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Sonnet: The Ruins of Balaclava
by Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, barren Crimean land, these dreary shades
of castles―once your indisputable pride―
are now where ghostly owls and lizards hide
as blackguards arm themselves for nightly raids.
Carved into marble, regal boasts were made!
Brave words on burnished armor, gilt-applied!
Now shattered splendors long since cast aside
beside the dead here also brokenly laid.
The ancient Greeks set shimmering marble here.
The Romans drove wild Mongol hordes to flight.
The Mussulman prayed eastward, day and night.
Now owls and dark-winged vultures watch and leer
as strange black banners, flapping overhead,
mark where the past piles high its nameless dead.

Adam Bernard Mickiewicz (1798-1855) is widely regarded as Poland’s greatest poet and as the national poet of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. He was also a dramatist, essayist, publicist, translator, professor and political activist. As a principal figure in Polish Romanticism, Mickiewicz has been compared to Byron and Goethe. Keywords/Tags: Mickiewicz, Poland, Polish, Balaclava, Crimea, war, warfare, castle, castles, knight, knights, armor, Greeks, Rome, Romans, Mongols, Mussulman, Muslims, death, destruction, ruin, ruins, romantic, romanticism, sonnet, depression, sorrow, grave, violence, mrbtr
The Seashore Gathering
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

On the seashores of endless worlds, earth's children converge.
The infinite sky is motionless, the restless waters boisterous.
On the seashores of endless worlds earth's children gather to dance with joyous cries and pirouettes.
They build sand castles and play with hollow shells.
They weave boats out of withered leaves and laughingly float them out over the vast deep.
Earth's children play gaily on the seashores of endless worlds.
They do not know, yet, how to cast nets or swim.
Divers fish for pearls and merchants sail their ships, while earth's children skip, gather pebbles and scatter them again.
They are unaware of hidden treasures, nor do they know how to cast nets, yet.
The sea surges with laughter, smiling palely on the seashore.
Death-dealing waves sing the children meaningless songs, like a mother lullabying her baby's cradle.
The sea plays with the children, smiling palely on the seashore.
On the seashores of endless worlds earth's children meet.
Tempests roam pathless skies, ships lie wrecked in uncharted waters, death wanders abroad, and still the children play.
On the seashores of endless worlds there is a great gathering of earth's children.

Originally published by The Chained Muse. My translation is based on an untitled text in Bangla (Bengali) first published in 1912 and known as "60" due to its numerical placement. Tagore made history by becoming the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year. Keywords/Tags: seashore, gathering, children, sky, sea, water, dance, sand castles, shells, boats, play, nets, swim, fish, pearls, ships, waves, songs, mother, lullaby, baby, cradle, tempests, death
princesses made of freckles, wild nettles, vitamin C
strawberry-preserve smiles, backdoor-screen
dreams, pockets full of pencils and pink jellybean
lip gloss, wearing summer and skinned knees
these types of princesses don’t practice their lives
in stone-and-mortar towers. they take dives
into lake-blue unknowns, sunflower skies,
break their falls on vanilla sunrises.
these types of princesses only build their
castles made of tarpaulin and filled
with oak-tree pillars and moons that tilt
into the soft iridescence of rose-gold winters.
these types of princesses conquer backyards.
these types of princesses catch falling stars.
Carlo C Gomez Nov 2019
You know the economy is bad
When they begin foreclosing
On tree houses & sand castles
Colm Nov 2019
Red castles crash and fall
Midst green pines standing tall

As the last summers memory outlasts
This autumn death befalls
Red Castles
Mark Toney Oct 2019
Picture a man’s solitary stroll on a sandy seaside,
Early time of day, just a short time after low tide,
Water almost calm, gentle waves lapping the shore,
Early morning sun brilliantly blazing the horizon.
Feel the wonderful breeze…smell the salty ocean air…  
See, hear the jaegers, gulls and terns flying without a care.

The soothing sounds of the wind, water and gulls
Are suddenly intruded upon by the sad cries of a small child.  
"What's wrong?" the man kindly asks, as he kneels next to her.
"Someone knocked down my sandcastle," is her reply, tears flowing.
"Don't worry little one, I'll help you build another."
To the little girl's delight, the man smooths away the sand,
In preparation for a newer, bigger, better sandcastle.

Soon his concentration is broken by frantic cries for help.  
Looking out over the water, he sees a tiny figure,
Desperately clinging to one of the buoys marking the deep-water.
Running to the water’s edge, he clearly sees another little girl,
Close in age to the first, whose swimming has carried her too far,  
And now she perilously clings to the buoy, unable to swim back.

The man returns to the first girl
And continues to build the sandcastle.
"The girl in the water is safe for now", he assures himself.
"As long as I can hear her cries for help,
I know her head is above water.
Besides, this other little girl's problem came first.
As soon as I am done with her sandcastle,
I will most certainly rescue the other one..."

And so, the man does build the sandcastle,
One more magnificent than the first.  
All the while he builds, he continues to hear
The desperate cries from the second little girl.  
By sandcastle’s finish, her cries have become weaker, less frequent.
"Are you happy now?" he asks the first little girl.
"Oh yes," she cries, "thank you sir...."
As she joyfully dances around her new sandcastle.

With that, the man springs into action,
Just as she slips off the buoy and goes under.  
He reaches her in record time with all the strength he can muster,
Expertly positioning her on her back with her face above water.
Wasting no time or effort he makes his way back to shore,
As more and more people gather to cheer on the savior.  
He gives CPR - after several coughs, water clears lungs, a life is not lost.
As if on cue, the rescue team arrives, transporting her to hospital.
Extremely grateful parents and the city honor him as a hero.

So what say you?  Is such a man deserving of honor?
How would the parents react If they knew the rest of the story?
Especially since he was the lifeguard assigned to beach patrol!

Now, friends, after considering all of this fuss,
The question bears asking, what about us?
Are we making sure of more important things,
Or are we busy building castles in the sand?
5/23/2018 - Poetry form: Narrative - Copyright © Mark Toney | Year Posted 2018
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