Archive for August, 2009

Rudyard Kipling (English, 1865-1936)

Rudyard Kipling (English, 1865-1936)

Gunga Din

You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ‘Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
He was “Din! Din! Din!
You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! slippery hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao!
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.”

The uniform ‘e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ‘arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ‘e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ‘eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted “Harry By!”
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ‘im ’cause ‘e couldn’t serve us all.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?
You put some juldee in it
Or I’ll marrow you this minute
If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!”

‘E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ‘e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
‘E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.
With ‘is mussick on ‘is back,
‘E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made “Retire”,
An’ for all ‘is dirty ‘ide
‘E was white, clear white, inside
When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire!
It was “Din! Din! Din!”
With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-files shout,
“Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!”

I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ‘a’ been.
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.
‘E lifted up my ‘ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ‘e guv me ‘arf-a-pint o’ water-green:
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
‘Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ‘is spleen;
‘E’s chawin’ up the ground,
An’ ‘e’s kickin’ all around:
For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!”

‘E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
‘E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ‘e died,
“I ‘ope you liked your drink”, sez Gunga Din.
So I’ll meet ‘im later on
At the place where ‘e is gone —
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen;
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

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The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)

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Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

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Giosuè Carducci (Italian, 1835-1907)

Giosuè Carducci (Italian, 1835-1907)

At the Station One Autumn Morning

Oh how those lamps are pursuing each other
Under the tall trees lazily yonder,
On miry road sleepily spreading
Their light through branches dripping with raindrops.
Plaintively, shrilly and stridently whistles
The steam belched from the engine near by. Leaden
The sky, and the morning autumnal
Like a huge phantom over all hovers.
Whither and to what goal do these people
Hasten along, closely muffled and silent
To the dark cars? To what unknown sorrows,
To what vain torments of hope long deferred?
Thou, pensive Lydia, givest thy ticket
To the swift sharp clip of the guard; thou givest
Thy best years to Time, the pursuer,
Thy moments enjoyed, thy remembrances.
By the side of the black train inspectors,
Black hooded, pass along coming and going,
Like shadows; dim lanterns they carry
And long rods of iron, and the iron
Brakes rapidly tested like a knell sounding,
Long and lugubrious, while a sad echo
From the depths of the soul responded
Like a spasm of pain in its dullness.
Then the doors harshly slammed to in the shutting
Seem insults; mocking, the call for departure,
The last summons, sounds rapid alarm;
On the panes great raindrops are beating.
Lo! of his metallic soul now become conscious,
The monster shudders, snorts, pants and opening
Eyes of flame, hurls into the darkness
Long whistles loud, space shrilly challenging,
His hideous length trailing starts the fell monster,
Bears away my love with his wings wide flapping.
Ah, that pale face and farewell flutter
Of veil vanishing into the darkness.
O gentle face softened in roseate pallor!
O eyes, ye stars that are with peace all radiant!
O pure white brow, by locks abundant
Shaded, in gracious attitude inclining!
Life thrilled the warm air when thine eyes shone on me;
And in thy smile hot summer palpitated,
And the young sun of June delighted
In bestowal of luminous kisses
Between the clustering chestnut curls’ warm shadow,
On the tender bloom of the soft cheek; brighter
Than any sun my dreams surround the
Fair form with an aureole of glory.
Now under the rain and into the dark mist
I return, and fain with them would I mingle:
I reel as one drunk, and I touch me
Lest I too might be naught but a phantom.
O what a falling of leaves never-ending,
Chilly, silent, heavy on my soul; methinks
That the world around me for ever
Has become all-pervading November.
Better for him who has lost sense of being,
Better this gloom, better this mist low lowering,
I would, I would lay me down in a
Dullness of calm that should last for ever.

Alla stazione in una mattina d`autunno

Oh quei fanali come s’inseguono
accidiosi là dietro gli alberi,
tra i rami stillanti di pioggia
sbadigliando la luce su ‘l fango!
Flebile, acuta, stridula fischia
la vaporiera da presso. Plumbeo
il cielo e il mattino d’autunno
come un grande fantasma n’è intorno.
Dove e a che move questa, che affrettasi
a’ carri foschi, ravvolta e tacita
gente? a che ignoti dolori
o tormenti di speme lontana?
Tu pur pensosa, Lidia, la tessera
al secco taglio dài de la guardia,
e al tempo incalzante i begli anni
dài, gl’istanti gioiti e i ricordi.
Van lungo il nero convoglio e vengono
incappucciati di nero i vigili
com’ombre; una fioca lanterna
hanno, e mazze di ferro: ed i ferrei
freni tentati rendono un lugubre
rintocco lungo: di fondo a l’anima
un’eco di tedio risponde
doloroso, che spasimo pare.
E gli sportelli sbattuti al chiudere
paion oltraggi: scherno par l’ultimo
appello che rapido suona:
grossa scroscia su’ vetri la pioggia.
Già il mostro, conscio di sua metallica
anima, sbuffa, crolla, ansa, i fiammei
occhi sbarra; immane pe ‘l buio
gitta il fischio che sfida lo spazio.
Va l’empio mostro; con traino orribile
sbattendo l’ale gli amor miei portasi.
Ahi, la bianca faccia e ‘l bel velo
salutando scompar ne la tenebra.
O viso dolce di pallor roseo,
o stellanti occhi di pace, o candida
tra’ floridi ricci inchinata
pura fronte con atto soave!
Fremea la vita nel tepid’aere,
fremea l’estate quando mi arrisero;
e il giovine sole di giugno
si piacea di baciar luminoso
in tra i riflessi del crin castanei
la molle guancia: come un’aureola
piú belli del sole i miei sogni
ricingean la persona gentile.
Sotto la pioggia, tra la caligine
torno ora, e ad esse vorrei confondermi;
barcollo com’ebro, e mi tocco,
non anch’io fossi dunque un fantasma.
Oh qual caduta di foglie, gelida,
continua, muta, greve, su l’anima!
Io credo che solo, che eterno,
che per tutto nel mondo è novembre.
Meglio a chi ‘l senso smarrì de l’essere,
meglio quest’ombra, questa caligine:
io voglio io voglio adagiarmi
in un tedio che duri infinito.
Translated by Emily Tribe

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Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
by Shel Silverstein (born 1930)

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The Boy Band

We had a band for a while called The Evil Twin. It was
me and Eddie and Johnny and Parker and a guy called Android
from Tylersville. We were pretty good. Eddie and I had a little
house where we practiced, and Johnny had the van for traveling
to our gigs. Android played drums, and he was a little scary.
In fact, he was awesome, and he was sure we were going to be
would famous some day, the sooner the better. Johnny was our
lead singer, and he was good in his way, always working on his
moves, checking out the girls. Eddie and I wrote the songs.
I’d roll out of bed with a phrase on my mind and start searching
for the chords. He’d pick up his bass and join in. It was a work
of love. We had managed to record one CD with a very small label.
We had a party when it came out and invited all of our friends,
and everybody who’d been supportive of us. And, naturally, we
were playing the CD and whooping it up and yelling along with it.
It sounded really good. but when the fifth song came on, “You
Misty-eyed Devil,” something strange happened, was happening.
There was a girl’s voice right behind Johnny’s, and was, like
from another world. A high, soft soprano voice that twirled
around his, kind of making love to it, and disappearing into
clouds. She was mesmerizing. We looked at the sound engineer,
Gordon, but he looked as bewildered as we did. “Who the hell is
that?” I said. “How should I know. She wasn’t there when I mixed
it I can swear to that,” he said. “She’s amazing,” Johnny said.
“We need her. I want to know her name, how we can get in touch
with her.” The party went on, but we couldn’t get her out of our
minds. Johnny was obsessed with her, and so was I. She was perfect.
She was just what we needed. And, of course, that was the song
that the radio started playing, not just locally, but all over the
country. We were traveling more than ever now. And whenever
we’d play that song, it was obvious that the crowds were waiting
for the girl to join Johnny onstage. Once, when we were being
interviewed by a big, national magazine, we were asked about her,
and I said, “She’s Johnny’s evil twin. We never know when she might
show up. She might be dead for all we know. She just comes back to
haunt Johnny whenever she feels like it.” They loved that, and
it was repeated in many articles on us over the next year. Android
was thriving on our growing fame, and one night he asked that we
place a voice mic by his drums. When Johnny started singing
“Misty-eyed Devil,” Android joined in a voice that was shockingly
like the girl’s, so feminine, so sexy, who could have ever believed
it. The audience went crazy. After the concert, we questioned
him about it. He said, “I just suspected she had moved into me,
I could feel her there, wanting to sing. So I took a chance.”
“Is she still there?” I said. “I don’t know,” he said. Eddie
was skeptical about it all. He hated the mystique that was beginning
to surround the band. There was too much talk about the girl.
“There is no fucking girl in this band. Look at us. Do you see
a girl? There is no girl,” he said. I had to agree with him
but then there was this problem, this thing we couldn’t control,
which was at least partially working in our favor. We cut a new
CD, and she showed up on three songs, more beautiful than ever,
and it was a big hit. Android kept the voice mic near him, and
now and then she would show up and sing through him. He always
knew when she was there. The audiences loved us, even when she
wasn’t there. But it was clear that she was the star, a temperamental,
unreliable one, never seen, known by no one, perhaps even dead,
unimaginably beautiful twin.
James Tate (born 1943)

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Henryk Sienkiewicz  (Polish, 1846-1916)

Henryk Sienkiewicz (Polish, 1846-1916)

Sientkiewicz won the Nobel Prize for his novel Quo Vadis (which means “Where are you going?”). The epic is a story about power overcome by faith, about faith, which brought love, about love which changed Rome. It is a tale of early Christian persecution at the hands of the Roman Emperor, Nero. Sienkiewicz wrote his Trilogy for the purpose of “uplifting the hearts” of his countrymen at a time when Poland did not exist as an independent country.


The novel was made into a movie. Here is the opening paragraph from the book: It was close to noon before Petronius came awake, feeling as drained and listless and detached as always. He was a guest at one of Nero’s banquets the evening before and the orgy dragged on late into the night, and his health hadn’t been all that good anyway for some time. He told himself that waking in the morning was a kind of mental and physical paralysis where neither his mind nor his body was capable of action. but an hour or two spent at his private baths, followed by a thorough kneading of his flesh by skilled slave masseurs, gradually quickened the sluggish flow of blood in his veins, roused him, revitalized him and restored his strength so that he would leave the anointing room as if resurrected, with eyes full of wit and aglow with humor, restored to youth, full of life again, so incomparable in his poise, fastidiousness and brilliance that even Otho couldn’t match his style; he would be truly what everyone said he was: the undisputed arbiter of all that was elegant and tasteful.
translated by W.S. Kuniczak

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Bierstadt Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, elevation 9,416 ft.

For the last three days I’ve been hiking in the Colorado Rockies. Last night I lay under a blanket looking up at the stars. They fall out of the sky every few minutes when you see them clustered together in a sky from the top of a mountain. This photo was taken where I sit writing this, looking out on the continental divide.


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Frédéric Mistral (French, 1830-1914)

Frédéric Mistral (French, 1830-1914)

“Car, d’aquesto ouro, ounto es la raro
Que di delice nous separo,
Jouine, amourous que siam, libre coume d’aucèu?
Regardo: la Naturo brulo
A noste entour, e se barrulo
Dins li bras de l’Estiéu, e chulo
Lou devourant alen de soun nòve roussèu.
“Li serre clar e blu, li colo
Palo de la calour e molo,
Boulegon trefouli si mourre…. Ve la mar:
Courouso e lindo coumo un vèire,
Dòu grand soulèu i rai bevèire
Enjusqu’au founs se laisso vèire,
Se laisso coutiga pèr lou Rose e lou Var.”

“For now, where is the limit that separates us from joy, young, amorous as we are, free as birds! Look: Nature burns around us and rolls in the arms of Summer, and drinks in the devouring breath of her ruddy spouse. The clear, blue peaks, the hills, pale and soft with the heat, are thrilled and stir their rounding summits. Behold the sea, glistening and limpid as glass; in the thirsty rays of the great sun, she allows herself to be seen clear to the bottom, to be caressed by the Rhone and the Var.”

From Mirèio, by Frédéric Mistral (French, 1830-1913),
translated from the Provencal (a dialect of French) by Charles Alfred Downer

José Echegaray (Spain, 1833-1916)

José Echegaray (Spanish, 1833-1916)

Two monologues from separate scenes from The great Galeoto: Folly or saintliness; two plays by José Echegaray

Monologue by Don Lorenzo:

Don Lorenzo: [Aside] Now they will see how my madness is going to end. Before I leave this house with what a hearty pleasure will I kick that doctor out. Fresh vigour already animates me. What! Since when has it become reason sufficient to declare a man mad because he is resolved to perform his duty ? Ah, that’s not very likely. Humanity is neither so blind nor so base, though it is bad enough. Softly now. Treason has begun its work ; then let the punishment begin too. [A loud] The hour has come for me to accomplish a sacred obligation, however sharp a sorrow it may be. It were a useless trouble to insist upon your presence at the necessary legal formalities. It would only bore you. The representative of law awaits me in yonder room. I, in obeying a higher law, am about to renounce a fortune that is not mine, as well as a name that neither I nor my family can any longer bear with a clear conscience. Afterwards I will return here, and with my wife and— and—my daughter, will leave this house, which in the past has only sheltered love and felicity, and to-day offers me nothing but treason and wickedness. Let no one seek to prevent me, for none of you can resist my will. Gentlemen [to Dr. Tomds and Bermudez], do me the favour to go before—I beg you. [All slowly enter closet R. On the threshold Don Lorenzo looks back once at Ines]

Monologue by Pepito:

Pepito: Well, here’s a mess; and a useless mess, too. Just the same, no matter what my uncle may say, it was sheer madness to have a young girl as beautiful as the sun under the same roof, in almost continual contact with Ernesto, who is a handsome fellow with a soul all of fire, and a head full of romance. He swears there is nothing between them but the purest sort of friendship, that he loves her like a sister, and that my uncle is a father to him. But I’m pretty sharp, and though I am young, I know a thing or two about this world, and I don’t put much faith in this brother-and-sister business; particularly where the brother is so young, and the relationship fictitious. But suppose this affection is all they say it is, how are other people to know that? Have they signed any pledge always to think well of every one? Don’t they see them together all the time–in the theater–in the park? Well, the person who saw them, saw them, and when he saw them, he told about it. Ernesto swore to me, “No.” They had almost never gone about in that way. Did he go once? Well, that’s enough. If a hundred people saw them that day, they might as well have appeared in public not once, but a hundred different times. Are people bound to examine their witnesses and compare their dates to find out whether it was many times or only once that they went out together, she with her innocent sympathy, and he with his brotherly affection? Such a demand would be altogether ridiculous. They all tell what they’ve seen, and they’re not lying when they tell it. “I saw them once. I saw them as well.” One and one make two. There’s no way out. “And I saw them, too.” There you have three already. And this man, four; and that one, five. And so, adding up in all good faith, you go on indefinitely. And they saw because they looked. In short, because naturally one uses one’s senses and doesn’t stop to ask permission. So let him look after himself and remember that nowadays he who avoids the appearance of evil, avoids the slander and the danger. And notice, I am admitting the purity of their affection; and that is a very important point; for, between ourselves, I must admit that to be near Teodora and not to love her, one must be as steady as a rock. He may be a scholar, and a philosopher, and a mathematician, and a physicist; but he’s human, and she’s divine!

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Company of Moths

We thought it could all be found in The Book of Poor Text,
the shadow the boat casts, angled mast, fretted wake, indigo eye.

Windows of the blind text,
keening, parabolic nights.

And the rolling sun, sun tumbling
into then under, company of moths.

Can you hear what I’m thinking, from there, even as you sleep?
Streets of the Poor Text, where a child’s gaze falls

on the corpse of a horse beside a cart,
whimpering dog, woman’s mute mouth agape

as if to say, We must move on,
we must not stop, we must not watch.

For after all, do the dead watch us?
To memorize precisely the tint of a plum,

curve of a body at rest (sun again),
the words to each popular song,

surely that would be enough.
For are you not familiar with these crows by the shore?

Did you not call them sea crows once?
Did we not discuss the meaning of “as the crow flies”

one day in that square — station of exile — under the reddest
of suns? And then, almost as one, we said, It’s time.

And a plate shattered, a spoon fell to the floor,
towels in a heap by the door.

Drifts of cloud over
steeples from the west.

Faith in the Poor Text.
Outline of stuff left behind.
Michael Palmer (born 1943)

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