sounds he had loved—and pined to hear!

Yet why doth the stranger start,—and turn
From his lonely musings, now?
And why doth such glowing gladness burn
In his aged eye and brow?
‘Tis only the vesper bells, again,
That ring from St. Mary’s sacred fane,—
But oh! to the wanderer’s heart they tell
Of scenes and voices remembered well!

His arm was strong, and his hope was bright,
When he tuned to melody
Those vesper bells, in the cloudless light
Of his own Italian sky;—
And now, on a distant northern shore,
That music breathed on his heart once more—
Though the strength and hope of his years were past—
As sweet as when he heard it last!

For the light of many a twilight hour,
And the breath of many a strain,
From cottage porch, and from myrtle bower,
With that sound returned again:—
And the wanderer listened, like one whose soul
Had found the path to its early goal,—
But his eyes were fixed, and his very breath
Seemed hush in the changeless hush of death!

Fainter and fainter the last low note
On the waters died away;
And the rowers paused,—for the lonely boat
By the stately city lay.
But the wanderer moved not—spoke not—still,
Though the dews of night fell fast and chill,
And strangers lifted his drooping head,—
But they found that the weary soul had fled!

Oh! strange were the yearning thoughts and fond
Round that lone heart’s ruined shrine,—
As the Hebrew’s thirst for the fount beyond
Philistia’s leaguering line!
But the sounds, that in life he loved the best,
May peal, unheeded, above his rest,—
For still, through the summer twilight, swells
The sound of St. Mary’s vesper bells!

In Muted Tone

We present this work in honor of the 125th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Paul Verlaine
French
1844 – 1896

 

Gently, let us steep our love
In the silence deep, as thus,
Branches arching high above
Twine their shadows over us.

Let us blend our souls as one,
Hearts’ and senses’ ecstasies,
Evergreen, in unison
With the pines’ vague lethargies.

Dim your eyes and, heart at rest,
Freed from all futile endeavor,
Arms crossed on your slumbering breast,
Banish vain desire forever.

Let us yield then, you and I,
To the waftings, calm and sweet,
As their breeze-blown lullaby
Sways the gold grass at your feet.

And, when night begins to fall
From the black oaks, darkening,
In the nightingale’s soft call
Our despair will, solemn, sing.

The Three Kings

We present this work in honor of Three Kings Day.

Edith Nesbit
English
1858 – 1924

 

When the star in the East was lit to shine
The three kings journeyed to Palestine;

They came from the uttermost parts of earth
With long trains laden with gifts of worth.

The first king rode on a camel’s back,
He came from the land where the kings are black,

Bringing treasures desired of kings,
Rubies and ivory and precious things.

An elephant carried the second king,
He came from the land of the sun-rising,

And gems and gold and spices he bare
With broidered raiment for kings to wear.

The third king came without steed or train
From the misty land where the white kings reign.

He bore no gifts save the myrrh in his hand,
For he came on foot from a far-off land.

Now when they had travelled a-many days
Through tangled forests and desert ways,

By angry seas and by paths thorn-set
On Christmas Vigil the three kings met.

And over their meeting a shrouded sky
Made dark the star they had travelled by.

Then the first king spake and he frowned and said:
‘By some ill spell have our feet been led,

‘Now I see in the darkness the fools we are
To follow the light of a lying star.

‘Let us fool no more, but like kings and men
Each get him home to his land again!’

Then the second king with the weary face,
Gold-tinct as the sun of his reigning place,

Lifted sad eyes to the clouds and said,
‘It was but a dream and the dream is sped.

‘We dreamed of a star that rose new and fair,
But it sets in the night of the old despair.

‘Yet night is faithful though stars betray,
It will lead to our kingdoms far away.’

Then spake the king who had fared alone
From the far-off kingdom, the white-hung throne:

‘O brothers, brothers, so very far
Ye have followed the light of the radiant star,

‘And because for a while ye see it not
Shall its faithful shining be all forgot?

‘On the spirit’s pathway the light still lies
Though the star be hid from our longing eyes.

‘To-morrow our star will be bright once more
The little pin-hole in heaven’s floor–

‘The Angels pricked it to let it bring
Our feet to the throne of the new-born King!’

And the first king heard and the second heard
And their hearts grew humble before the third.

And they laid them down beside bale and beast
and their sleeping eyes saw light in the East.

For the Angels fanned them with starry wings
And the waft of visions of unseen things.

And the next gold day waned trembling and white
And the star was born of the waxing night.

And the three kings came where the Great King lay,
A little baby among the hay,

The ox and the ass were standing near
And Mary Mother beside her Dear.

Then low in the litter the kings bowed down,
They gave Him gold for a kingly crown,

And frankincense for a great God’s breath
and Myrrh to sweeten the day of death.

The Maiden Mother she stood and smiled
And she took from the manger her little child.

On the dark king’s head she laid His hand
And anger died at that dear command.

She laid His hand on the gold king’s head
And despair itself was comforted.

But when the pale king knelt in the stall
She heard on the straw his tears down fall.

And she stooped where he knelt beside her feet
And laid on his bosom her baby sweet.

And the king in the holy stable-place
Felt the little lips through the tears on his face.

Christ! lay Thy hand on the angry king
Who reigns in my breast to my undoing,

And lay thy hands on the king who lays
The spell of sadness on all my days,

And give the white king my soul, Thy soul,
Of these other kings the high control.

That soul and spirit and sense may meet
In adoration before Thy feet!

Now Glory to God the Father Most High,
And the Star, the Spirit, He leads us by.

And to God’s dear Son, the Babe who was born
And laid in the manger on Christmas morn!

La Felicidad

Agripina Samper Agudelo
Colombian
1833 – 1892

 

I have children and a husband… I have more;
I have a loving and affectionate mother,
Brothers who love me and whom I love,
And instead of the false glitter of wealth
I have a modest and tranquil home

In another time my fervent heart
Dreamed restlessly, and I lived on the dream,
Fantastic chimeras night and day,
Delusions crowded in… I dreamed anyway
But then the horizon cleared,
The dark cloud turned to dawn,
Calm returned to my heart, and now
The present ensures my future

Alone at another time, like an errant bird
That crosses desert sands,
And after long mortal years of anxiety,
Arrived at the oasis it had faithfully sought;
Feeling myself finally free of fatigue,
And if I cast a look to the past,
It is only to bring it from burdensome effusion
To rest it on my present love.

The Wreck of the “Julie Plante”

William Henry Drummond
Canadian
1854 – 1907

 

On wan dark night on Lac St. Pierre,
De win’ she blow, blow, blow,
An’ de crew of de wood scow “Julie Plante”
Got scar’t an’ run below—
For de win’ she blow lak hurricane,
Bimeby she blow some more,
An’ de scow bus’ up on Lac St. Pierre
Wan arpent from de shore.

De captinne walk on de fronte deck,
An’ walk de hin’ deck too—
He call de crew from up de hole,
He call de cook also.
De cook she ‘s name was Rosie,
She come from Montreal,
Was chambre maid on lumber barge,
On de Grande Lachine Canal.

De win’ she blow from nor’ -eas’ -wes’,—
De sout’ win’ she blow too,
W’en Rosie cry, “Mon cher captinne,
Mon cher, w’at I shall do ?”
Den de captinne t’row de beeg ankerre,
But still de scow she dreef,
De crew he can’t pass on de shore,
Becos’ he los’ hees skeef.

De night was dark lak wan black cat,
De wave run high an’ fas’,
W’en de captinne tak’ de Rosie girl
An’ tie her to de mas’.
Den he also tak’ de life preserve,
An’ jomp off on de lak’,
An’ say, “Good-bye, ma Rosie dear,
I go drown for your sak’.”

Nex’ morning very early
‘Bout ha’f-pas’ two—t’ree—four—
De captinne—scow—an’ de poor Rosie
Was corpses on de shore,
For de win’ she blow lak hurricane,
Bimeby she blow some more,
An’ de scow bus’ up on Lac St. Pierre,
Wan arpent from de shore.

MORAL

Now all good wood scow sailor man
Tak’ warning by dat storm
An’ go an’ marry some nice French girl
An’ leev on wan beeg farm.
De win’ can blow lak hurricane
An’ s’pose she blow some more,
You can’t get drown on Lac St. Pierre
So long you stay on shore.

Eternal Love

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

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer
Spanish
1836 – 1870

 

The face of the sun may darken forever;
The oceans may run dry in an instant;
The axis spinning our planet may shatter;
Like a brittle crystal.
Yes, all of that may happen! At the end, Death
May cover my flesh with his funeral shroud;
But none of it will reach within my soul and extinguish
The bright flame of your love.

The Bull-Fight

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.

Carolina Coronado
Spanish
1820 – 1911

 

Bravo! thou nation of a noble line!
Thou mean’st to fashion after beasts thy men.
How well thy mission thou dost now divine,
Escaping from the Latin Church’s shrine
To intrench thyself around the fighters’ pen!

New Plazas for the bull-figlit let there be;
Build them, Country! pour thy treasures free!
Ah! stranger lands are wiser far than we, —
For here we are but cowherds, we are fools:
Which do we value most, the laws or bulls?

Who cares for liberty, while he doth roar,
The hunted bull, along the spacious plain.
Or tear the arena, and his victim gore?
When swells his passion with the pricking pain,
Who sees the vision of our mournful Spain?

And when he draws his breath with hoarsest sigh,
And from his pierced heart come out the groans,
And men fall down to earth, and horses die,
How sweet to hear the rosy children nigh
Break out in merry laughter’s silvery tones!

But hark! I see before my vision rise,
Brave to uphold the war of beasts and men,
Some spirited hidalgo, listening wise.
“I glory in the speetaele,” he cries;
“The thing is Spanish, — it has always been!”

O patriotie ardor! Lot them bind
A starry crown upon the learned brow
Of every noble knight, who thinks to find
Our highest strength within the bull enshrined,
Our Spanish glory in the Picador’s bow!

With all the fairest ladies of repute
The love of country so refined has grown
They look with rapture even on this brute;
For tenderness is here a foreign shoot,
And cruelty is Spanish-born alone!

I’ve a Pain in My Head

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 245th birthday.

Jane Austen
English
1775 – 1817

 

‘I’ve a pain in my head’
Said the suffering Beckford;
To her Doctor so dread.
‘Oh! what shall I take for’t?’

Said this Doctor so dread
Whose name it was Newnham.
‘For this pain in your head
Ah! What can you do Ma’am?’

Said Miss Beckford, ‘Suppose
If you think there’s no risk,
I take a good Dose
Of calomel brisk.’—

‘What a praise worthy Notion.’
Replied Mr. Newnham.
‘You shall have such a potion
And so will I too Ma’am.’