Jonathan Swift |
As, when a lofty pile is raised,
We never hear the workmen praised,
Who bring the lime, or place the stones;
But all admire Inigo Jones:
So, if this pile of scattered rhymes
Should be approved in aftertimes;
If it both pleases and endures,
The merit and the praise are yours.
Thou, Stella, wert no longer young,
When first for thee my harp was strung,
Without one word of Cupid's darts,
Of killing eyes, or bleeding hearts;
With friendship and esteem possest,
I ne'er admitted Love a guest.
In all the habitudes of life,
The friend, the mistress, and the wife,
Variety we still pursue,
In pleasure seek for something new;
Or else, comparing with the rest,
Take comfort that our own is best;
The best we value by the worst,
As tradesmen show their trash at first;
But his pursuits are at an end,
Whom Stella chooses for a friend.
A poet starving in a garret,
Invokes his mistress and his Muse,
And stays at home for want of shoes:
Should but his Muse descending drop
A slice of bread and mutton-chop;
Or kindly, when his credit's out,
Surprise him with a pint of stout;
Or patch his broken stocking soles;
Or send him in a peck of coals;
Exalted in his mighty mind,
He flies and leaves the stars behind;
Counts all his labours amply paid,
Adores her for the timely aid.
Or, should a porter make inquiries
For Chloe, Sylvia, Phillis, Iris;
Be told the lodging, lane, and sign,
The bowers that hold those nymphs divine;
Fair Chloe would perhaps be found
With footmen tippling under ground;
The charming Sylvia beating flax,
Her shoulders marked with bloody tracks;
Bright Phyllis mending ragged smocks:
And radiant Iris in the pox.
These are the goddesses enrolled
In Curll's collection, new and old,
Whose scoundrel fathers would not know 'em,
If they should meet them in a poem.
True poets can depress and raise,
Are lords of infamy and praise;
They are not scurrilous in satire,
Nor will in panegyric flatter.
Unjustly poets we asperse;
Truth shines the brighter clad in verse,
And all the fictions they pursue
Do but insinuate what is true.
Now, should my praises owe their truth
To beauty, dress, or paint, or youth,
What stoics call without our power,
They could not be ensured an hour;
'Twere grafting on an annual stock,
That must our expectation mock,
And, making one luxuriant shoot,
Die the next year for want of root:
Before I could my verses bring,
Perhaps you're quite another thing.
So Maevius, when he drained his skull
To celebrate some suburb trull,
His similes in order set,
And every crambo he could get;
Had gone through all the common-places
Worn out by wits, who rhyme on faces;
Before he could his poem close,
The lovely nymph had lost her nose.
Your virtues safely I commend;
They on no accidents depend:
Let malice look with all her eyes,
She dare not say the poet lies.
Stella, when you these lines transcribe,
Lest you should take them for a bribe,
Resolved to mortify your pride,
I'll here expose your weaker side.
Your spirits kindle to a flame,
Moved by the lightest touch of blame;
And when a friend in kindness tries
To show you where your error lies,
Conviction does but more incense;
Perverseness is your whole defence;
Truth, judgment, wit, give place to spite,
Regardless both of wrong and right;
Your virtues all suspended wait,
Till time has opened reason's gate;
And, what is worse, your passion bends
Its force against your nearest friends,
Which manners, decency, and pride,
Have taught from you the world to hide;
In vain; for see, your friend has brought
To public light your only fault;
And yet a fault we often find
Mixed in a noble, generous mind:
And may compare to Etna's fire,
Which, though with trembling, all admire;
The heat that makes the summit glow,
Enriching all the vales below.
Those who, in warmer climes, complain
From Phoebus' rays they suffer pain,
Must own that pain is largely paid
By generous wines beneath a shade.
Yet, when I find your passions rise,
And anger sparkling in your eyes,
I grieve those spirits should be spent,
For nobler ends by nature meant.
One passion, with a different turn,
Makes wit inflame, or anger burn:
So the sun's heat, with different powers,
Ripens the grape, the liquor sours:
Thus Ajax, when with rage possest,
By Pallas breathed into his breast,
His valour would no more employ,
Which might alone have conquered Troy;
But, blinded be resentment, seeks
For vengeance on his friends the Greeks.
You think this turbulence of blood
From stagnating preserves the flood,
Which, thus fermenting by degrees,
Exalts the spirits, sinks the lees.
Stella, for once your reason wrong;
For, should this ferment last too long,
By time subsiding, you may find
Nothing but acid left behind;
From passion you may then be freed,
When peevishness and spleen succeed.
Say, Stella, when you copy next,
Will you keep strictly to the text?
Dare you let these reproaches stand,
And to your failing set your hand?
Or, if these lines your anger fire,
Shall they in baser flames expire?
Whene'er they burn, if burn they must,
They'll prove my accusation just.
Czeslaw Milosz |
Let us not talk philosophy, drop it, Jeanne.
So many words, so much paper, who can stand it.
I told you the truth about my distancing myself.
I've stopped worrying about my misshapen life.
It was no better and no worse than the usual human tragedies.
For over thirty years we have been waging our dispute
As we do now, on the island under the skies of the tropics.
We flee a downpour, in an instant the bright sun again,
And I grow dumb, dazzled by the emerald essence of the leaves.
We submerge in foam at the line of the surf,
We swim far, to where the horizon is a tangle of banana bush,
With little windmills of palms.
And I am under accusation: That I am not up to my oeuvre,
That I do not demand enough from myself,
As I could have learned from Karl Jaspers,
That my scorn for the opinions of this age grows slack.
I roll on a wave and look at white clouds.
You are right, Jeanne, I don't know how to care about the salvation of my soul.
Some are called, others manage as well as they can.
I accept it, what has befallen me is just.
I don't pretend to the dignity of a wise old age.
Untranslatable into words, I chose my home in what is now,
In things of this world, which exist and, for that reason, delight us:
Nakedness of women on the beach, coppery cones of their breasts,
Hibiscus, alamanda, a red lily, devouring
With my eyes, lips, tongue, the guava juice, the juice of la prune de Cyth?re,
Rum with ice and syrup, lianas-orchids
In a rain forest, where trees stand on the stilts of their roots.
Death, you say, mine and yours, closer and closer,
We suffered and this poor earth was not enough.
The purple-black earth of vegetable gardens
Will be here, either looked at or not.
The sea, as today, will breathe from its depths.
Growing small, I disappear in the immense, more and more free.
William Butler Yeats |
Under the Great Comedian's tomb the crowd.
A bundle of tempestuous cloud is blown
About the sky; where that is clear of cloud
Brightness remains; a brighter star shoots down;
What shudders run through all that animal blood?
What is this sacrifice? Can someone there
Recall the Cretan barb that pierced a star?
Rich foliage that the starlight glittered through,
A frenzied crowd, and where the branches sprang
A beautiful seated boy; a sacred bow;
A woman, and an arrow on a string;
A pierced boy, image of a star laid low.
That woman, the Great Mother imaging,
Cut out his heart.
Some master of design
Stamped boy and tree upon Sicilian coin.
An age is the reversal of an age:
When strangers murdered Emmet, Fitzgerald, Tone,
We lived like men that watch a painted stage.
What matter for the scene, the scene once gone:
It had not touched our lives.
But popular rage,
Hysterica passio dragged this quarry down.
None shared our guilt; nor did we play a part
Upon a painted stage when we devoured his heart.
Come, fix upon me that accusing eye.
I thirst for accusation.
All that was sung.
All that was said in Ireland is a lie
Bred out of the c-ontagion of the throng,
Saving the rhyme rats hear before they die.
Leave nothing but the nothingS that belong
To this bare soul, let all men judge that can
Whether it be an animal or a man.
The rest I pass, one sentence I unsay.
Had de Valera eaten parnell's heart
No loose-lipped demagogue had won the day.
No civil rancour torn the land apart.
Had Cosgrave eaten parnell's heart, the land's
Imagination had been satisfied,
Or lacking that, government in such hands.
O'Higgins its sole statesman had not died.
Had even O'Duffy - but I name no more -
Their school a crowd, his master solitude;
Through Jonathan Swift's clark grove he passed, and there
plucked bitter wisdom that enriched his blood.