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Michael R Burch Jun 2020
Deor's Lament

(Old English/Anglo-Saxon poem circa the 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Weland endured the agony of exile:
an indomitable smith wracked by grief.
He suffered countless sorrows;
indeed, such sorrows were his ***** companions
in that frozen island dungeon
where Nithad fettered him:
so many strong-but-supple sinew-bands
binding the better man.
That passed away; this also may.

Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths,
bemoaning also her own sad state
once she discovered herself with child.
She knew nothing good could ever come of it.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard the Geat's moans for Matilda,
his lovely lady, waxed limitless,
that his sorrowful love for her
robbed him of regretless sleep.
That passed away; this also may.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand;
many acknowledged his mastery and moaned.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard too of Ermanaric's wolfish ways,
of how he cruelly ruled the Goths' realms.
That was a grim king! Many a warrior sat,
full of cares and maladies of the mind,
wishing constantly that his crown might be overthrown.
That passed away; this also may.

If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious,
bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening,
soon it seems to him that his troubles are limitless.
Then he must consider that the wise Lord
often moves through the earth
granting some men honor, glory and fame,
but others only shame and hardship.
This I can say for myself:
that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop,
dear to my lord. My name was Deor.
For many winters I held a fine office,
faithfully serving a just king. But now Heorrenda
a man skilful in songs, has received the estate
the protector of warriors had promised me.
That passed away; this also may.

Footnotes and Translator's Comments
by Michael R. Burch

Summary

"Deor's Lament" appears in the Exeter Book, which has been dated to around 960-990 AD. The poem may be considerably older than the manuscript, since many ancient poems were passed down ****** for generations before they were finally written down. The poem is a lament in which someone named Deor, presumably the poet who composed the poem, compares the loss of his job and prospects to seemingly far greater tragedies of the past. Thus "Deor's Lament" may be an early example of overstatement and/or "special pleading."

Author

The author is unknown but may have been an Anglo-Saxon scop (poet) named Deor. However it is also possible that the poem was written by someone else. We have no knowledge of a poet named "Deor" outside the poem.

Genre

"Deor's Lament" is, as its name indicates, a lament. The poem has also been classified as an Anglo-Saxon elegy or dirge. If the poet's name "was" Deor, does that mean he is no longer alive and is speaking to us from beyond the grave? "Deor" has also been categorized as an ubi sunt ("where are they now?") poem.

Theme

The poem's theme is one common to Anglo-Saxon poetry and literature: that a man cannot escape his fate and thus can only meet it with courage, resolve and fortitude.

Plot

Doer's name means "dear" and the poet puns on his name in the final stanza: "I was dear to my lord. My name was Deor." The name Deor may also has connotations of "noble" and "excellent." The plot of Deor's poem is simple and straightforward: other heroic figures of the past overcame adversity; so Deor may also be able to overcome the injustice done to him when his lord gave his position to a rival. It is even possible that Deor intended the poem to be a spell, incantation, curse or charm of sorts.

Techniques

"Deor's Lament" is an alliterative poem: it uses alliteration rather than meter to "create a flow" of words. This was typical of Anglo-Saxon poetry. “Deor's Lament" is one of the first Old English poems to employ a refrain, which it does quite effectively. What does the refrain "Thaes ofereode, thisses swa maeg" mean? Perhaps something like: "That was overcome, and so this may be overcome also." However, the refrain is ambiguous: perhaps the speaker believes things will work out the same way; or perhaps he is merely suggesting that things might work out for the best; or perhaps he is being ironical, knowing that they won't.

Interpretation

My personal interpretation of the poem is that the poet is employing irony. All the previously-mentioned heroes and heroines are dead. I believe Deor is already dead, or knows that he is an old man soon to also be dead. "Passed away" maybe a euphemism for "dead as a doornail." But I don't "know" this, and you are free to disagree and find your own interpretation of the poem.

Analysis of Characters and References

Weland/Welund is better known today as Wayland the Smith. (Beowulf's armor was said to have been fashioned by Weland.) According to an ancient Norse poem, Völundarkviða, Weland and his two brothers came upon three swan-maidens on a lake's shore, fell in love with them, and lived with them happily for seven years, until the swan-maidens flew away. His brothers left, but Weland stayed and turned to smithing, fashioning beautiful golden rings for the day of his swan-wife's return. King Nithuthr, hearing of this, took Weland captive, hamstrung him to keep him prisoner, and kept him enslaved on an island, forging fine things. Weland took revenge by killing Nithuthr's two sons and getting his daughter Beadohild pregnant. Finally Weland fashioned wings and flew away, sounding a bit like Icarus of Greek myth.

Maethhild (Matilda) and Geat (or "the Geat") are known to us from Scandianavian ballads. Magnild (Maethhild) was distressed because she foresaw that she would drown in a river. Gauti (Geat) replied that he would build a bridge over the river, but she responded that no one can flee fate. Sure enough, she drowned. Gauti then called for his harp, and, like a Germanic Orpheus, played so well that her body rose out of the waters. In one version she returned alive; in a darker version she returned dead, after which Gauti buried her properly and made harpstrings from her hair.

The Theodoric who ruled the Maerings for thirty years may have to be puzzled out. A ninth-century rune notes that nine generations prior a Theodric, lord of the Maerings, landed in Geatland and was killed there. In the early sixth century there was a Frankish king called Theoderic. But the connections seem tenuous, at best. Perhaps the thirty year rule is a clue to consider the Ostrogoth Theodoric, born around 451. He ruled Italy for around thirty years, until 526. Toward the end of his reign Theodoric, then in his seventies, named his infant grandson heir. There were rumours that members of his court were conspiring against his chosen successor. Furthermore, the Catholic church was opposing the Arian Theodoric. As a result of these tensions, several leading senators were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy, including Boethius. It was while he was imprisoned and awaiting execution that Boethius wrote his famous Consolation of Philosophy. Theodoric's final years were unfortunately marked by suspicion and distrust, so he may be the ruler referred to by Deor.

Eormenric was another king of the Ostrogoths who died in about 375; according to Ammianus Marcellinus, he killed himself out of fear of the invading Huns. According to other Old Norse Eddic poems (Guðrúnarhvöt and Hamðismál, Iormunrekkr), Eormenric had his wife Svannhildr trampled by horses because he suspected her of sleeping with his son. So he might qualify as a "grim king" with "wolfish ways."

Deor has left no trace of himself, other than this poem. Heorrenda appears as Horant in a thirteenth century German epic Kudrun. It was said that Horant sang so sweetly that birds fell silent at his song, and fish and animals in the wood fell motionless. That would indeed make him a formidable opponent for the scop Deor.

Keywords/Tags: Deor, Lament, Old English, Anglo-Saxon, translation, scop, mrbtr, Weland, Wayland, smith, exile, fetters, dungeon
Michael R Burch May 2020
Epigrams by Michael R. Burch



Conformists of a feather
flock together.
—Michael R. Burch

(Winner of the National Poetry Month Couplet Competition)



Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

(Published by Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Super Highway, Mindful of Poetry, Poets for Humanity, The New Formalist, Angle, Daily Kos, Katutura English, Setu, Genocide Awareness, The Hip Forms, Darfur Awareness Shabbat, Viewing Genocide in Sudan, FreeXpression, Better Than Starbucks, Art Villa, AZquotes, QuoteFancy, QuoteMaster, and WiseFamousQuotes; also translated into Czech, Indonesian, Romanian and Turkish)



Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
of one fallen star.



Stormfront
by Michael R. Burch

Our distance is frightening:
a distance like the abyss between heaven and earth
interrupted by bizarre and terrible lightning.



Laughter's Cry
by Michael R. Burch

Because life is a mystery, we laugh
and do not know the half.

Because death is a mystery, we cry
when one is gone, our numbering thrown awry.

(Originally published by Angelwing)



Autumn Conundrum
by Michael R. Burch

It's not that every leaf must finally fall,
it's just that we can never catch them all.

(Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has been translated into Russian, Macedonian, Turkish and Romanian)



Piercing the Shell
by Michael R. Burch

If we strip away all the accouterments of war,
perhaps we'll discover what the heart is for.

(Originally published by The Neovictorian/Cochlea, this poem has been translated into Russian, Arabic, Turkish and Macedonian)



*** Hex
by Michael R. Burch

Love's full of cute paradoxes
(and highly acute poxes) .

(Published by ***** of Parnassus and Lighten Up)



Styx
by Michael R. Burch

Black waters—deep and dark and still.
All men have passed this way, or will.

(Published by The Raintown Review and Blue Unicorn; also translated into Romanian and published by Petru Dimofte. This is one of my early poems, written as a teenager. I believe it was my first epigram.)



Fahr an' Ice
by Michael R. Burch

(apologies to Robert Frost and Ogden Nash)

From what I know of death, I'll side with those
who'd like to have a say in how it goes:
just make mine cool, cool rocks (twice drowned in likker) ,
and real fahr off, instead of quicker.



Lance-Lot
by Michael R. Burch

Preposterous bird!
Inelegant! Absurd!
Until the great & mighty heron
brandishes his fearsome sword.



Multiplication, Tabled
or Procreation Inflation
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

"Be fruitful and multiply"—
great advice, for a fruitfly!
But for women and men,
simple Simons, say, "WHEN! "



The Whole of Wit
by Michael R. Burch

If brevity is the soul of wit
then brevity and levity
are the whole of it.

(Published by Shot Glass Journal)



Nun Fun Undone
by Michael R. Burch

Abbesses'
recesses
are not for excesses!

(Published by Brief Poems)



Saving Graces, for the Religious Right
by Michael R. Burch

Life's saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.

(Published by Shot Glass Journal and Poem Today)



Fierce ancient skalds summoned verse from their guts;
today's genteel poets prefer modern ruts.
—Michael R. Burch



Not Elves, Exactly
by Michael R. Burch

Something there is that likes a wall,
that likes it spiked and likes it tall,
that likes its pikes' sharp rows of teeth
and doesn't mind its victims' grief
(wherever they come from, far or wide)
as long as they fall on the other side.



Self-ish
by Michael R. Burch

Let's not pretend we "understand" other elves
as long as we remain mysteries to ourselves.



Piecemeal
by Michael R. Burch

And so it begins—the ending.
The narrowing veins, the soft tissues rending.
Your final solution is pending.
(A pale Piggy-Wiggy
will discount your demise as no biggie.)



Liquid Assets
by Michael R. Burch

And so I have loved you, and so I have lost,
accrued disappointment, ledgered its cost,
debited wisdom, credited pain...
My assets remaining are liquid again.



Brief
by Michael R. Burch

Epigram
means cram,
then scram!



To write an epigram, cram.
If you lack wit, scram!
—Michael R. Burch



Fleet Tweet: Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

A tweet
by any other name
would be as fleet.

@mikerburch (Michael R. Burch)



Fleet Tweet II: Further Apologies to Shakespeare
by Michael R. Burch

Remember, doggonit,
heroic verse crowns the Shakespearean sonnet!
So if you intend to write a couplet,
please do it on the doublet!

@mikerburch (Michael R. Burch)



Love is either wholly folly,
or fully holy.
—Michael R. Burch



Civility
is the ability
to disagree
agreeably.
—Michael R. Burch



****** Most Fowl!
by Michael R. Burch

“****** most foul!”
cried the mouse to the owl.

“Friend, I’m no sinner;
you’re merely my dinner!”
the wise owl replied
as the tasty snack died.

(Published by Lighten Up Online and Potcake Chapbooks)



The Beat Goes On (and On and On and On ...)
by Michael R. Burch

Bored stiff by his board-stiff attempts
at “meter,” I crossly concluded
I’d use each iamb
in lieu of a lamb,
bedtimes when I’m under-quaaluded.

(Originally published by Grand Little Things)



Midnight Stairclimber
by Michael R. Burch

Procreation
is at first great sweaty recreation,
then—long, long after the *** dies—
the source of endless exercise.

(Published by Angelwing and Brief Poems)



Love has the value
of gold, if it's true;
if not, of rue.
—Michael R. Burch



Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick;
Donald Trump speaks loudly and carries a big shtick.
—Michael R. Burch



Nonsense Verse for a Nonsensical White House Resident
by Michael R. Burch

Roses are red,
Daffodils are yellow,
But not half as daffy
As that taffy-colored fellow!



There's no need to rant about Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The cruelty of "civilization" suffices:
our ordinary vices.
—Michael R. Burch



Sumer is icumen in
a modern English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(this update of an ancient classic is dedicated to everyone who suffers with hay fever and other allergies)

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing achu!
Groweth sed
And bloweth hed
And buyeth med?
Cuccu!

Originally published by Lighten Up Online (as Kim Cherub)

NOTE: I kept the medieval spellings of “sumer” (summer), “lhude” (loud), “sed” (seed) and “hed” (head). I then slipped in the modern slang term “med” for medication. The first line means something like “Summer’s a-comin’ in!” In the original poem the cuckoo bird was considered to be a harbinger of spring, but here “cuccu” simply means “crazy!”



Redefinitions

Faith: falling into the same old claptrap.—Michael R. Burch

Religion: the ties that blind.—Michael R. Burch

Baseball: lots of spittin' mixed with some hittin'.—Michael R. Burch

Love: a temporary insanity curable by marriage.—Michael R. Burch

Insuresurrection: The dead are always with us, and yet they are naught! —Michael R. Burch

Trickle down economics: an especially pungent *******.—Michael R. Burch



Translations

Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!

Raise your words, not their volume.
Rain grows flowers, not thunder.
—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch

The imbecile constructs cages for everyone he knows,
while the sage (who has to duck his head whenever the moon glows)
keeps dispensing keys all night long
to the beautiful, rowdy, prison gang.
—Hafiz loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

An unbending tree
breaks easily.
—Lao Tzu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Little sparks ignite great flames.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch

Once fanaticism has gangrened brains
the incurable malady invariably remains.
—Voltaire, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their ****** for exotic positions.
—Thomas Campion, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No wind is favorable to the man who lacks direction.
—Seneca the Younger, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Hypocrisy may deceive the most perceptive adult, but the dullest child recognizes and is revolted by it, however ingeniously disguised.
—Leo Tolstoy translation by Michael R. Burch

Just as I select a ship when it's time to travel,
or a house when it's time to change residences,
even so I will choose when it's time to depart from life.
—Seneca, speaking about the right to euthanasia in the first century AD, translation by Michael R. Burch

Improve yourself through others' writings, thus attaining more easily what they acquired through great difficulty.
—Socrates, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fools call wisdom foolishness.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

One true friend is worth ten thousand kin.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Not to speak one’s mind is slavery.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

I would rather die standing than kneel, a slave.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch

Fresh tears are wasted on old griefs.
―Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch



Native American Proverb
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Before you judge
a man for his sins
be sure to trudge
many moons in his moccasins.



Native American Proverb
by Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A man must pursue his Vision
as the eagle explores
the sky's deepest blues.



Native American Proverb
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let us walk respectfully here
among earth's creatures, great and small,
remembering, our footsteps light,
that one wise God created all.



The Least of These...

What you
do
to
the refugee
you
do
unto
Me!
—Jesus Christ, translation/paraphrase by Michael R. Burch



The Church Gets the Burch Rod

How can the Bible be "infallible" when from Genesis to Revelation slavery is commanded and condoned, but never condemned? —Michael R. Burch

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
—Michael R. Burch

I have my doubts about your God and his "love":
If one screams below, what the hell is "Above"?
—Michael R. Burch

If God has the cattle on a thousand hills,
why does he need my tithes to pay his bills?
—Michael R. Burch

The best tonic for other people's bad ideas is to think for oneself.—Michael R. Burch

Hell hath no fury like a fundamentalist whose God condemned him for having "impure thoughts."—Michael R. Burch

Religion is the difficult process of choosing the least malevolent invisible friends.—Michael R. Burch

Religion is the ****** of the people.—Karl Marx
Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.—Michael R. Burch

An ideal that cannot be realized is, in the end, just wishful thinking.—Michael R. Burch

God and his "profits" could never agree
on any gospel acceptable to an intelligent flea.
—Michael R. Burch

To fall an inch short of infinity is to fall infinitely short.—Michael R. Burch

Most Christians make God seem like the Devil. Atheists and agnostics at least give him the "benefit of the doubt."—Michael R. Burch

Hell has been hellishly overdone.
Why blame such horrors on God's only Son
when Jehovah and his prophets never mentioned it once?
—Michael R. Burch

(Bible scholars agree: the word "hell" has been removed from the Old Testaments of the more accurate modern Bible translations. And the few New Testament verses that mention "hell" are obvious mistranslations.)



Clodhoppers
by Michael R. Burch

If you trust the Christian "god"
you're—like Adumb—a clod.




If every witty thing that's said were true,
Oscar Wilde, the world would worship You!
—Michael R. Burch



Questionable Credentials
by Michael R. Burch

Poet? Critic? Dilettante?
Do you know what's good, or do you merely flaunt?

(Published by ***** of Parnassus, the first poem in the April 2017 issue)



*******
by Michael R. Burch

You came to me as rain breaks on the desert
when every flower springs to life at once,
but joy is an illusion to the expert:
the Bedouin has learned how not to want.



Lines in Favor of Female Muses
by Michael R. Burch

I guess ***** of Parnassus are okay...
But those Lasses of Parnassus? My! Olé!

(Published by ***** of Parnassus)



Meal Deal
by Michael R. Burch

Love is a splendid ideal
(at least till it costs us a meal) .



Long Division
by Michael R. Burch as Kim Cherub

All things become one
Through death's long division
And perfect precision.



i o u
by mrb

i might have said it
but i didn't

u might have noticed
but u wouldn't

we might have been us
but we couldn't

u might respond
but probably shouldn't




Mate Check
by Michael R. Burch

Love is an ache hearts willingly secure
then break the bank to cure.



Incompatibles
by Michael R. Burch

Reason's treason!
cries the Heart.

Love's insane,
replies the Brain.

(Originally published by Light)



Death is the ultimate finality
of reality.
—Michael R. Burch



Stage Fright
by Michael R. Burch

To be or not to be?
In the end Hamlet
opted for naught.



Grave Oversight
by Michael R. Burch

The dead are always with us,
and yet they are naught!



Feathered Fiends
by Michael R. Burch

Fascists of a feather
flock together.



Why the Kid Gloves Came Off
by Michael R. Burch

for Lemuel Ibbotson

It's hard to be a man of taste
in such a waste:
hence the lambaste.



Housman was right...
by Michael R. Burch

It's true that life's not much to lose,
so why not hang out on a cloud?
It's just the bon voyage is hard
and the objections loud.



Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

O little yellow flower
like a star ...
how beautiful,
how wonderful
we are!



Descent
by Michael R. Burch

I have listened to the rain all this morning
and it has a certain gravity,
as if it knows its destination,
perhaps even its particular destiny.
I do not believe mine is to be uplifted,
although I, too, may be flung precipitously
and from a great height.



Reading between the lines
by Michael R. Burch

Who could have read so much, as we?
Having the time, but not the inclination,
TV has become our philosophy,
sheer boredom, our recreation.



Ironic Vacation
by Michael R. Burch

Salzburg.
Seeing Mozart's baby grand piano.
Standing in the presence of sheer incalculable genius.
Grabbing my childish pen to write a poem & challenge the Immortals.
Next stop, the catacombs!



Imperfect Perfection
by Michael R. Burch

You're too perfect for words—
a problem for a poet.



Expert Advice
by Michael R. Burch

Your ******* are perfect for your lithe, slender body.
Please stop making false comparisons your hobby!



Thirty
by Michael R. Burch

Thirty crept upon me slowly
with feline caution and a slowly-twitching tail;
patiently she waited for the winds to shift;
now, claws unsheathed, she lies seething to assail
her helpless prey.



Biblical Knowledge or "Knowing Coming and Going"
by Michael R. Burch

The wisest man the world has ever seen
had fourscore concubines and threescore queens?
This gives us pause, and so we venture hence—
he "knew" them, wisely, in the wider sense.



Snap Shots
by Michael R. Burch

Our daughters must be celibate,
die virgins. We triangulate
their early paths to heaven (for
the martyrs they'll soon conjugate) .

We like to hook a little tail.
We hope there's decent *** in jail.
Don't fool with us; our bombs are smart!
(We'll send the plans, ASAP, e-mail.)

The soul is all that matters; why
hoard gold if it offends the eye?
A pension plan? Don't make us laugh!
We have your plan for sainthood. (Die.)



I sampled honeysuckle
and it made my taste buds buckle.
—Michael R. Burch



The Editor

A poet may work from sun to sun,
but his editor's work is never done.

The Critic

The editor's work is never done.
The critic adjusts his cummerbund.

The Audience

While the critic adjusts his cummerbund,
the audience exits to mingle and slum.

The Anthologist

As the audience exits to mingle and slum,
the anthologist rules, a pale jury of one.



Athenian Epitaphs

How valiant he lies tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
But go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Passerby,
Tell the Spartans we lie
Lifeless at Thermopylae:
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

They observed our fearful fetters, braved the overwhelming darkness.

Now we extol their excellence: bravely, they died for us.
Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends’ tardiness,
Mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas: these were men of valorous breath.
Assume, like pale chattels, an ashen silence at death.
Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
Nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

I am loyal to you master, even in the grave:
Just as you now are death’s slave.
Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Having never earned a penny,
nor seen a bridal gown slip to the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father that I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Constantina, inconstant one!
Once I thought your name beautiful
but I was a fool
and now you are more bitter to me than death!
You flee someone who loves you
with baited breath
to pursue someone who’s untrue.
But if you manage to make him love you,
tomorrow you'll flee him too!
Michael R. Burch, after Macedonius



Sunset
by Michael R. Burch

This poem is dedicated to my grandfather, George Edwin Hurt

Between the prophesies of morning
and twilight’s revelations of wonder,
the sky is ripped asunder.

The moon lurks in the clouds,
waiting, as if to plunder
the dusk of its lilac iridescence,

and in the bright-tentacled sunset
we imagine a presence
full of the fury of lost innocence.

What we find within strange whorls of drifting flame,
brief patterns mauling winds deform and maim,
we recognize at once, but cannot name.



The Greatest of These ...
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The hands that held me tremble.
The arms that lifted
  fall.

Angelic flesh, now parchment,
is held together with gauze.

But her undimmed eyes still embrace me;
there infinity can be found.

I can almost believe such love
will reach me, underground.



Love Is Not Love
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Love is not love that never looked
within itself and questioned all,
curled up like a zygote in a ball,
throbbed, sobbed and shook.

(Or went on a binge at a nearby mall,
then would not cook.)

Love is not love that never winced,
then smiled, convinced
that soar’s the prerequisite of fall.

When all
its wounds and scars have been saline-rinsed,
where does Love find the wherewithal
to try again,
endeavor, when

all that it knows
is: O, because!



Stay With Me Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

Stay with me tonight;
be gentle with me as the leaves are gentle
falling to the earth.

And whisper, O my love,
how that every bright thing, though scattered afar,
retains yet its worth.

Stay with me tonight;
be as a petal long-awaited blooming in my hand.
Lift your face to mine

and touch me with your lips
till I feel the warm benevolence of your breath’s
heady fragrance like wine.

That which we had
when pale and waning as the dying moon at dawn,
outshone the sun.

And so lead me back tonight
through bright waterfalls of light
to where we shine as one.

Originally published by The Lyric



Ali’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

They say that gold don’t tarnish. It ain’t so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, “called a ***** a *****.”
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.

Ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me ******, did me wrong.
A man can’t be lukewarm, ’cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, “Now here’s your bullet and your gun,
and there’s your cell: we’re waiting, you choose one.”
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.

My face reflected up, dark bronze like gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image―BOLD.
My blood boiled like that river―strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child,
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

Originally published by Black Medina

Note: Cassius Clay, who converted to Islam and changed his “slave name” to Muhammad Ali, said that he threw his Olympic boxing gold medal into the Ohio River. Confirming his account, the medal was recovered by Robert Bradbury and his wife Pattie in 2014 during the Annual Ohio River Sweep, and the Ali family paid them $200,000 to regain possession of the medal. When drafted during the Vietnamese War, Ali refused to serve, reputedly saying: “I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a ******.” The notice mentioned in my poem is Ali's draft notice, which metaphorically gets tossed into the river along with his slave name. I was told through the grapevine that this poem appeared in Farsi in an Iranian publication called Bashgah. ―Michael R. Burch



The Folly of Wisdom
by Michael R. Burch

She is wise in the way that children are wise,
looking at me with such knowing, grave eyes
I must bend down to her to understand.
But she only smiles, and takes my hand.

We are walking somewhere that her feet know to go,
so I smile, and I follow ...

And the years are dark creatures concealed in bright leaves
that flutter above us, and what she believes―
I can almost remember―goes something like this:
the prince is a horned toad, awaiting her kiss.

She wiggles and giggles, and all will be well
if only we find him! The woodpecker’s knell
as he hammers the coffin of some dying tree
that once was a fortress to someone like me

rings wildly above us. Some things that we know
we are meant to forget. Life is a bloodletting, maple-syrup-slow.

Originally published by Romantics Quarterly



Departed
by Michael R. Burch

Already, I miss you,
though your parting kiss is still warm on my lips.

Now the floor is not strewn with your stockings and slips
and the dishes are all stacked away.

You left me today ...
and each word left unspoken now whispers regrets.



Roses for a Lover, Idealized
by Michael R. Burch

When you have become to me
as roses bloom, in memory,
exquisite, each sharp thorn forgot,
will I recall―yours made me bleed?

When winter makes me think of you,
whorls petrified in frozen dew,
bright promises blithe spring forgot,
will I recall your words―barbed, cruel?



Ibykos Fragment 286, Circa 564 B.C.
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come spring, the grand
apple trees stand
watered by a gushing river
where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver
and the blossoming grape vine swells
in the gathering shadows.

Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;
the results are frightening—
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.



Deor's Lament (circa the 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Weland endured the agony of exile:
an indomitable smith wracked by grief.
He suffered countless sorrows;
indeed, such sorrows were his ***** companions
in that frozen island dungeon
where Nithad fettered him:
so many strong-but-supple sinew-bands
binding the better man.
That passed away; this also may.

Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths,
bemoaning also her own sad state
once she discovered herself with child.
She knew nothing good could ever come of it.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard the Geat's moans for Matilda,
his lovely lady, waxed limitless,
that his sorrowful love for her
robbed him of regretless sleep.
That passed away; this also may.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand;
many acknowledged his mastery and moaned.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard too of Ermanaric's wolfish ways,
of how he cruelly ruled the Goths' realms.
That was a grim king! Many a warrior sat,
full of cares and maladies of the mind,
wishing constantly that his crown might be overthrown.
That passed away; this also may.

If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious,
bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening,
soon it seems to him that his troubles are limitless.
Then he must consider that the wise Lord
often moves through the earth
granting some men honor, glory and fame,
but others only shame and hardship.
This I can say for myself:
that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop,
dear to my lord. My name was Deor.
For many winters I held a fine office,
faithfully serving a just king. But now Heorrenda
a man skilful in songs, has received the estate
the protector of warriors had promised me.
That passed away; this also may.



Infatuate, or Sweet Centerless Sixteen
by Michael R. Burch

Inconsolable as “love” had left your heart,
you woke this morning eager to pursue
warm lips again, or something “really cool”
on which to press your lips and leave their mark.

As breath upon a windowpane at dawn
soon glows, a spreading halo full of sun,
your thought of love blinks wildly ... on and on ...
then fizzles at the center, and is gone.



The Toast
by Michael R. Burch

For longings warmed by tepid suns
(brief lusts that animated clay),
for passions wilted at the bud
and skies grown desolate and gray,
for stars that fell from tinseled heights
and mountains bleak and scarred and lone,
for seas reflecting distant suns
and weeds that thrive where seeds were sown,
for waltzes ending in a hush
and rhymes that fade as pages close,
for flames’ exhausted, graying ash,
and petals falling from the rose,
I raise my cup before I drink
in reverence to a love long dead,
and silently propose a toast—
to passages, to time that fled.

Originally published by Contemporary Rhyme



Veiled
by Michael R. Burch

She has belief
without comprehension
and in her crutchwork shack
she is
much like us . . .

tamping the bread
into edible forms,
regarding her children
at play
with something akin to relief . . .

ignoring the towers ablaze
in the distance
because they are not revelations
but things of glass,
easily shattered . . .

and if you were to ask her,
she might say:
sometimes God visits his wrath
upon an impious nation
for its leaders’ sins,

and we might agree:
seeing her mutilations.

Published by Poetry Super Highway and Modern War Poems.



Twice
by Michael R. Burch

Now twice she has left me
and twice I have listened
and taken her back, remembering days

when love lay upon us
and sparkled and glistened
with the brightness of dew through a gathering haze.

But twice she has left me
to start my life over,
and twice I have gathered up embers, to learn:

rekindle a fire
from ash, soot and cinder
and softly it sputters, refusing to burn.

Originally published by The Lyric



Prose Epigrams

We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it.—Michael R. Burch

When I was being bullied, I had to learn not to judge myself by the opinions of intolerant morons. Then I felt much better.—Michael R. Burch

How can we predict the future, when tomorrow is as uncertain as Trump's next tweet? —Michael R. Burch

Poetry moves the heart as well as the reason.—Michael R. Burch

Poetry is the art of finding the right word at the right time.—Michael R. Burch



The State of the Art (?)
by Michael R. Burch

Has rhyme lost all its reason
and rhythm, renascence?
Are sonnets out of season
and poems but poor pretense?

Are poets lacking fire,
their words too trite and forced?
What happened to desire?
Has passion been coerced?

Shall poetry fade slowly,
like Latin, to past tense?
Are the bards too high and holy,
or their readers merely dense?



Your e-Verse
by Michael R. Burch

—for the posters and posers on www.fillintheblank.com

I cannot understand a word you’ve said
(and this despite an adequate I.Q.);
it must be some exotic new haiku
combined with Latin suddenly undead.

It must be hieroglyphics mixed with Greek.
Have Pound and T. S. Eliot been cloned?
Perhaps you wrote it on the ***, so ******
you spelled it backwards, just to be oblique.

I think you’re very funny—so, “Yuk! Yuk!”
I know you must be kidding; didn’t we
write crap like this and call it “poetry,”
a form of verbal exercise, P.E.,
in kindergarten, when we ran “amuck?”

Oh, sorry, I forgot to “make it new.”
Perhaps I still can learn a thing or two
from someone tres original, like you.



Haiku Translations of the Oriental Masters

Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
― Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I'd leap into the torrent!
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first soft snow:
leaves of the awed jonquil
bow low
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Come, investigate loneliness!
a solitary leaf
clings to the Kiri tree
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Lightning
shatters the darkness―
the night heron's shriek
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

One apple, alone
in the abandoned orchard
reddens for winter
― Patrick Blanche, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The poem above is by a French poet; it illustrates how the poetry of Oriental masters like Basho has influenced poets around the world.

Graven images of long-departed gods,
dry spiritless leaves:
companions of the temple porch
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

See: whose surviving sons
visit the ancestral graves
white-bearded, with trembling canes?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I remove my beautiful kimono:
its varied braids
surround and entwine my body
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This day of chrysanthemums
I shake and comb my wet hair,
as their petals shed rain
― Hisajo Sugita, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This darkening autumn:
my neighbor,
how does he continue?
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Let us arrange
these lovely flowers in the bowl
since there's no rice
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An ancient pond,
the frog leaps:
the silver plop and gurgle of water
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The butterfly
perfuming its wings
fans the orchid
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pausing between clouds
the moon rests
in the eyes of its beholders
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first chill rain:
poor monkey, you too could use
a woven cape of straw
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

This snowy morning:
cries of the crow I despise
(ah, but so beautiful!)
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Like a heavy fragrance
snow-flakes settle:
lilies on the rocks
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The cheerful-chirping cricket
contends gray autumn's gay,
contemptuous of frost
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Whistle on, twilight whippoorwill,
solemn evangelist
of loneliness
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The sea darkening,
the voices of the wild ducks:
my mysterious companions!
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Will we meet again?
Here at your flowering grave:
two white butterflies
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Fever-felled mid-path
my dreams resurrect, to trek
into a hollow land
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Too ill to travel,
now only my autumn dreams
survey these withering fields
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch; this has been called Basho's death poem

These brown summer grasses?
The only remains
of "invincible" warriors...
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

An empty road
lonelier than abandonment:
this autumn evening
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring has come:
the nameless hill
lies shrouded in mist
― Matsuo Basho, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The Oldest Haiku

These are my translations of some of the oldest Japanese waka, which evolved into poetic forms such as tanka, renga and haiku over time. My translations are excerpts from the Kojiki (the "Record of Ancient Matters"), a book composed around 711-712 A.D. by the historian and poet Ō no Yasumaro. The Kojiki relates Japan’s mythological beginnings and the history of its imperial line. Like Virgil's Aeneid, the Kojiki seeks to legitimize rulers by recounting their roots. These are lines from one of the oldest Japanese poems, found in the oldest Japanese book:

While you decline to cry,
high on the mountainside
a single stalk of plumegrass wilts.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another excerpt, with a humorous twist, from the Kojiki:

Hush, cawing crows; what rackets you make!
Heaven's indignant messengers,
you remind me of wordsmiths!
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Here's another, this one a poem of love and longing:

Onyx, this gem-black night.
Downcast, I await your return
like the rising sun, unrivaled in splendor.
― Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

More Haiku by Various Poets

Right at my feet!
When did you arrive here,
snail?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Our world of dew
is a world of dew indeed;
and yet, and yet...
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, brilliant moon
can it be true that even you
must rush off, like us, tardy?
― Kobayashi Issa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A kite floats
at the same place in the sky
where yesterday it floated...
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The pigeon's behavior
is beyond reproach,
but the mountain cuckoo's?
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Plowing,
not a single bird sings
in the mountain's shadow
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The pear tree flowers whitely―
a young woman reads his letter
by moonlight
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

On adjacent branches
the plum tree blossoms bloom
petal by petal―love!
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Picking autumn plums
my wrinkled hands
once again grow fragrant
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Dawn!
The brilliant sun illuminates
sardine heads.
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The abandoned willow
shines
between rains
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

White plum blossoms―
though the hour grows late,
a glimpse of dawn
― Yosa Buson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch; this is believed to be Buson's death poem and he is said to have died before dawn

I thought I felt a dewdrop
plop
on me as I lay in bed!
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

We cannot see the moon
and yet the waves still rise
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The first morning of autumn:
the mirror I investigate
reflects my father’s face
― Shiki Masaoka, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Wild geese pass
leaving the emptiness of heaven
revealed
― Takaha Shugyo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Silently observing
the bottomless mountain lake:
water lilies
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Cranes
flapping ceaselessly
test the sky's upper limits
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Falling snowflakes'
glitter
tinsels the sea
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Blizzards here on earth,
blizzards of stars
in the sky
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Completely encircled
in emerald:
the glittering swamp!
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The new calendar!:
as if tomorrow
is assured...
― Inahata Teiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Ah butterfly,
what dreams do you ply
with your beautiful wings?
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because morning glories
hold my well-bucket hostage
I go begging for water
― Fukuda Chiyo-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring
stirs the clouds
in the sky's teabowl
― Kikusha-ni, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tonight I saw
how the peony crumples
in the fire's embers
― Katoh Shuhson, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

It fills me with anger,
this moon; it fills me
and makes me whole
― Takeshita Shizunojo, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

War
stood at the end of the hall
in the long shadows
― Watanabe Hakusen, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Because he is slow to wrath,
I tackle him, then wring his neck
in the long grass
― Shimazu Ryoh, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Pale mountain sky:
cherry petals play
as they tumble earthward
― Kusama Tokihiko, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The frozen moon,
the frozen lake:
two oval mirrors reflecting each other.
― Hashimoto Takako, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The bitter winter wind
ends here
with the frozen sea
― Ikenishi Gonsui, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, bitter winter wind,
why bellow so
when there's no leaves to fell?
― Natsume Sôseki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Winter waves
roil
their own shadows
― Tominaga Fûsei, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

No sky,
no land:
just snow eternally falling...
― Kajiwara Hashin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Along with spring leaves
my child's teeth
take root, blossom
― Nakamura Kusatao, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Stillness:
a single chestnut leaf glides
on brilliant water
― Ryuin, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

As thunder recedes
a lone tree stands illuminated in sunlight:
applauded by cicadas
― Masaoka Shiki, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The snake slipped away
but his eyes, having held mine,
still stare in the grass
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Girls gather sprouts of rice:
reflections of the water flicker
on the backs of their hats
― Kyoshi Takahama, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Murmurs follow the hay cart
this blossoming summer day
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The wet nurse
paused to consider a bucket of sea urchins
then walked away
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

May I be with my mother
wearing her summer kimono
by the morning window
― Ippekiro Nakatsuka (1887-1946), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The hands of a woman exist
to remove the insides of the spring cuttlefish
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The moon
hovering above the snow-capped mountains
rained down hailstones
― Sekitei Hara, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, dreamlike winter butterfly:
a puff of white snow
cresting mountains
― Kakio Tomizawa, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Spring snow
cascades over fences
in white waves
― Suju Takano, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Tanka and Waka translations:

If fields of autumn flowers
can shed their blossoms, shameless,
why can’t I also frolic here —
as fearless, and as blameless?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Submit to you —
is that what you advise?
The way the ripples do
whenever ill winds arise?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Watching wan moonlight
illuminate trees,
my heart also brims,
overflowing with autumn.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I had thought to pluck
the flower of forgetfulness
only to find it
already blossoming in his heart.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

That which men call "love" —
is it not merely the chain
preventing our escape
from this world of pain?
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Once-colorful flowers faded,
while in my drab cell
life’s impulse also abated
as the long rains fell.
—Ono no Komachi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I set off at the shore
of the seaside of Tago,
where I saw the high, illuminated peak
of Fuji―white, aglow―
through flakes of drifting downy snow.
― Akahito Yamabe, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



ON LOOKING AT SCHILLER’S SKULL
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here in this charnel-house full of bleaching bones,
like yesteryear’s
fading souvenirs,
I see the skulls arranged in strange ordered rows.

Who knows whose owners might have beheaded peers,
packed tightly here
despite once repellent hate?
Here weaponless, they stand, in this gentled state.

These arms and hands, they once were so delicate!
How articulately
they moved! Ah me!
What athletes once paced about on these padded feet?

Still there’s no hope of rest for you, lost souls!
Deprived of graves,
forced here like slaves
to occupy this overworld, unlamented ghouls!

Now who’s to know who loved one orb here detained?
Except for me;
reader, hear my plea:
I know the grandeur of the mind it contained!

Yes, and I know the impulse true love would stir
here, where I stand
in this alien land
surrounded by these husks, like a treasurer!

Even in this cold,
in this dust and mould
I am startled by an a strange, ancient reverie, …
as if this shrine to death could quicken me!

One shape out of the past keeps calling me
with its mystery!
Still retaining its former angelic grace!
And at that ecstatic sight, I am back at sea ...

Swept by that current to where immortals race.
O secret vessel, you
gave Life its truth.
It falls on me now to recall your expressive face.

I turn away, abashed here by what I see:
this mould was worth
more than all the earth.
Let me breathe fresh air and let my wild thoughts run free!

What is there better in this dark Life than he
who gives us a sense of man’s divinity,
of his place in the universe?
A man who’s both flesh and spirit—living verse!



To the boy Elis
by Georg Trakl
translation by Michael R. Burch

Elis, when the blackbird cries from the black forest,
it announces your downfall.
Your lips sip the rock-spring's blue coolness.

Your brow sweats blood
recalling ancient myths
and dark interpretations of birds' flight.

Yet you enter the night with soft footfalls;
the ripe purple grapes hang suspended
as you wave your arms more beautifully in the blueness.

A thornbush crackles;
where now are your moonlike eyes?
How long, oh Elis, have you been dead?

A monk dips waxed fingers
into your body's hyacinth;
Our silence is a black abyss

from which sometimes a docile animal emerges
slowly lowering its heavy lids.
A black dew drips from your temples:

the lost gold of vanished stars.

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: I believe that in the second stanza the blood on Elis's forehead may be a reference to the apprehensive ****** sweat of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. If my interpretation is correct, Elis hears the blackbird's cries, anticipates the danger represented by a harbinger of death, but elects to continue rather than turn back. From what I have been able to gather, the color blue had a special significance for Georg Trakl: it symbolized longing and perhaps a longing for death. The colors blue, purple and black may represent a progression toward death in the poem.



Keywords/Tags: epigram, epigrams, short, brief, concise, aphorism, adage, proverb, quote, mrbepi, mrbepig, mrbepigram, mrbhaiku

Published as the collection "Epigrams"
Michael R Burch Feb 2020
How Long the Night
anonymous Middle English lyric, circa early 13th century AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It is pleasant, indeed, while the summer lasts
with the mild pheasants' song ...
but now I feel the northern wind's blast—
its severe weather strong.
Alas! Alas! This night seems so long!
And I, because of my momentous wrong,
now grieve, mourn and fast.

Originally published by Measure

Original text:

Myrie it is while sumer ylast
with fugheles song.
Oc nu neheth windes blast
and weder strong.
Ei, ei! what this nicht is long.  
And ich with wel michel wrong
soregh and murne and fast.

Keywords/Tags: Old English, Middle English, Medieval English, long night, lament, complaint, alas, summer, pleasant, winter, north wind, northern wind, severe weather, storm, bird, birds, birdsong, sin, crime, fast, fasting, repentance, dark night of the soul, sackcloth and ashes, regret, repentance, remonstrance



Three Roundels by Geoffrey Chaucer

I. Merciles Beaute ("Merciless Beauty")
by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain,
they wound me so, through my heart keen.

Unless your words heal me hastily,
my heart's wound will remain green;
for your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain.

By all truth, I tell you faithfully
that you are of life and death my queen;
for at my death this truth shall be seen:
your eyes slay me suddenly;
their beauty I cannot sustain,
they wound me so, through my heart keen.



II. Rejection
by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain;
For Pride now holds your mercy by a chain.

I'm guiltless, yet my sentence has been cast.
I tell you truly, needless now to feign,—
Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain.

Alas, that Nature in your face compassed
Such beauty, that no man may hope attain
To mercy, though he perish from the pain;
Your beauty from your heart has so erased
Pity, that it’s useless to complain;
For Pride now holds your mercy by a chain.



III. Escape
by Geoffrey Chaucer
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean;
Since I am free, I count it not a bean.

He may question me and counter this and that;
I care not: I will answer just as I mean.
Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean.

Love strikes me from his roster, short and flat,
And he is struck from my books, just as clean,
Forevermore; there is no other mean.
Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,
I never plan to be in his prison lean;
Since I am free, I count it not a bean.



Rondel: Your Smiling Mouth
by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms’ twin chains,
Your hands so smooth, each finger straight and plain,
Your little feet—please, what more can I say?

It is my fetish when you’re far away
To muse on these and thus to soothe my pain—
Your smiling mouth and laughing eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms’ twin chains.

So would I beg you, if I only may,
To see such sights as I before have seen,
Because my fetish pleases me. Obscene?
I’ll be obsessed until my dying day
By your sweet smiling mouth and eyes, bright gray,
Your ample ******* and slender arms’ twin chains!



Spring
by Charles d’Orleans (c. 1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Young lovers,
greeting the spring
fling themselves downhill,
making cobblestones ring
with their wild leaps and arcs,
like ecstatic sparks
struck from coal.

What is their brazen goal?

They grab at whatever passes,
so we can only hazard guesses.
But they rear like prancing steeds
raked by brilliant spurs of need,
Young lovers.



Oft in My Thought
by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

So often in my busy mind I sought,
    Around the advent of the fledgling year,
For something pretty that I really ought
    To give my lady dear;
    But that sweet thought's been wrested from me, clear,
        Since death, alas, has sealed her under clay
    And robbed the world of all that's precious here―
         God keep her soul, I can no better say.

For me to keep my manner and my thought
    Acceptable, as suits my age's hour?
While proving that I never once forgot
    Her worth? It tests my power!
    I serve her now with masses and with prayer;
        For it would be a shame for me to stray
    Far from my faith, when my time's drawing near—
         God keep her soul, I can no better say.

Now earthly profits fail, since all is lost
    And the cost of everything became so dear;
Therefore, O Lord, who rules the higher host,
    Take my good deeds, as many as there are,
    And crown her, Lord, above in your bright sphere,
        As heaven's truest maid! And may I say:
    Most good, most fair, most likely to bring cheer—
         God keep her soul, I can no better say.

When I praise her, or hear her praises raised,
I recall how recently she brought me pleasure;
    Then my heart floods like an overflowing bay
And makes me wish to dress for my own bier—
    God keep her soul, I can no better say.



Winter has cast his cloak away
by Charles d'Orleans (c. 1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Winter has cast his cloak away
of wind and cold and chilling rain
to dress in embroidered light again:
the light of day—bright, festive, gay!
Each bird and beast, without delay,
in its own tongue, sings this refrain:
"Winter has cast his cloak away!"
Brooks, fountains, rivers, streams at play,
wear, with their summer livery,
bright beads of silver jewelry.
All the Earth has a new and fresh display:
Winter has cast his cloak away!

Note: This rondeau was set to music by Debussy in his Trois chansons de France.



The year lays down his mantle cold
by Charles d’Orleans (1394-1465)
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

The year lays down his mantle cold
of wind, chill rain and bitter air,
and now goes clad in clothes of gold
of smiling suns and seasons fair,
while birds and beasts of wood and fold
now with each cry and song declare:
"The year lays down his mantle cold!"
All brooks, springs, rivers, seaward rolled,
now pleasant summer livery wear
with silver beads embroidered where
the world puts off its raiment old.
The year lays down his mantle cold.



Wulf and Eadwacer (Old English circa 960-990 AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My people pursue him like crippled prey.
They'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
We are so different!

Wulf's on one island; I'm on another.
His island's a fortress, fastened by fens.
Here, bloodthirsty curs roam this island.
They'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
We are so different!

My thoughts pursued Wulf like panting hounds.
Whenever it rained, as I wept,
the bold warrior came; he took me in his arms:
good feelings for him, but their end loathsome!
Wulf, O, my Wulf, my ache for you
has made me sick; your infrequent visits
have left me famished, deprived of real meat!
Do you hear, Eadwacer? Watchdog!
A wolf has borne our wretched whelp to the woods.
One can easily sever what never was one:
our song together.



Cædmon's Hymn (Old English circa 658-680 AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, let us honour      heaven-kingdom's Guardian,
the might of the Architect      and his mind-plans,
the work of the Glory-Father.      First he, the Everlasting Lord,
established      the foundation of wonders.
Then he, the Primeval Poet,      created heaven as a roof
for the sons of men,      Holy Creator,
Maker of mankind.      Then he, the Eternal Entity,
afterwards made men middle-earth:      Master Almighty!



Westron Wynde
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 1530 AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Western wind, when will you blow,
bringing the drizzling rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
and I in my bed again!



This World's Joy
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 14th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Winter awakens all my care
as leafless trees grow bare.
For now my sighs are fraught
whenever it enters my thought:
regarding this world's joy,
how everything comes to naught.



Pity Mary
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now the sun passes under the wood:
I rue, Mary, thy face—fair, good.
Now the sun passes under the tree:
I rue, Mary, thy son and thee.



Fowles in the Frith
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The fowls in the forest,
the fishes in the flood
and I must go mad:
such sorrow I've had
for beasts of bone and blood!



I am of Ireland
(anonymous Medieval Irish lyric, circa 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am of Ireland,
and of the holy realm of Ireland.
Gentlefolk, I pray thee:
for the sake of saintly charity,
come dance with me
in Ireland!



Whan the turuf is thy tour
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
When the turf is your tower
and the pit is your bower,
your pale white skin and throat
shall be sullen worms’ to note.
What help to you, then,
was all your worldly hope?

2.
When the turf is your tower
and the grave is your bower,
your pale white throat and skin
worm-eaten from within ...
what hope of my help then?



Ech day me comëth tydinges thre
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Each day I’m plagued by three doles,
These gargantuan weights on my soul:
First, that I must somehow exit this fen.
Second, that I cannot know when.
And yet it’s the third that torments me so,
Because I don't know where the hell I will go!



Ich have y-don al myn youth
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 13th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have done it all my youth:
Often, often, and often!
I have loved long and yearned zealously ...
And oh what grief it has brought me!



Sweet Rose of Virtue
by William Dunbar [1460-1525]
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness,
delightful lily of youthful wantonness,
richest in bounty and in beauty clear
and in every virtue that is held most dear―
except only that you are merciless.

Into your garden, today, I followed you;
there I saw flowers of freshest hue,
both white and red, delightful to see,
and wholesome herbs, waving resplendently―
yet everywhere, no odor but rue.

I fear that March with his last arctic blast
has slain my fair rose of pallid and gentle cast,
whose piteous death does my heart such pain
that, if I could, I would compose her roots again―
so comforting her bowering leaves have been.



Now skruketh rose and lylie flour
(anonymous Middle English lyric, circa 11th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now skruketh rose and lylie flour, // Now the rose and the lily skyward flower,
That whilen ber that suete savour // That will bear for awhile that sweet savor:
In somer, that suete tyde; // In summer, that sweet tide;
Ne is no quene so stark ne stour, // There is no queen so stark in her power
Ne no luedy so bryht in bour // Nor any lady so bright in her bower
That ded ne shal by glyde: // That dead shall not summon and guide;
Whoso wol fleshye lust for-gon and hevene-blisse abyde // But whoever forgoes lust, in heavenly bliss will abide
On Jhesu be is thoht anon, that tharled was ys side. // With his thoughts on Jesus anon, thralled at his side.



Adam Lay Ybounden
(anonymous Medieval English Lyric, circa 15th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Adam lay bound, bound in a bond;
Four thousand winters, he thought, were not too long.
And all was for an apple, an apple that he took,
As clerics now find written in their book.
But had the apple not been taken, or had it never been,
We'd never have had our Lady, heaven's queen.
So blesséd be the time the apple was taken thus;
Therefore we sing, "God is gracious!"

The poem has also been rendered as "Adam lay i-bounden" and "Adam lay i-bowndyn."



I Sing of a Maiden
(anonymous Medieval English Lyric, circa 15th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of a maiden
That is matchless.
The King of all Kings
For her son she chose.
He came also as still
To his mother's breast
As April dew
Falling on the grass.
He came also as still
To his mother's bower
As April dew
Falling on the flower.
He came also as still
To where his mother lay
As April dew
Falling on the spray.
Mother and maiden?
Never one, but she!
Well may such a lady
God's mother be!



IN LIBRARIOS
by Thomas Campion
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions
as pimps praise their ****** for exotic positions.



Brut (circa 1100 AD, written by Layamon, an excerpt)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now he stands on a hill overlooking the Avon,
seeing steel fishes girded with swords in the stream,
their swimming days done,
their scales a-gleam like gold-plated shields,
their fish-spines floating like shattered spears.

Layamon's Brut is a 32,000-line poem composed in Middle English that shows a strong Anglo-Saxon influence and contains the first known reference to King Arthur in English. The passage above is a good example of Layamon's gift for imagery. It's interesting, I think, that a thousand years ago a poet was dabbling in surrealism, with dead warriors being described as if they were both men and fish.



Tegner's Drapa
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I heard a voice, that cried,
“Balder the beautiful lies dead, lies dead . . .”
a voice like the flight of white cranes
intent on a sun sailing high overhead—
but a sun now irretrievably setting.

Then I saw the sun’s corpse
—dead beyond all begetting—
borne through disconsolate skies
as blasts from the Nifel-heim rang out with dread,
“Balder lies dead, our fair Balder lies dead! . . .”

Lost—the sweet runes of his tongue,
so sweet every lark hushed its singing!
Lost, lost forever—his beautiful face,
the grace of his smile, all the girls’ hearts wild-winging!
O, who ever thought such strange words might be said,
as “Balder lies dead, gentle Balder lies dead! . . .”



Deor's Lament (Anglo Saxon poem, circa 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Weland knew the agony of exile.
That indomitable smith was wracked by grief.
He endured countless troubles:
sorrows were his only companions
in his frozen island dungeon
after Nithad had fettered him,
many strong-but-supple sinew-bonds
binding the better man.
   That passed away; this also may.

Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths
but even more, her own sad state
once she discovered herself with child.
She predicted nothing good could come of it.
   That passed away; this also may.

We have heard that the Geat's moans for Matilda,
his lady, were limitless,
that his sorrowful love for her
robbed him of regretless sleep.
   That passed away; this also may.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand;
many knew this and moaned.
   That passed away; this also may.

We have also heard of Ermanaric's wolfish ways,
of how he held wide sway in the realm of the Goths.
He was a grim king! Many a warrior sat,
full of cares and maladies of the mind,
wishing constantly that his kingdom might be overthrown.
   That passed away; this also may.

If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious,
bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening,
soon it seems to him that his troubles are endless.
Then he must consider that the wise Lord
often moves through the earth
granting some men honor, glory and fame,
but others only shame and hardship.
This I will say for myself:
that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop,
dear to my lord. My name was Deor.
For many winters I held a fine office,
faithfully serving a just lord. But now Heorrenda
a man skilful in songs, has received the estate
the protector of warriors gave me.
   That passed away; this also may.



The Wife's Lament
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I draw these words from deep wells of my grief,
care-worn, unutterably sad.
I can recount woes I've borne since birth,
present and past, never more than now.
I have won, from my exile-paths, only pain.

First, my lord forsook his folk, left,
crossed the seas' tumult, far from our people.
Since then, I've known
wrenching dawn-griefs, dark mournings ... oh where,
where can he be?

Then I, too, left—a lonely, lordless refugee,
full of unaccountable desires!
But the man's kinsmen schemed secretly
to estrange us, divide us, keep us apart,
across earth's wide kingdom, and my heart broke.

Then my lord spoke:
"Take up residence here."
I had few friends in this unknown, cheerless
region, none close.
Christ, I felt lost!

Then I thought I had found a well-matched man –
one meant for me,
but unfortunately he
was ill-starred and blind, with a devious mind,
full of murderous intentions, plotting some crime!

Before God we
vowed never to part, not till kingdom come, never!
But now that's all changed, forever –
our friendship done, severed.
I must hear, far and near, contempt for my husband.

So other men bade me, "Go, live in the grove,
beneath the great oaks, in an earth-cave, alone."
In this ancient cave-dwelling I am lost and oppressed –
the valleys are dark, the hills immense,
and this cruel-briared enclosure—an arid abode!

The injustice assails me—my lord's absence!
On earth there are lovers who share the same bed
while I pass through life dead in this dark abscess
where I wilt, summer days unable to rest
or forget the sorrows of my life's hard lot.

A young woman must always be
stern, hard-of-heart, unmoved,
opposing breast-cares and her heartaches' legions.
She must appear cheerful
even in a tumult of grief.

Like a criminal exiled to a far-off land,
moaning beneath insurmountable cliffs,
my weary-minded love, drenched by wild storms
and caught in the clutches of anguish,
is reminded constantly of our former happiness.

Woe be it to them who abide in longing.



Lament for the Makaris [Makers, or Poets]
by William Dunbar [1460-1525]
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

i who enjoyed good health and gladness
am overwhelmed now by life’s terrible sickness
and enfeebled with infirmity ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

our presence here is mere vainglory;
the false world is but transitory;
the flesh is frail; the Fiend runs free ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

the state of man is changeable:
now sound, now sick, now blithe, now dull,
now manic, now devoid of glee ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

no state on earth stands here securely;
as the wild wind shakes the willow tree,
so wavers this world’s vanity ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

Death leads the knights into the field
(unarmored under helm and shield)
sole Victor of each red mêlée ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

that strange, despotic Beast
tears from its mother’s breast
the babe, full of benignity ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

He takes the champion of the hour,
the captain of the highest tower,
the beautiful damsel in her tower ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

He spares no lord for his elegance,
nor clerk for his intelligence;
His dreadful stroke no man can flee ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

artist, magician, scientist,
orator, debater, theologist,
must all conclude, so too, as we:
“how the fear of Death dismays me!”

in medicine the most astute
sawbones and surgeons all fall mute;
they cannot save themselves, or flee ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

i see the Makers among the unsaved;
the greatest of Poets all go to the grave;
He does not spare them their faculty ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

i have seen Him pitilessly devour
our noble Chaucer, poetry’s flower,
and Lydgate and Gower (great Trinity!) ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

since He has taken my brothers all,
i know He will not let me live past the fall;
His next prey will be — poor unfortunate me! ...
how the fear of Death dismays me!

there is no remedy for Death;
we all must prepare to relinquish breath
so that after we die, we may be set free
from “the fear of Death dismays me!”




Unholy Trinity
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Man has three enemies:
himself, the world, and the devil.
Of these the first is, by far,
the most irresistible evil.

True Wealth
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There is more to being rich
than merely having;
the wealthiest man can lose
everything not worth saving.

The Rose
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The rose merely blossoms
and never asks why:
heedless of her beauty,
careless of every eye.

The Rose
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The rose lack “reasons”
and merely sways with the seasons;
she has no ego
but whoever put on such a show?

Eternal Time
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eternity is time,
time eternity,
except when we
are determined to "see."

Visions
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Our souls possess two eyes:
one examines time,
the other visions
eternal and sublime.

Godless
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

God is absolute Nothingness
beyond our sense of time and place;
the more we try to grasp Him,
The more He flees from our embrace.

The Source
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Water is pure and clean
when taken at the well-head:
but drink too far from the Source
and you may well end up dead.

Ceaseless Peace
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Unceasingly you seek
life's ceaseless wavelike motion;
I seek perpetual peace, all storms calmed.
Whose is the wiser notion?

Well Written
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Friend, cease!
Abandon all pretense!
You must yourself become
the Writing and the Sense.

Worm Food
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No worm is buried
so deep within the soil
that God denies it food
as reward for its toil.

Mature Love
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

New love, like a sparkling wine, soon fizzes.
Mature love, calm and serene, abides.

God's Predicament
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

God cannot condemn those with whom he would dwell,
or He would have to join them in hell!

Clods
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A ruby
is not lovelier
than a dirt clod,
nor an angel
more glorious
than a frog.



A Proverb from Winfred's Time
anonymous Old English poem, circa 757-786
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
The procrastinator puts off purpose,
never initiates anything marvelous,
never succeeds, and dies alone.

2.
The late-deed-doer delays glory-striving,
never indulges daring dreams,
never succeeds, and dies alone.

3.
Often the deed-dodger avoids ventures,
never succeeds, and dies alone.

Winfrid or Wynfrith is better known as Saint Boniface (c. 675–754). This may be the second-oldest English poem, after "Caedmon's Hymn."



Franks Casket Runes
anonymous Old English poems, circa 700
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
The fish flooded the shore-cliffs;
the sea-king wept when he swam onto the shingle:
whale's bone.

2.
Romulus and Remus, twin brothers weaned in Rome
by a she-wolf, far from their native land.



"The Leiden Riddle" is an Old English translation of Aldhelm's Latin riddle Lorica ("Corselet").

The Leiden Riddle
anonymous Old English riddle poem, circa 700
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The dank earth birthed me from her icy womb.
I know I was not fashioned from woolen fleeces;
nor was I skillfully spun from skeins;
I have neither warp nor weft;
no thread thrums through me in the thrashing loom;
nor do whirring shuttles rattle me;
nor does the weaver's rod assail me;
nor did silkworms spin me like skillfull fates
into curious golden embroidery.
And yet heroes still call me an excellent coat.
Nor do I fear the dread arrows' flights,
however eagerly they leap from their quivers.

Solution: a coat of mail.



He sits with his harp at his thane's feet,
Earning his hire, his rewards of rings,
Sweeping the strings with his skillful nail;
Hall-thanes smile at the sweet song he sings.
—"Fortunes of Men" loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Fairest Between Lincoln and Lindsey
(anonymous Middle English poem, circa late 13th century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When the nightingale sings, the woods turn green;
Leaf and grass again blossom in April, I know,
Yet love pierces my heart with its spear so keen!
Night and day it drinks my blood. The painful rivulets flow.

I’ve loved all this year. Now I can love no more;
I’ve sighed many a sigh, sweetheart, and yet all seems wrong.
For love is no nearer and that leaves me poor.
Sweet lover, think of me — I’ve loved you so long!



A cleric courts his lady
(anonymous Middle English poem, circa late 13th century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My death I love, my life I hate, because of a lovely lady;
She's as bright as the broad daylight, and shines on me so purely.
I fade before her like a leaf in summer when it's green.
If thinking of her does no good, to whom shall I complain?



The original poem below is based on my teenage misinterpretation of a Latin prayer ...

Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

. . . qui laetificat juventutem meam . . .
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone.
. . . requiescat in pace . . .
May she rest in peace.
. . . amen . . .
Amen.

NOTE: I was touched by this Latin prayer, which I discovered in a novel I read as a teenager. I later decided to incorporate it into a poem. From what I now understand, “ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” means “to the God who gives joy to my youth,” but I am sticking with my original interpretation: a lament for a little girl at her funeral. The phrase can be traced back to Saint Jerome's translation of Psalm 42 in the Vulgate Latin Bible (circa 385 AD).

— The End —