Monday, February 20, 2012

Pebble, a poem by Zbigniew Herbert.

Post 657 - Zbigniew Herbert was born in 1924 in Lvov, which was then in eastern Poland but is currently in the Ukraine. In a world which seems confusing to many, Herbert’s honesty and clarity are perhaps unparalleled among poets. He would be my choice as the most under-appreciated poet of our times.


The pebble 

is a perfect creature

equal to itself 

mindful of its limits

filled exactly 

with a pebbly meaning

with a scent that does not remind one of anything 

does not frighten anything away does not arouse desire

its ardour and coldness 

are just and full of dignity

I feel a heavy remorse 

when I hold it in my hand 

and its noble body 

is permeated by false warmth

- Pebbles cannot be tamed 

to the end they will look at us 

with a calm and very clear eye

Translated by Peter Dale Scott and Czeslaw Milosz

Monday, February 13, 2012

Their Lonely Betters, a poem by W.H. Auden.

Post 656 - Their Lonely Betters by W.H. Auden.

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through

The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew, 

And rustling flowers for some third party waited

To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying, 

There was not one which knew that it was dying

Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme

Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters

Who count some days and long for certain letters; 

We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep: 

Words are for those with promises to keep.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

If You Forget Me, a poem by Pablo Neruda.

Post 655 - Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973) was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet, diplomat and politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pen name after Czech poet Jan Neruda. The Italian film Il Postino, inspired by Antonio Skármeta's 1985 novel Ardiente Paciencia (Ardent Patience, later known as El cartero de Neruda, or Neruda's Postman), centres on the story of Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) living in exile on Salina Island near Sicily during the 1950s. While there, he befriends the local postman and inspires in him a love of poetry.

If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda.

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Clouds, a poem by Wisława Szymborska.

Post 654 - Sad news today about Wisława Szymborska (2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012). Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Prowent in Western Poland, she lived in Kraków from 1931 until the end of her life today when she died peacefully in her sleep.
Some of her prizes and awards include:
• 1954: The City of Kraków Prize for Literature
• 1963: The Polish Ministry of Culture Prize
• 1991: The Goethe Prize
• 1995: The Herder Prize
• 1995: Honorary Doctor of the Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznań)
• 1996: The Polish PEN Club prize
• 1996: Nobel Prize for Literature

Clouds by Wisława Szymborska.

I’d have to be really quick
to describe clouds -
a split second’s enough
for them to start being something else.

Their trademark:
they don’t repeat a single
shape, shade, pose, arrangement.

Unburdened by memory of any kind,
they float easily over the facts.

What on earth could they bear witness to?
They scatter whenever something happens.

Compared to clouds,
life rests on solid ground,
practically permanent, almost eternal.

Next to clouds
even a stone seems like a brother,
someone you can trust,
while they’re just distant, flighty cousins.

Let people exist if they want,
and then die, one after another:
clouds simply don't care
what they're up to
down there.

And so their haughty fleet
cruises smoothly over your whole life
and mine, still incomplete.

They aren't obliged to vanish when we're gone.
They don't have to be seen while sailing on.

Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.