poem 149

She weighs the difficulties of electing a way of life
that must last until death

With all the hazards of the sea in mind,
no one would set sail; if in advance
the dangers were foreseen, no one would dare
so much as taunt the mad bull in the ring.
If the prudent rider were to weigh
the unleashed fury of a pounding beast
set free to race, we would not see
anyone set a skilled hand to the reins.
But if one showed such brave audacity
as, despite the peril, to aspire
to take in hand the blazing chariot
of the great god Apollo, drenched in light:
that one would do it all, not simply choose
a way of life that must endure till death.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Advertisements

poem 148

Better death than suffer the affronts
of growing old

In the gardens, Celia gazed upon a rose
that candid in its haughty ostentation,
and bright in tints of scarlet and rich crimson,
joyfully its fragile face exposed,
and said: ,,Enjoy the day, fear not the blows
of Fate in this too fleeting celebration,
the death that on the morrow claims its portion,
cannot take from you the joys this day bestows;
though the perfume of life fade on the air,
and the hour of your passing too soon toll,
fear not the death that finds you young and fair:
take the counsel that experience extols,
to die while beautiful is finer far
than to suffer the affront of growing old.”

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

poem 146

She laments her fortune, she hints of her aversion to all vice,
and justifies her diversion with the Muses

In my pursuit, World, why such diligence?
What my offense, when I am thus inclined,
insuring elegance affect my mind,
not that my mind affect an elegance?
I have no love of riches or finance,
and thus do I most happily, I find,
expend finances to enrich my mind
and not mind expend upon finance.
I worship beauty not, but vilify
that spoil of time that mocks eternity,
nor less, deceitful treasures glorify,
but hold foremost, with greatest constancy,
consuming all the vanity in life,
and not consuming life in vanity.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

a window

The sky dreams clouds for the real world
with matter enamored of light and space.
Today dunes scatter over a reef,
sands with marine waves that are snows.
So many chance crossings, by fanciful caprice,
there in plain view with an irresistible
smiling reality. I dwell on the edges
of solid transparent depths.
The air is enclosing, displaying, enhancing
the leaves on the branch, the branches on the trunk,
walls, eaves, corners, pillars:
Calm proof of the evening,
requiring a windows tranquil vision.
Details chime with their surroundings:
smooth pebbles, there a fence, then a wire.
Every minute finds its own aureole,
or is it fancy dreaming this glass?
I am like my window. I marvel at the air.
Beauty so limpid, now so in accord,
between the sun and the mind! There are polished words,
but I would like to know as the June air knows.
The poplars stirring makes a visible breeze,
in a circle of peace the evening encloses me,
and a soaring sky adapts to my horizon.

Jorge Guillén Álvarez

ode XI: to Leuconoe

Do not inquire, we are not allowed to know,
what end the gods have assigned either to me or to you,
Leuconoe, nor consult the Babylonian tables. How much better
to patiently endure whatever comes whether Jupiter grants us more winters,
or whether this one, now crashing Tyrrhenean waves against the rocks,
shall be the last. Be wise. Water your wine. Life is so brief: cut short far-reaching hopes.
Even as we speak, envious time is fleeing: Seize the day: entrusting as little as possible to tomorrow.

Horace

black swans

As I lie at rest on a patch of clover
In the western park when the day is done,
I watch as the wild black swans fly over
With their phalanx turned to the sinking sun;
And I hear the clang of their leader crying
To a lagging mate in the rearward flying,
And they fade away in the darkness dying,
Where the stars are mustering one by one.

Oh! ye wild black swans, ’twere a world of wonder
For a while to join in your westward flight,
With the stars above and the dim earth under,
Through the cooling air of the glorious night.
As we swept along on our pinions winging,
We should catch the chime of a church-bell ringing,
Or the distant note of a torrent singing,
Or the far-off flash of a station light.

From the northern lakes with the reeds and rushes,
Where the hills are clothed with a purple haze,
Where the bellbirds chime and the songs of thrushes
Make music sweet in the jungle maze,
They will hold their course to the westward ever,
Till they reach the banks of the old grey river,
Where the waters wash, and the reed-beds quiver
In the burning heat of the summer days.

Oh! ye strange wild birds, will ye bear a greeting
To the folk that live in that western land?
Then for every sweep of your pinions beating
Ye shall bear a wish to the sunburnt band,
To the stalwart men who are stoutly fighting
With the heat and drought and the dust storm smiting,
Yet whose life somehow has a strange inviting,
When once to the work they have put their hand.

I would fain go back to the old grey river,
To the old bush days when our hearts were light;
But, alas! those days they have fled for ever,
They are like the swans that have swept from sight.
And I know full well that the strangers’ faces
Would meet us now in our dearest places;
For our day is dead and has left no traces
But the thoughts that live in my mind tonight.

There are folk long dead, and our hearts would sicken —
We would grieve for them with a bitter pain,
If the past could live and the dead could quicken,
We then might turn to that life again.
But on lonely nights we would hear them calling,
We should hear their steps on the pathways falling,
We should loathe the life with a hate appalling
In our lonely rides by the ridge and plain.

In the silent park is a scent of clover,
And the distant roar of the town is dead,
And I hear once more as the swans fly over
Their far-off clamour from overhead.
They are flying west by their instinct guided,
And for man likewise is his fate decided,
And griefs apportioned and joys divided
By a mighty power with a purpose dread.

Banjo Peterson

poem 145

[She endeavors to expose the praises recorded in a portrait
of the Poetess by truth, which she calls passion.]

This object which you see — a painted snare
exhibiting the subtleties of art
with clever arguments of tone and hue —
is but a cunning trap to snare your sense;
this object, in which flattery has tried
to overlook the horrors of the years
and, conquering the ravages of time,
to overcome oblivion and age:
this is an empty artifice of care,
a flower, fragile, set out in the wind,
a letter of safe-conduct sent to Fate;
it is a foolish, erring diligence,
a palsied will to please which, clearly seen,
is a corpse, is dust, is shadow, and is gone.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz