The Perceval Press Anthology of Verse 2010

June 2010

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The Sphinx
The Sphinx is drowsy,
Her wings are furled:
Her ear is heavy,
She broods on the world.
"Who'll tell me my secret,
The ages have kept?--
I awaited the seer
While they slumbered and slept:--

"The fate of the man-child,
The meaning of man;
Known fruit of the unknown;
Daedalian plan;
Out of sleeping a waking,
Out of waking a sleep;
Life death overtaking;
Deep underneath deep?

:Erect as a sunbeam,
Upspringeth the palm;
The elephant browses,
Undaunted and calm;
In beautiful motion
The thrush plies his wings;
Kind leaves of his covert,
Your silence he sings.

"The waves, unashaméd,
In difference sweet,
Play glad with the breezes,
Old playfellows meet;
The journeying atoms,
Primordial wholes,
Firmly draw, firmly drive,
By their animate poles.

"Sea, earth, air, sound, silence,
Plant, quadruped, bird,
By one music enchanted,
One deity stirred,--
Each the other adorning,
Accompany still;
Night veileth the morning,
The vapor the hill.

"The babe by its mother
Lies bathéd in joy;
Glide its hours uncounted,--
The sun is its toy;
Shines the peace of all being,
Without cloud, in its eyes;
And the sum of the world
In soft miniature lies.

"But man crouches and blushes,
Absconds and conceals;
He creepeth and peepeth,
He palters and steals;
Infirm, melancholy,
Jealous glancing around,
An oaf, an accomplice,
He poisons the ground.

"Out spoke the great mother,
Beholding his fear;--
At the sound of her accents
Cold shuddered the sphere:--
'Who has drugged my boy's cup?
Who has mixed my boy's bread?
Who, with sadness and madness,
Has turned my child's head?

I heard a poet answer
Aloud and cheerfully,
"Say on, sweet Sphinx! thy dirges
Are pleasant songs to me.
Deep love lieth under
These pictures of time;
They fade in the light of
Their meaning sublime.

"The fiend that man harries
Is love of the Best;
Yawns the pit of the Dragon,
Lit by rays from the Blest.
The lethe of Nature
Can't trance him again,
Whose soul sees the perfect,
Which his eyes seek in vain.

"To vision profounder,
Man's spirit must dive;
His aye-rolling orb
At no goal will arrive;
The heavens that now draw him
With sweetness untold,
Once found,--for new heavens
He spurneth the old.

"Pride ruined the angels,
Their shame them restores;
Lurks the joy that is sweetest
In stings of remorse.
Have I a lover
Who is noble and free?--
I would he were nobler
Than to love me.

"Eterne alternation
Now follows, now flies;
And under pain, pleasure,--
Under pleasure, pain lies.
Love works at the center,
Heart-heaving alway;
Forth speed the strong pulses
To the borders of day.

"Dull Sphinx, Jove keep thy five wits'
Thy sight is growing blear;
Rue, myrrh and cummin for the Sphinx,
Her muddy eyes to clear!"
The old Sphinx bit her thick lip,--
Said, "Who taught thee me to name?
I am thy spirit, yoke-fellow;
Of thine eye I am eyebeam.

"Thou art the unanswered question;
Couldst see thy proper eye,
Alway it asketh, asketh;
And each answer is a lie.
So take thy question through nature,
It through thousand natures ply;
Ask on, thou clothed eternity;
Time is the false reply.

Uprose the merry Sphinx,
And crouched no more in stone;
She melted into purple cloud,
She silvered in the moon;
She spired into a yellow flame;
She flowered in blossoms red;
She flowed into a foaming wave:
She stood Monadnoc's head.

Through a thousand voices
Spoke the universal dame
"Who telleth one of my meanings
Is master of all I am."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


A Problem
Let none resemble another; let each resemble the highest!
How can that happen? let each be all complete in itself.
-Friedrich von Schiller


This is what I most want
This is what I most want
unpursued, alone
to reach beyond the light
that I am furthest from.

And for you to shine there-
no other happiness-
and learn, from starlight,
what its fire might suggest.

A star burns as a star,
light becomes light,
because our murmuring
strengthens us, and warms the night.

And I want to say to you
my little one, whispering,
I can only lift you towards the light
by means of this babbling.

-Osip Mandelstam
Note: Written for his wife, Nadezhda.
(translated by A. S. Kline)


On The 100th Anniversary Of Anna Akhmatova
The fire and the page, the hewed hairs and the swords,
The grains and the millstone, the whispers and the clatter --
God saves all that -- especially the words
Of love and pity, as His only way to utter.
The harsh pulse pounds and the blood torrent whips,
The spade knocks evenly in them, by gentle muse begotten,
For life is so unique, they from the mortal lips
Sound more clear than from the divine wad-cotton.
Oh, the great soul, I'm bowing overseas
To you, who found them, and that, your smoldering portion,
Sleeping in the homeland, which, thanks to you, at least,
Obtained the gift of speech in the deaf-mute space ocean.
-Joseph Brodsky


The Sea And The Man
You will not tame this sea
either by humility or rapture.
But you can laugh
in its face.

was invented by those
who live briefly
as a burst of laughter.

The eternal sea
will never learn to laugh.
-Anna Swirszczynska
(Translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Natha)


Não me Peçam Razões...
Não me peçam razões, que não as tenho,
Ou darei quantas queiram: bem sabemos
Que razões são palavras, todas nascem
Da mansa hipocrisia que aprendemos.

Não me peçam razões por que se entenda
A força de maré que me enche o peito,
Este estar mal no mundo e nesta lei:
Não fiz a lei e o mundo não aceito.

Não me peçam razões, ou que as desculpe,
Deste modo de amar e destruir:
Quando a noite é de mais é que amanhece
A cor de primavera que há-de vir.
-José Saramago ("Os Poemas Possíveis")


Whatever tears one may shed, in the end one always blows one's nose.
-Heinrich Heine


There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


I never think of the future - it comes soon enough.
-Albert Einstein


Some people spend their entire lives reading but never get beyond reading the words on the page, they don't understand that the words are merely stepping stones placed across a fast-flowing river, and the reason they're there is so that we can reach the farther shore, it's the other side that matters.
-José Saramago


El otro yo
Se trataba de un muchacho corriente: en los pantalones se le formaban rodilleras, leía historietas, hacía ruido cuando comía, se metía los dedos a la naríz, roncaba en la siesta, se llamaba Armando Corriente en todo menos en una cosa: tenía Otro Yo.

El Otro Yo usaba cierta poesía en la mirada, se enamoraba de las actrices, mentía cautelosamente , se emocionaba en los atardeceres. Al muchacho le preocupaba mucho su Otro Yo y le hacía sentirse imcómodo frente a sus amigos. Por otra parte el Otro Yo era melancólico, y debido a ello, Armando no podía ser tan vulgar como era su deseo.

Una tarde Armando llegó cansado del trabajo, se quitó los zapatos, movió lentamente los dedos de los pies y encendió la radio. En la radio estaba Mozart, pero el muchacho se durmió. Cuando despertó el Otro Yo lloraba con desconsuelo. En el primer momento, el muchacho no supo que hacer, pero después se rehizo e insultó concienzudamente al Otro Yo. Este no dijo nada, pero a la mañama siguiente se habia suicidado.

Al principio la muerte del Otro Yo fue un rudo golpe para el pobre Armando, pero enseguida pensó que ahora sí podría ser enteramente vulgar. Ese pensamiento lo reconfortó.

Sólo llevaba cinco días de luto, cuando salió la calle con el proposito de lucir su nueva y completa vulgaridad. Desde lejos vio que se acercaban sus amigos. Eso le lleno de felicidad e inmediatamente estalló en risotadas . Sin embargo, cuando pasaron junto a él, ellos no notaron su presencia. Para peor de males, el muchacho alcanzó a escuchar que comentaban: «Pobre Armando.Y pensar que parecía tan fuerte y saludable».

El muchacho no tuvo más remedio que dejar de reír y, al mismo tiempo, sintió a la altura del esternón un ahogo que se parecía bastante a la nostalgia. Pero no pudo sentir auténtica melancolía, porque toda la melancolía se la había llevado el Otro Yo.
-Mario Benedetti


The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
-George Bernard Shaw


Last edited: 27 February 2012 13:20:04