from Die Goldenen Schmiede

Konrad von Würzburg
German
1225 – 1287

 

He who would braid and decorate
Your noble chaplet with flowers
Must bear within his breast
The blooming May branch of the arts
In order to adorn it
With rose-read phrases
And decorate it all around
With words like violets
To purify it utterly
Of everything false,
And most beautifully interweave
The herbs of exotic rhymes
Beneath, around, between
The blossoms of sweet speech.

So As Not to Distort

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 65th birthday.

Hiromi Itō
Japanese
b. 1955

 

I make shiratama
And take them to my man
I heat the sugar and form syrup
Put in the boiled dumplings
And cool them
I seal them tight
And take them
All the shiratama stick to the bottom
The surfaces of the shiratama are torn
Their round
Shapes are distorted
I scoop them up with a spoon
Hey!
Look!
Scoop them out
So they don’t get distorted
I love shiratama best of all
Says my man, carrying the shiratama to his mouth
He closes his eyes and shows me how good they are
I love them more than you
I watch my man
Swallowing the shiratama
And lapping up the lukewarm syrup

I shake the sealed container and wrap it in cloth
Then the two of us
Bring together our syrupy mouths
Slide the palms of our hands
Moving them in the shape of love
But
You know
I don’t want to distort
I don’t want to be left distorted
This is what I think, oh man, my man

I roll them up
Boil the shiratama, heat the syrup, then cool them
I roll into them
Heartrending hopes
Thick syrup
Smooth shiratama
My man swallows them down
Thick like saliva
Smooth like buttocks
How do they taste?

I don’t want to distort you
He also thought in his heartrending way
I have reached him
The food I secrete
Secreted deep, deep
Into the man I love

Lament for Clairac

Theophile de Viau
French
1590 – 1626

 

Sweet place where I adored Phyllis of yore,
Sun-hallowed walls that held my soul in charms,
Today beneath our sundered roofs no more
Than bloody spoil for prideful men at arms,

Cloth of the altar gone in smoke and scorned,
Temple in ruins, mysteries undone,
Horrific relicts of a city burned:
Men, horses, palaces, buried as one.

Deep moats packed with debris from shattered walls,
Tableaux of horror, shrieks and burials,
River where blood has not stopped running high,

Slaughterfields where the wolves and crows gorge free,
Clairac! For the one birth you gave to me
How many, many deaths you make me die.

An Ode on Aeolus’s Harp

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 320th birthday.

James Thomson
Scots
1700 – 1748

 

I

Ethereal race, inhabitants of air,
Who hymn your God amid the secret grove,
Ye unseen beings, to my harp repair,
And raise majestic strains, or melt in love.

II

Those tender notes, how kindly they upbraid!
With what soft woe they thrill the lover’s heart!
Sure from the hand of some unhappy maid
Who died of love these sweet complainings part.

III

But hark! that strain was of a graver tone,
On the deep strings his hand some hermit throws;
Or he, the sacred Bard, who sat alone
In the drear waste and wept his people’s woes.

IV

Such was the song which Zion’s children sung
When by Euphrates’ stream they made their plaint;
And to such sadly solemn notes are strung
Angelic harps to soothe a dying saint.

V

Methinks I hear the full celestial choir
Through Heaven’s high dome their awful anthem raise;
Now chanting clear, and now they all conspire
To swell the lofty hymn from praise to praise.

VI

Let me, ye wandering spirits of the wind,
Who, as wild fancy prompts you, touch the string,
Smit with your theme, be in your chorus joined,
For till you cease my muse forgets to sing.

Against an Avaricious Judge

Fray Luis de Leon
Spanish
1527 – 1591

 

Even if in copious mountains you lift the attained, useless gold;
and even if your possessions you improve with the hurt and tears of others;

And even if, cruel tyrant, you oppress the truth,
and your avarice, dressed in a false name, converts justice to buying and selling;

Even if you fool the eyes of the world that you adore,
it will nonetheless not stop sharp thistles to be born in your heart;

Nor will fear stop sleeping in your bed;
nor will you escape worries and agony, the ultimate spite;

Nor will good hope in pleasure ever cross your threshold;

Nor will la Meguera, with infernal flames, and serpentine whip
in a raised and ferocious skilled arm, leave your bedchamber for a moment;

Nor will you stop the wheel of fortune, despite all you can do,
the hungry and cruel consumer of time is coming with death as a co-conspirator,
to leave you naked of the gold and all that you love most;

And you will be left immersed in interminable harm and oblivion.

Helplessness

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

Zinaïda Gippius
Russian
1869 – 1945

 

I look at a sea – the greedy one and fervent,
Chained to the earth, on the depleted shore…
Stand by a gulf – over the endless heavens,
And could not fly to azure, as before.

I didn’t decide to join or slaves, or rebels,
Have no a courage nor to live, nor – die…
I feel my God – but cannot say my prayers,
I want my love – but can’t find love of mine.

I send to sun my worship and my groan,
I see a sheet of clouds, pale and cold…
What is a truth? It seems to me, I know, –
But for the truth I have not the right world.

Surrender of an Exiled Lover to the Power of His Own Sadness

We present this work in honor of the 375th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Francisco de Quevedo
Spanish
1580 – 1645

 

These are now and will be the very last
tears that, with all the strength of living voice,
I shall lose in this fountain’s fleeting stream,
which carries them to slake the thirst of brutes.

I’m fortunate if, on some far-off shore,
while nourishing so much elusive pain,
I find a death that’s merciful, and fells
such flimsy structures built on weakened roots!

A spirit thus stripped bare a lover pure,
upon the sun I’ll burn, and my cold flesh
in dust and earth will keep Love’s memory.

to travellers I’ll be an epitaph,
since my face, lifeless, will declare to them:
“It was Love’s triumph to make war on me.”

Worker’s Song

We present this work in honor of Labor Day.

Maya Angelou
American
1928 – 2014

 

Big ships shudder down to the sea
Because of me
Railroads run on the twinness track
‘Cause of my back

Whoppa, Whoppa
Whoppa, Whoppa

Cars stretch to a super length
‘Cause of my strength
Planes fly high over seas and lands
‘Cause of my hands

Whoppa, Whoppa
Whoppa, Whoppa

I wake
starts the factory humming
I work late
keep the whole world running
And I got something… something coming… coming

Whoppa, Whoppa
Whoppa

To Genius

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

Frances Wright
Scots
1795 – 1852

 

Yes! it is quench’d — the spark of heavenly fire,
That Genius kindled in my infant mind:
Fled is my fancy: damp’d the fond desire
Of fame immortal; — all my dreams resign’d.
All, all are gone: yet turn I ne’er behind
Like pilgrim wending from his native land?
Shall I in other path such beauties find,
As spring beneath imagination’s hand,
As bloom on wild enthusiasm’s visionary strand?

Celestial Genius! dangerous gift of Heaven!
How many a heart and mind hast thou o’erthrown!
Broken the first, the last to frenzy driven,
Or jarr’d of both for aye the even tone!
Once, once I thought such fate would be my own,
And only look’d to find an early grave;
To die, as I had liv’d — my powers unknown;
Content, so reason might her empire save,
Unseen to sink beneath oblivion’s rayless wave.

But oh! with all thy pains, thou hast a charm
That nought may match within this vale below;
E’en for the pangs thou giv’st, thou hast a balm,
And renderest sweet the bitterness of wo.
Thy breath ethereal — thy kindling glow—
Thy visions bright — thy raptures, wild and high;
He that hath felt — Oh! would he e’er forego?
No! — in thy glistening tear thy bursting sigh,
Though fraught with wo, there is a thrill of ecstasy!

And art thou flown, thou high celestial power?
For ever flown? — Ah! turn thee yet again!
Ah! yet be with me in the lonely hour,
Yet stoop to guide my wilder’d fancy’s rein!
Turn thee once more, and wake thy ancient strain;
No joys that earth can yield I love like thine:
Nay, more than earth’s best joys I love thy pain.
And could I say, I would thy smile resign?
No, while this bosom beats, oh still great gift be mine!