Nov 192010
 

Cacciaguida urges Dante to speak out

The light in which it had appeared to me,
That jewel of reserve, suddenly flashed
Like a ray of sun in the gold depths of a mirror,

And carried on: “Those alone who blush
Inwardly, at their own or their neighbours’ shame,
Will find your tidings harsh.

But nevertheless, you must stake your claim,
In the teeth of lies, to absolute recall,
And let them scratch whose itch has been inflamed.

And if what you say is hard for them to swallow
At the beginning, let them digest it –
Nourishment will follow.

Let your voice, like a storm-force gust,
Blow louder the higher the peaks it screams off –
You will only be doing yourself proper honour and justice.

That is why, in the giant scheme of things –
The mountain, and the anguished under-valley –
You were allowed to meet only the great and famous,

For the souls of your readers, undecided still,
Will not be convinced, if all they hear
Are unknown stories, good or ill,

Of those whose names have vanished with the years.”

Translated by Harry Clifton

 Comments Off on Dante – from Paradiso, XVII
Nov 192010
 

“Fashion is about eventually being naked”
– Vivienne Westwood

What a strange animal that has to get dressed
every morning!
Born with the free gift of a skin.
using it mainly to lie down in;
to bathe, to bask in the sun, to beget
in a snug. pungent. soft-sided creaturely outfit.
love in it, sleep in it, die in it,

but until then
obsessively live with it
under that pesky Damoclesian ur-question,
What on earth shall I wear?

Just there commenced the pas de deux that
partnered me
with What I really am, despite the battering
I daily took from Please approve of me.
And whether love depended on
plot or scenery.

gender, nation, colour, class, society,
or simply chattering,
one of me dressed to pacify the audience,
while the other, under my skin,
kept faith within.

’Till fashion whispered, “All you need, dear,
is one naked self.
Stress-free, perfect for summer or winter wear,
stretchable outside and in,
cheap, chic, dependable, off the shelf”.
So out I went and bought the latest thing in skin,
sexy as sin.

Since when (shocking the panicky crowd
that can’t tell them apart),
skin wearing skin has been allowed
outside of Art.

 Comments Off on Anne Stevenson : “Fashion is about eventually being naked”
Nov 192010
 

On the days the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.

 Comments Off on Czeslaw Milosz – A Song on the End of the World
Nov 192010
 

This is my plan–(first drinking its good luck)–
I will accept all helps; all I despised
So rashly at the outset, equally
With early impulses, late years have quenched:
I have tried each way singly: now for both!
All helps! no one sort shall exclude the rest.
I seek to know and to enjoy at once,
Not one without the other as before.
Suppose my labour should seem God’s own cause
Once more, as first I dreamed,–it shall not baulk me
Of the meanest earthliest sensualest delight
That may be snatched; for every joy is gain,
And gain is gain, however small. My soul
Can die then, nor be taunted–“what was gained?”
Nor, on the other hand, should pleasure follow
As though I had not spurned her hitherto,
Shall she o’ercloud my spirit’s rapt communion
With the tumultuous past, the teeming future,
Glorious with visions of a full success.

After all, Festus, you say well: I am
A man yet: I need never humble me.
I would have been–something, I know not what;
But though I cannot soar, I do not crawl.
There are worse portions than this one of mine.
You say well!

 Comments Off on Robert Browning – from Paracelsus
Nov 192010
 

translated by Tony Harrison

7
Why this desperation to move heaven and earth
to try to change what’s doled out at your birth,
the lot you’re made a slave by the gods?

Learn to love tranquillity, and against all odds
coax your glum spirit to its share of mirth.

8
Man’s clay, and such a measly bit
and measuring the Infinite!

Leave geography alone, you can’t survey
the paltry area of that poor clay.

Forget the spheres and first assess
not space but your own littleness.

16
God rot the guts and guts’ indulgences.
It’s their fault that sobriety lets go.

19
Loving the rituals that keep men close,
Nature created means for friends apart:

pen, paper, ink, the alphabet,
signs for the distant and disconsolate heart.

32
Nouns <em>and</em> poor grammarians decline.
I’m selling off these rotten books of mine,
my Pindar, my Callimachus, the lot.
I’m a bad ‘case’. It’s poverty I’ve got.
Dorotheus has given me the sack
and slanders me behind my back.

Help me, Theon, or all that’ll stand
between poverty and me’s an &amp;

64
The blacksmith’s quite a logical man
to melt an Eros down and turn
the God of Love into a frying pan,
something that can also burn.

 Comments Off on Palladas – Selections