Poetry Translations

with Guest Editor Michael R Burch

You …

 

When you were but the merest tot,

Babbling in cowering awkwardness,

When you were only fresh-begot,

Flesh of my flesh, I loved you less …

What are you now? I scarce know what.

 

You are Yourself, not part of me:

So little mine, the soul within,

I cannot pierce your mystery!

Be beautiful, be good! Yes, be

Everything I could not have been.

 

I placed my desperate hopes upon

Your childhood … Light of heart, as then,

Joys will be born anew, anon,

As when you gave them birth. Though gone

Life holds them fast, to come again …

 

You are this, you are that … Ah yes …

You are our fruit of twofold race,

Who, with each step, bear off, caress

Against your breast, a bit of space.

You are this, you are that … Ah yes …

 

―Yet you are You, no more, no less.

 

 

Translated from the French of Cécile Périn. This translation appeared in The Gentle Genius of Cécile Périn. Copyright © 2016 by Norman R. Shapiro and Black Widow Press. Reprinted by permission of Norman Shapiro.

 

 

 

In the Gold Chalice of Caresses …

 

In the gold chalice of caresses

We drank wine’s draught, a-dallying,

That wakes the blood and makes it sing,

and moves the heart to drunk excesses …

 

Languid-eyed, languid-fingered, this

Quivering deep within the flesh …

Shivering bodies’ lustful bliss,

Dying, to be reborn a-fresh!

 

Fervent hands, soft and cool—yours, mine—

Ecstasy-pouring pythonesses:

Here are our hearts … Come, pour the wine

From the gold chalice of caresses.

 

Translated from the French of Cécile Périn. This translation appeared in The Gentle Genius of Cécile Périn. Copyright © 2016 by Norman R. Shapiro and Black Widow Press. Reprinted by permission of Norman Shapiro.

Last Hope

 

Beside a humble stone, a tree

Floats in the cemetery’s air,

Not planted in memoriam there,

But growing wild, uncultured, free.

 

A bird comes perching there to sing,

Winter and summer, proffering

Its faithful song—sad, bittersweet.

That tree, that bird are you and I:

 

You, memory; absence, me, that tide

And time record. Ah, by your side

To live again, undying! Aye,

To live again! But ma petite,

Now nothingness, cold, owns my flesh …

Will your love keep my memory fresh?

 

 

Translated from the French of Paul Verlaine. This translation appeared in One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine: A Bilingual Edition. Copyright © 1999 by Norman R. Shapiro, which won the MLA's prestigious Scaglione Award. Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

 

 

Innocents We

 

Their long skirts and high heels battled away:

Depending on the ground’s and breezes’ whim,

At times some stocking shone, low on the limb—

Too soon concealed!—tickling our naïveté.

 

At times, as well, an envious bug would bite

Our lovelies’ necks beneath the boughs, and we

Would glimpse a flash—white flash, ah! ecstasy!—

And glut our mad young eyes on sheer delight.

 

Evening would fall, the autumn day would draw

To its uncertain close: our belles would cling

Dreamingly to us, cooing, whispering

Lies that still set our souls trembling with awe.

 

 

Translated from the French of Paul Verlaine. This translation appeared in One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine: A Bilingual Edition. Copyright © 1999 by Norman R. Shapiro, which won the MLA's prestigious Scaglione Award. Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Norman R. Shapiro is Distinguished Professor and Poet-in-Residence, Wesleyan University, member of the Academy of American Poets, and Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française.

Feldeinsamkeit

 

Ich ruhe still im hohen grünen Gras

Und sende lange meinen Blick nach oben,

Von Grillen rings umschwirrt ohn Unterlaß,

Von Himmelsbläue wundersam umwoben.

 

Die schönen weißen Wolken ziehn dahin

Durchs tiefe Blau, wie schöne stille Träume;

Mir ist, als ob ich längst gestorben bin

Und ziehe selig mit durch ew’ge Räume.

 

Hermann Allmers

 

 

 

Feldeinsamkeit

 

Peacefully, I rest in the tall green grass

For a long time only gazing as I lie,

Caught in the endless hymn of crickets,

And encircled by a wonderful blue sky.

 

And the lovely white clouds floating across

The depths of the heavens are like silky lace;

I feel as though I have long been dead,

Softly drifting with them through eternal space.

 

Translation by David B. Gosselin with Michael R. Burch.

Listen to this poem set to music by Johannes Brahms

Wandrers Nachtlied

 

Über allen Gipfeln

Ist Ruh,

In allen Wipfeln

Spürest du

Kaum einen Hauch;

Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.

Warte nur, balde

Ruhest du auch.

 

Johannes Wolfgang Goethe

 

 

 

Wanderer’s Night Song II

 

Over the hilltops

Is quietness,

And in the treetops

Emptiness,

There’s hardly a sigh;

The birds are soundless in the forest.

With patience abide —

You too will rest.

 

Translation by David B. Gosselin

 

See translator’s notes on this poem

 

David B. Gosselin is a translator, poet, and linguist based in Montreal. He founded the website thechainedmuse.com, which publishes and promotes 21st century classical poetry.

Bureaucracy

 

English translation by Adi Wolfson and Michael R. Burch

 

The “Dead Sea” is drying along the accepted channels

someone dammed the River Jordan’s mouth

then tied the streams’ joints

and filled the factories’ pools

and even the sun,

naturally,

is shaving the face of the water.

 

A few years from now, or perhaps longer,

many salt pillars will

stand in our place,

mute reminders that for the sins of Sodom and the crimes

of Jerusalem’s clerks there will be no answer.

 

Hebrew poem by Adi Wolfson

All English rights reserved to Adi Wolfson and Michael R. Burch

 

Adi Wolfson is an eco-poetry pioneer. In addition to being a poet, he is also an environmental activist, an expert on sustainability, and a professor of chemical engineering. Wolfson has published five poetry books and has won several awards, including Israel’s prestigious Levi Eshkol Prize for Literature in 2017.

To date, “Bureaucracy” has appeared in the following languages:

 

Hebrew, by Adi Wolfson

English, by Adi Wolfson and Michael R. Burch

Arabic, by Marzuq Al-Halabi

French, by Charlette Franco

German, by Antje Eiger

Spanish, by Gerardo Lewin

Dead Sea—Bureaucracy is a project that asks readers to increase global awareness about the increasingly bad conditions of the Dead Sea, and to be a voice for the Sea. “Bureaucracy” is an eco-poem, a poem that speaks for nature and not just about nature, written originally in Hebrew by Adi Wolfson. By sharing, using, translating and reading the poem, you can make a difference and help the planet. Please help us translate the poem into all the languages in the world! To participate in this global project, you can visit Adi Wolfson’s Dead Sea—Bureaucracy website or his Facebook page.

water and tree scape

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