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I want, to be able pure poems to write,
To sleep near the sky like star gazers at night,
To dream near the belfries, enchanted and filled
By their solemn anthems diffused by the wind.
With chin cupped in hands from my attic to see
The workshop which chatters and sings and feels free;
The chimneys, the steeples, these masts of the town,
The skies making people in fancy to drown.

How nice is to see through the mists a star bright
And a lamp at the window, burning still in the night,
The rivers of coal rising up in the air,
The moon pouring down its pale charm everywhere.
The summers and autumns will quietly go;
When winter arrives with its white and dull snow
I'll close all the doors and pull down the blind
And build lofty castles at night in my mind.
I'll dream all the time of blue distant horizons,
Alabaster small fountains which weep in the gardens,
And kisses, and birds, chirping loudly and rife,
The pure love affairs we cherish in life.
The bustle, enticing, at the window will drum,
With my head on the desk, I shall sit still and numb,
For I'll dive in the sea of exquisite delight
Of evoking the spring with my will and my might,
Of bringing the sun near my heart and create
Of my fiery dreams an abode warm and great.
The Shijing or **** Jing or Shih-Ching (“Book of Songs” or “Book of Odes”) is the oldest Chinese poetry collection, with the poems included believed to date from around 1200 BC to 600 BC. According to tradition the poems were selected and edited by Confucius himself. Since most ancient poetry did not rhyme, these may be the world’s oldest extant rhyming poems.

Shijing Ode #4: “JIU MU”
ancient Chinese rhyming poem circa (1200 BC - 600 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In the South, beneath trees with drooping branches
thick with vines that make them shady,
we find our lovely princely lady:
May she repose in happiness!

In the South, beneath trees with drooping branches
whose clinging vines make hot days shady,
we wish love’s embrace for our lovely lady:
May she repose in happiness!

In the South, beneath trees with drooping branches
whose vines, entwining, make them shady,
we wish true love for our lovely lady:
May she repose in happiness!


Shijing Ode #6: “TAO YAO”
ancient Chinese rhyming poem circa (1200 BC - 600 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The peach tree is elegant and tender;
its flowers are fragrant, and bright.
A young lady now enters her future home
and will manage it well, day and night.

The peach tree is elegant and tender;
its fruits are abundant, and sweet.
A young lady now enters her future home
and will make it welcome to everyone she greets.

The peach tree is elegant and tender;
it shelters with bough, leaf and flower.
A young lady now enters her future home
and will make it her family’s bower.


Shijing Ode #9: “HAN GUANG”
ancient Chinese rhyming poem circa (1200 BC - 600 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In the South tall trees without branches
offer men no shelter.
By the Han the girls loiter,
but it’s vain to entice them.
For the breadth of the Han
cannot be swum
and the length of the Jiang
requires more than a raft.

When cords of firewood are needed,
I would cut down tall thorns to bring them more.
Those girls on their way to their future homes?
I would feed their horses.
But the breadth of the Han
cannot be swum
and the length of the Jiang
requires more than a raft.

When cords of firewood are needed,
I would cut down tall trees to bring them more.
Those girls on their way to their future homes?
I would feed their colts.
But the breadth of the Han
cannot be swum
and the length of the Jiang
requires more than a raft.


Shijing Ode #10: “RU FEN”
ancient Chinese rhyming poem circa (1200 BC - 600 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

By raised banks of the Ru,
I cut down branches in the brake.
Not seeing my lord
caused me heartache.

By raised banks of the Ru,
I cut down branches by the tide.
When I saw my lord at last,
he did not cast me aside.

The bream flashes its red tail;
the royal court’s a blazing fire.
Though it blazes afar,
still his loved ones are near ...

It was apparently believed that the bream’s tail turned red when it was in danger. Here the term “lord” does not necessarily mean the man in question was a royal himself. Chinese women of that era often called their husbands “lord.” Take, for instance, Ezra Pound’s famous loose translation “The River Merchant’s Wife.” Speaking of Pound, I borrowed the word “brake” from his translation of this poem, although I worked primarily from more accurate translations. In the final line, it may be that the wife or lover is suggesting that no matter what happens, the man in question will have a place to go, or perhaps she is urging him to return regardless. The original poem had “mother and father” rather than “family” or “loved ones,” but in those days young married couples often lived with the husband’s parents. So a suggestion to return to his parents could be a suggestion to return to his wife as well.


Shijing Ode #12: “QUE CHAO”
ancient Chinese rhyming poem circa (1200 BC - 600 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The nest is the magpie's
but the dove occupies it.
A young lady’s soon heading to her future home;
a hundred carriages will attend her.

The nest is the magpie's
but the dove takes it over.
A young lady’s soon heading to her future home;
a hundred carriages will escort her.

The nest is the magpie's
but the dove possesses it.
A young lady’s soon heading to her future home;
a hundred carriages complete her procession.


Shijing Ode #26: “BO ZHOU” from “The Odes of Bei”
ancient Chinese rhyming poem circa (1200 BC - 600 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This cypress-wood boat floats about,
meandering with the current.
Meanwhile, I am distraught and sleepless,
as if inflicted with a painful wound.
Not because I have no wine,
and can’t wander aimlessly about!

But my mind is not a mirror
able to echo all impressions.
Yes, I have brothers,
but they are undependable.
I meet their anger with silence.

My mind is not a stone
to be easily cast aside.
My mind is not a mat
to be conveniently rolled up.
My conduct so far has been exemplary,
with nothing to criticize.

Yet my anxious heart hesitates
because I’m hated by the herd,
inflicted with many distresses,
heaped with insults, not a few.
Silently I consider my case,
until, startled, as if from sleep, I clutch my breast.

Consider the sun and the moon:
how did the latter exceed the former?
Now sorrow clings to my heart
like an unwashed dress.
Silently I consider my options,
but lack the wings to fly away.



Chixiao (“The Owl”)
by Duke Zhou (c. 1100-1000 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Owl!
You've stolen my offspring,
Don't shatter my nest!
When with labors of love
I nurtured my fledglings.

Before the skies darkened
And the dark rains fell,
I gathered mulberry twigs
To thatch my nest,
Yet scoundrels now dare
Impugn my enterprise.

With fingers chafed rough
By the reeds I plucked
And the straw I threshed,
I now write these words,
Too hoarse to speak:
I am homeless!

My wings are withered,
My tail torn away,
My home toppled
And tossed into the rain,
My cry a distressed peep.

The Duke of Zhou (circa 1100-1000 BC), a member of the Zhou Dynasty also known as Ji Dan, played a major role in Chinese history and culture. He has been called “probably the first real person to step over the threshold of myth into Chinese history” and he may be the first Chinese poet we know by name today, and the spiritual ancestor of Confucius as well. The Duke was a capable and loyal regent for his young nephew King Cheng and successfully suppressed a number of rebellions. He has also been credited with writing the I Ching and the Book of Songs, also called the Book of Odes, and with creating yayue (“elegant music”) which became Chinese classical music. His poem “The Owl” was apparently written while he was away fighting on his nephew’s behalf, after court dissenters accused him of plotting to usurp the throne. Apparently the poem worked, as King Cheng welcomed his uncle back, and the Duke remained faithful till the end. Keywords/Tags: China, Chinese, translation, ode, odes, kingdom, king, duke, homeless, homelessness, homesick, homesickness

Keywords/Tags: Shijing, ****-Jing, Shih-Ching, translation, book, songs, odes, Confucius, Chinese, ancient, rhyme, rhyming, love, nature
This is my modern English translation of Paul Valéry's poem “Le cimetière marin” (“The graveyard by the sea”). Valéry was buried in the seaside cemetery evoked in his best-known poem. From the vantage of the cemetery, the tombs seemed to “support” a sea-ceiling dotted with white sails. Valéry begins and ends his poem with this image ...

Excerpts from “Le cimetière marin” (“The graveyard by the sea”)
from Charmes ou poèmes (1922)
by Paul Valéry
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Do not, O my soul, aspire to immortal life, but exhaust what is possible.
—Pindar, Pythian Ode 3

1.
This tranquil ceiling, where white doves are sailing,
stands propped between tall pines and foundational tombs,
as the noonday sun composes, with its flames,
sea-waves forever forming and reforming ...
O, what a boon, when some lapsed thought expires,
to reflect on the placid face of Eternity!

5.
As a pear dissolves in the act of being eaten,
transformed, through sudden absence, to delight
relinquishing its shape within our mouths,
even so, I breathe in vapors I’ll become,
as the sea rejoices and its shores enlarge,
fed by lost souls devoured; more are rumored.

6.
Beautiful sky, my true-blue sky, ’tis I
who alters! Pride and indolence possessed me,
yet, somehow, I possessed real potency ...
But now I yield to your ephemeral vapors
as my shadow steals through stations of the dead;
its delicate silhouette crook-*******, “Forward!”

8.
... My soul still awaits reports of its nothingness ...

9.
... What corpse compels me forward, to no end?
What empty skull commends these strange bone-heaps?
A star broods over everything I lost ...

10.
... Here where so much antique marble
shudders over so many shadows,
the faithful sea slumbers ...

11.
... Watchful dog ...
Keep far from these peaceful tombs
the prudent doves, all impossible dreams,
the angels’ curious eyes ...

12.
... The brittle insect scratches out existence ...
... Life is enlarged by its lust for absence ...
... The bitterness of death is sweet and the mind clarified.

13.
... The dead do well here, secured here in this earth ...
... I am what mutates secretly in you ...

14.
I alone can express your apprehensions!
My penitence, my doubts, my limitations,
are fatal flaws in your exquisite diamond ...
But here in their marble-encumbered infinite night
a formless people sleeping at the roots of trees
have slowly adopted your cause ...

15.
... Where, now, are the kindly words of the loving dead? ...
... Now grubs consume, where tears were once composed ...

16.
... Everything dies, returns to earth, gets recycled ...

17.
And what of you, great Soul, do you still dream
there’s something truer than these deceitful colors:
each flash of golden surf on eyes of flesh?
Will you still sing, when you’re as light as air?
Everything perishes and has no presence!
I am not immune; Divine Impatience dies!

18.
Emaciate consolation, Immortality,
grotesquely clothed in your black and gold habit,
transfiguring death into some Madonna’s breast,
your pious ruse and cultivated lie:
who does not know and who does not reject
your empty skull and pandemonic laughter?

24.
The wind is rising! ... We must yet strive to live!
The immense sky opens and closes my book!
Waves surge through shell-shocked rocks, reeking spray!
O, fly, fly away, my sun-bedazzled pages!
Break, breakers! Break joyfully as you threaten to shatter
this tranquil ceiling where white doves are sailing!

*

“Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!
L'air immense ouvre et referme mon livre,
La vague en poudre ose jaillir des rocs!
Envolez-vous, pages tout éblouies!
Rompez, vagues! Rompez d'eaux réjouies
Ce toit tranquille où picoraient des focs!”

Keywords/Tags: Paul Valery, French poem, English translation, sea, seaside, cemetery, grave, graves, graveyard, death, sail, sails, doves, ceiling, soul, souls
Norman Crane Aug 2021
when already in his mind
he'd dusted himself off like a rooster
run down the hotel stairs
gotten on the train
to quickly
escape from her
to where the black pepper grows

she, snuggling up to
him with both eyes firmly closed
had already built with them
a house
smelling of dinner
and fresh children
to which he'd just come running
up the stairs

(in reality
he and she had slept
together for the first time
and lying
keep silent about this precisely
in two foreign
mutually unknown
languages)
My translation of Polish poet Józef Baran's "On i ona"
Norman Crane Aug 2021
I told her: I know of such a place,
where the cats all come to die.
I asked her: do you want to see it?
She answered: no.
I told her: it's clean and it's important.
I told her: it's bright and it's first.
I asked her: do you want to see it?
She answered: no.
She said it in such a way
that I had to turn away from her.
Ever since then
I am slowly
approaching the exit.
My translation of Polish poet Marcin Świetlicki's "Swierszcze" ("Crickets")
Norman Crane Aug 2021
Lithuania! My homeland! You are like vigour.
How invaluable you are, only he can figure,
Who has lost you. Today your beauty wholly I view
And seeing, describe it, because I long after you.

Holy ******, who guards Luminous Czestochowa
And shines in the Gate of Dawn! You, who watches over
Strongheld Novogrudok and its faithful populace!
As once you healed me, a child, so miraculous
(When into your care from my despondent mother bid
I lifted my already departed eyelid,
And soon could make my way on foot to your temple's door,
Having gone to offer thanks to God for a life restored),
So too you shall restore us to our homeland's womb.
Meanwhile, may you convey my soul from its longing's gloom
To those aforrested hills, those evergreen meadows,
Stretched wide across the space where the azure Neman flows;
To those vast fields, painted in varicoloured grain-dye,
A landscape gilded with wheat, silver-plated with rye,
Where the runch is amber, and the buckwheat white as snow,
Where like a maiden's blush the red clover overgrows,
And all's interwoven, as if by a ribbon, green
balk, within which a wild pear tree can sometimes be seen.
Here's my attempt at translating the Invocation from Adam Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz from Polish into English.
Michael R Burch Aug 2021
These are my modern English translations of poems by Dante Alighieri.

Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In Beatrice I beheld the outer boundaries of blessedness.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She made my veins and even the pulses within them tremble.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Her sweetness left me intoxicated.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love commands me by dictating my desires.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Follow your own path and let bystanders gossip.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The devil is not as dark as depicted.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There is no greater sorrow than to recall how we delighted in our own wretchedness.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As he, who with heaving lungs escaped the suffocating sea, turns to regard its perilous waters.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you nosedive in the mildest breeze?
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O human race, born to soar heavenward, why do you quail at the least breath of wind?
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Midway through my life’s journey
I awoke to find myself lost in a trackless wood,
for I had strayed far from the straight path.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

INSCRIPTION ON THE GATE OF HELL
Before me nothing created existed, to fear.
Eternal I am, eternal I endure.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Sonnet: “Ladies of Modest Countenance” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You, who wear a modest countenance,
With eyelids weighed down by such heaviness,
How is it, that among you every face
Is haunted by the same pale troubled glance?

Have you seen in my lady's face, perchance,
the grief that Love provokes despite her grace?
Confirm this thing is so, then in her place,
Complete your grave and sorrowful advance.

And if, indeed, you match her heartfelt sighs
And mourn, as she does, for the heart's relief,
Then tell Love how it fares with her, to him.

Love knows how you have wept, seeing your eyes,
And is so grieved by gazing on your grief
His courage falters and his sight grows dim.



Paradiso, Canto III:1-33, The Revelation of Love and Truth
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That sun, which had inflamed my breast with love,
Had now revealed to me―as visions move―
The gentle and confounding face of Truth.

Thus I, by her sweet grace and love reproved,
Corrected, and to true confession moved,
Raised my bowed head and found myself behooved

To speak, as true admonishment required,
And thus to bless the One I so desired,
When I was awed to silence! This transpired:

As the outlines of men’s faces may amass
In mirrors of transparent, polished glass,
Or in shallow waters through which light beams pass

(Even so our eyes may easily be fooled
By pearls, or our own images, thus pooled):
I saw a host of faces, pale and lewd,

All poised to speak; but when I glanced around
There suddenly was no one to be found.
A pool, with no Narcissus to astound?

But then I turned my eyes to my sweet Guide.
With holy eyes aglow and smiling wide,
She said, “They are not here because they lied.”



Sonnet: “A Vision of Love” or “Love’s Faithful Ones” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To every gentle heart true Love may move,
And unto whom my words must now be brought
For wise interpretation’s tender thought,
I greet you in our Lord's name, which is Love.

Through night’s last watch, as winking stars, above,
Kept their high vigil over men, distraught,
Love came to me, with such dark terrors fraught
As mortals may not casually speak of.

Love seemed a being of pure Joy and held
My heart, pulsating. On his other arm
My lady, wrapped in thinnest gossamers, slept.
He, having roused her from her sleep, then made
My heart her feast—devoured with alarm.
He then departed; as he left, he wept.



Excerpts from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri

Ecce deus fortior me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi.
Here is a Deity, stronger than myself, who comes to dominate me.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra.
Your blessedness has now been manifested unto you.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Heu miser! quia frequenter impeditus ero deinceps.
Alas, how often I will be restricted now!
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fili mi, tempus est ut prætermittantur simulata nostra.
My son, it is time to cease counterfeiting.
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ego tanquam centrum circuli, cui simili modo se habent circumferentiæ partes: tu autem non sic.
Love said: “I am as the center of a harmonious circle; everything is equally near me. No so with you.”
―Dante, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Sonnet: “Love’s Thoroughfare” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“O voi che par la via”

All those who travel Love's worn tracks,
Pause here, awhile, and ask
Has there ever been a grief like mine?

Pause here, from that mad race;
Patiently hear my case:
Is it not a piteous marvel and a sign?

Love, not because I played a part,
But only due to his great heart,
Afforded me a provenance so sweet

That often others, as I went,
Asked what such unfair gladness meant:
They whispered things behind me in the street.

But now that easy gait is gone
Along with the wealth Love afforded me;
And so in time I’ve come to be

So poor that I dread to ponder thereon.
And thus I have become as one
Who hides his shame of his poverty

By pretending happiness outwardly,
While within I travail and moan.



Sonnet: “Cry for Pity” from LA VITA NUOVA
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These thoughts lie shattered in my memory:
When through the past I see your lovely face.
When you are near me, thus, Love fills all Space,
And often whispers, “Is death better? Flee!”

My face reflects my heart's blood-red dammed tide,
Which, fainting, seeks some shallow resting place;
Till, in the blushing shame of such disgrace,
The very earth seems to be shrieking, “Die!”

’Twould be a grievous sin, if one should not
Relay some comfort to my harried mind,
If only with some simple pitying
For this great anguish which fierce scorn has wrought
Through faltering sights of eyes grown nearly blind,
Which search for death now, like a blessed thing.



Excerpt from Paradiso
by Dante Alighieri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

****** Mother, daughter of your Son,
Humble, yet exalted above creation,
And the eternal counsel’s apex shown,

You are the Pinnacle of human nature,
Your nobility instilled by its Creator,
Who did not, having you, disdain his creature.

Love was rekindled in your perfect womb
Where warmth and holy peace were given room
For this, Perfection’s Rose, once sown, to bloom.

Now unto us you are a Torch held high
Our noonday sun―the light of Charity,
Our wellspring of all Hope, a living sea.

Madonna, so pure, high and all-availing,
The man who desires grace of you, though failing,
Despite his grounded state, is given wing!

Your mercy does not fail, but, Ever-Blessed,
The one who asks finds oftentimes his quest
Unneeded: you foresaw his first request!

You are our Mercy; you are our Compassion;
you are Magnificence; in you creation
Unites whatever Goodness deems Salvation.



THE MUSE

by Anna Akhmatova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My being hangs by a thread tonight
as I await a Muse no human pen can command.
The desires of my heart ― youth, liberty, glory ―
now depend on the Maid with the flute in her hand.

Look! Now she arrives; she flings back her veil;
I meet her grave eyes ― calm, implacable, pitiless.
“Temptress, confess!
Are you the one who gave Dante hell?”

She answers, “Yes.”



I have also translated this poem written by Marina Tsvetaeva for Anna Akhmatova:

Excerpt from “Poems for Akhmatova”
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You outshine everything, even the sun
at its zenith. The stars are yours!
If only I could sweep like the wind
through some unbarred door,
gratefully, to where you are ...
to hesitantly stammer, suddenly shy,
lowering my eyes before you, my lovely mistress,
petulant, chastened, overcome by tears,
as a child sobs to receive forgiveness ...


Dante Criticism by Michael R. Burch

Dante’s was a defensive reflex
against religion’s hex.
―Michael R. Burch


Dante, you Dunce!
by Michael R. Burch

The earth is hell, Dante, you Dunce!
Which you should have perceived―since you lived here once.

God is no Beatrice, gentle and clever.
Judas and Satan were wise to dissever
from false “messiahs” who cannot save.
Why flit like a bat through Plato’s cave
believing such shadowy illusions are real?
There is no "hell" but to live and feel!



How Dante Forgot Christ
by Michael R. Burch

Dante ****** the brightest and the fairest
for having loved―pale Helen, wild Achilles―
agreed with his Accuser in the spell
of hellish visions and eternal torments.
His only savior, Beatrice, was Love.

His only savior, Beatrice, was Love,
the fulcrum of his body’s, heart’s and mind’s
sole triumph, and their altogether conquest.
She led him to those heights where Love, enshrined,
blazed like a star beyond religion’s hells.

Once freed from Yahweh, in the arms of Love,
like Blake and Milton, Dante forgot Christ.

The Christian gospel is strangely lacking in Milton’s and Dante’s epics. Milton gave the “atonement” one embarrassed enjambed line. Dante ****** the Earth’s star-crossed lovers to his grotesque hell, while doing exactly what they did: pursing at all costs his vision of love, Beatrice. Blake made more sense to me, since he called the biblical god Nobodaddy and denied any need to be “saved” by third parties.



Dante’s Antes
by Michael R. Burch

There’s something glorious about man,
who lives because he can,
who dies because he must,
and in between’s a bust.

No god can reign him in:
he’s quite intent on sin
and likes it rather, really.
He likes *** touchy-feely.

He likes to eat too much.
He has the Midas touch
and paves hell’s ways with gold.
The things he’s bought and sold!

He’s sold his soul to Mammon
and also plays backgammon
and poker, with such antes
as still befuddle Dantes.

I wonder―can hell hold him?
His chances seem quite dim
because he’s rather puny
and also loopy-******.

And yet like Evel Knievel
he dances with the Devil
and seems so **** courageous,
good-natured and outrageous

some God might show him mercy
and call religion heresy.



Of Seabound Saints and Promised Lands
by Michael R. Burch

Judas sat on a wretched rock,
his head still sore from Satan’s gnawing.
Saint Brendan’s curragh caught his eye,
wildly geeing and hawing.

I’m on parole from Hell today!
Pale Judas cried from his lonely perch.
You’ve fasted forty days, good Saint!
Let this rock by my church,
my baptismal, these icy waves.
O, plead for me now with the One who saves!

Saint Brendan, full of mercy, stood
at the lurching prow of his flimsy bark,
and mightily prayed for the mangy man
whose flesh flashed pale and stark
in the golden dawn, beneath a sun
that seemed to halo his tonsured dome.
Then Saint Brendan sailed for the Promised Land
and Saint Judas headed Home.

O, behoove yourself, if ever your can,
of the fervent prayer of a righteous man!

In Dante’s Inferno, Satan gnaws on Judas Iscariot’s head. A curragh is a boat fashioned from wood and ox hides. Saint Brendan of Ireland is the patron saint of sailors and whales. According to legend, he sailed in search of the Promised Land and discovered America centuries before Columbus.



RE: Paradiso, Canto III
by Michael R. Burch

for the most “Christian” of poets

What did Dante do,
to earn Beatrice’s grace
(grace cannot be earned!)
but cast disgrace
on the whole human race,
on his peers and his betters,
as a man who wears cheap rayon suits
might disparage men who wear sweaters?

How conventionally “Christian” ― Poet! ― to ****
your fellow man
for being merely human,
then, like a contented clam,
to grandly claim
near-infinite “grace,”
as if your salvation was God’s only aim!
What a scam!

And what of the lovely Piccarda,
whom you placed in the lowest sphere of heaven
for neglecting her vows ―
She was forced!
Were you chaste?



Intimations V
by Michael R. Burch

We had not meditated upon sound
so much as drowned
in the inhuman ocean
when we imagined it broken
open
like a conch shell
whorled like the spiraling hell
of Dante’s Inferno.

Trapped between Nature
and God,
what is man
but an inquisitive,
acquisitive
sod?

And what is Nature
but odd,
or God
but a Clod,
and both of them horribly flawed?



Endgame
by Michael R. Burch

The honey has lost all its sweetness,
the hive―its completeness.

Now ambient dust, the drones lie dead.
The workers weep, their King long fled
(who always had been ****, invisible,
his “kingdom” atomic, divisible,
and pathetically risible).

The queen has flown,
long Dis-enthroned,
who would have given all she owned
for a promised white stone.

O, Love has fled, has fled, has fled ...
Religion is dead, is dead, is dead.



The Final Revelation of a Departed God’s Divine Plan
by Michael R. Burch

Here I am, talking to myself again . . .

******* at God and bored with humanity.
These insectile mortals keep testing my sanity!

Still, I remember when . . .

planting odd notions, dark inklings of vanity,
in their peapod heads might elicit an inanity

worth a chuckle or two.

Philosophers, poets . . . how they all made me laugh!
The things they dreamed up! Sly Odysseus’s raft;

Plato’s Republic; Dante’s strange crew;

Shakespeare’s Othello, mad Hamlet, Macbeth;
Cervantes’ Quixote; fat, funny Falstaff!;

Blake’s shimmering visions. Those days, though, are through . . .

for, puling and tedious, their “poets” now seem
content to write, but not to dream,

and they fill the world with their pale derision

of things they completely fail to understand.
Now, since God has long fled, I am here, in command,

reading this crap. Earth is Hell. We’re all ******.

Keyword/Tags: Dante, Italian, translation, sonnet, Italian sonnet, crown of sonnets, rhyme, love, affinity and love, Rome, Italy, Florence, terza rima
Michael R Burch May 2021
THE RUIN in a Modern English Translation

"The Ruin" is one of the great poems of English antiquity. This modern English translation of one of the very best Old English/Anglo-Saxon poems is followed by footnotes, a summary and analysis, a discussion of the theme, and the translator's comments.


THE RUIN
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

well-hewn was this wall-stone, till Wyrdes wrecked it
and the Colossus sagged inward ...

broad battlements broken;
the Builders' work battered;

the high ramparts toppled;
tall towers collapsed;

the great roof-beams shattered;
gates groaning, agape ...

mortar mottled and marred by scarring ****-frosts ...
the Giants’ dauntless strongholds decaying with age ...

shattered, the shieldwalls,
the turrets in tatters ...

where now are those mighty Masons, those Wielders and Wrights,
those Samson-like Stonesmiths?

the grasp of the earth, the firm grip of the ground
holds fast those fearless Fathers
men might have forgotten
except that this slow-rotting siege-wall still stands
after countless generations!

for always this edifice, grey-lichened, blood-stained,
stands facing fierce storms with their wild-whipping winds
because those master Builders bound its wall-base together
so cunningly with iron!

it outlasted mighty kings and their claims!

how high rose those regal rooftops!
how kingly their castle-keeps!
how homely their homesteads!
how boisterous their bath-houses and their merry mead-halls!
how heavenward flew their high-flung pinnacles!
how tremendous the tumult of those famous War-Wagers ...
till mighty Fate overturned it all, and with it, them.

then the wide walls fell;
then the bulwarks were broken;
then the dark days of disease descended ...

as death swept the battlements of brave Brawlers;
as their palaces became waste places;
as ruin rained down on their grand Acropolis;
as their great cities and castles collapsed
while those who might have rebuilt them lay gelded in the ground:
those marvelous Men, those mighty master Builders!

therefore these once-decorous courts court decay;
therefore these once-lofty gates gape open;
therefore these roofs' curved arches lie stripped of their shingles;
therefore these streets have sunk into ruin and corroded rubble ...

when in times past light-hearted Titans flushed with wine
strode strutting in gleaming armor, adorned with splendid ladies’ favors,
through this brilliant city of the audacious famous Builders
to compete for bright treasure: gold, silver, amber, gemstones.

here the cobblestoned courts clattered;
here the streams gushed forth their abundant waters;
here the baths steamed, hot at their fiery hearts;
here this wondrous wall embraced it all, with its broad *****.

... that was spacious ...



Footnotes and Translator's Comments
by Michael R. Burch

Summary

"The Ruin" is an ancient Anglo-Saxon poem. It appears in the Exeter Book, which has been dated to around 960-990 AD. However, the poem may be older than the manuscript, since many ancient poems were passed down ****** for generations before being written down. The poem is an elegy or lament for the works of "mighty men" of the past that have fallen into disrepair and ruins. Ironically, the poem itself was found in a state of ruin. There are holes in the vellum upon which it was written. It appears that a brand or poker was laid to rest on the venerable book. It is believed the Exeter Book was also used as a cutting board and beer mat. Indeed, we are lucky to have as much of the poem as we do.

Author

The author is an unknown Anglo-Saxon scop (poet).

Genre

"The Ruin" may be classified as an elegy, eulogy, dirge and/or lament, depending on how one interprets it.

Theme

The poem's theme is one common to Anglo-Saxon poetry and literature: that man and his works cannot escape the hands of wyrde (fate), time and death. Thus men can only face the inevitable with courage, resolve, fortitude and resignation. Having visited Bath myself, I can easily understand how the scop who wrote the poem felt, and why, if I am interpreting the poem correctly.

Plot

The plot of "The Ruin" seems rather simple and straightforward: Things fall apart. The author of the poem blames Fate for the destruction he sees. The builders are described as "giants."

Techniques

"The Ruin" is an alliterative poem; it uses alliteration rather than meter and rhyme to "create a flow" of words. This was typical of Anglo-Saxon poetry.

History

When the Romans pulled their legions out of Britain around 400 BC, primarily because they faced increasing threats at home, they left behind a number of immense stone works, including Hadrian's Wall, various roads and bridges, and cities like Bath. Bath, known to the Romans as Aquae Sulis, is the only English city fed by hot springs, so it seems likely that the city in question is Bath. Another theory is that the poem refers to Hadrian's Wall and the baths mentioned were heated artificially. The Saxons, who replaced the Romans as rulers of most of Britain, used stone only for churches and their churches were small. So it seems safe to say that the ruins in question were created by Roman builders.

Interpretation

My personal interpretation of the poem is that the poet is simultaneously impressed by the magnificence of the works he is viewing, and discouraged that even the works of the mighty men of the past have fallen to ruin.

Analysis of Characters and References

There are no characters, per se, only an anonymous speaker describing the ruins and the men he imagines to have built things that have survived so long despite battles and the elements.

Related Poems

Other Anglo-Saxon/Old English poems: The Ruin, Wulf and Eadwacer, The Wife's Lament, Deor's Lament, Caedmon's Hymn, Bede's Death Song, The Seafarer, Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings

Keywords/Tags: Anglo-Saxon, Old English, England, translation, elegy, lament, lamentation, Bath, Roman, giant, giants, medieval, builders, ruin, ruins, wall, walls, fate, mrbtr
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