Saturday, April 18, 2009

Love Among the Ruins

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles
Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Tinkle homeward thro' the twilight, stray or stop
As they crop -


Was the site once of a city great and gay,
(So they say)
Of our country's very capital, its prince
Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
Peace or war.


Now -the country does not even boast a tree,
As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
Into one)


Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
Up like fires
O'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
Bounding all,
Made of marble, men might march on nor be prest,
Twelve abreast.


And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o'erspreads
And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
Stock or stone -


Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
Long ago;
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame
Struck them tame;
And that glory and that shame alike, the gold
Bought and sold.


Now, -the single little turret that remains
On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
While the patching houseleek's head of blossom winks
Through the chinks -


Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time
Sprang sublime,
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced
As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
Viewed the games.


And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece
In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey
Melt away -


That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair
Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
For the goal,
When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
Till I come.


But he looked upon the city, every side,
Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades'
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts, -and then,
All the men!


When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,
Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
Of my face,
Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech
Each on each.


In one year they sent a million fighters forth
South and north,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
As the sky,
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force - Gold, of course.


Oh, heart! oh, blood that freezes, blood that burns!
Earth's returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest.
Love is best!

Robert Browning

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Behind your deep eyes

One of the Haniwa

All emotions as well as quiet,
moss-covered Time
are raining behind your face,
which bears the weight
of two thousand years
behind your deep eyes.
Your mouth is tightened
by a great secret.

You do not cry or laugh
or become angry because
you are always crying,
laughing and angry.

You do not have thoughts
or feelings. You absorb those
continuously. Then they
precipitate in you forever.

Born directly out of the earth,
you were a human thing
before human beings.
There was a shortness
in one of God's breaths,

and therefore, incomplete,
you can take pride
in a beautiful simplicity
and health.
You store away the universe.

Shuntaro Tanikawa

(Translated by Diane Furtney and Asuka Itaya)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Old birch trees. Avebury, south-east quadrant

Coming Upon A Stone Circle at Sunset

Old Birch trees, whose white branches weave and sift
The brilliant evening twilight, huddle deep
Around these circled stones. The old grove shifts
As leaves and chilly breezes slightly lift
And rustle. But these silent grey stones keep
Their secrets: no wind reveals, no evening shade distills
Why they stand, encircling each other, in these hills.
With ancient reasons more astute than ours
These stones were brought here, then precisely set.
Each in its place. Time moves, things change, rains pour
Suns rise and set, winter storms blow and roar,
These, encircled, change not. Only men forget.
And now we watch as deepened shadows show
How much we've lost of what our fathers' fathers know.

Juleigh Howard-Hobson