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

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symphony in grey major

The sea like some giant crystal of quicksilver
reflects the metal plate of a sky of rolled zinc.
Far away there are flocks of birds forming a stain
on a polished background of a pale shade of gray.

The sun, a piece of glass, both rounded and opaque,
walks toward its zenith with a sick person’s steps.
The breezes from the sea take a rest in the shade,
using as a pillow what their black trumpets play.

The waves, moving their bellies made of lead,
seem to be moaning under the great wharf.
Sitting on a cable and puffing on his pipe,
there is a mariner, thinking about beaches
in some distant country, lost on a foggy day.

That sea-wolf is ancient. The burning rays of light
from the Brazilian sun toasted him to a crisp.
The harshest typhoons on the South China Sea
found him drinking his gin in a protected bay.

Iodine and nitrate fecundate the sea-spray
that has known his red nose for a very long time,
and his curly hair, too, and his athlete’s biceps,
his hat made of canvas, his shirt ripped in a fray.

In the midst of the smoke from clouds of tobacco
the old man can discern the country lost in fog,
where on one afternoon that was golden and warm,
the brigantine weighed anchor and then sailed away.

Tropical siesta. The sea-wolf is sleeping.
The gamut of the gray enshrouds everything now.
It seems like some gentle and huge stump of paper
for shading the lines that frame the curved sky today.

Tropical siesta, and the old cicada
practices its guitar so hoarse and so senile.
The cricket tries out a monotonous solo
on the one-stringed violin it knows how to play.

Rubén Darío

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

the ship

The ship perfumed with garlands of roses,
whose cedar side shines in the sun,
has slipped over the waves far from dreary shores,
and it is noon above land and sea.

Above the forests of shining elms and above the sands
it is noon! The ship creaks and trembles in the winds,
and man holds out his arms to the immortal skies,
and the land is alive, and the skies are alive!

They spread the golden sail; its shadow is radiant;
far away the dark oaks and the green lemon-trees
dwindle on the shore, and the thunderous wave
interrupts the sailors’ song with its din:

,,Farewell, white lakes, oaks, torrents, valleys,
caves full of streams and closed by rocks!
We ride on seas veiled by mists,
for die land is barren and the gods are hidden.

You left the East, O light; you have drunk
so many oceans, climbed so many mountains,
that great age has soiled your bright face;
we see you no more, O light, and we love you.

We bent the iron of coulters into anchors;
the old wind of the furrows blew in the sail;
we carried away the springs in goat-skins;
the ship is swollen with the com of nine harvests,

Over there the other sun appears in fertile skies;
we shall bring it back in our sinewy arms;
we shall scatter towns on the islands of the sea
to the thunder of lutes and fiery trumpets !’’

The prow is a pile of roses; on the poop the men,
who carried fate in their hearts, eat;
the sun sank in their cup and sleep turned
them to stone carved above the board.

Only the pilot watches and bright Diana,
whose lovely silver car cleaves the night air,
holding over them her quivering torch,
guides the sleeping crew, floating upon the sea.

Emmanuel Signoret

elegy

Let us gather, let us gather the rose in the morning of life;
at least breathe the flowers of fleeting Springs;
let us abandon our hearts to chaste pleasures;
let us love without limit, O my only friend!

When the boatman beaten by angry waves
sees his frail bark threatened by shipwreck,
he turns his glance to the shores he has left
and regrets too late the land’s leisure.
Ah! how he then wishes he had never forsaken his country or his gods,
passing obscure days without danger or fame
beneath the roof of his fathers near the beloved objects
that are present in his memory!

So man, bent beneath the weight of years,
weeps for his sweet Spring that cannot return.
,,Ah! give me back, he says, those hours I profaned!
O gods! I forgot to enjoy them in their season.’’

He speaks; death replies; and those gods to whom he prays,
pushing him into the grave without relenting,
do not let him stoop again to pick up those flowers
which he has not known how to gather.
O my beloved, let us love one another!
And let us laugh at the cares that cradle mortal men.
For the foolish lure of empty smoke
half their days, alas!
Are used up on neglect of the real wealth.
Let us not envy their sterile pride;
let us leave far-off hopes to the masters of men!
For us, uncertain of our hour,
let us hasten to empty life’s cup
while it is in our hands.

Whether the bays crown us and our names
are inscribed on marble or brass in the bloody annals of proud Bellona;
or whether love adorns our humble brows
with the simple flowers harvested by beauty,
we shall all be cast away on the same shore:
at the moment of shipwreck what does it matter
whether we have cleft the air on a famous ship
or timidly skirted the sea-shore,
the sole traveler on a light bark ?

Alphonse de Lamartine

myth

Through shallow fields
of dwarf bamboo
clinging to our waist
we struggle.
We cannot soar through the sky
but must go on foot.

We go through the sea,
and through the water
clinging to our waists
we struggle.
Like watergrasses
on a broad river,
we hesitate in the sea.

The beach plover
does not fly over the beach
but follows the rocky strand.

Yamato Takeru

coldness

Sunset on the sea:
The voices of the ducks
Are faintly white…

Matsuo Bashō