by Guido Cavalcanti (1250 – 1300)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s translation
To a Friend who does not pity his Love
IF I entreat this lady that all grace
Seem not unto her heart an enemy,
Foolish and evil thou declarest me,
And desperate in idle stubbornness.
Whence is such cruel judgement thine, whose face,
To him that looks thereon, professeth thee
Faithful, and wise, and of all courtesy,
And made after the way of gentleness?
Alas! my soul within my heart doth find
Sighs, and its grief by weeping doth enhance,
That, drowned in bitter tears, those sighs depart:
And then there seems a presence in the mind,
As of a lady’s thoughtful countenance
Come to behold the death of the poor heart.
To Dante, rebuking him for his way of life after the death of Beatrice.
I DAILY come to thee uncounting times
And find thee ever thinking over vilely;
Much doth it grieve me that thy noble mind
And virtue’s plenitude are stripped from thee;
Thou wast so careless in thy fine offending,
Who from the rabble alway held apart,
And spoke of me so straightly from the heart
That I gave welcome to thine every rime.
And now I care not, sith thy life is baseness
To give the sign that thy speech pleaseth me,
Nor come I to thee in guise visible,
Yet if thou’It read this Sonnet many a time,
That malign spirit which so hunteth thee
Will sound forloyn* and spare thy affrighted soul.
I saw the corn last night,
the dreaming corn,
the corn and ears of all mankind ever
in these fields.
I saw it this morning around five o’clock,
when Christ came,
that pallid hour, when children are born
and fires break out.
It was so beautiful. They slept so silently.
And Christ passed like a moon through the corn.
Americans like to be unique, even when it comes to naming conventions common to the rest of the world. The word corn, particularly in a religious context means grain or wheat. America is the only place where the word corn refers to maize. So if you read the word corn in a poem and are American, translate it in your mind into wheat and you’ll gain greater insight into its meaning, even when its a metaphor as in this case.
Ole Sarvig is a Danish poet who suffered a fate not uncommon to poets, he took his own life. Sarvig is not well known outside Europe. I do not know why poets are prone to tragedy? Is there a desperateness that poets connect from their life to their writing that makes them more susceptible to extreme acts of self destruction?
I am watching Herren’s Veje on Netflix. There is a powerful use of Sarvig’s poem Christ in The Corn in Season One, but unless you know that Sarvig ended his own life by jumping from a building the complete connection to the episode will not have as much emotional impact. Taking one’s own life is a an act that can not ever be completely understood in my opinion by anyone else and leaves a lasting question and a unique form of grief for their loved ones. It is a wound unique unto itself among the living, it is a wound of doubt as to what could have been done differently for a different outcome.
The Rain Gauge
by Ole Sarvig
The rain gauge
with its shallow basin
stands in the June night’s gentle rain
on its column
letting itself be filled with water,
while dark poplars sigh
and move their branches.
The night can be heard far and wide.
The rain finds its echo in the world.
It is empty. It is still.
All of creation is asleep.
The poplars sigh.
Tonight the garden is awake
and full of fragrance.
like a shallow basin
in June rain
I will fill to the brim
Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me. From in here, the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.
by Mary Oliver
Oh do you have time
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.