Roses – Brief Poems by Angelus Silesius

53ccfbf5c9b8c_angelus_silesiusAngelus Silesius  (c. 1624 – 9 July 1677) was a German mystic of the Counter-Reformation. He was born and baptised Johannes Scheffler in 1624 in the province of Silesia. In 1653, he converted to Catholicism from Lutheranism. He took holy orders under the Franciscans and was ordained a priest in 1661. Ten years later he retired to a Jesuit house where he remained for the rest of his life, trying to reconvert the people of Silesia.

Today he is known primarily for his religious poetry, and in particular for two poetical works both published in 1657: Heilige Seelenlust (literally, The Soul’s Holy Desires), a collection of more than 200 religious hymn texts that have been used by Catholics and Protestants; and Der Cherubinischer Wandersmann (The Cherubinic Pilgrim), a collection of 1,676 short poems, mostly ‘Alexandrines’, which are simple rhymed couplets.. His poetry explores themes of mysticism, quietism, and pantheism within an orthodox Catholic context. These short poems may lose much in translation (I do not read German) and many may seem quite naïve, but the depth of feeling that comes through the translations selected below gives them the resonance of  haiku and other short, mystical poetry.

The poems of Angelus Silesius

I first came across his poems in a book by Raymond Oliver, To be Plain. Further reading showed that the poetry of Angelus Silesius consists largely of  tweet-sized epigrams in the form of alexandrine couplets, a style that dominated German poetry and mystical literature during the Baroque era. Perhaps the best, and the best known of these poems, is “Without Why”:

red-rose-flower.thumbnailDie Ros ist ohn warum; sie blühet weil sie blühet,
Sie acht nicht ihrer selbst, fragt nicht, ob man sie siehet.

I have included some translations of this and other “rose” poems below, indicated by the rose symbol beside them. The same poem was often referenced in the work of the philosopher, Martin Heidegger, who explored mysticism in many of his works where he defines a theory of truth as phenomenal and defying any rational explanation.

The Argentinian writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) once asserted that the essence of poetry can be encapsulated in a single line from Silesius, “I will end with a great line by the poet who, in the seventeenth century, took the strangely real and poetic name of Angelus Silesius. It is the summary of all I have said tonight — except that I have said it by means of reasoning and simulated reasoning. I will say it first in Spanish and then in German: La rosa es sin porqué; florece porque florece and Die Rose ist ohne warum; sie blühet weil sie blühet.” The influence of Silesius is often seen in the work of Borges, especially in his poetry.

Translating Angelus Silesius

There are many translations of the epigrams available today, some with titles appended and some without. J. E. Crawford Flitch, writing in 1932, dealt with the difficulties he encountered in translating the poems into English, “For the fact that so many of the alexandrine couplets of the German poet appear in the following pages in the guise of quatrains of varying patterns, I have no other excuse to offer than that of my inability to preserve the original form without doing violence to the sense.” Another translator, Julia Bilger, writing in 1944, describes the attraction of these poems, “Many years ago in lovely Lindau on the Bodensee, I happened upon a thin volume of Angelus Silesius’ couplets which startled, amused and greatly interested me. Although it was in 1657 the world had first received them it seemed to me that they had lost little of their significance in 300 years. Their pithy comments upon human frailty, their wholesome attempt to direct a way toward peace of mind, their often half concealed humor, have modern application.”

Artist and philosopher Frederick Franck discovered the work of Angelus Silesius in a Copenhagen bookstore. He was drawn to these short poems from one who lived in “a century of upheavals, wars, and revolutions, a time of religious conflict, almost as troubled as ours.”  After some 25 years of Zen study, he recalled an earlier reading of the poems, “It was as if the ancient Zen Masters, who had become my companions and friends, were bending over me, whispering their own — sometimes quite ironic — commentaries in my ear.”  So he set his translations beside sayings of Zen teachers. The Irish haiku poet, Gabriel Rosenstock, has brought a different ethos to bear on the work of Angelus Silesius, “To be quoted liberally in the same book alongside such culturally disparate characters as Ikkyu and Crowfoot would appear to him as some monstrous abomination more than likely. And yet, the true haikuist (whether a religious believer or not) can relate to the couplets of the so-called cherubinical wanderer in ways that he may never have suspected.”

 

Red-rose

 

Brief Poems by Angelus Silesius

Translations by Paul Carus

Eternity is time
And time eternity,
Except when we ourselves.
Would make them different be.

***

Two eyes our souls possess:
While one is turned on time,
The other seeth things
Eternal and sublime.

***

WITHOUT WHY

red-rose-flower.thumbnailThe rose is without why.
It blows because it blows.
It thinks not of itself,
And no display it shows.

***

When quitting time, I am
Myself eternity.
I shall be one with God,
God one with me shall be.

***

The nearest way to God
Leads through love’s open door;
The path of knowledge is
Too slow for evermore.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by J. E. Crawford Flitch

Thou Must Blossom Now

O blossom, blossom, frozen soul!
May is abroad before thy door.
If thou dost blossom not to-day
Then art thou dead for evermore.

***

God is Not Grasped

God is an utter Nothingness,
Beyond the touch of Time and Place:
The more thou graspest after Him,
The more he fleeth thy embrace.

***

The Cross on Golgotha

The Cross on Golgotha
Thou lookest to in vain,
Unless within thine heart
It be set up again.

***

Without Why

red-rose-flower.thumbnailThe Rose because she is Rose
Doth blossom, never asketh Why;
She eyeth not herself, nor cares
If she is seen of other eye.

***

He Who Is Truly Rich

Much having is not being rich.
The Wealthy Man is he
Who views the loss of all he hath
With equanimity.

***

Thou must Go to the Source

Water is pure and clean when at the well-head quaffed:
Drink’st thou not at the Spring, there’s danger in the draught.

***

Conclusion

Friend, it is now enough. Wouldst thou read more, go hence,
Become thyself the Writing and thyself the Sense.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by Julia Bilger

Perpetual Motion

You seek unceasingly Life’s neverending motion;
I seek perpetual peace. Which is the wiser notion?

***

Man’s Three Foes

Man hath three enemies:—himself, the world, the devil.
Of these the first is far the most unyielding evil.

***

New and Old Love

A new love bubbles up and sparkles, like new wine;
Older and clearer love is always still and fine.

***

God Died on the Cross Before 

God died not on the Cross an only time or first;
His murderer hath been long as Abel’s murderer curst.

***
red-rose-flower.thumbnailThe Rose

The rose beheld today by thine external eye
Hath burgeoned thus in God through all eternity.

***

Even the Smallest Worm

No worm is so concealed within the deeper soil
But God ordains it food as a reward of toil.

***

Now Blossom

Awake, oh frozen Christian, for May is at thy door.
Unless thou bloomest now, thou diest evermore.

***

Time is Eternity

Time’s like eternity, eternity like time
Provided you yourself can only make them rhyme.

***

red-rose-flower.thumbnailTo Open Like the Rose

Thy heart receives thy God and all that with him goes
When it expands toward him as does an opening rose.

***

Finis

Friend, I have said enough. If thou wouldst read still more,
Then go thou and thyself become the script and lore.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by Raymond Oliver

Nothing Suits the Faultfinder

The nightingale won’t scorn the cuckoo’s song;
But you, unless I ape you, call me wrong.

***

Now You Must Bloom

Bloom, frozen Christian,May is at the gate!
Bloom, here and now, or forever be too late.

***

God Sees the Essentials

How you do good, not what, God sees; the fruit
Does not concern him, just the seeds and root.

***

Old and New Love

New love, like a new wine, will effervesce;
With age and clarity, it bubbles less.

***

Immanence

Those who dwell in him, God cannot condemn;
For he would put himself in hell with them.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by Maria Shrady 

One Cannot Grasp God

God is the purest naught, untouched by time and space;
The more you reach for Him, the more He will escape.

***

red-rose-flower.thumbnailWithout Why

The rose doth have no why; it blossoms without reason
Forgetful of itself, oblivious to our vision.

***

Through Humanity to God 

If you would like to catch dew of divinity,
Unwaveringly adhere to its humanity.

***

One Perceives God in Oneself 

What my God’s form may be, yourself you should perceive,
Who views himself in God gazes at God indeed.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by Stephen Mitchell 

God is a pure no-thing,
concealed in now and here:
the less you reach for him,
the more he will appear.

***

God, whose love and joy
Are present everywhere,
Can’t come to visit you
Unless you aren’t there.

***

God is my final end;
Does he from me evolve,
Then he grows out of me,
While I in Him dissolve.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by Frederick Franck

No sweeter tone
from any lute could spring
than when
this heart and that of God
resound
as with one string.

***

Prayer is neither word nor gesture
chant nor sound.
It is to be in still communication
with our Ground.

***

red-rose-flower.thumbnailThe rose that
with my mortal eye I see
flowers in God
through all eternity.

***

A ruby
is not lovelier
than a rock,
an angel
not more glorious
than a frog.

***

He has not lived in vain
who learns to be unruffled
by loss, by gain,
by joy, by pain.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by Gabriel Rosenstock

Friend, whatever you are, you must not stand still:
One must from one light into the other spill.

***

God, whose love and joy are present everywhere,
Can’t come to visit you unless you aren’t there.

***

I do not believe in death: I die by the hour, each day
And I have found a better life this way.

***

So many droplets in the sea, in bread so many grains;
So too of our multiplicity, nothing but God remains.

***

red-rose-flower.thumbnailThe rose blooms and knows not why,
Unencumbered by itself, oblivious to the eye.

 

***

Unless within you it already lies
Believe me, you cannot come to Paradise.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by D. S. Martin 

More Known Less Understood

The more you know God, the more you will confess
That what He truly is, you know now less and less.

***

Through You God Loses Nothing

Choose, Man, which of the two you want,
Your self-destruction or your peace.
Through you God suffers no loss,
Nor does He find increase.

***

God Didn’t Die For The First Time On The Cross

The cross wasn’t the first time He let Himself be slain,
For, see, he lies dead there at the feet of Cain.

 

Red-rose

 

Andrew Harvey

When God lay hidden in a young virgin’s womb
Then a miracle occurred; the point contained the circle.

***

Virginity is noble, but a mother you must also be
Or be a field stripped bare of all fertility.

 

Red-rose

 

Translations by Michael R. Burch

There is more to being rich
than merely having;
the wealthiest man can lose
everything not worth saving.

***

red-rose-flower.thumbnail

The rose merely blossoms
and never asks why:
heedless of her beauty,
careless of every eye.

***

New love, like a sparkling wine, soon fizzes.
Mature love, calm and serene, abides.

***

Man has three enemies:
himself, the world, and the devil.
Of these the first is, by far,
the most irresistible evil.

***

red-rose-flower.thumbnailThe rose lack reasons
and merely sways with the seasons;
she has no ego
but whoever put on such a show?

***

Water is pure and clean
when taken at the well-head:
but drink too far from the Source
and you may well end up dead.

 

 

Red-rose

 

LINKS

The Poetry Chaikhana page on Angelus Silesius

Selections from The Cherubinic Wanderer by Angelus Silesius translated with an introduction by J. E. Crawford Flitch.

Alexandrines translated from the “Cherubinischer Wandersmann” of Angelus Silesius by Julia Bilger.

 

Red-rose

 

Hair – Brief Poems by Bill Knott

Bill_KnottBill Knott (1940-2014) was born in Carson City, Michigan. His mother died when he was 6, his father when he was 11, and he was sent to Illinois for the next several years. He lived in an orphanage until he suffered a breakdown and was sent to an asylum. He attributed his emotional reserve and his dismissive’ attitude to his poetry to that fraught childhood. “Doubt seems to be my normal state which the poem or its origin suddenly and briefly overcomes. I know I can’t write a poem. I have no right to write a poem… I grew up in an orphanage, no family, no money, no educational opportunities. No background, no breeding. Scum like me can’t write poems.”

Published under the pseudonym Saint Geraud, a name he found in a French pornographic novel, Bill Knott’s first book The Naomi Poems, appeared in 1968, two years after a mimeographed letter, allegedly written by a friend of the poet, stated that he had committed suicide at 26 in his room in a tenement on North Clark Street in Chicago and that his body was on its way back to his native Michigan for burial. The letter went on to claim that Knott had killed himself because he was an orphan and virgin and that he couldn’t endure any longer without being loved by somebody. The Naomi Poems proved that he was alive and launched a vital career, even if he never reached the heights he wanted. He published many books of poetry, self-published many others, and was awarded the Iowa Poetry Prize and a Guggenheim fellowship. He enjoyed assailing  the poetry establishment, the PoBiz whose upper echelons seemed forever closed to an orphan from the Midwest who promoted, if that is the right word, his rejection slips by pasting them on his office door and by posting them on-line.

A prolific writer, Bill Knott published with major houses and minor presses, and he enthusiastically used blogs and Twitter to offer his work free to a new, wider audience. He was a genuinely comic writer –  “the tragicomic seems my natural mode” – constantly puncturing the pomposity of American poetry and self-deprecating his own work. “The comic mode as I see it is an essential aspect of verse written in English. As a USA poet I am ergo distant geographically and perhaps historically from that tradition. Writing in the comic mode is my attempt to bridge that gulf, to refute the “American” poetic tradition and to return to the English. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the comic mode is a way for USA poets to try to free ourselves from the sanctimony and tendentiousness, the stale pomposity of “American” poetry, and to regain some link with the vital English heritage.”

That comic, often tragicomic, prowess is, in my view, at its best in the short poems. I have included a wide selection below. I hope you like them.

 

 

 

hair-clip-art-niBdRdKiA

 

 

Brief Poems by Bill Knott

My Favorite Word

“Attentionspan” is my favorite word
because I can never finish
reading it all the way through.

***

Perfection

Cueballs have invented insomnia in an attempt to forget eyelids

***

Minor Poem

The only response
to a child’s grave is
to lie down before it and play dead

***

Retort to Pasternak

The centuries like barges have floated
out of the darkness, to communism: not to be judged,
but to be unloaded.

Bill Knott’s Note:
See the last lines of “Garden of Gethsame,” which is the last poem of ‘The Poems of Yurii Zhivago,’ the verse supplement to Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago.

***

Death

Perfume opens its eyes of you.
I shall be the shepherd of your hair.
A dawn made of all the air I ever breathed.

***

Death

Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
They will place my hands like this.
It will look as though I am flying into myself.

***

Goodbye

If you are still alive when you read this,
close your eyes. I am
under their lids, growing black.

***

Poem

Even when the roads are empty,
even at night, the stopping
tells the truth.

***

Poem

At your light side trees shy
A kneeling enters them

 

hair-clip-art-niBdRdKiA

 

Poem

After your death,
Naomi, your hair will escape to become
a round animal, nameless.

***

Naomi Poem

When our hands are alone,
they open, like faces.
There is no shore
to their opening.

***

Poem

Dear boys and girls,
please don’t forget to
underline my words
after you erase them.

***

Poem

the door is open
but the wall
which the door opens
continually waits for it
to enter

***

Poem To Poetry

Poetry,
you are an electric,
a magic, field–like the space
between a sleepwalker’s outheld arms!

 

hair-clip-art-niBdRdKiA

 

Hair Poem

Hair is heaven’s water flowing eerily over us
Often a woman drifts off down her long hair and is lost

***

Inthreadable

each snowflake’s
a maze
whose enter
no other flake can find
the ways
to enter

***

Quickie

Poetry
is
like
sex
on
quicksand
therefore
foreplay
should
be
kept
at
a
minimum

***

Advice from the Experts

I lay down in the empty street and parked
My feet against the gutter’s curb while from
The building above a bunch of gawkers perched
Along its ledges urged me don’t, don’t jump.

***

History

Hope . . . goosestep.

***

To X

You’re like a scissors
popsicle I don’t know to
whether jump back
or lick

***

Days

Ceilings ring with morning’s occasions;
but evening’s toll us to the floor.

***

Ideal Esthetic

I only keep this voice to give to anything afraid of me

***

At the Crossroads

The wind blows a sheet of paper to my feet.
I pick it up.
It is not a petition for my death.

 

hair-clip-art-niBdRdKiA

 

Beddybye

Just hope that when you lie down your toes are a
—-firing-squad

***

Sleep

We brush the other, invisible moon.
Its caves come out and carry us inside.

***

Maybe (to H)

a stopsign stranded
in a sea of cacti
won’t grow needles
maybe but then

even I take on some
characteristics
of human when
I’m with you

***

My River

The closer it gets to the sea the more
it aches for its source, the wound
that sprung it from the ground.

***

Faith

People who get down
on their knees to me
are the answer to my prayers

***

Security

If I had a magic carpet
I’d keep it
Floating always
Right in front of me
Perpendicular, like a door.

 

hair-clip-art-niBdRdKiA

 

[Untitled]

on the one hand
but on the other hand
I rest

***

[Untitled]

Rice thrown from
an open grave marks
the height of a ceremony
somewhere in our lives.

***

[Untitled]

Fingerprints look like ripples
because time keeps dropping
another stone into our palm.

***

[Untitled]

A nose surrounded
by a flaw—
hark, that’s my face

***

Haiku

The sweat on my forehead
shines brighter
when it’s in my eyes.

***

Wrong

I wish to be misunderstood;
that is,
to be understood from your perspective.

***

THE FINAL WORD

Our farewells lack the plausibility of our departures.

 

 

 

hair-clip-art-niBdRdKiA

 

 

LINKS

Bill Knott’s Blog,

 

20 self-published books by Bill Knott, available free.

 

Bill Knott Poetry Forum – open for discussion and interpretation oh his work.

 

Bill Knott’s Rejection Slips

 

A short biography and several poems by Bill Knott

 

Remembering Bill Knott – A Memoir by Robert P. Baird in The New Yorker.

 

Keep Moving Toward the Sea – A Memoir by Thomas Lux.

 

An interview with Bill Knott.

 

Dan Chiasson on “Bill Knott’s Anti-Career of Guerrilla Poetry”.

 

 

hair-clip-art-niBdRdKiA

 

 

Sappho’s Moon and Pleiades

imageSappho was born on the island of Lesbos, near Asia Minor, around 650 BC. She was a contemporary of the poet Alcaeus. Little is known with certainty about her life. It seems she was born to an aristocratic family of wealth and that she had a brother named Larichus who, it seems, poured wine in a ceremonial manner in the town hall. It seems that she had a child named Cleis whom, it seems, she took with her into exile in Sicily during a period of political unrest. The appearance of so many “seems” in this paragraph attests to the uncertainty that continues to surround her reputation. What is certain, however, is that she was thought of as “The Tenth Muse” by Plato in one of his epigrams

Some say the Muses are nine: how careless!
Look, there’s Sappho too, from Lesbos, the tenth

and that she was so well known in Greek civilization that the city of Mytilene put her likeness on its coins.

The Library of Alexandria collected Sappho’s poetry into nine books, mostly based on their metres. But these were lost in the great fire. Now, only two complete poems survive, quoted by two literary writers; Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Longinus. The rest of her work survives in a number of forms:

  • in brief quotes by ancient writers
  • on lists of words or lines in ancient dictionaries and glossaries
  • on pieces of pottery
  • on papyrus fragments found in the late 19th early 20th centuries in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt
  • on pieces of 6th or 7th century parchment

About the fragment on the moon and the Pleiades

It seems (that word again) that this poem was written by Sappho, but there are those who dispute that. This fragment, which is given a different fragment number in different editions of her poetry, was included without attribution in an ancient metrical handbook, then judged to be Sappho in the 15th century. Modern editors don’t include it with Sappho, though obviously modern translators follow tradition and do.

About translations of the poem

The greatest difficulty in translating Sappho is the metrics.  Sappho’s poetry, written in quantitative verse, is difficult to reproduce in English which uses stress-based metres and rhyme compared to Ancient Greek’s solely length-based metres. According to Paul Roche, “In Greek you have schemes of quantitative rhythm which cut across the natural accents or stress values of words. In English you have schemes of stress rhythm which cut across the natural accents or stress values of the words. The difference is that in English the stress values of the syllables is not constant, whereas in Greek the quantitative value of the syllable (within certain limits) is.” It is relatively easy to provide a prose translation as in that of H. T.Wharton (below). But making poetry out of the fragment is another matter and one that leads to varying approaches. One of my favourite versions of this fragment is by A. E. Houseman who offers two poems that considerably lengthen the fragment but also do it a poetic justice. They are not translations. They are not even what Robert Lowell calls “Imitations”. Let’s call them derivations which are too long to tweet but short enough to post. Here is one:

The weeping Pleiads wester,
And the moon is under seas;
From bourn to bourn of midnight
Far sighs the rainy breeze:

It sighs from a lost country
To a land I have not known;
The weeping Pleiads wester,
And I lie down alone.

And here is another:

The rainy Pleiads wester,
Orion plunges prone,
The stroke of midnight ceases,
And I lie down alone.

The rainy Pleiads wester
And seek beyond the sea
The head that I shall dream of,
And ’twill not dream of me.

If Houseman’s version is a typical Houseman poem, it goes to show that the translation of this fragment often reflects the style of the age or of the poet. Symonds and Higginson offer versions appropriate to the 19th century. The Irish novelist and ship’s doctor Henry De Vere Stacpoole turns it into a melancholy sea shanty.

In the 1960s, Mary Barnard adopted a new approach to translation, one that eschewed the use of rhyming stanzas and traditional forms. Subsequent translators have tended to work in a similar manner. But many still maintain more of their own styles. Rexroth sounds like Rexroth and Carson sounds like Carson. Diane Rayor explains her approach to translating Sappho as an attempt  “to re-create the vivid and direct effect of the Greek. I retain all specific details and imagery, while compensating for formal aspects, such as lyric meters that sound awkward in English.” How that compensation works is another matter. My own favourite version is that of Tom Scott in a Scottish dialect.

You might fill  in the comment box below this post and share your favourite version of this remarkable poem.

 

image

English Translations

Δέδυκε μεν ἀ σελάννα
καὶ Πληΐαδεσ, μέσαι δὲ
νύκτεσ πάρα δ᾽ ἔρχετ᾽ ὤρα,
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω

***

Prose version by H T Wharton: “The moon has set, and the Pleiades; it is midnight, the time is going by, and I sleep alone.”

***

The Moon has left the sky,
Lost is the Pleiads’ light;
It is midnight,
And time slips by,
But on my couch alone I lie.

J  Addington  Symonds

***

The moon has set beyond the seas,
And vanished are the Pleiades;
Half the long weary night has gone,
Time passes—yet I lie alone.

Henry De Vere Stacpoole

***

The moon is down;
And I’ve watched the dying
Of the Pleiades;
‘T is the middle night,
The hour glides by,
And alone I’m sighing.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

***

The moon is set; the Pleiades are gone;
‘T is the mid-noon of-night; the hour is by,
And yet I watch alone.

James Gate Percival

***

The moon has left the heavens;
“The Pleiades have set;
And at the hour of midnight
In solitude I fret.

Walter Petersen

***

The silver moon is set;
The Pleiades are gone;
Half the long night is spent, and yet
I lie alone.

John H. Merivale

***

The sinking moon has left the sky,
The Pleiades have also gone.
Midnight comes–and goes, the hours fly
And solitary still, I lie.

Edwin Marion Cox

 

image

 

Well, the moon has set
And the Pleiades. It is the middle
Of the night. And the hour passes by,
But I sleep alone …….

Terry Walsh

***

The moon has set,
and along with it the Pleiades; it is midnight,
so time has passed me by,
and I lie down to sleep alone.

Richard Vallance

***

The moon has set and the Pleiades; it is midnight, the night-watch goes by, and I sleep alone.

Constantine A. Trypanis

***

The Moon and the Pleiades have set –
half the night is gone.
Time passes.
I sleep alone.

Diane Rayor

***

Tonight, I’ve watched the Pleiades and the moon
And now…I’m in bed alone;
The night is half-gone.

Jean Elizabeth Ward

***

The moon is set. And the Pleiades.
It’s the middle of the night.
Time [hôrâ] passes.
But I sleep alone.

Julia Dubnoff

 

image

 

The moon has set and the Pleiades
Have gone.
It is midnight; the hours pass; and I
Sleep alone.

Edward Storer

***

The moon has set,
And the Pleiades.
Midnight.
The hour has gone by.
I sleep alone.

Stanley Lombardo

***

The moon has set,
And the Pleiades. It is
Midnight. Time passes.
I sleep alone.

Kenneth Rexroth

***

The Pleiades disappear,
the pale moon goes down.

After midnight, time blurs:
sleepless, I lie alone.

Sam Hamill

***

The moon has set, and the Pleiades.
It is the middle of the night,
Hour follows hour. I lie alone.

Guy Davenport

***

Now the moon is gone, the Pleiads
Gone, the dead of night is going;
Slips the hour, and on my bed

I lie alone.

Bliss Carman

***

The moon and Pleiades
are set. Midnight,
and time spins away.
I lie in bed, alone.

Willis Barnstone

**

Tonight I’ve watched

the moon and then
the Pleiades
go down

The night is now
half-gone; youth
goes; I am

in bed alone

Mary Barnard

 

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The moon has set
and the stars have faded,
midnight has gone,
long hours pass by, pass by;
I sleep alone

Josephine Balmer

***

Doun gaes the muin herself, an aa
The Pleiades forbye.
Nicht is nearin her mirkist hoor
And yet alane I lie.

Tom Scott

***

Selanna (the moon) has dipped and the Pleiades too
Ahh midnight darkens
& I sleep alone….

Edward Sanders

***

The moon has long since set;
the Pleiades are gone;
now half the night is spent,
yet here I lie—alone.

Michael R. Burch

***

The moon has set, and the Pleiades; it is midnight, and time is passing; and I lie alone.

A. M. Miller

***

The Moon is down,
The Pleiades. Midnight,
The hours flow on,
I lie, alone.

A. S. Kline

***

The moon has set,
and the Pleiades as well;
in the deep middle of the night
the time is passing,
and I lie alone.

Susy Q. Groden

 

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The moon has gone
The Pleiades gone
In dead of night
Time passes on
I lie alone

Paul Roche

***

Dwynit is the mune awa
And the Pleiades, the nicht
Is at her mid, the hours flee, and I
-My lane I ligg.

Sydney Goodsir Smith

***

Moonset already,
the Pleiades, too: midnight,
the hour passes
and I lie down, a lonely woman.

Jim Powell

***

Moon and the Pleiades go down.
Midnight and tryst pass by.
I, though, lie
Alone.

Aaron Poochigian

***

Dropping out of sight go the moon
and Pleiades. Midnight slides
by me, then hour on hour.
I lie here awake and alone.

Frank Beck

***

Moon has set
and Pleiades: middle
night, the hour goes by,
alone I lie.

Anne Carson

***

the moon’s disappeared above me
the Pleiades, too, have vanished
midnight, and the hours pass by
and still do I sleep alone

Ted Gellar-Goad

***

The moon has set
and so the Pleiades; in the middle
of the night, the hours pass by
and I, alone, I lie.

Magda Kapa

***

CINQUAIN

Midnight.
The moon and the
Pleiades both vanished.
Time ticks by. Here is the sofa.
Here me.

George Szirtes

Ten Cinquains: Variations after Sappho by George Szirtes

***

 

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LINKS

A detailed analysis of the poem in its original Greek version.

A detailed discussion of the poem by David Aiken.

A comic book version of the poem.

An astronomical view of the poem on the Clive Thomson blog.

 

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Salt – Brief Poems by J. V. Cunningham

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James Vincent Cunningham (1911–1985) was an American poet, literary critic and teacher. He was born in Cumberland, Maryland in 1911. His father, James Joseph Cunningham, was a steam-shovel operator for a railroad who moved the family to Billings, Montana, and later to Denver, Colorado where Cunningham spent his youth. But the death of his father in an accident and the family’s resulting financial hardship prevented Cunningham from continuing immediately to college. He worked for a while as a “runner” for a brokerage house on the Denver Stock Exchange, where he personally witnessed two suicides in the days immediately following the October 29, 1929 stock market crash. (He talks about this in an interview with Timothy Steele.) Afterwards, there was, he would later remark, “a good deal of starving involved” as he tramped the West with his brother, looking for a job and writing ill-paying piecework for whatever publications he could find.

In 1931, he corresponded with Yvor Winters who offered him the opportunity to stay in a shed on his property and to attend classes at Stanford University where Winters was teaching. Cunningham earned an A.B. in classics in 1934 and a Ph.D. in English in 1945—both from Stanford. During World War II, he taught mathematics to Air Force pilots. He later earned his living primarily by teaching English and writing at various American universities. He took a position at Brandeis University in 1953, soon after the school was founded, and taught there until he retired in 1980.

Joseph Bottum has called Cunningham America’s best forgotten poet who “produced fewer than two hundred poems — several only two lines long — in a career of over fifty years, and although he lived through a number of poetic fads in America from the 1930s to the 1980s, he managed to remain unfashionable during them all. With a handful of what many professional critics and fellow poets acknowledge as nice minor verses, but without a single major poem identifiable by the greater poetry-reading public, he was little noticed, little anthologized, and little read… his work had suffered the invariable fate of minor poetry — as his last thin and incomplete volume of collected verse from a subsidized press slipped unnoticed out of print.”

In 1997, an important rerelease of Cunningham’s work, edited and with an introduction by poet Timothy Steele,  entitled The Poems of J. V. Cunningham, revived his reputation and stirred new interest in his work. Reviewing that collection, Joseph Bottom concluded J. V. Cunningham “remains — in all that he did and all that he failed to do — the most fascinating poet of his generation.”

My Introduction to J. V. Cunningham

I first encountered the poetry of J. V. Cunningham in the 1970’s when a friend of mine in Dublin loaned me his copy of  Collected Poems and Epigrams  (Faber and Faber, 1971). I was smitten. Towards the end of that book was a section entitled A Century of Epigrams. To me, this was the “head” of the book, its amazing formal and witty intelligence. The “heart” of the book was a brief sequence of love poems entitled To What Strangers, What Welcome (1963). I must be among the few who contend that this is a neglected masterpiece, deserving of a much greater readership and attention. Subsequently I bought my own copy of the book and then, writing to publishers in the USA, bought The Collected Essays, The Journal of John Cardan and, eventually, the detailed annotated Timothy Steel edition of The Poems of J. V. Cunningham. I have not been disappointed. Some commentators, particularly David Barber and Joseph Bottum, would argue that Cunningham was restrained by his allegiance to the epigram. They have a point, but a very limited point. If you believe, as I do, that the epigram is a notable part of the history of English poetry then Cunningham is one of its greatest practitioners. I admit to finding his translations, some of which are included below, of a very limited value, but his own poems are ones I return to often. I hope you like them.

 

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Brief Poems by J. V. Cunningham

Epigraph to The Helmsman

Of thirty years ten years I gave to rhyme
That this time should not pass: so passes time.

***

An Epitaph for Anyone

An old dissembler who lived out his lie
Lies here as if he did not fear to die.

***

Time heals not: it extends a sorrow’s scope
As goldsmiths gold, which we may wear like hope.

***

All hastens to its end. If life and love
Seem slow it is their ends we’re ignorant of.

***

Deep summer, and time pauses. Sorrow wastes
To a new sorrow. While time heals time hastes.

***

Motto for a sun dial 

I who by day am function of the light
Am constant and invariant by night.

 

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History of ideas 

God is love. Then by conversion
Love is God, and sex conversion.

***

On the Calculus

From almost naught to almost all I flee,
And almost has almost confounded me,
Zero my limit, and infinity.

***

This Humanist whom no beliefs constrained
Grew so broad-minded he was scatter-brained.

***

This is my curse. Pompous, I pray
That you believe the things you say
And that you live them, day by day.

***

Death in this music dwells. I cease to be
In this attentive, taut passivity.

***

Epitaph for Someone or Other 

Naked I came, naked I leave the scene,
And naked was my pastime in between.

 

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Life flows to death as rivers to the sea,
And life is fresh and death is salt to me.

***

Here lies my wife. Eternal peace
Be to us both with her decease.

***

I married in my youth a wife.
She was my own, my very first.
She gave the best years of her life.
I hope nobody gets the worst.

***

You wonder why Drab sells her love for gold?
To have the means to buy it when she’s old.

***

Friend, on this scaffold Thomas More lies dead
Who would not cut the Body from the Head.

***

The Lights of Love

The ladies in my life, serially sexed,
Unscrew one lover and screw in the next.

***

They

Of all the gods that were
Remains one deity:
Who do they think they are?
They can’t do this to me.

 

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Towards Tucson

In this attractive desolation,
A world’s debris framed by a fence,
Drink is my only medication
And loneliness is my defence.

***

Love’s Progress

Pal was her friend, her lover, and dismissed,
Became at last her lay psychiatrist.

***

An Oedipean Mom and Dad
Made Junior Freud feel pretty bad,
And when they died he was so vexed
He never after hetrosexed.

***

Portrait

I am the other woman, so much other
It is no task to tell the one from tother.

***

On a Letter

Unsigned, almost unsent, and all unsaid
Except the sending, which I take as read.

 

 

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Brief Translations by J. V. Cunningham

Someone I tell you will remember us.

After the Greek of Sappho

***

The moon has set now, and
The Pleiades. It is
Midnight, the hours go by,
And I lie here alone.

After the Greek of Sappho

***

I hate and love her. If you ask me why
I don’t know, But I feel it and am torn.

After the Latin of Catullus

***

After Martial, 1.16

Some good, some middling, and some bad
You’ll find here. They are what I had.

After the Latin of Martial

***

1.32

Sabinus, I don’t like you. You know why?
Sabinus, I don’t like you. That is why.

After the Latin of Martial

***

4.33

You write, you tell me, for posterity.
May you be read, my friend, immediately.

After the Latin of Martial

***

On Raphael

This is that Raphael the Great Source of All
Feared as Its master, with his fall to fall.

After the Latin of Pietro Bembo 

***

The Pope from penance purgatorial,
Freed some, but Martin Luther freed them all.

After the Latin of George Buchanan

 

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LINKS

The complete text of J. V. Cunningham’s collection, The Exclusions of a Rhyme.

The Poetry Foundation page on J. V. Cunningham.

A 1983 interview with J. V. Cunningham by Timothy Steele.

AMERICA’S BEST FORGOTTEN POET A fascinating review of The Collected Poems by J Bottum in The Weekly Standard.

A review by David Barber of The Collected Poems in Parnassus Review

Louise Bogan and J. V. Cunningham read and discuss their poems.

Archival recordings of J. V. Cunningham, with an introduction to his life and work.

The late D. G. Myers shares his class notes of a J. V. Cunningham lecture.

Terse Elegy for J. V. Cunningham by X. J. Kennedy.

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Snowfall – Brief Poems by Michael Longley

michael_longleyMichael Longley was born in Belfast in July 1939. His parents had moved to the city from London in the late 1920’s and between the wars his father had worked as a furniture salesmen. The son of English Protestants, growing up in a city riven by sectarian tensions between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, he negotiated those tensions with great skill in his early poems. He has arguably, and it would be my argument, written some of the best poems to come out of the “Troubles”, poems such as Wounds, Wreaths and The Ice Cream Man.

Although he has written long poems, such as the superb sequence, Mayo Monologues, he is drawn again and again to much shorter forms. When asked in a 1998 interview about the formal discipline that helps him produce four- and two-line poems, Longley replied, “Was it Tennyson who said that a perfect lyric inscribes the shape of an S? That sense of a gesture, you know, the way you use your hand if you’re bowing, if you’re reaching out to shake somebody’s hand, if you’re going to stroke a cat, if you’re holding a woman’s hand to take her on to the dance floor…”

The poems chosen below reflect some of the central concerns of his poetry. He has written extensively about the First World War and of his father’s role in that conflict. “Somehow, my father’s existence, and his experience, the stories he passed on to me, gave me a kind of taproot into the war.” Poems like High Wood and Into Battle (see below) reflect that concern. And a poem like Terezín extends that concern into the second world war. He has applied a classical scholar’s eye to modern conflict. His Homeric sonnet Ceasefire, ostensibly about the Trojan Wars, was printed after an IRA ceasefire and has had a seminal impact on Irish politics and poetry. “Moments in the Odyssey chimed with emotions that I would have found almost impossible to deal with otherwise: heartbreak, paranoia, bitterness, hatred, fear. Homer gave me a new emotional and psychological vocabulary.” We can see this reflected in such short poems as Paper Boats and The Parting. And then there are the love poems (“The love poem is the most important thing I do – the hub of the wheel is love…”) and the nature poems like those brief italicised poems that are placed at the end of many of his collections like mini-codas. (“I think our relationship with the natural world and with the plants and animals is the major issue now.”) That lovely little alliterative one-line poem Lost is a testament to the power of his compression. “I freeze frame moments, like a painter.”

Michael Longley continues to garner awards for his collections of poetry, produced on a regular basis. And many of these poems, as you can see below, are short, snappy and insightful. I hope you like them.

 

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Brief Poems by Michael Longley

THE WEATHER IN JAPAN

Makes bead curtains of the rain,
Of the mist a paper screen.

***

TEREZÍN

No room has ever been as silent as the room
Where hundreds of violins are hung in unison.

***

LOST

my lost lamb lovelier than all the wool.

***

OUT THERE

Do they ever meet out there,
The dolphins I counted
The otter I wait for?
I should have spent my life
Listening to the waves.

***

WIND-FARMER

The wind-farmer’s small holding reaches as far as the horizon.
Between fields of hailstones and raindrops his frost-flowers grow.

***

Love poems, elegies: I am losing my place.
Elegies come between me and your face.

***

THE PARTING

He: “Leave it to the big boys, Andromache.”
“Hector, my darling husband, och, och,” she.

***

COUPLET

When I was young I wrote that flowers are very slow flames
And you uncovered your breasts often among my images.

***

NIGHT TIME

Without moonlight or starlight we forgot about love
As we joined the blind ewe and the unsteady horses.

***

A TOUCH
after the Irish

she is the touch of pink
on crab apple blossom
and hawthorn and she melts
frost flowers with her finger

***

PAPER BOATS
Homage to Ian Hamilton Finlay

fold paper boats
for the boy Odysseus
and launch them

ship-shape
happy-go-lucky
in the direction of Troy

 

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CORINNA

Have you fallen asleep forever, Corinna?
In the past you were never the one to lie in.

***

feathers on water
a snowfall of swans
snow water

***

OLD POETS

Old poets regurgitate
Pellets of chewed-up paper
Packed with shrew tails, frog bones,
Beetle wings, wisdom.

***

HIGH WOOD

My father is good at mopping up:
Steam rises from the blood and urine.

***

INTO BATTLE

The Hampshires march into battle with bare knees.
Full of shrapnel holes are the leaves on the trees.

***

meadowsweet,
loosestrife
swaying along
the ditch
waiting to
cross over
at the end
of my days

***

forty two whoopers call
then the echoes
as though there are more swans
over the ridge

***

Pillows

Your intelligence snoozes next to mine.
Poems accumulate between our pillows.

***

Monarch

If I were inside you now
I would stay there for ages
Until the last migrating
Monarch butterfly had left.

***

Cowslip

haiku beginning with a line of Barbara Guest

The way a cowslip bends
Recalls a cart track,
Crushed sunlight at my feet.

***

Place-Names

I have lost my way
At last somewhere between
Traleckachoolia
And Carrignarooteen.

 

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LINKS

An extensive educational resource on Michael Longley’s poetry.

A feature article from The Guardian newspaper about Michael Longley.

A recent BBC interview with Michael Longley to celebrate his 70th birthday.

An Irish Times interview with Michael Longley.

Michael Longley reads six of his poems on the Poetry Archive site.

 

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Petals – Brief Poems by Ezra Pound

Ezra_PoundEzra Pound (1885-1972), an American from Hailey, Idaho,  is possibly the most influential and the most controversial poet of the twentieth century. According to T. S. Eliot, “Pound is more responsible for the twentieth-century revolution in poetry than is any other individual.” He was famous for the generosity with which he advanced the work of such major contemporaries as W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H. D., James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and especially T. S. Eliot who dedicated The Waste Land to Pound who was instrumental in editing the final version. In his own poetry, Pound adopted many voices with great skill, learning from Robert Browning’s dramatic poetry which was an enduring inspiration. An early collection was entitled, appropriately, Personae. Pound could speak through the mouth of a troubadour warrior, a Chinese river-merchant’s wife, an Italian Renaissance prince or the Roman poet, Sextus Propertius.

He was among the early practitioners of a school of poetry known as Imagism (or Imagisme to give it its Frenchified term bestowed by H. D.). It was, according to Thom Gunn “a tiny movement with a tiny life-span which produced tiny poems; but it was to be the most influential poetic movement of the century, in subject matter confining itself to the sensory at the expense of the conceptual, in style emphasising clarity and compression, and in form carrying with it the implicit necessity of free verse, which was still young and experimental at that time, and by no means the drab norm it is nowadays.” The most famous example of Imagism remains that short two-line poem which Pound wrote in 1913, In a Station of the Metro.

In a Station of the Metro

Pound’s Parisian Metro station has the same iconic status as the red wheelbarrow of William Carlos Williams. First printed in 1913 in Poetry Magazine in the version printed below (I am indebted to Thom Gunn’s selection for this information) it was originally a thirty line poem before he put it through his Imagist paces. This was his version of Japanese haiku which, he claimed, provided a model of compression in verse, a “one-image” poem  which is “trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective.” The title anchors and places the poem. The first line is a simple, clear and straightforward statement. The second is a brilliant use of metaphor. The poem’s emotional core is the connection and the disconnection between the two lines.

Pound claimed in his essay A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste that an image is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. It is the presentation of such complex instantaneity that gives a sudden sense of liberation that we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.” He went on to state that “it is better to produce one image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.” That he managed both, if we include the encyclopedic epic poem he entitled The Cantos, is to his immeasurable credit. (My own view of The Cantos is that it is like Finnegans Wake by James Joyce: in parts, utterly incomprehensible and, in other parts, absolutely brilliant.)

 

Ezra Pound and Translation

Throughout his long and varied life, Ezra Pound translated from nine European languages and from four other languages. Michael Alexander in an essay divides his translations into two kinds; what he calls “copies” which stick close to the original (such as those included in the brief translations section below) and what he calls “remakes” where Pound edits and reshapes the originals such as his poem, Papyrus, which is based on three words found in a Sappho manuscript.

Pound has arguably done more than any other poet in the twentieth century to open poetry in English to non-English influences. He may not be an accurate translator. His friend, T. S. Eliot, claimed that “Pound is the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time” and went on to call his poems from other languages, in a brilliant word, “translucencies” rather than translations. Whatever way you approach them, they are wonderful poems in English.

 

 

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Brief Poems by Ezra Pound

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition     of these faces     in the crowd    ;
Petals     on a wet, black     bough    .

(As printed in Poetry magazine, 1913)

***

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

***

Alba

As cool as the pale wet leaves
of lily-of-the-valley
She lay beside me in the dawn.

***

Reflection

I know that what Nietzsche said is true,
And yet
I saw the face of a little child in the street,
And it was beautiful.

***

In Epitaphium

Write me when this geste, our life is done:
“He tired of fame before the fame was won.”

***

Ts’ai Chi’h

The petals fall in the fountain,
the orange-coloured rose-leaves,
Their ochre clings to the stone.

***

Epitaph

Leucis, who intended a Grand Passion,
Ends with a willingness-to-oblige.

***

Epitaphs

Fu I

Fu I loved the high cloud and the hill,
Alas, he died of alcohol.

Li Po

And Li Po also died drunk.
He tried to embrace a moon
In the Yellow River.

***

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.

(The epigraph to Lustra)

***

Papyrus

Spring…..
Too long…..
Gongula…..

***

Causa

I join these words for four people,
Some others may overhear them,
O world, I am sorry for you,
You do not know these four people.

***

Women Before A Shop

The gew-gaws of false amber and false turquoise attract them.
‘Like to like nature’: these agglutinous yellows!

***

Fan-Piece, For Her Imperial Lord

O fan of white silk,
clear as frost on the grass-blade,

You also are laid aside.

**

L’Art, 1910

GREEN arsenic smeared on an egg-white cloth,
Crushed strawberries! Come, let us feast our eyes.

 

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Brief Translations by Ezra Pound

Then folk would stand to watch him pull out
tench or bream, bream or trout.

from the old Chinese

***

I hate and love. Why? You may ask but
It beats me. I feel it done to me and ache.

after Catullus 85

***

Thais has black teeth,  Laecania’s are white because
she bought ‘em last night.

From the Latin of Martial

***

I dreamt that I was God Himself
Whom heavenly joy immerses,
And all the angels sat about
And praised my verses.

After the German of Heinrich Heine

***

Nicarchus upon Phidon his Doctor

Phidon neither purged me, nor touched me;
But I remembered the name of his fever medicine and died.

From the Greek of Nicarchus

***

Woman? Oh, woman is a consummate rage, but dead or asleep she pleases.
        Take her—she has two excellent seasons.

From the Greek of Palladas

 

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LINKS

Ezra Pound’s A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste.

The Poetry Foundation page devoted to Ezra Pound.

Pound’s Metro, an essay by William Logan.

That section of the  Modern American Poetry site devoted to Ezra Pound.

A page from the Modern American Poetry site devoted to In a Station of the Metro including Pound’s description of the genesis of the poem.

Ezra Pound as Translator, an essay by Michael Alexander.

Listen to Ezra Pound read his poetry on the PennSound site.

 

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Hornets – Brief Poems by Ben Jonson

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Ben Jonson (1572-1637) was England’s first poet laureate. He is, arguably, the most versatile writer in the history of English poetry. Nobody has written about food and drink with the same gusto. Witness, for example, “Inviting a Friend to Supper”.  And there are few elegies as poignant as “On My First Sonne” written in 1603  following the death of his  son, Benjamin, at the age of seven. As Edmund Bolton put it in 1722, “I have never tasted English more to my liking, nor more smart, and put to the height of use in poetry, than in the vital, judicious, and most practicable language of Benjamin Jonson’s poems.” It is little wonder that he had such a devoted band of followers, the “sons of Ben”, those Cavalier poets who tried to emulate his style, poets as diverse as Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, Richard Lovelace and Sir John Suckling.

The Life

Jonson’s life was turbulent, tough and beset by numerous adversities. Born in London a month after his father’s death, he began work as a bricklayer apprenticed to his step-father. He joined the army and fought in Flanders where he killed an enemy soldier in single combat. On his return to England he worked as an actor during which time (in 1598) he killed a fellow actor with a rapier and only escaped hanging by pleading “benefit of clergy”.  He was quarrelsome, a mood probably exacerbated by heavy drinking. (According to John Aubrey, “Canarie was his beloved liquor.”) He was jailed for insulting the Scottish nation. He lived and wrote in the shadow of Shakespeare about whom he wrote his wonderful tribute, “To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare and What He Hath Left Us“. He was constantly in debt and suffered several strokes in the 1620’s. Jonson died on 6 August 1637 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, with the inscription “O Rare Ben Johnson” (sic) set in the slab over his grave. The fact that he was buried in an upright position was an indication of his reduced circumstances at the time of his death, although it has also been written that he asked for a grave exactly 18 inches square from the monarch and received an upright grave to fit in the requested space

The Epigrams

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature does not think much of Jonson’s epigrams. Their tone is sniffy:

In his non-dramatic poetry, Jonson rarely attains high excellence. A large portion belongs to the class headed “miscellaneous” in collected editions, and is of interest rather for the information which it supplies as to his friends and patrons, and for its satirical pictures of contemporary life, than for any charm of verse. Few of the odes, epistles and epigrams show aught but careful writing, but there are also few that can be praised unreservedly or read with delight. The Epigrams (1616) are characteristically coarse; and some of the satirical sort recall the persons of his comedies; as those on alchemists, Lieutenant Shift, Court Worm, Sir Voluptuous Beast, or Lady Would Be.

Thom Gunn, in his selection from Jonson’s poetry, is much more astute and acute:

He is probably the best epigrammatist in English because he does not intend his statements to be light commendations or dismissals, but witticisms (however elegant) placed in the context of a society’s whole experience. Understanding them means taking them to heart, means – ultimately – acting on them.

It is true, as you can see below, that some of the epigrams are coarse, some are slight and some are nasty. But they are all governed by a wonderful sense of style.

I hope you like them.

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Brief Poems by Ben Jonson

 

I. — TO THE READER.

PRAY thee, take care, that tak’st my book in hand,
To read it well—that is, to understand.

***

VI. — TO ALCHEMISTS.

If all you boast of your great art be true ;
Sure, willing poverty lives most in you.

***

X. — TO MY LORD IGNORANT.

Thou call’st me POET, as a term of shame ;
But I have my revenge made, in thy name.

***

XIX. — ON SIR COD THE PERFUMED.

That COD can get no widow, yet a knight,
I scent the cause : he wooes with an ill sprite.

***

XX. — TO THE SAME.

[SIR COD THE PERFUMED.]

The expense in odors, is a most vain sin,
Except thou could’st, sir Cod, wear them within.

***

XIX. — ON SIR VOLUPTUOUS BEAST.

Than his chaste wife though BEAST now know no more,
He’adulters still: his thoughts lie with a whore..

***

XXXIV. — OF DEATH.

He that fears death, or mourns it, in the just,
Shews of the Resurrection little trust.

***

XXXIX. — ON OLD COLT.

For all night-sins, with other wives unknown,
COLT now doth daily penance in his own.

***

XLVII. — TO SIR LUCKLESS WOO-ALL.

Sir LUCKLESS, troth, for luck’s sake pass by one ;
He that wooes every widow, will get none.

***

XLVIII. — ON MUNGRIL ESQUIRE.

His bought arms MUNG not liked ; for his first day
Of bearing them in field, he threw ’em away :
And hath no honor lost, our duellists say.

***

L. — TO SIR COD.

Leave, COD, tobacco-like, burnt gums to take,
Or fumy clysters, thy moist lungs to bake :
Arsenic would thee fit for society make.

***

LVII. — ON BAWDS AND USURERS.

If, as their ends, their fruits were so, the same,
Bawdry and Usury were one kind of game.

***

LXI. — TO FOOL, OR KNAVE.

Thy praise or dispraise is to me alike;
One doth not stroke me, nor the other strike.

***
LXIX. — TO PERTINAX COB.

COB, thou nor soldier, thief, nor fencer art,
Yet by the weapon liv’st! thou hast one good part.

***

LXXI. — ON COURT PARROT.

To pluck down mine, POLL sets up new wits still,
Still ’tis is luck to praise me ‘against his will.

***

LXXVIII. — TO HORNET.

HORNET, thou hast thy wife drest for the stall,
To draw thee custom: but herself gets all.

***

LXXXII. — ON CASHIERED CAPTAIN SURLY.

Surly’s old whore in her new silks doth swim:
He cast, yet keeps her well! No, she keeps him.

***

LXXXIII. — TO A FRIEND.

To put out the word, Whore, thou dost me wo,
Throughout my book, ‘Troth put out woman too.

***

C X V I I.  — ON GROIN.

Groin, come of age, his state sold out of hand
For his whore: Groin doth still occupy his land.

 

 

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LINKS

 

The Wikipedia page on Ben Jonson.

The poems and plays of Ben Jonson

A collection of Ben Jonson epigrams.

Portraits of Ben Jonson from the National Portrait Gallery.

Images of Ben Jonson’s grave.

 

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