To Glory

Salvador Diaz Miron
Mexican
1853 – 1928

 

Don’t try to talk me out of clumsiness
with the delusions of your crazy mind:
my reason is both light and firmness,
firmness and light like rock crystal.

Like the nocturnal pilgrim,
my immortal hope does not look at the ground;
seeing nothing but a shadow on the road,
only contemplate the splendor of the sky.

Vain are the images that it carries
your child spirit, dark sanctuary.
Your soul, like gold on the mountain,
it is virginal and therefore impure.

Through this twitching vortex,
and eager to shine, I fly or crawl,
caterpillar in love with a spark
or eagle seduced by a star.

Useless is that with tenacious murmur
you exaggerate the set in which I get entangled:
I am haughty, and he who encourages pride
wears a buckler impenetrable to fear.

Trusting the instinct that pushes me,
I despise the dangers you point out.
“The bird sings even though the branch creaks:
like he knows what his wings are.”

Erect under the blow in the stubbornness,
I feel superior to victory.
I have faith in myself; adversity could
take away the triumph, but not the glory.

Let the vile pursue me!
I want to attract envy even if it overwhelms me!
The flower on which insects perch
It is rich in hue and perfume.

Evil is the theater in whose forum
virtue, that tragic, stands out;
is the sibyl with the golden word,
the shadow that makes the star stand out.

Lighting is burning! I’m on
It will be the raging fire that consumes me!
The pearl sprouts from the wounded mollusk
and Venus is born from the bitter foam.

The clear timbres of which I am proud
they must come out of the slander unscathed.
There are plumages that cross the swamp
and they don’t stain… My plumage is one of those!

Strength is that my passion suffers! The Palm
it grows on the shore that the waves whip.
Merit is the castaway of the soul:
live, sink; but dead, float!

Let go of your frown and let your voice lull me to sleep!
Comfort the heart of the one who loves you!
God said to the water of the torrent: it boils!
and to the river of the margin: embalm!

Make up, woman! We have come
to this valley of tears that brings down,
you, like the dove, for the nest,
and I, like the lion, for combat.

The Lives of Poets

Jose Emilio Pacheco
Mexican
1939 – 2014

 

In poetry there’s no happy ending.
Poets end up
living their madness.
And they’re quartered like cattle
(it happened to Darío).
Or they’re stoned or wind up
flinging themselves to the sea or with cyanide
salts in their mouths.
Or dead from alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty.
Or worse: canonical poets,
bitter inhabitants of a tomb
entitled Complete Works.

Translation by Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez

The Storm and the Bush

Arthur Henry Adams
Kiwi
1872 – 1936

 

There are only two things in the world –
The storm in the air and the stretch of green leaves;
The flesh of the forest that quivers and heaves
As the blast on its bosom is hurled.
Above is the whip of the wind
That scourges the cowering forest beneath:
The Storm spits the hiss of the hail from his teeth,
And leaves the world writhing behind!
Like a beast that is bound in a cage
When the keeper’s lash lights and the keeper’s goad stings,
Each tree his great limbs to his torturer flings
In a groaning and impotent rage.
As the leaves to a fiercer gust lean
The wind throws their undersides upward to sight,
And the foam of the forest-sea flashes to white
Out over full fathoms of green.

Mount of Olives

Henry Vaughan
Welsh
1621 – 1695

 

Sweet, sacred hill! on whose fair brow
My Saviour sate, shall I allow
Language to love,
And idolize some shade, or grove,
Neglecting thee? such ill-plac’d wit,
Conceit, or call it what you please,
Is the brain’s fit,
And mere disease.

Cotswold and Cooper’s both have met
With learnèd swains, and echo yet
Their pipes and wit;
But thou sleep’st in a deep neglect,
Untouch’d by any; and what need
The sheep bleat thee a silly lay,
That heard’st both reed
And sheepward play?

Yet if poets mind thee well,
They shall find thou art their hill,
And fountain too.
Their Lord with thee had most to do;
He wept once, walk’d whole nights on thee:
And from thence—His suff’rings ended—
Unto glory
Was attended.

Being there, this spacious ball
Is but His narrow footstool all;
And what we think
Unsearchable, now with one wink
He doth comprise; but in this air
When He did stay to bear our ill
And sin, this hill
Was then His Chair.

Penance

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

John McCrae
Canadian
1872 – 1918

 

My lover died a century ago,
Her dear heart stricken by my sland’rous breath,
Wherefore the Gods forbade that I should know
The peace of death.

Men pass my grave, and say, “‘Twere well to sleep,
Like such an one, amid the uncaring dead!”
How should they know the vigil that I keep,
The tears I shed?

Upon the grave, I count with lifeless breath,
Each night, each year, the flowers that bloom and die,
Deeming the leaves, that fall to dreamless death,
More blest than I.

‘Twas just last year—I heard two lovers pass
So near, I caught the tender words he said:
To-night the rain-drenched breezes sway the grass
Above his head.

That night full envious of his life was I,
That youth and love should stand at his behest;
To-night, I envy him, that he should lie
At utter rest.

London

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 265th birthday.

William Blake
English
1757 – 1827

 

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

from Madhushala

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 115th birthday.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan
Indian
1907 – 2003

 

He who has destroyed all the creeds
With fire from his burning breast,
He who quits the temple, mosque and church
A drunken heretic, unblest,
Who sees the snares, and now comes running
From Pandit’s, Priest’s and Mullah’s cunning,
He, and he only, shall today
Be in my House, a welcome Guest.

My Sighs

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 305th birthday.

Alexander Sumarokov
Russian
1717 – 1777

 

My sighs, fly to my sweetheart, I want you to explain
And tell her how I miss her and how I suffer pain.

Stay in her heart and soften her proud look , and then
Do not delay and linger, fly back to me again.

However, you should bring me good news from up above,
and give me her assurance that there is hope for love.

I will not sigh too long for I’m not that kind of man,
Such beauties are not rare, I’ll find another one.

Translation by Alec Vagapov

Call

We present this work in honor of the 75th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Leon-Paul Fargue
French
1876 – 1947

 

I love to go down into the town at the hour when the sky lies close against the horizon like a vast whale. It sinks down into the heart of the street like a worker into his ditch. The bell has swung before the windows and the panes are lit up. It is as though all the eyes of the evening were filled with tears. In an opal the lamps and the day wrestle gently with each other. The advertising signs write to each other, spreading themselves in letters of lava across the face of the buildings. The rope dancers stride over the abyss. A great long legged spider spins its web from the hooks of a bush full of flowers. An acrobat climbs up and throws himself down. Shipwrecked sailors signal foreign vessels. The houses advance like the prows of galleys with all their portholes blazing. Man runs between their golden flames like a waif in a harbor.

Dark and streaming the autos arrive from everywhere, like sharks to the quarry of a great shipwreck, blind to the fulgurant signals of men.

Translation by Kenneth Rexroth