Defense Against the Night

We present this work in honor of the Commemoration of Ataturk.

05-19 Daglarca
Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca
Turkish
1931 – 2008

 

This man is dead and gone but
Time did not fall in the ground for long.
To the trees we delivered his life.
To whom does his heart belong?

This man is dead and gone but
We could not leave the dead man’s side.
In the endless sorrow of our nights
Why does this pallor never subside?

This man is dead and gone but
Still the river would not stay,
And like the birds of a glorious fate
It can carry him away.

 

Translation by Talat Sait Halman

Madrid, Prado Museum

We present this work in honor of International Museum Day.

05-18 Joseph
M.K. Joseph
Kiwi
1914 – 1981

Two clergymen, one long, one short,
Stand before Greco’s Trinity:
The tall one twirls a single thought
Round some point in divinity;
The short one mops his heated brows
With a red handkerchief, dimly aspires
To levitate among the clouds
Upborn by incorporeal fires.

The desiccated blond inspects
The pages of her Baedeker,
Hoping that somehow culture and sex
At last will coalesce for her.
She who through Europe has pursued
Delight still missed en troisi me noce,
Beneath some vast exuberant nude
Of Rubens, knows the pain of loss.

Fading with cup and mandolin,
Goya’s country feast turns dark,
But soon the firing-squads begin
By lanternlight their bloody work.
Before that last anger and despair
At human folly, someone stands.
It is oneself that cannot bear
Those anguished eyes and famished hands.

Velazquez turns with easy stance
To the princess and the maids of honour,
Caught in a movement like a dance,
And calms the dwarf’s indignant humour.
Royalty in the looking glass
Fears its heavy image less:
The gift of water in a glass
Forgives the human ugliness.

Equal and intellectual,
Transcending flesh, transcending flame,
This passionless light that hallows all
Shall build us an eternal home.

A Night in the Wheat Field

We present this work in honor of Galician Literature Day.

05-17 Curros
Manuel Curros Enríquez
Spanish
1851 – 1908

 

Once upon a night in the wheat fields
By the reflected white light of the bright moon
A young girl mourned without pause
The disdain of an ungrateful beau.

And between plaints the poor girl said,
“I have no one left in the world…
I’m going to die and my eyes do not see
The dear eyes of my sweet boon.”

Her echoes of melancholy
Strolled on the wings of the wind
And she kept repeating the lament,
“I’m going to die and my boon doesn’t come!”

Far away from her, standing at the stern
Of a rogue steamboat slaver,
The unfortunate, forlorn lover
Emigrates en route to America.

And upon watching the gentle swallows
Cross toward the land he leaves behind,
“Who could turn back,” he pondered,
“Who could fly away with you…!”

But the birds and the vessel sped onward
Without hearing his bitter laments,
Only the winds kept repeating,
“Who could fly away with you…!”

Clear nights of fragrances and moonlight:
How much sadness you own since then
For those who saw a young girl weeping,
For those who saw a ship leave port…

Away from a heavenly, genuine love
That is not shown by teardrops alone:
A grave on a lookout
And a corpse on the ocean floor!

 

Translation by Eduardo Freire Canosa

To the Old Gods

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 135th birthday.

05-15 Muir
Edwin Muir
Scots
1887 – 1959

Old gods and goddesses who have lived so long
Through time and never found eternity,
Fettered by wasting wood and hollowing hill,
You should have fled our ever-dying song,
The mound, the well, and the green trysting tree.
They have forgotten, yet you linger still,
Goddess of caverned breast and channeled brow,
And cheeks slow hollowed by millennial tears,
Forests of autumns fading in your eyes,
Eternity marvels at your counted years
And kingdoms lost in time, and wonders how
There could be thoughts so bountiful and wise
As yours beneath the ever-breaking bough,
And vast compassion curving like the skies.

To One Unnamed

06-03 Li
Li Shangyin
Chinese
813 – 858

 

Time was, long before I met her,
but longer still, since we parted,
The east wind is powerless, for it has come
and a hundred flowers are gone,
And the silk-worms of spring will spin until they die
And every night candles will weep their wicks away.
In the morning mirror she sees her temple hair
changing the color of clouds
Chanting poems in the chill of moonlight.
Oh, it is not so very far to Penglai
O blue-birds listen, bring me what she says.

Rosewater

We present this work in honor of the 30th anniversary of the poet’s death.

05-12 Gatsos
Nikos Gatsos
Greek
1911 – 1992

 

When you reach that other world, don’t become a cloud,
don’t become a cloud, and the bitter star of dawn,
so that your mother knows you, waiting at her door.
Take a wand of willow, a root of rosemary,
a root of rosemary, and be a moonlit coolness
falling in the midnight in your thirsting courtyard.
I gave you rosewater to drink, you gave me poison,
eaglet of the frost, hawk of the desert.

 

Translation by Jon Corelis

Porphyria’s Lover

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 210th birthday.

05-07 Browning
Robert Browning
English
1812 – 1889

The rain set early in to-night,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.

When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form

Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,

She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,

Murmuring how she loved me — she
Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me for ever.

But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.

Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipped me; surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.

That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,

And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.

And I untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore

Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!

Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!

from The Mystic Rose Garden

We present this work in honor of Eid-al-Fitr.

05-03 Shabestari
Mahmoud Shabestari
Persian
1288 – 1340

 

In the name of Him who taught the soul to think,
And kindled the heart’s lamp with the light of soul;
By Whose light the two worlds were illumined,
By Whose grace the dust of Adam bloomed with roses;
That Almighty one who in the twinkling of an eye,
From Kaf and Nun brought forth the two worlds!
What time the Kaf of His power breathed on the pen,
It cast thousands of pictures on the page of Not being.
From that breath were produced the two worlds,
From that breath proceeded the soul of Adam.
In Adam were manifested reason and discernment,
Whereby he perceived the principle of all things.
When he beheld himself a specific person,
He thought within himself “What am I?”
From part to whole he made a transit,
And thence returned back to the world.
He saw that the world is an imaginary thing,
Like as one diffused through many numbers.
The worlds of command and of creatures proceed from one breath,
And the moment they come forth they go away again.
Albeit here there is no real coming and going,
Going, when you consider it, is naught but coming.
Things revert to their proper original,
All are one, both the visible and the invisible.
God most high is the eternal one who with a breath
Originates and terminates both worlds.
The world of command and that of creatures are here one,
One becomes many and many few.
All these varied forms arise only from your fancy,
They are but one point revolving quickly in a circle.
It is but one circular line from first to last
Whereon the creatures of this world are journeying;
On this road the prophets are as princes,
Guides, leaders and counsellors.
And of them our lord Muhammad is the chief,
At once the first and the last in this matter.
That One (Ahad) was made manifest in the mim of Ahmad.
In this circuit the first emanation became the last.
A single mim divides Ahad from Ahmad;
The world is immersed in that one mim.
In him is completed the end of this road,
In him is the station of the text ‘I call to God,’
His entrancing state is the union of union,
His heart ravishing beauty the light of light.
He went before and all souls follow after
Grasping the skirts of his garment.
As for the saints on this road before and behind
They each give news of their own stages.
When they have reached their limits
They discourse of the ‘knower’ and the ‘known,’
One in the ocean of unity says ‘I am the Truth,’
Another speaks of near, and far, and the moving boat,
One, having acquired the external knowledge,
Gives news of the dry land of the shore.
One takes out the pearl and it becomes a stumbling-block,
Another leaves the pearl and it remains in its shell.
One tells openly this tale of part and of whole,
Another takes his text from eternal and temporal:
One tells of curl, of mole, and of eyebrow,
And displays to view wine, lamp and beauty.
One speaks of his own being and its illusion,
Another is devoted to idols and the Magian girdle.
Since the language of each is according to his degree of progress,
They are hard to be understood of the people.
He who is perplexed as to these mysteries
Is bound to learn their meaning.

 

Translation by E.H. Whinfield

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.