Xin Qiji: I somehow cannot mention it

AndyRamdin-flickr

To the tune "The Ugly Slave-girl"

When I was young and had never tasted grief, I loved to climb towers.
I loved to climb towers to write elegant poems about my grief.
But now that I have tasted the utmost dregs of grief, I somehow cannot mention it.
I somehow cannot mention it. Instead I say, "What nice brisk autumn weather."

      --Chinese poet Xin Qiji 辛棄疾 (1140-1207)

醜奴兒

少年不識愁滋味,愛上層樓。
愛上層樓,為賦新詞強說愁。
而今識盡愁滋味,欲說還休。
欲說還休,卻道天涼好個秋。


Su Shi: Who knows where the swan flies?

CathskiFlickr

Remembering the past with Ziyou at Mianchi Temple

When it comes down to it, what is human life like?
It must be like a flying swan that alights on snow or mud.
Sometimes it leaves footprints on the mud.
Then the swan flies off-- where? to the east? to the west?...

       --Su Shi (蘇軾) (1037-1101), also known as Su Dongpo (蘇東坡). Ziyou was his younger brother, Su Che (蘇轍).

和子由澠池懷舊

人生到處知何似?

應似飛鴻踏雪泥。

泥上偶然留指爪,

鴻飛那復計東西....

Orrakle



Borges: There is a mirror that has seen me the last time

LibertinusBuenosA
Limits

There is a line of Verlaine that I will not be able to remember.
There is a street nearby that is widowed of my footsteps,
there is a mirror that has seen me for the last time,
there is a door that I have closed until the end of the world.
Among the books of my library (I am looking at them)
there is one that I will never open now.
This summer I will be fifty years old;
Death is wearing me away, relentless.

  --Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) wrote another version of this poem, but I prefer this one.

Límites
Hay una línea de Verlaine que no volveré a recordar.
Hay una calle próxima que está vedada a mis pasos,
hay un espejo que me ha visto por última vez,
hay una puerta que he cerrado hasta el fin del mundo.
Entre los libros de mi biblioteca (estoy viéndolos)
hay alguno que ya nunca abriré.
Este verano cumpliré cincuenta años;
La muerte me desgasta, incesante.


Georges Moustaki: Grandfathers

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It's for you that I play Grandfather-- it's for you.
All the others hear me but you, you listen.
We're made of the same wood, we have the same blood,
and I carry your name and you are a little bit me.

Exiled from Corfu and Constantinople,
Ulysses who never retraced his steps,
I am from your country, a métèque like you,
a child of the child that Penelope bore you.

You were already old when I was just born,
arriving just in time to take up the relay.
And I will end up one day resembling
the photo where you posed as an ancestor.

Great_grandfather

It's for you that I play Grandfather, it's for you
that I slide my fingers along my six strings
to awaken a tranquil single-chord tune
that's all that I know to do with my ten fingers.

Master of laziness, expert at poaching,
like you I have lived in the shadow of boats
and to make a feast I would steal birds
that the sea wind brought me from the deep

Like you I ran after girls and dreams
drinking at each stream I crossed
and without ever really quenching my thirst
without ever tiring of sowing my seed.

It's for you that I play Grandfather, it's for you.
To put back in the present all that has passed
since I began to speak only French
and I write songs you don't understand

It's for you I play Grandfather, it's for you.
All the others surround me but you wait for me
even though you are far off in space and in time
when it's time to die we'll find each other again.

      --Georges Moustaki (1934- ), written in 1969. He was born to Greek Jews in Alexandria, Egypt, and became a famous singer in French.

Iefotografie_flickr

C'est pour toi que je joue Grandpère c'est pour toi
Tous les autres m'écoutent mais toi tu m'entends
On est du même bois on est du même sang
Et je porte ton nom et tu es un peu moi

Exilé de Corfou et de Constantinople
Ulysse qui jamais ne revint sur ses pas
Je suis de ton pays, métèque comme toi
Un enfant de l'enfant que te fit Pénélope

Tu étais déjà vieux quand je venais de naître
Arrivé juste à temps pour prendre le relais
Et je finirai bien un jour par ressembler
A la photo où tu as posé à l'ancêtre

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Que je glisse mes doigts le long de mes six cordes
Pour réveiller un air tranquille et monocorde
C'est tout ce que je sais faire de mes dix doigts

Maître en oisiveté expert en braconnage
Comme toi j'ai vécu à l'ombre des bateaux
Et pour faire un festin je volais les oiseaux
Que le vent de la mer me ramenait du large

Comme toi j'ai couru les filles et les rêves
Buvant à chaque source que je rencontrais
Et sans être jamais vraiment désaltéré
Sans jamais être las de répandre ma sève

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Pour remettre au présent tout ce qui est passé
Depuis que je ne parle plus que le français
Et j'écris des chansons que tu ne comprends pas

C'est pour toi que je joue Grand-père c'est pour toi
Tous les autres m'entourent mais toi tu m'attends
Même si tu es loin dans l'espace et le temps
Quand il faudra mourir on se retrouvera.


To everything there is a season

Angel_harvesting To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

Hubble

I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life....That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past....

       --Ecclesiastes 3, The Bible


Willa Cather: We possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past

School_bus_march_1939_by_wilson_wpa

For Ántonia and me, this had been the road of destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be. Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.

     --Willa Cather (1873-1947), My Ántonia


Oscar Wilde: Time seems to circle round one centre of pain

Man_of_sorrow_by_pesi_flickr

De Profundis

Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons.We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return.  With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain....

For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow.  The very sun and moon seem taken from us....And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion is no more....

There is nothing that stirs in the whole world of thought to which sorrow does not vibrate in terrible and exquisite pulsation....It is a wound that bleeds when any hand but that of love touches it, and even then must bleed again, though not in pain.....

Where there is sorrow there is holy ground.  Some day people will realise what that means.  They will know nothing of life till they do....

Out of my nature has come wild despair; an abandonment to grief that was piteous even to look at; terrible and impotent rage; bitterness and scorn; anguish that wept aloud; misery that could find no voice; sorrow that was dumb.  I have passed through every possible mood of suffering.  Better than Wordsworth himself I know what Wordsworth meant when he said,

"Suffering is permanent, obscure, and dark
And has the nature of infinity."

But while there were times when I rejoiced in the idea that my sufferings were to be endless, I could not bear them to be without meaning.  Now I find hidden somewhere away in my nature something that tells me that nothing in the whole world is meaningless, and suffering least of all.  That something hidden away in my nature, like a treasure in a field, is Humility....One cannot acquire it, except by surrendering everything that one has.  It is only when one has lost all things, that one knows that one possesses it....

Sorrow, then, and all that it teaches one, is my new world....

My mother, who knew life as a whole, used often to quote to me Goethe's lines - written by Carlyle in a book he had given her years ago, and translated by him, I fancy, also:-

"Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
Who never spent the midnight hours
Weeping and waiting for the morrow,
--He knows you not, ye heavenly powers."

They were the lines which that noble Queen of Prussia, whom Napoleon treated with such coarse brutality, used to quote in her humiliation and exile; they were the lines my mother often quoted in the troubles of her later life.  I absolutely declined to accept or admit the enormous truth hidden in them.  I could not understand it.  I remember quite well how I used to tell her that I did not want to eat my bread in sorrow, or to pass any night weeping and watching for a more bitter dawn.

I had no idea that it was one of the special things that the Fates had in store for me....

...during the last few months I have, after terrible difficulties and struggles, been able to comprehend some of the lessons hidden in the heart of pain....people who use phrases without wisdom sometimes talk of suffering as a mystery.  It is really a revelation.  One discerns things one never discerned before.  One approaches the whole of history from a different standpoint....

I now see that sorrow, being the supreme emotion of which man is capable, is at once the type and test of all great art....

Behind joy and laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous.  But behind sorrow there is always sorrow.  Pain, unlike pleasure, wears no mask...There are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth.  Other things may be illusions of the eye or the appetite, made to blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there is pain.

More than this, there is about sorrow an intense, an extraordinary reality....For the secret of life is suffering.  It is what is hidden behind everything....

...it seems to me that love of some kind is the only possible explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering that there is in the world.  I cannot conceive of any other explanation.  I am convinced that there is no other, and that if the world has indeed, as I have said, been built of sorrow, it has been built by the hands of love, because in no other way could the soul of man, for whom the world was made, reach the full stature of its perfection.

[He makes plans to go to a seaside village.]

...The sea, as Euripides says in one of his plays about Iphigeneia, washes away the stains and wounds of the world....I have a strange longing for the great simple primeval things, such as the sea, to me no less of a mother than the Earth.  It seems to me that we all look at Nature too much, and live with her too little....

I am conscious now that behind all this beauty, satisfying though it may be, there is some spirit hidden..., and it is with this spirit that I desire to become in harmony....

Nature...will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed.  She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints...:  she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.

        --Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)