Nov 192010

Take care the engraving’s artistically done.
Expression grave and majestic.
The diadem better rather narrow;
I don’t care for those wide ones, the Parthian kind.
The inscription, as usual, in Greek:
nothing excessive, nothing grandiose-
the proconsul mustn’t get the wrong idea,
he sniffs out everything and reports it back to Rome-
but of course it should still do me credit.
Something really choice on the other side:
some lovely discus-thrower lad.
Above all, I urge you, see to it
(Sithaspes, by the god, don’t let them forget)
that after the “King” and the “Savior”
the engraving should say, in elegant letters, “Philhellene.”
Now don’t start in on me with your quips,
Your “where are the Greeks?” and “what’s Greek
here, behind the Zágros, beyond Phráata?”
Many, many others, more oriental than ourselves,
write it, and so we’ll write it too.
And after all, don’t forget that now and then
sophists come to us from Syria,
and versifiers, and other devotees of puffery.
Hence unhellenized we are not, I rather think.

(Translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn)

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Nov 192010

(after Rilke)

A merry-go-round of freshly painted horses
sprung from a childish world vividly bright
before dispersing in adult oblivion
and losing its quaint legendary light
spins in the shadows of a burbling circus.
Some draw toy coaches but remain upright;
a roebuck flashes past, a fierce red lion
and every time an elephant ivory-white.

As if down in the forest of Fontainebleau
a little girl wrapped up in royal blue
rides round on a unicorn; a valiant son
hangs on to the lion with a frantic laugh,
hot fists gripping the handles for dear life;
then that white elephant with ivory tusks –
an intense scrum of scarves and rumpled socks
though the great whirligig is just for fun.

The ring revolves until the time runs out,
squealing excitedly to the final shout
as pop-eyed children gasp there in their grey
jackets and skirts, wild bobble and beret.
Now you can study faces, different types,
the tiny features starting to take shape
with proud, heroic grins for the grown-ups,
shining and blind as if from a mad scrape.

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Nov 192010

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks:
With silken lines, and silver hooks.

There will the river whispering run
Warm’d by thy eyes, more then the Sun.
And there th’inamored fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.

When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channel hath,
Will amorously to thee swim,
Gladder to catch thee than thou him.

If thou, to be so seen, beest loth,
By Sun, or Moon, thou darknest both,
And if my self have leave to see,
I need not their light, having thee.

Let others freeze with angling reeds,
And cut their legs with shells and weeds,
Or treacherously poor fish beset,
With strangling snare, or windowy net:

Let coarse bold hands, from slimy nest
The bedded fish in banks out-wrest,
Or curious traitors, sleavesilke flies
Bewitch poor fishes wandering eyes.

For thee, thou needst no such deceit,
For thou thyself art thine own bait;
That fish, that is not catched thereby,
Alas, is wiser far than I.

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Nov 192010

My Masters

My masters are not infallible.
They’re neither Goethe,
who had a sleepless night
only when distant volcanoes moaned, nor Horace,
who wrote in the language of gods
and altar boys. My masters
seek my advice. In fleecy
overcoats hurriedly slipped on
over their dreams, at dawn, when
the cool wind interrogates the birds,
my masters talk in whispers.
I can hear their broken speech.

Kierkegaard on Hegel

Kierkegaard said of Hegel: He reminds me of someone
who builds an enormous castle but live himself
in a storehouse next to the construction.
The mind, by the same token, dwells in
the modest quarters of the skull,
and those glorious states
which were promised us are covered
with spiderwebs, for the time being we should enjoy
a cramped cell in the jailhouse, a prisoner’s song,
the good mood of a customs officer, the fist
of a cop. We live in longing. In our dreams,
locks and bolts open up. Who didn’t find shelter
in the huge looks to the small. God
is the smallest poppy seed in the world,
bursting with greatness.

translated by Renata Gorczynski

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Nov 192010

Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider’d all with leaves of myrtle.

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my Love.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my Love.

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