the ways of nature

Toward the sun’s path
Hollyhock flowers turning
In the rains of summer.

Matsuo Bashō

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symphony in grey major

The sea like a vast quicksilver mirror
reflects the metal sheet of a zinc sky;
far-away flocks of birds stain
the polished background of pale grey.

The sun like a round, opaque window-pane
climbs to the zenith at a sick man’s pace;
the sea-wind rests in the shadows,
using its black trumpet for a pillow.

The waves that move their leaden bellies
seem to moan beneath the quay.
Seated on a cable, smoking his pipe,
is a sailor thinking of the beaches of a vague,
far-away, misty land.

This sea-dog is an old man. The fiery beams
of Brazilian suns have scorched his face;
the violent typhoons of the China seas have
seen him drinking his bottle of gin.

The foam that reeks of iodine and saltpetre
has known from of old his red nose,
his curly hair, and his athlete’s biceps,
his canvas cap and his drill blouse.

In the midst of the smoke-cloud that rises from his tobacco,
the old man sees the far-away misty land
for which one hot and golden evening
his brigantine set out with all sails set.

The tropical siesta. The sea-dog sleeps.
Now the scale of grey enfolds him complete.
It is as if a soft and enormous charcoal pencil
would rub out the line of the curved horizon.

The tropical siesta. The old cicada
tries out his hoarse and ancient guitar,
and the grasshopper strikes up a monotonous
solo on the single string of his violin.

Rubén Darío

rivers

With the Rhine, the Rhone, the Ebro,
my eyes are filled.
With the Tiber, the Thames,
the Volga, the Danube,
my eyes are filled.

But I know the Plata,
and I know the Amazon bathes.
But I know the Mississippi,
and I know the Magdalena bathes.
I know the Almendares,
and I know the San Lorenzo bathes.
I know the Orinoco,
I know they bathe lands of bitter slime where my voice blooms,
and languid jungles chained by bloody roots.
America, I drink from your cup,
from your tin cup,
great rivers of tears!
Oh, leave me, leave me,
leave me now
…close to the water.

Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista

the vanity oh human wishes

My child, Zeus the deep-thundering holds the ends of all
actions in his own hands, disposes as he will
of everything. We who are human have no minds,
but live, from day to day, like beasts and nothing know
of what God plans to make happen to each of us.
But hope and self-persuasion keep us all alive
in our unprofitable desires. Some watch the day
for what it brings, and some the turn of years, and none
so downcast he will not believe that time to come
will make him virtuous, rich, all his heart’s desire.
But other things begin to happen first; old age,
which no one wants, gets one before he makes his goal.
Painful diseases wear down some; others are killed in battle,
and death takes them under the dark earth.
Some, battered in the sudden hurricane on the sea,
where waves crowd big across the blue salt water, drown
and die, when all they looked for was some way to live.
Some loop (a dismal way to die) the noose around
their necks and go self-murdered from the sunlight. Thus
no evil thing is missing. In their thousands stand
bad spirits, and innumerable griefs, and pains
about our life. If men would take advice from me,
we should not long for what is really bad, nor buy
our heart’s own torment for our hard work done in vain.

Semonides

pax animae

Speak to me no more of earthly pleasures
which I do not wish to savor. My heart
is already dead, and only the ravens of death
will enter its opened chambers.

I have no traces of the past upon me,
and sometimes I am not sure of whether I exist,
since to me life is a desert
peopled with spectral figures.

I see only a planet darkened
by the mists of drizzling twilight,
and, in the silence of profound drowsiness,

My ears only discern something
strange, indistinct, mysterious,
which drags me very far from this world.

José Julián Herculano del Casal y de la Lastra

round red moon

Waves on the blue ocean
Smell of rice wine—
The moon of tonight.

Matsuo Bashō

on friends lost at sea

Blaming the bitterness of this sorrow, Perikles, no man
in all our city can take pleasure in festivities:
Such were the men the surf of the roaring sea washed under,
all of us go with hearts aching against our ribs
for misery. Yet against such grief that is past recovery
the gods, dear friend, have given us strong endurance to be our medicine.
Such sorrows are variable. They beat now
against ourselves, and we take the hurt of the bleeding sore.
Tomorrow it will be others who grieve, not we. From now on
act like a man, and put away these feminine tears.

Archilochus