Monday, February 13, 2017

Definition of Poetry by Boris Pasternak (trans. Eugene M. Kayden)

Definition of Poetry


It's a summons sternly swelling,
The cracking of shattered icicles,
The night that blasts young leaves,
The contest of two nightingales,


The stifled sweet pea on the vine,
The cry of a world at birth,
Figaro from flutes and the platform
In a crashing fall among rose beds.


It's all that night will reveal
In the steep depths of a pool--
To carry a star to the lake
Alone in its trembling wet arms.


Like dank wood, the stifling air,
When the sky is chocked by alders;
Gay stars could rock with laughter
At blockheads sunk flat in mud.

An English Lesson by Boris Pasternak (trans. Eugene M. Kayden)

An English Lesson


When Desdemona came a-singing,
And a little time to live had she--
Not love, her fatal star, she sobbed:
It was a willow, willow tree.


When Desdemona came a-singing,
With firmer voice and lifted head,
Her demon at her death prepared
A psalm of a weeping river bed.


And when Ophelia came a-singing,
And a little time to live had she--
Like storms that sweep a hayloft clean
Her soul was swept of misery.


And when Ophelia came a-singing,
Sick with bitter dreams and grief,
What trophies in her grave had she?
Sweet celandine and willow leaf.


Their passions fell away like rags,
And silent into the pool of night
And time they went, with aching hearts,
Their loving forms transfused in light.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Eighteen Sixty-One by Walt Whitman

Arm'd year--year of the struggle.
No dainty rhymes or sentimental love verses for you terrible year.
Not you as some pale poetling seated at a desk lisping cadenzas piano,
But as a strong man erect, clothed in blue clothes, advancing, carrying a rifle on your shoulder.
With a well-gristled body and sunburnt face and hands, with a knife in in the belt at your side.
As I heard you shouting loud, your sonorous voice ringing across the continent,
Your masculine voice O year, as rising amid the great cities,
Amid the men of Manhattan I saw you as one of the workmen, the dwellers in Manhattan,
Or with large steps crossing the prairies out of Illinois and Indiana,
Rapidly crossing the West with springy gait and descending the Alleghanies,
Or down from the great lakes or in Pennsylvania, or on deck along the Ohio river,
Or southward along the Tennessee or Cumberland rivers, or at Chattanooga on the mountain top,
Saw I your gait and saw I your sinewy limbs clothed in blue, bearing weapons, robust year,
Heard your determin'd voice launch'd forth again and again,
Year that suddenly sang by the mouths of the round-lipp'd cannon,
I repeat you, hurrying, crashing, sad, distracted year.