Friday, September 1, 2017

three poems translated from rilke's french

Rainer Maria Rilke (left) and Paul Valéry, at Anthy, Switzerland, in September, 1926. Valéry was, perhaps, the living poet whom Rilke most admired. Rilke had published a superb translation of "Le Cimetière marin" in 1921, followed by German renderings of other works by Valéry, enough for a volume, Paul Valéry: Gedichte, which appeared the year before this photograph was taken. Valéry could not read German and had no experience of Rilke's German poems in their original language, but he expressed admiration for the poems in French that Rilke was writing feverishly during these years and had published several of them in his magazine, Commerce. The two poets look happy, which is always rare enough in photographs of Rilke, and which might serve as an indication of his pleasure in meeting Valéry, especially considering that Rilke was already suffering quite badly from leukemia. He died in December of this same year.

My translations of three of Rilke's French poems are online today at

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Day After We Sold the World

Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run, 2 June 2017

I have a poem today at the blog of The Dark Mountain Project

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Empire (a new poem)

Grand Marsh, near Kingsbury, Indiana, 2011

a new poem, "Empire," is online at One

with grief, i have to note that the poem is grounded in this news item from earlier this year

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Epitaph for Petrarch's Cat

Unattributed photo from Petrarch's house at Arqua, in the Euganean Hills

Epitaph for Petrarch's Cat, Embalmed and Mounted
Antonio Quarenghi (17th century)

The Tuscan poet burned with a twin love,
but yet his Laura was second to me.
Why laugh? Her heavenly beauty was enough
to make her worthy --- so was my fidelity.
She inspired verses and genius for his poems,
which, thanks to me, were no cruel rodents' prey.
Alive, I drove the mice from his sacred tomes,
lest words be food when the master was away.
Dead, I strike fear in those cowards just as well,
my faithfulness still quick in this lifeless shell.

(my translation)

Etruscus gemino vates ardebat amore:
Maximus ignis ego; Laura secundus erat.
Quid rides? divinæ illam si gratia formæ,
Me dignam eximio fecit amante fides.
Si numeros geniumque sacris dedit illa libellis
Causa ego ne sævis muribus esca forent.
Arcebam sacro vivens à limine mures,
Ne domini exitio scripta diserta forent;
Incutio trepidis eadem defuncta pavorem,
Et viget exanimi in corpore prisca fides.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

gray dawn on dawn-gray wing

1982: I

Dream ended, I went out, awake
To new snow fallen in the dark,
Stainless on road and field, no track
Yet printed on my day of work.

I heard the wild ones muttering,
Assent their dark arrival made
At dawn, gray dawn on dawn-gray wing
Outstretched, shadowless in that shade,

Down from high distances arrived
Within the shelter of the hill;
The river shuddered as they cleaved
Its surface, floated, and were still.

-- Wendell Berry
This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems

Friday, March 17, 2017

Martial, 10:61 --- An Epitaph for Erotion

Mourning statues at the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa
Creative Commons license via Pixabay

An Epitaph for Erotion, a Child of Five

Here, in early dark, Erotion sleeps through death.
Her thieving, sixth winter reft her away.
Who governs this field, after my last day,
please keep the yearly rites for her frail wraith ---
then your house and people will thrive, the one
grieving thing in all your acres be this stone.

(my translation)

Martial, 10:61

Hic festinata requiescit Erotion umbra,
Crimine quam fati sexta peremit hiems.
Quisquis eris nostri post me regnator agelli,
Manibus exiguis annus iusta dato:
Sic lare perpetuo, sic turba sospite solus
Flebilis in terra sit lapis iste tua.