“At my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…” – A poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

A Dance to the Music of Time, by Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665)

A Dance to the Music of Time, by Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665)

To his Coy Mistress
by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

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Poets previously published @ Awestruck Wanderer:

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Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

jorge-luis-borges

Portions
from El Otro, El Mismo (1964)
by Jorge Luis Borges

[translated by DK Fennell]

Among the streets that sink in the West,
There will be one (I don’t know which) that I’ve crossed
For the very last time, unconcerned
And without foreseeing it, acquiescing

To Him Who determines almighty rules
And a secret and inflexible standard
For the shades, the dreams, the shapes
Which unravel and weave this life.

If all things have an end and there is a stipulated portion
And last time and nothing more and oblivion,
Who will tell us to whom in this house,
Without knowing it, we have bid farewell?

Outside the pane already grey the night lets up,
And from the pile of books which casts
A deformed shade on the indistinct table,
There will be some which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one broken entrance gate
With cement vases
And prickly pears, which I am forbidden to enter
As if it were a lithograph.

You have forever closed some door
And there is a mirror which waits for you in vain;
The crossroads seem open to you
But Janus, four-faced, guards them.

There is, among all your memories, one
Which is lost, irretrievably.
You will not be seen descending to that fountain
By either the white sun or the yellow moon.

Your voice will never repeat what the Persian
In his tongue said of birds and roses,
When, at sunset, before the scattered light,
You wish to say unforgettable things.

And the uninterrupted Rhône and the lake,
All that yesterday on which today I incline?
It will be as lost as Carthage
Which with fire and salt the Latins wiped out.

At dawn I think I hear a busy
Mulling of crowds moving away;
They are those who loved and forgot me;
Space and time and Borges now leave me.

Borges

Limites
from El Otro, El Mismo (1964)
by Jorge Luis Borges

De estas calles que ahondan el poniente,
Una habrá (no sé cuál) que he recorrido
Ya por última vez, indiferente
Y sin adivinarlo, sometido

A Quién prefija omnipotentes normas
Y una secreta y rigida medida
A las sombras, los sueños y las formas
Que destejen y tejen esta vida.

Si para todo hay término y hay tasa
Y última vez y nunca más y olvido
¿Quién nos dirá de quién, en esta casa,
Sin saberlo, no hemos despedido?

Tras el cristal ya gris la noche cesa
Y del alto de libros que una trunca
Sombra dilata por la vaga mesa,
Alguno habrá que no leeremos nunca.

Hay en el Sur más de un portón gastado
Con sus jarrones de mampostería
Y tunas, que a mi paso está vedado
Como si fuera una litografía.

Para siempre cerraste alguna puera
Y hay un espejo que te aguarda en vano;
La encrucijada te parece abierta
Y la vigila, cuadrifronte, Jano.

Hay, entre todas tus memorias, una
Que se ha perdido irreparablemente;
No te verán bajar a aquella fuente
Ni el blanco sol ni la amarilla luna.

No volverá tu voz a lo que el persa
Dijo en su lengua de aves y de rosas,
Cuando al ocaso, ante la luz dispersa,
Quieras decir inolvidables cosas.

¿Y el incesante Ródano y el lago,
Todo ese ayer sobre el cual hoy me inclino?
Tan perdido estrá como Cartago
Que con fuego y con sal borró el latino.

Creo en el alba oír un atareado
Rumor de multitudes que se alejan;
Son lo que me ha querido y olvidado;
Espcio y tiempo y Borges ya me dejan.

936full-jorge-luis-borges

Poets previously published @ Awestruck Wanderer:

“Water Never The Same”, a sonnet by Jean-Baptiste Chassignet (1571-1635)

Starry_Night_Over_the_Rhone

Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone

WATER NEVER THE SAME

Beside a flowing river sit and gaze,
And see how it perpetually runs
In wave on wave, in many thousand turns,
As through the fields it takes its fluid ways.

Thou’lt never see again the wave which first
Flow’d by thee; water never the same;
It passes day by day, although the name
Of water and of river doth persist.

So changes man, and will not be tomorrow
That which he is today, he cannot borrow
That strenght which time doth alter and consume:

Until our death one name we do retain;
Although today no parcel doth remain
Of what I was, the name I still assume.

* * * * *

ASSIEDS-TOI SUR LE BORD D’UNE ONDANTE RIVIÈRE

Assieds-toi sur le bord d’une ondante rivière :
Tu la verras fluer d’un perpétuel cours,
Et flots sur flots roulant en mille et mille tours
Décharger par les prés son humide carrière.

Mais tu ne verras rien de cette onde première
Qui naguère coulait ; l’eau change tous les jours,
Tous les jours elle passe, et la nommons toujours
Même fleuve, et même eau, d’une même manière.

Ainsi l’homme varie, et ne sera demain
Telle comme aujourd’hui du pauvre corps humain
La force que le temps abrévie et consomme :

Le nom sans varier nous suit jusqu’au trépas,
Et combien qu’aujourd’hui celui ne sois-je pas
Qui vivais hier passé, toujours même on me nomme.

JEAN-BAPTISTE CHASSIGNET
English translation by Frank Warnke

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Poets previously published @ Awestruck Wanderer:

R.I.P. Maya Angelou (1928-2014) – She knew why the caged birds sing…

maya-angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

MAYA ANGELOU

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You might also enjoy:

“Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave?” – A poem about Life and Death, by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

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Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave?
Thomas Hardy

“Ah, are you digging on my grave 
          My loved one? — planting rue?” 
— “No, yesterday he went to wed 
One of the brightest wealth has bred. 
‘It cannot hurt her now,’ he said, 
          ‘That I should not be true.'” 

“Then who is digging on my grave?
My nearest dearest kin?”
— “Ah, no; they sit and think, ‘What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death’s gin.’ “

“But some one digs upon my grave?
My enemy? — prodding sly?”
— “Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie.”

“Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say — since I have not guessed!”
— “O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?”

“Ah yes! You  dig upon my grave . . .
Why flashed it not on me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog’s fidelity!”

“Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting-place.”

* * * * *

You might also enjoy, as companion piece,
THOMAS HARDY’S Afterwards (poem)
(With comments by JOSEPH BRODKSY
)
* * * * *

And if these words have turned you gloomy, cheer up a bit,
cherished readers, with The Ramones’s Punk Hymn…

“Verses in April”, by Joseph Brodsky

Brodsky

Before April – “the cruellest of months” – is gone, I’d like to share a marvellous poem by comrade Brodsky, whose calid words helped me out a lot in the task of not going mad during the previous months of frosty temperatures. Reading his poems has been a solace to keep me sane through the whirlwinds and snowstorms and frozen landscapes of my first Canadian winter. It was hardcore winter, for sure, and I wish myself well at the coming of spring!…

VERSES IN APRIL
by Joseph Brodsky (April 1969)

Once again this past winter
I did not go mad. As for winter itself –
one glances; it’s gone. But I can divide
the din of ice cracking from the green
shroud of earth. So I’m sane.
I wish myself well
at the coming of spring;
blinded by the Fontanka (1),
I break myself up into dozens of parts.
I run my flat hand
up and over my face. The snow-crust is settling
in my brain, as it does in the woods.

Having lived to the time of gray hairs,
I observe how a tug threads its way,
among ice floes, toward open sea.
For me
to forgive you in writing would be
just as harsh and unfair
as to charge you with wrong.
Please excuse me
for this lofty style:
though there’s no end to our discontent,
there’s an end to our winters (2).
For the essence of change lies in this –
in the wrangling of Muses who swarm
at Mnemosyne’s banquet.

 

NOTES

(1) The Fontanka is one of the majors rivers in Leningrad, the other being the Neva. In April its surface would be “blinding” because still covered with ice.

(2) Cf. the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III:
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.

The Myth of Prometheus: a poem by Goethe, a painting by Rubens, music by Schubert and Hugo Wolf…


Prometheus (1774)
by Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)


Hide your heavens, Zeus,
in cloudy vapours
and practise your stroke, like a boy
beheading thistles,
on oaktrees and mountain summits;
still you must leave me
my steady earth,
and my hut, not built by you,
and my hearth,
whose warm glow
you envy me.

I know nothing more pitiful
under the sun than you Gods!
You feed your splendour
pathetically
on expensive sacrifices
and the breath of prayers
and would starve, were not
children and beggars
fools full of hope.

When I was a child,
not knowing out from in,
I turned my bewildered gaze
to the sun, as if there might be above it
an ear to hear my sorrow,
a heart like mine
to have mercy on the afflicted.

Who helped me
against the overweening Titans?
Who rescued me from death,
from slavery?
Was it not you, my holy glowing heart,
who did it all?
and young and good, deceived,
glowed thanks for rescue
to the slumberer in the heavens?

I, worship you? What for?
Did you ever relieve
the ache of the heavy-laden?
Did you ever wipe away
the tears of the terror-stricken?
Was I not hammered into the shape of Man
by almighty Time
and eternal Destiny,
my masters, and yours?

No doubt you supposed
I should hate life,
flee to the desert,
because not every
blossom of dream became fruit?

Here I sit, make men
on my own pattern,
a breed to resemble me,
to suffer pain, to weep,
to feel pleasure and joy,
and, like me,
to pay you no attention!

* * * * *

Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Translated by D.M. Black
Modern Poetry in Translation
New Series, No. 16 (2000)
Read it in German or Portuguese

Prometheus depicted in a sculpture by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam, 1762 (Louvre)

Prometheus depicted in a sculpture by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam, 1762 (Louvre)

Music by Hugo Wolf (1889):

Music by Franz Schubert (1819):

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Poets previously published on Awestruck Wanderer: