Tagore: Those who are near me do not know

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Those who are near me do not know that you are nearer to me than they are
Those who speak to me do not know that my heart is full with your unspoken words
Those who crowd in my path do not know that I am walking alone with you
They who love me do not know that their love brings you to my heart.

    --Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Gitanjali. He translated the poems into English himself.

The original Bengali poem (1901) and other Tagore poems can be found here. Thanks to Sourav Guha for the source.

   যারা কাছে আছে তারা কাছে থাক্‌, তারা তো পারে না জানিতে--
     তাহাদের চেয়ে তুমি কাছে আছ আমার হৃদয়খানিতে ॥
যারা কথা বলে তাহারা বলুক,   আমি করিব না কারেও বিমুখ--
     তারা নাহি জানে ভরা আছে প্রাণ তব অকথিত বাণীতে।
     নীরবে নিয়ত রয়েছে আমার নীরব হৃদয়খানিতে ॥
তোমার লাগিয়া কারেও, হে প্রভু,   পথ ছেড়ে দিতে বলিব না, কভু,
     যত প্রেম আছে সব প্রেম মোরে তোমা-পানে রবে টানিতে--
     সকলের প্রেমে রবে তব প্রেম আমার হৃদয়খানিতে।
সবার সহিতে তোমার বাঁধন   হেরি যেন সদা এ মোর সাধন--
     সবার সঙ্গ পারে যেন মনে তব আরাধনা আনিতে।
          সবার মিলনে তোমার মিলন
                   জাগিবে হৃদয়খানিতে ॥


Cavafy: That dead café where they used to go together

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...When he went to the café that evening—
he happened to have some vital business there—
to that same café where they used to go together,
it was a knife in his heart,
that dead café where they used to go together.

Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933), Greek from Alexandria, Egypt. Poem "Lovely White Flowers" (Ωραία λουλούδια και άσπρα ως ταίριαζαν πολύ) from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems (1975), translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Όταν το βράδυ επήγεν — έτυχε μια δουλειά,
μια ανάγκη του ψωμιού του — στο καφενείον όπου
επήγαιναν μαζύ: — μαχαίρι στην καρδιά του
το μαύρο καφενείο — όπου επήγαιναν μαζύ.

 

Photo by Kimmo Räisänen


Du Fu: My soul does not come when called

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How did I come to spend my life in this miserable valley?
In the middle of the night I get up. Ten thousand worries and griefs...
My soul does not come when called. It's gone back to its old home.

Du Fu (712–770). Although he was one of China's greatest poets, he lived in tumultuous times, lost two children to starvation, wandered as an exile with his family far from home, dependent on wealthier friends, and spent the last part of his life in great sickness and poverty.

我生何為在窮谷
中夜起坐萬感集...
魂捐不來歸故鄉

 


In the midst of life we are in death

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In the midst of life we are in death 
of whom may we seek for succour,
but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins
art justly displeased?

Yet, O Lord God most holy,
O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

An anonymous Latin poem from Gregorian chant, later in The Book of Common Prayer. The English version seems to be by Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556)

Media vita in morte sumus
quem quaerimus adjutorem
nisi te, Domine,
qui pro peccatis nostris
juste irasceris?

Sancte Deus,
sancte fortis,
sancte et misericors Salvator:
amarae morti ne tradas nos.
 
 

Photo by David Berry on Flickr

Vonnegut: The Tralfamadorian view of death

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The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral....It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

The narrator in Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007)

 

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay


Saint Columba: Today is truly my Sabbath

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Scripture calls this day the Sabbath, which means "rest." Today is truly my Sabbath,
for it is my last day in this wearisome life, when I shall keep the Sabbath after my troublesome labours.
 
Saint Columba on his deathbed, according to The Life of Columba, by Adomnán of Iona, tr Richard Sharpe
 
 
Picture by William Ballengall (1874), from the British Library

Akhmatova: And the stone word fell on my still-living breast

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Verdict

And the stone word fell
On my still-living breast.
Never mind, I was ready.
I will manage somehow.

Today I have so much to do:
I must kill memory once and for all,
I must turn my soul to stone,
I must learn to live again—

Unless . . . Summer's ardent rustling
Is like a festival outside my window.
For a long time I've foreseen this
Brilliant day, deserted house.

Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966), The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, translated by Judith Hemschemeyer. Zephyr Press.

Приговор (1939)

И упало каменное слово
На мою еще живую грудь.
Ничего, ведь я была готова,
Справлюсь с этим как-нибудь.

У меня сегодня много дела:
Надо память до конца убить,
Надо, чтоб душа окаменела,
Надо снова научиться жить.

А не то... Горячий шелест лета,
Словно праздник за моим окном.
Я давно предчувствовала этот
Светлый день и опустелый дом.


Kaysen: In the parallel universe

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In the parallel universe the laws of physics are suspended. What goes up does not necessarily come down….Time, too, is different. It may run in circles, flow backward, skip about from now to then….

Another odd feature of the parallel universe is that although it is invisible from this side, once you are in it you can easily see the world you came from….

Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco.

Susanna Kaysen (1948–), Girl, Interrupted

 

Photo by Gianni Crestani at Pixabay


Cavafy: At least this is still in our power

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Kratisklia didn't allow
the people to see her weeping and grieving:
she walked in dignified silence.
Her calm face
betrayed nothing of her sorrow, her agony....

"Come, O King of the Lacedaimonians,
When we go outside
let no one see us
weeping or behaving in any way unworthy of Sparta.
At least this is still in our power;
What lies ahead is in the hands of the gods."...

Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933), translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard in C.V. Cavafy: Collected Poems (1975). Kratiskleia was the mother of Cleomenes, the last king of Sparta (Lacedaemonia). He was defeated by Ptolemy III of Egypt and forced to send his mother and son to Egypt as hostages, where they were later killed. According to Plutarch, she was wise and brave.

Δεν καταδέχονταν η Κρατησίκλεια
ο κόσμος να την δει να κλαίει και να θρηνεί.
και μεγαλοπρεπής εβάδιζε και σιωπηλή.
Τίποτε δεν απόδειχνε η ατάραχη μορφή της
απ’ τον καϋμό και τα τυράννια της....


...«Άγε, ω βασιλεύ
Λακεδαιμονίων, όπως, επάν έξω
γενώμεθα, μηδείς ίδη δακρύοντας
ημάς μηδέ ανάξιόν τι της Σπάρτης
ποιούντας. Τούτο γαρ εφ’ ημίν μόνον·
αι τύχαι δε, όπως αν ο δαίμων διδώ, πάρεισι.»

...


Seneca the Younger: A time will come when there will be no world

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Everything is devoured by voracious Time, everything destroyed,
it changes everything settled, lets nothing be for long.
Rivers fail, the land dries up the fleeing sea,
mountains dwindle and high peaks fall.
How can we talk of such small things? The whole vast structure of sky
will suddenly burn up in its own flames.
Death demands everything. It is the law, not a penalty, to perish.
There will come a time when the world is no more.

Seneca the Younger (ca 4–65), Roman philosopher, politician and writer

Omnia tempus edax depascitur, omnia carpit,
omnia sede movet, nil sinit esse diu.
Flumina deficiunt, profugum mare litora siccant,
subsidunt montes et juga celsa ruunt.
Quid tam parva loquor? moles pulcherrima caeli
ardebit flammis tota repente suis.
Omnia mors poscit. Lex est, non poena, perire:
hic aliquo mundus tempore nullus erit.