“at least our imagination, which perpetually figures them to us by the desire we have of seeing them again, makes us think so. By a peculiar power love can make that seem life itself which, as soon as the loved object returns, is nothing but a little canvas and flat colour. I have your picture in my room; I never pass it without stopping to look at it; and yet when you are present with me I scarce ever cast my eyes on it. If a picture, which is but a mute representation of an object, can give such pleasure, what cannot letters inspire? They have souls; they can speak; they have in them all that force which expresses the transports of the heart; they have all the fire of our passions, they can raise them as much as if the persons themselves were present; they have all the tenderness and the delicacy of speech, and sometimes even a boldness of expression beyond it.”

Heloise to Abelard, Letter II, p.25 (1901)

http://sacred-texts.com/chr/aah/index.htm

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/40227

 

Noble Form

I live upon this wretched solitary cliff

Like a bird of sorrow that shuns green

Branches and clear water: and withdraw

From my worldly loves, and my very self,

So my thoughts may fly swiftly to that sun

I worship and adore. And though they fail

To spread their wings as I wish, yet if I call

Still they fly back from other paths to this.

And in the instant that they reach the place,

Where I send them, ardent, happy, their brief joy

Surpasses every delight on Earth by far.

And if they could but re-create his noble

Form, just as the burning mind desires,

I might own my portion of perfect good.

by Vittoria Colonna (1490-1547)
Translated by A. S. Kline

All at once

I live, I die: I burn, I drown,
Amidst the cold, heat strikes me down
Too soft and too hard my life is to me
My great sorrows are mixed with glee.

All at once I laugh and I cry
And I endure great torment in pleasure.
My happiness flees, but lasts forever.
All at once I wilt and I thrive.

Thus inconstant love torments me.
Just as I think my pain has worsened
Without thinking so I am trouble-free.

Then when I believe my joy is certain
With happiness I so craved it fills me,
And sets me back to my first misfortune.

by Louise Labé (1524-1566)

Je vis, je meurs : je me brûle et me noie – I live, I die; I burn, I drown. (Sonnet VIII)
http://thehuuvandan.org/lit.html#labe

 

I have a need

I have a need for your voice,
a longing for your company,
and an ache of melancholy
for the absence of signs of arrival.
Patience requires my torment,
the urgent need for you, heron of love,
your solar mercy for my frozen day,
your help, for my wound, I count on.
Ah, need, ache and longing!
Your kisses of substance, my food,
fail me, and I’m dying with the May.
I want you to come, the flower of your absence,
to calm the brow of thought
that ruins me with its eternal lightning.

by Miguel Hernandez

Canceled

You Who Never Arrived

 

You who never arrived in my arms, Beloved, who were lost from the start, I don’t even know what songs would please you. I have given up trying to recognize you in the surging wave of the next moment. All the immense images in me — the far-off, deeply-felt landscape, cities, towers, and bridges, and unsuspected turns in the path, and those powerful lands that were once pulsing with the life of the gods– all rise within me to mean you, who forever elude me.
You, Beloved, who are all the gardens I have ever gazed at, longing. An open window in a country house– , and you almost stepped out, pensive, to meet me. Streets that I chanced upon,– you had just walked down them and vanished. And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows? Perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us yesterday, separate, in the evening…

(by Rainer Maria Rilke)

                                 torso of apollo

 

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside, like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low, gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could a smile run through the placid hips and thighs to that dark center where procreation flared. Otherwise this stone would seem defaced beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur: would not, from all the borders of itself, burst like a star: for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.

(by Rainer Maria Rilke)

 

 

 

poem

 

 

Victoria

There was a house at the end of our street behind tall willow trees.
As a child I used to walk by that house every day on my way to school.
All I could ever see was an old lady dressed in black clothes,
cooking in her kitchen. Once I asked my mother “Are there witches?”.
“ No!” she said. “Now go get your father, our dinner is ready”.
At that time I was convinced that the old lady was a witch,
teaching magic to the young girl who was always standing besides her.
Why else was my mother so reluctant to talk about them?

After a long time I tried again: “Who lives at the house with the tall
willow trees?” “Victoria. Now don’t you have any homework to do?”,
was the reply I got that time. By then Victoria was a beautiful young lady
with long blond hair like her mother. All those years I had never seen her
outside of her kitchen. At times I thought that she must have had some kind
of strange disease. Why else was she never outside?

When I moved away from hometown I was still wondering about Victoria.
By that time I had convinced myself that Victoria must have been crazy.
She must have fallen in love with someone who betrayed her and lost her mind.
Her mother must have told her that she would not let her see anyone again.
Why else was she never outside all these years?

The last few times I walked by that house the kitchen was empty.
Victoria and her mother must have died.
Why else was nobody at the kitchen window?

ps/ The young girl was born out of wedlock. Her mother had tuberculosis
but she could not afford proper care at a hospital. She became her only caregiver.
When her mother died she moved to another town and was living with her aunt.

Image: http://robertgouldhistoricalartist.blogspot.com/

Refusal

Che fece …. il gran rifiuto

To certain people there comes a day

when they must say the great Yes or the great No.

He who has the Yes ready within him

immediately reveals himself, and saying it he follows

his honor and his own conviction.

He who refuses does not repent. Should he be asked again,

he would say no again. And yet that no — the right no —

crushes him for the rest of his life.

by Constantine P. Cavafy (1901)

Traslation: http://users.hol.gr/~barbanis/cavafy/rifiuto.html

 

 

 

 

Original poem in Greek:

Che fece …. il gran rifiuto

Σε μερικούς ανθρώπους έρχεται μια μέρα

που πρέπει το μεγάλο Ναι ή το μεγάλο το Οχι

να πούνε. Φανερώνεται αμέσως όποιος τόχει

έτοιμο μέσα του το Ναι, και λέγοντάς το πέρα

πηγαίνει στην τιμή και στην πεποίθησί του.

Ο αρνηθείς δεν μετανοιώνει. Αν ρωτιούνταν πάλι,

όχι θα ξαναέλεγε. Κι όμως τον καταβάλλει

εκείνο το όχι — το σωστό — εις όλην την ζωή του.

Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης (1901)

Conquest

Conquest

Like sunlight dissolves dawn

Like virtue endures temptation

Like courage defeats fear

I will conquer the lonesomeness

of your silence.

Endurance

Endurance

 

“Doesn’t it smell like summer?”

“It is still too early”, you said.

Your smile was shining

Provocatively, in the rain.

 

How can you smile with such agony

In your soul, my love?

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