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


on the grasshopper and cricket

The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s — he takes the lead
In summer luxury, — he has never done
With his delights, for when tired out with fun,
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

John Keats


You [the sun] whose course the Eternal Spirit has marked out,
you who give growth and feeling to matter,
who measure out time and mete out the day,
king of the wandering worlds who compose your court,
bright and noble image of the God who guides you:
the seasons, their gifts, our riches, are your work.

You prepared the earth to be fertile
when you clothed it with grace and beauty;
soon you mounted to the height
of the heavenly vault and hotter beams,
shed about your path, penetrated the atmosphere,
the depths of the earth and of the seas
from the equator to the pole.

They give birth to innumerable beings,
everything stirs, organizes itself, and is conscious of existence.
Are the sand and the mud filled with life?
In the woods, in the waters, on the burning mountains,
the germs of birds, fish, reptiles,
burst out all at once from their fragile prisons.
Here, the nimble fawn plays with the lamb;
there, the young steed bounds near the kid;
on the opposite edges of those light leaves,
tribes dwell which are foreign to one another;
the calyxes of the flowers, the fruits, are inhabited;
in humble clods of turf, cities spring up;
and an inanimate drop of rain-water
contains an atomy people, an invisible multitude.

As a wave disappears beneath the following wave,
a being is replaced by the being it produces.
They are born, O mighty God, when your life-giving voice
calls them in their turn on to the stage of the world.
Devoured by each other, or destroyed by time,
they have served your purpose for a few moments.

Jean François de Saint-Lambert

the ways of nature

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

Matsuo Bashō

bed of green leaves

Why, Jatir, do you dally, and move your feet
so much at the expense of my love’s voice?
Already the night breeze, rustling the leaves,
murmurs in the crests of the woods.

Beneath the crown of the lofty mango tree,
I carefully covered our pleasant bed
with a tender carpet of soft leaves,
where the pale moonlight plays amidst flowers.

A short while ago the flower of the tamarind opened –
now the jasmine gives a sweeter aroma!
Like a prayer of love, like these prayers,
the wood breathes in the silence of the night.

The moon shines in the sky, stars shine,
perfumes fly with the breeze,
in whose magic flow is breathed
a gasp of love, better than life!

The flower which blooms at dawn
lives for one course of the sun alone, no more.
I am that flower, still awaiting
a sweet ray of sun that gives me life.

Be it through valleys or hills,
on water or land, wherever you may go,
whether day or night, my thoughts go after you;
I have never had another love: you are mine, I am yours!

My eyes have never seen other eyes,
my lips have never felt other lips,
and no hands but yours, Jatir, have pressed
my feather skirt about my waist.

The flower of the tamarind lies half-open,
now the jasmine gives a sweeter aroma;
and my heart, too, like these flowers,
breathes a finer perfume near to the night!

You are not listening to me, Jatir! Nor do you respond
even too late to my love’s voice, calling you in vain!
Tupã! The sun is breaking through! May the morning
breeze brush the leaves from the useless bed!

Antônio Gonçalves Dias

and so

And so: the stones were already thrown
into the sea. The stones, the words, the ephemeral
treasures of the spectre. In its mansion
a terrifying unknown quietude
flourishes – a quietude without gestures;
neither gadgets nor strange rites with
which to cheat the great devourer.

And this quietude is not death: silence,
but from a null voice, the stopping
of a failed pendulum, freedom
of he who dwelt in the cellar. The door
remains ajar. The sun is new.
And some seeing eyes watch the sea.

Raúl Gustavo Aguirre

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