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Poetry Translations

Sudden Sonnet


Violante wants a sonnet on demand,

I’ve never found myself in such a spot;

a sonnet’s fourteen lines, or so I’m taught,

and just in jest those first three came unplanned.


I thought the rhymes would stump me, but I’ve spanned

a quatrain and a half, so all I’ve got

to do is find the tercets, since there’s not

a threat left in the quatrains to withstand.


It seems to me I’ve managed to extend

the right foot forward here in tercet one,

and with this line I’ll bring it to an end.


So here is tercet two, though I’ve begun

to think I’m coming round the thirteenth bend:

now count — if there are fourteen lines, it’s done.



David Rosenthal lives in Berkeley, California, and teaches in the Oakland public schools. His poems have appeared in Rattle, Measure, Birmingham Poetry Review, and many others. He’s been a Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award finalist and a Pushcart nominee.

with Susan McLean

Susan McLean 2019-06-08 cropped.jpg

Soneto de Repente


Un soneto me manda hacer Violante,

que en mi vida me he visto en tanto aprieto;

catorce versos dicen que es soneto,

burla burlando van los tres delante.


Yo pensé que no hallara consonante

y estoy a la mitad de otro cuarteto,

mas si me veo en el primer terceto,

no hay cosa en los cuartetos que me espante.


Por el primer terceto voy entrando,

y parece que entré con pie derechoe

pues fin con este verso le voy dando.


Ya estoy en el segundo y aun sospecho

que voy los trece versos acabando:

contad si son catorce y está hecho.



Lope De Vega (1562-1635) was a key figure of the Spanish Golden Age. Nicknamed “Monster of Nature” by Cervantes and often called the “Spanish Shakespeare,” he produced more than 1,500 plays and 3,000 sonnets. His works are considered classics of Spanish literature.

Ixion, Tantalus, Sisyphus


I’d even be Ixion on the wheel,

and Tantalus, who thirsts and is declined,

if I could press her nakedness to mine,

this equal of the angels, my ideal.


If that were true, my suffering would be none,

and fate’s afflictions sweet as any prize,

no, even if a vulture plucked my eyes,

no, even forcing the boulder up again.


To see or touch the roundness of her breast

would raise me to an Asian prince, unless

flesh to flesh, her kiss exalted fate,


and turned us into demigod and mate.

Assuaging my fire, she would render me

an eater of ambrosia—a deity.

Terese Coe’s poems and translations appear in Poetry, Poetry Review, Threepenny Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and over 100 other international publications. Her poem “More” was part of the 2012 London Olympics Rain of Poems.

Je voudrais être Ixion et Tantale


Je voudrais être Ixion et Tantale,

Dessus la roue et dans les eaux là-bas,

Et nu à nu presser entre mes bras

Cette beauté qui les anges égale.


S’ainsin était, toute peine fatale

Me seroit douce et ne me chaudroit pas,

Non, d’un vautour fussé-je le repas,

Non, qui le roc remonte et redévale.


Voir ou toucher le rond de son tétin

Pourroit changer mon amoureux destin

Aux majestez des princes de l’Asie:


Un demy-dieu me feroit son baiser,

Et sein sur sein mon feu desembraser,

Un de ces Dieux qui mangent l’Ambrosie.

Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585) was the royal poet for the House of Valois. He and the Pleiades poets took Classical poems as paradigms, writing in French to help establish a national literature of France.

Alexandrian Kings


The Alexandrians were here

To see Queen Cleopatra’s boys —

Caesarion and his little brothers,

Alexander, Ptolemy

Led out to the Gymnasium, first

Time before the gleaming troops,

To be proclaimed as kings.


Alexander — they called him King

Of Media, Armenia, Parthia;

Ptolemy — they called him King

Of Syria, Cilicia, Phoenicia;

Caesarion — standing just ahead,

In rose-red silk,

Hyacinths at his breast,

Sapphires and amethysts around his waist,

His shoes laced with white ribbons and pink pearls:

Him they called more than all of these:

Him they called King of Kings.


The Alexandrians were well aware

These were theatrical words.


And yet . . . the day was hot, poetical:

The sky was milky blue;

The big Gymnasium

Triumphally adorned;

The courtiers’ finery extraordinary;

Caesarion delightful, beautiful

(Blood of the Lagids; Cleopatra’s son).

The Alexandrians hurried to the feast,

And rapturized and rhapsodized

In Greek, Egyptian, some in Hebrew too,

Enchanted by the glorious sight —

Knowing quite well what all of them were worth,

These words, these kingly words.

Julia Griffin teaches Renaissance English Literature at Georgia Southern University. She has published poems in Light, Mezzo Cammin, and other magazines online.

Ἀλεξανδρινοί Βασιλεῖς


Μαζεύθηκαν οἱ Ἀλεξανδρινοι
νά δοῦν τῆς Κλεοπάτρας τά παιδιά,
τόν Καισαρίωνα, καί τά μικρά του ἀδέρφια,
Ἀλέξανδρο καί Πτολεμαῖο, πού πρώτη
φορά τά βγάζαν ἔξω στό Γυμνάσιο,
ἐκεῖ νά τά κηρύξουν βασιλεῖς,
μές στή λαμπρή παράταξι τῶν στρατιωτῶν.

Ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος – τόν εἶπαν βασιλέα
τῆς Ἀρμενίας, τῆς Μηδίας, καί τῶν Πάρθων.
Ὁ Πτολεμαῖος – τόν εἶπαν βασιλέα
τῆς Κιλικίας, τῆς Συρίας, καί τῆς Φοινίκης.
Ὁ Καισαρίων στέκονταν πιό ἐμπροστά,
ντυμένος σέ μετάξι τριανταφυλλί,
στό στήθος του ἀνθοδέσμη ἀπό ὑακίνθους,
ἡ ζώνη του διπλή σειρά σαπφείρων κι ἀμεθύστων,
δεμένα τά ποδήματά του μ’ ἄσπρες
κορδέλλες κεντημένες μέ ροδόχροα μαργαριτάρια.
Αὐτόν τόν εἶπαν πιότερο ἀπό τούς μικρούς,
αὐτόν τόν εἶπαν Βασιλέα των Βασιλέων.

Οἱ Ἀλεξανδρινοί ἔνοιωθαν βέβαια
πού ἦσαν λόγια αὐτά καί θεατρικά.

Ἀλλά ἡ μέρα ἤτανε ζεστή καί ποιητική,
ὁ οὐρανός ἕνα γαλάζιο ἀνοιχτό,
τό Ἀλεξανδρινό Γυμνάσιο ἕνα
θριαμβικό κατόρθωμα τῆς τέχνης,
τῶν αὐλικῶν ἡ πολυτέλεια ἔκτακτη,
ὁ Καισαρίων ὅλο χάρις κ’ ἐμορφιά
(τῆς Κλεοπάτρας υἱός, αἷμα τῶν Λαγιδῶν)∙
κ’ οἱ Ἀλεξανδρινοί ἔτρεχαν πιά στήν ἑορτή,
κ’ ἐνθουσιάζονταν, κ’ ἐπευφημοῦσαν
ἑλληνικά, κ’ αἰγυπτιακά, καί ποιοί ἑβραίικα,
γοητευμένοι μέ τ’ ὡραῖο θέαμα –
μ’ ὅλο πού βέβαια ἤξευραν τί ἄξιζαν αὐτά,
τί κούφια λόγια ἤσανε αὐτές ἡ βασιλεῖες.


Constantin Cavafy (1863-1933) is generally considered the greatest Greek poet of the 20th century. He had a particular love for the ancient Classical world.

It rains in my heart


It rains in my heart

As it rains on the town;

Heavy languor and dark

Drenches my heart.

Oh, the sweet sound of rain

On the ground and the roofs!

For my listless heart’s pain

The pure song of the rain!


Still it rains without reason

In my overcast heart.

Can it be there’s no treason?

That this grief’s without reason?


As my heart fills with pain,

Lacking hatred, or love,

I’ve no way to explain

Such bewildering pain!



Michael R. Burch has over 5,000 publications including poems that have gone viral. His poems have been translated into fourteen languages and set to music by seven composers. He also edits The HyperTexts.

Il pleure dans mon cœur


Il pleure dans mon cœur

Comme il pleut sur la ville.

Quelle est cette langueur

Qui pénêtre mon cœur?

O bruit doux de la pluie

Par terre et sur les toits!

Pour un cœur qui s’ennuie,

O le chant de la pluie!


Il pleure sans raison

Dans ce cœur qui s’écœure.

Quoi! nulle trahison?

Ce deuil est sans raison.


C’est bien la pire peine

De ne savoir pourquoi,

Sans amour et sans haine,

Mon cœur a tant de peine.



Paul-Marie Verlaine (1844-1896) was a French poet associated with the Symbolist and Decadent movements. Known as “the Master” to his friends and admirers, Verlaine was elected France’s “Prince of Poets” by his peers in 1894.

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