Jan 252016
 

I made my home amidst this human bustle,
Yet I hear no clamour from the carts and horses.
My friend, you ask me how this can be so?
A distant heart will tend towards like places.
From the eastern hedge, I pluck chrysanthemum flowers,
And idly look towards the southern hills.
The mountain air is beautiful day and night,
The birds fly back to roost with one another.
I know that this must have some deeper meaning,
I try to explain, but cannot find the words.

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Oct 142015
 

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
And he pushed,
And they flew.

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Sep 272015
 

I used to worship the gods grudgingly,
and not often, a wanderer expert
in a crazy wisdom, but now I am forced
to sail back and once again go over

the course I left behind. For Jupiter
who usually parts the clouds with the fire
of his lightning has driven his horses
and his flying chariot across a cloudless sky,

shaking the dull earth and winding rivers,
the Styx and the fearsome halls of hateful Taenarus,
and the Atlantean limits
of the world. God has the power

to exchange high and low, to humble the great,
and bring forward the obscure. With a shrill cry
rapacious Fortune snatches the crown from one head
and delights to lay it on another.

 

– from Odes Book I, XXXIV (trans. David West)

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Sep 242015
 

Life While-You-Wait.
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.

I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.

I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.

Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.

Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run —
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.

If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn’t even clear my throat offstage).

You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.

 Comments Off on Wislawa Szymborska: Life While-You-Wait
Sep 202015
 

SONG VIII.
Love is Lord of all.

Why are Nature’s changes bound
To a fixed and ordered round?
What to leaguèd peace hath bent
Every warring element?
Wherefore doth the rosy morn
Rise on Phœbus’ car upborne?
Why should Phœbe rule the night,
Led by Hesper’s guiding light?
What the power that doth restrain
In his place the restless main,
That within fixed bounds he keeps,
Nor o’er earth in deluge sweeps?
Love it is that holds the chains,
Love o’er sea and earth that reigns;
Love—whom else but sovereign Love?—
Love, high lord in heaven above!
Yet should he his care remit,
All that now so close is knit
In sweet love and holy peace,
Would no more from conflict cease,
But with strife’s rude shock and jar
All the world’s fair fabric mar.
Tribes and nations Love unites
By just treaty’s sacred rites;
Wedlock’s bonds he sanctifies
By affection’s softest ties.
Love appointeth, as is due,
Faithful laws to comrades true—
Love, all-sovereign Love!—oh, then,
Ye are blest, ye sons of men,
If the love that rules the sky
In your hearts is throned on high!

– from Consolations of Philosophy, Bk. II.8

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