“Go ahead young men, get in the dance and sing,
sing how love begins in the eyes,
sprouts on the lips,
and grows roots in the heart.”
(from an old Greek song).
“Go ahead young men, get in the dance and sing,
sing how love begins in the eyes,
sprouts on the lips,
and grows roots in the heart.”
(from an old Greek song).
Oh I wish so much you would remember
those happy days when we were friends.
Life in those times was so much brighter
and the sun was hotter than today.
Dead leaves picked up by the shovelful.
You see, I have not forgotten.
Dead leaves picked up by the shovelful,
memories and regrets also,
and the North wind carries them away
into the cold night of oblivion.
You see, I have not forgotten
the song that you sang for me:
It is a song resembling us.
We lived together, the both of us,
you who loved me
and I who loved you.
But life drives apart those who love
ever so softly
without a noise
and the sea erases from the sand
the steps of lovers gone their ways.
Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может
В душе моей угасла не совсем;
Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;
Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.
Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,
То робостью, то ревностью томим;
Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.
(by Alexander Pushkin- http://pushkin.ellink.ru/english/pushkin/push1.asp).
I loved you once: perhaps that love has yet
To die down thoroughly within my soul;
But let it not dismay you any longer;
I have no wish to cause you any sorrow.
I loved you wordlessly, without a hope,
By shyness tortured, or by jealousy.
I loved you with such tenderness and candor
And pray God grants you to be loved that way again.
Στο περιγιάλι το κρυφό At the hidden shore
κι άσπρο σαν περιστέρι white like a dove
διψάσαμε το μεσημέρι we got withered midday
μα το νερό γλυφό but the water was saline.
Πάνω στην άμμο την ξανθή On the light sand
γράψαμε τ όνομα της we wrote her name
ωραία που φύσηξεν ο μπάτης nicely the breeze blew
και σβήστηκε η γραφή and erased the writing.
Με τι καρδιά με τι πνοή With such heart with such breath
τι πόθους και τι πάθος such desires and such passions
πήραμε τη ζωή μας λάθος! we misled our life!
κι αλλάξαμε ζωή. and changed our life.
(“Strophe” by G. Seferis, see https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4112/george-seferis-the-art-of-poetry-no-13-george-seferis)
The bargain I have made!
The heart of him I loved I wrung.
Not to do his pleasure,
Were there not the fear of Heaven’s King.
‘Twas a trifle
That wrung Curithir’s heart against me:
To him great was my gentleness.
A short while I was
In the company of Curithir:
Sweet was my intimacy with him.
The music of the forest
Would sing to me when with Curithir,
Together with the voice of the purple sea.
Nothing of all I have done
Should have wrung his heart against me!
Conceal it not!
He was my heart’s love,
Whatever else I might love.
A roaring flame
Has dissolved this heart of mine—
Without him for certain it cannot live.
REF: LIADIN AND CURITHIR (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32030/32030-h/32030-h.htm)
AH, Circe, Circe! in the wood we cried;
Ah, Circe, Circe! but no voice replied;
No voice from bowers o’ergrown and ruinous
As fallen rocks upon the mountain side.
Ah, Circe! in thy sad changed fairy place,
Our dead Youth came and looked on us a space,
With drooping wings, and eyes of faded fire,
And wasted hair about a weary face.
Back to the westward and the waning light
We turned, we fled; the solitude of night
Was better than the infinite regret,
In fallen places of our dead delight.
Immense et rouge
Au-dessus du Grand Palais
Le soleil d’hiver apparaît
Comme lui mon coeur va disparaître
Et tout mon sang va s’en aller
S’en aller à ta recherche
Et te trouver
Là où tu es.
by J. Prevert
Immense and red
Above the Grand Palais
The winter sun appears
The way my heart will disappear
And all my blood will go
Will go to look for you
And find you
There wherever you are.
Thirty seven years approaching
already ripped pages of my life
by this time white pieces of hair have grown,
Xanthippei *, discreet announcers of age
regadless, chattery psalms in the head are chanting
and a relentless fire is burning the heart-
but for this coronida** quickly write about, Muses,
this one, my rulers, overthrows your madness.
*Xanthippe was an ancient Athenian (of supposedly argumentative nature), the wife of pholosopher Socrates, and mother of their three sons: Lamprocles, Sophroniscus, and Menexenus.
**coronida (singular)-THE two KORONIDES (or Coronides) were two nymph daughters of the constellation-giant Orion. When the land of Boiotia (Boeotia) was struck by pestilence and drought they voluntarily offered themselves up as sacrifice to the gods, bashing out their own brains with shuttles. Persephone in pity then turned them into comets.
The name Koronides was associated with the Greek words korônis, “curving one” or “comet” and korônê “the shuttle” and “the crow.”
By Philodemus 110-30BC.
(see Index scholarum in Universitate Litteraria Gryphiswaldensi
-Philodemus, Georg Kaibel)
Philodemus of Gadara (ca. 110–ca. 30 BC) “was an Epicurean philosopher and epigrammatist who, having studied in the Epicurean school …”http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philodemus )
J’ai voulu ce matin te rapporter des roses ;
Mais j’en avais tant pris dans mes ceintures closes
Que les noeuds trop serrés n’ont pu les contenir.
La vague en a paru rouge et comme enflammée.
Ce soir, ma robe en est toute embaumée.
Respires-en sur moi l’odorant souvenir.
“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)
“My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.”
“You took my heart in your hand
With a friendly smile,
With a critical eye you scanned,
Then set it down,
And said: It is still unripe,
Better wait a while;
Wait while the skylarks pipe,
Till the corn grows brown
As you set it down it broke-
Broke, but I did not wince;
I smiled at the speech you spoke,
At your judgment that I heard:
But I have not often smiled
Since then, nor questioned since,
Nor cared for corn-flowers wild,
Nor sung with the singing bird.”
by Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)
Starlit houses, and sky below,
Earth dazed in the nearness.
The same secret longing though
In Paris, so vast and joyous.
The evening boulevards noisy,
The last ray of light dies,
Couples, paired round me,
Fierce lips, insolent eyes.
I’m alone. It’s sweet to rest
My head on a chestnut tree.
As in far Moscow, my breast
Throbs to Rostand’s poetry.
Paris at night, painful strangeness,
Dear the heart’s ancient folly!
I’m going back to violets, sadness,
A portrait of someone kind to me.
There that gaze, pensive, a brother,
There that mild profile, on the wall.
Rostand, L’Aiglon that martyr,
And Sarah – in dream I find them all!
In Paris, so vast and joyous,
I dream of clouds and grass,
Laughter, shadows, ominous,
And the pain that will not pass.
Paris, June 1909.
(Note: Rostand’s play L’Aiglon concerns the unhappy life of the Duke of Reichstadt, the son of Napoleon I and Marie Louise, lived under the surveillance of Metternich at the Schönbrunn Palace. The drama was produced, on the 15th March 1900, by Sarah Bernhardt, at her own theatre, she herself playing the part of the Duke.
To kiss the brow-eases all anxiety.
I kiss the brow.
To kiss the eyes – cures insomnia’s misery.
I kiss the eyes.
To kiss the lips – one’s no longer thirsty.
I kiss the lips.
To kiss the brow – erases memory.
I kiss the brow.
5th June 1917.
Go, find yourself naïve lovers, they
Won’t correct marvels by number.
I know that Venus was – hand made,
I’m a craftsman, with craft encumbered.
From the highest solemnity, dumb,
To the soul almost trampled to death,
Here’s the whole celestial stair – from
My breathing – to: not one breath!
18th June 1922
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
“N’écris pas – N’apprenons qu’à mourir à nous-mêmes
Ne demande qu’à Dieu … qu’à toi, si je t’aimais !
Au fond de ton silence écouter que tu m’aimes,
C’est entendre le ciel sans y monter jamais
N’écris pas ! ”
by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859)
“Do not write – Let us learn for ourselves how to die.
Ask only God… and to yourself if I loved you!
In your absence’s depth to hear that you love me
Is to hear heaven without ever getting there.
Do not write! ”
Translated by Thomas D. Le in 2007
I know not whether thou has been absent:
I lie down with thee, I rise up with thee,
In my dreams thou art with me.
If my eardrops tremble in my ears,
I know it is thou moving within my heart.
Aztec Indian Wedding Poem
Beau comme le jour
Et mauvais comme le temps
Quand le temps est mauvais
Cet amour si vrai
Cet amour si beau
Et si dérisoire
Tremblant de peur comme un enfant dans le noir
Et si sûr de lui
Comme un homme tranquille au milieu de la nuit …
by Jacques Prevert (4 February 1900 – 11 April 1977 ).
Beautiful as the day
And bad as the weather
When the weather is bad
This love so true
This love so beautiful
And so pathetic
Trembling with fear like a child in the dark
And so sure of itself
Like a tranquil man in the middle of the night…
I, too, wish to sing of heroic deeds
(about the Atreides, and about Kadmus),
but the lyre’s strings
can only produce sounds of love.
Recently, I changed the strings,
and then the lyre itself,
and tried to sing of the feats of Hercules,
but still the lyre kept singing songs of love.
So, fare well, you heroes!
because my lyre sings only songs of love.
by Anacreon (570 BC – 488 BC)
a Greek lyric poet, notable for his drinking songs and hymns.
Anacreon wrote all of his poetry in the ancient Ionic dialect.
ΘΕΛΩ ΛΕΓΕΙΝ ΑΤΡΕΙΔΑΣ,
ΘΕΛΩ ΔΕ ΚΑΔΜΟΝ ΑΙΔΕΙΝ,
Ο ΒΑΡΒΙΤΟΣ ΔΕ ΧΟΡΔΑΙΣ
ΕΡΩΤΑ ΜΟΥΝΟΝ ΗΧΕΙ.
ΗΜΕΙΨΑ ΝΕΥΡΑ ΠΡΩΗΝ
ΚΑΙ ΤΗΝ ΛΥΡΗΝ ΑΠΑΣΑΝ·
ΚΑΓΩ ΜΕΝ ΗΙΔΟΝ ΑΘΛΟΥΣ ΗΡΑΚΛΕΟΥΣ,
ΛΥΡΗ ΔΕ ΕΡΩΤΑΣ ΑΝΤΕΦΩΝΕΙ.
ΧΑΙΡΟΙΤΕ ΛΟΙΠΟΝ ΗΜΙΝ, ΗΡΩΕΣ·
Η ΛΥΡΗ ΓΑΡ ΜΟΝΟΥΣ ΕΡΩΤΑΣ ΑΙΔΕΙ.
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)
1 Castor and Pollux, brothers of Helen, set in the heavens as the constellation of the Twins and supposed to be propitious to mariners.
“Sweet evenings come and go, love,
They came and went of yore:
This evening of our life, love,
Shall go and come no more.
When we have passed away, love,
All things will keep their name;
But yet no life on earth, love,
With ours will be the same.
The daisies will be there, love,
The stars in heaven will shine:
I shall not feel thy wish, love,
Nor thou my hand in thine. ”
by George Eliot -i.e. Mary Anne (alternatively Mary Ann or Marian) Evans, an English novelist, journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era..
She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure her works would be taken seriously…
As long as you live, be bright
Don’t be sorrowful;
Short is life
The end time requires.
Tant que tu vis, brille !
Ne t’afflige absolument de rien !
La vie ne dure guère.
Le temps exige son tribut.
The following is a transliteration of the original words of the Seikilos epitaph which are sung to the beautiful melody: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUkabSGrK7I
Hoson zēs, phainou
Mēden holōs sy lypou;
Pros oligon esti to zēn
To telos ho chronos apaitei
“The Seikilos epitaph is the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world. The song, the melody of which is recorded, alongside its lyrics, in the ancient Greek musical notation, was found engraved on a tombstone, near Ephesus (in today’s Turkey). The find has been dated variously from around 200 BC to around AD 100.
Also on the tombstone is an indication that states:
“I am a tombstone, an icon.
Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of
While older music with notation exists (for example the Delphic Hymns), all of it is in fragments; the Seikilos epitaph is unique in that it is a complete, though short, composition”.
‘Love shook my heart’
Love shook my heart,
Like the wind on the mountain
Troubling the oak-trees.
The room was poor and shabby, a secret room above
the dubious tavern. From the window could be seen
dark shadows moving in a squalid narrow lane;
and from below came voices of town labourers
who now were loud at cards now voiced their jollity
with wanton song or joke, and called for drinks between.
And there — on the plebeian, unattractive bed
I had possession of the glowing body of love,
I had the inebriating lips voluptuously red —
the full red lips of such an inebriety
that even now, after so many eventful years,
writing thereof in my lone house, I reel again.
Translated by John Cavafy
(Poems by C. P. Cavafy. Translated, from the Greek, by J. C. Cavafy. Ikaros, 2003)
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.
The Short goodbye (by Steve Almond, in “This won’t take but a minute, honey”)
“…This was the summer of my eighth year, spent a cabin with my grandparents, both of whom I loved more than I would allow. My grandpa and her raspy laugh, her green crochet needless knit together under the lamp, like tiny axes whet and whet. My grandpa leaning over the checkerboard with his beautiful crooked teeth. They were burdened people contented by simple pleasures. I should have kissed each of them more than I did. We waste so much of our hearts. Only the dying keep a full account. In their moment of passing, the exact amount is revealed on our tongues, which turn black with regret.”
The Short goodbye (by myself, using Steve Almond’s words; this took more than twenty years…)
This was the last summer I spent with my grandmother, “whom I loved more than I would allow”. “Her raspy laugh, her green crochet needless knit together under the lamp, like tiny axes whet and whet”. My grandpa had passed away a long time ago. “They were burdened people contented by simple pleasures. I should have kissed each of them more than I did. We waste so much of our hearts. Only the dying keep a full account. In their moment of passing, the exact amount is revealed on our tongues, which turn black with regret”.
ps/ I do not read modern literature often. But I saw this book with short stories in one direction (that, yes take less than a minute to read…) and short essays on writing (that you find by flipping the book over), and thought “this ought to be interesting…”.
Infatuation He seems to me equal to the gods that man whoever he is who opposite you sits and listens close to your sweet speaking and lovely laughing — oh it puts the heart in my chest on wings for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking is left in me no: tongue breaks and thin fire is racing under skin and in eyes no sight and drumming fills ears and cold sweat holds me and shaking grips me all, greener than grass I am and dead — or almost I seem to me. (translation at : http://inamidst.com/stuff/sappho/ ) ------------ Peer of the gods, the happiest man I seem Sitting before thee, rapt at thy sight, hearing Thy soft laughter and they voice most gentle, Speaking so sweetly. Then in my bosom my heart wildly flutters, And, when on thee I gaze never so little, Bereft am I of all power of utterance, My tongue is useless. There rushes at once through my flesh tingling fire, My eyes are deprived of all power of vision, My ears hear nothing by sounds of winds roaring, And all is blackness. Down courses in streams the sweat of emotion, A dread trembling o'erwhelms me, paler than I Than dried grass in autumn, and in my madness Dead I seem almost. (translation by Anne Carson, 2002)
Original poem- by
Sappho (630/612 BC to around 570 BC):
φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν ἔμμεν' ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί- σας ὐπακούει καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ' ἦ μὰν καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν, ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ' ἴδω βρόχε' ὤς με φώνας οὔδεν ἔτ' εἴκει, ἀλλὰ κὰμ μὲν γλῶσσα +ἔαγε, λέπτον δ' αὔτικα χρῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμακεν, ὀππάτεσσι δ' οὐδ' ἒν ὄρημμ', ἐπιρρόμ- βεισι δ' ἄκουαι, κὰδ' δέ ἴδρως κακχέεται, τρόμος δὲ παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ' ὀλίγω 'πιδεύης φαίνομ' ἔμ' αὔτᾳ.
I fell in love with a Dimo from Paphos. not strange.
Then a Dimo from Samos. not important.
Thirdly again with a Dimo from Ysies. (one from Argolida and one from
Biotia) not a game anymore
Fourthly came a Dimo from Argolida.
The goddesses of fate must have named me Philodimo
to always love some Dimo.
Ερωτεύθηκα κάποια Δημώ από την Πάφο.δεν είναι περίεργο.
Μετά κάποια Δημώ από τη Σάμο.τίποτα σπουδαίο.
Τρίτη πάλι μια Δημώ από τις Υσίες.( μια στην Αργολίδα και μία στην Βοιωτία) δεν είναι πια παιχνίδι.
Τέταρτη ήρθε η Δημώ από την Αργολίδα.
Οι ίδιες οι Μοίρες πρέπει να με ονόμασαν Φιλόδημο
Για να φλογίζει την καρδιά μου πάντα κάποια Δημώ.
By Philodimos (110-40 B. C.)
From: Τα απανθρακωμένα χειρόγραφα (ολόκληρη βιβλιοθήκη) του Ερκολάνο http://thesecretrealtruth.blogspot.com/2012/01/blog-post_795.html#ixzz2KN5Y3OhQ
on your lips
Unfinished dreams wrapped
around your eyes
Unspoken tenderness confined
in your veins.
Sorrows relieved by dignity.
It’s the soft wind
That reminds me of
The dance of our words
The wild flowers of
The scents of our feelings
The dark moon of
Your deceptive silences
And the bitter rain of
All my tears.
Walked the same path
Stared into each other’s eyes
Spoke the same words
Thought the same thoughts
Felt the same feelings
For an instant and
Before we said
Like sunlight dissolves dawn
Like virtue endures temptation
Like courage defeats fear
I will conquer the lonesomeness
of your silence.
You will discover me
I will discover you
I will disappoint you
You will disappoint me
You will deny me
I will deny you
I will forget you
You will forget me
You will desire me
I will desire you
I will seek you out
You will seek me out
You will love me
I will love you
“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?
Reflections of our souls
Traced by the morning sunlight
And our desire to immerse in each other
Eternal feeling ripened by time
Love without pretentious blossoms
In everybody’s eyes are
And from everybody’s lips,
Chasing our shadows
On your walls
Racing our words
In your silence
And my hope
On the racks of time
I am eating alone
With your thought
Falling asleep alone
With your thought
Waking up alone
With your thought
The cold wind on my face
Reminds me that I am alive
“Je pense toujours à toi
Et je t’embrasse tres tres fort…”
I will forget
I will forget
A piece of hot iron
Is burning my mind
A column of salt
Is following me everywhere
And a feathered god
Is pointing at us