the orange-trees

Those lovely orange-trees
whose flowers breathe amber
on the meadows are pomanders
in the sun’s brazier:
a perpetual and lovely emerald,
in which the loquacious nightingale
with harmonious voice
tells us a thousand tales;
among whose tender leaves
the flowers which April shaped
from short-lived stars of snow
are fragrant clusters.
The metamorphoses of time
which will sweetly transform
what are diamonds to-day
into topazes to-morrow;
to whose green liveries
crystal twigs give
handsome ornaments
and a most fragrant whiteness.
Rich mine of the valley
where shy January
gave us free gold
and showy May free silver.

Salvador Jacinto Polo de Medina


my country’s tears

We are now wholly – nay more than wholly – devastated!
The band of presumptuous nations, the blaring trumpet,
the sword greasy with blood, the thundering cannon
have consumed everyone’s sweat and industry and provisions.
The towers are on fire, the church is cast down, the town hall lies in ruins,
the strong are maimed, the virgins raped,
and wherever we look there is [nothing but] fire,
plague, and death that pierces heart and mind.
Here through the bulwarks and the town ever-fresh blood is running.
Three times six years ago the water of our rivers
slowly found its way past the corpses that almost blocked it;
but I will say nothing of what is worse than death itself,
more dreadful than the plague and fire and famine –
that so many have been despoiled of the treasure of the soul.

Andreas Gryphius

on the fleetness and passage of time

With what fleet steps you run by!
Oh how you leave me, vain time!
Oh, tyrant over my fortune and my being,
how continually I feel your lordly hand!

I thought that I could stop you, but you fled past;
that I could follow you, but you went proudly away.
I wasted you in seeking you, inhuman entity,
and the more I sought you the more I lost you.

Now I know your anger; now that I am brought low
I am the spoils of your scythe,
oh bitter disillusionment unconfessed!

I lived blind and was finally disabused.
Made an Argus in my sorrow, with sad eyes
I see you fly and see that I have lost you.

Luis Carrillo y Sotomayor

to himself

Be undismayed in spite of everything;
do not give up, despite everything; give way to no twist of fortune;
stand above envy; be content with yourself and think it no disaster
even if fortune, place, and time have conspired against you.

What saddens or refreshes you,
think it chosen for you; accept your fate, regret nothing,
do what must be done and before you are told to do it.
What you can hope for may happen any day.

What is it that we lament, or that we praise?
Each man is his own fortune and misfortune.
Look round at everything – all this is within you;

leave your empty delusion, and, before you go any farther, go back into yourself.
The man who is master of himself and can control himself
has the wide world and what is in it at his feet.

Paul Fleming

I wanted to travel, in the end travel

I wanted to travel, in the end travel
caused me to retire dissatisfied to my house.
I wanted to remain alone in my study,
in the end solitude worked my harm.

I wanted to sail the seas, in the end seafaring
made me despair between life and death.
I wanted to till the earth for pleasure,
in the end I despised the tiller’s state.

I wanted to practice learning and the arts,
in the end I learnt nothing; I ran the gauntlet
of murderous battles, now war disgusts me.

O imbecility of the inquisitive mind,
which, dissatisfied with everything, is desirous of everything,
and which, doubting, has perfect knowledge of nothing.

Jean-Baptiste Chassignet

life is a pleasant anticipation of the future

Life is a pleasant anticipation of the future
and a regret for the past, an uncontrollable desire
to taste and touch what has not been tasted,
an incurable distaste for what has been tasted;

a vain recalling of the desirable state of past ages,
an uncertain hope of a wished-for future,
frivolously built up on the vain
foundation of shifting expectations;

a horror of oneself, a desire for death,
a contempt of life, a pit of remorse,
a storehouse of tears, a storm-tossed sea:

in which the nearer we come to the distant shore,
the more we regret and vainly lament
that the wind has ended our journey so soon.

Jean-Baptiste Chassignet

sit down on the bank of a rippling river

Sit down on the bank of a rippling river:
you will see it flowing in a perpetual current,
and, rolling wave after wave in a thousand twists
and turns, outpouring its watery course through die meadows.

But you will see nothing of that first wave
which once flowed by. The water changes every day,
every day it passes and we still call it the same river,
and the same water, in the same way.

So does man vary, and tomorrow the strength
of the poor human body which time shortens
and consumes will not be the same as today:

The name follows us until death without changing and,
although today I am not the same man who was living yesterday,
yet am I still called the same.

Jean-Baptiste Chassignet