parisiennepen (parisiennepen) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Review #6 for 2011: 99 Poems in Translation

Title: 99 Poems in Translation
Author(s): Various. Selections by Harold Pinter, Anthony Astbury, and Geoffrey Godbert
Genre: Poetry, anthology

From the blurb:
"Designed as a companion volume to the enormously successful 100 Poems by 100 Poets and arranged alphabetically, this collection spans centuries and continents. The poets range from Anna Akhmatova to Yuan Chen, from Charles Baudelaire to Virgil, each of them translated into memorable English by such poetic luminaries as Ben Johnson, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Graves. Full of surprising juxtapositions and possessed of a gargantuan range of voices and styles, 99 Poems in Translation is a unique convergence of some of the world’s most beautiful poetry."

This collection of poems covered a variety of themes, times, translators, original authors and languages (although they're all translated into English here), and places. I read it quite a while ago so I’m afraid I can’t offer more of an opinion apart from the fact that I liked some of them quite a bit while others didn’t inspire much feeling one way or the other. I don’t think there were any here that I absolutely *did not* like, however.

Here are eight poems from the book. Note that while three of them are titled with birds’ names, they’re all completely different in tone and meaning!

I am not among those who left our land
I am not among those who left our land
to be torn to pieces by our enemies.
I don't listen to their vulgar flattery,
I will not give them my poems.
But the exile is for ever pitiful to me,
like a prisoner, like a sick man.
Your road is dark, wanderer;
alien corn smells of wormwood.
But here, stupefied by fumes of fire,
wasting the remainder of our youth,
we did not defend ourselves
from a single blow.
We know that history
will vindicate our every hour...
There is no one in the world more tearless,
more proud, more simple than us.

- Anna Akhmatova, translated from Russian by Richard McKane

Amergin’s Charm
I am a stag: of seven tines
I am a flood : across a plain
I am a wind : on a deep lake
I am a tear : the Sun lets fall
I am a hawk : above the cliff
I am a thorn : beneath the nail
I am a wonder : among flowers
I am a wizard : who but I
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear : that roars for blood
I am a salmon : in a pool
I am a lure : from Paradise
I am a hill : where poets walk
I am a boar : ruthless and red
I am a breaker : threatening doom
I am a tide : that drags to death
I am an infant : who but I
Peeps from the unhewn dolmen arch?

I am the womb : of every holt
I am the blaze : on every hill
I am the queen : of every hive
I am the shield : for every head
I am the tomb: of every hope

- Amergin, translated from Irish by Robert Graves
parisiennepen's note: Anyone who has read Silver on the Tree, the last book in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence, will probably find that last verse very familiar! :P :D

The Lark                                    
When I see the lark a-moving
For joy his wings against the sunlight,
Who forgets himself and lets himself fall
For the sweetness which goes into his heart:
Ai!  what great envy comes unto me for him whom I see so
I marvel that my heart melts not for desiring.
Alas!  I thought I knew so much
Of Love, and I know so little of it, for I cannot
hold myself from loving
Her from whom I shall never have anything toward.
She hath my heart from me, and she hath from me all my wit
And myself and all that is mine.
And when she took it from me she left me naught
Save desiring and a yearning heart.

- Bernart de Ventadorn, translated from Oc by Ezra Pound 

The Vulture
Describing circle after circle
a wheeling vulture scans the field
lying desolate. In her hovel
a mother’s wailing to her child:
‘Come take my breast, boy, feed on this,
grow, know your place, shoulder the cross.’

Centuries pass, villages flame
are stunned by war and civil war.
My country, you are still the same
Tragic, beautiful as before.
How long must the mother wail?
How long must the vulture wheel?

22 november 1916

- Aleksandr Blok, translated from Russian by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

The Albatross
Often the idle mariners at sea
Catch albatrosses, vast birds of the deep,
Companions which follow lazily
Across the bitter gulfs the gliding ship.

They’re scarcely set on deck, these heavenly kings,
Before, clumsy, abashed, and full of shame,
They piteously let their great white wings
Beside them drag, oar-like, and halt and lame.

See this winged traveller, so awkward, weak!
He was so fine: how droll and ugly now!
One sailor sticks a cutty in his beak,
Another limps to mock the bird that flew!

The Poet’s like the monarch of the clouds
Who haunts the tempest, scorns the bows and slings;
Exiled on earth amid the shouting crowds,
He cannot walk, for he has giant’s wings.

- Charles Baudelaire, translated from French by Joanna Richardson

A Mad Poem Addressed to my Nephews and Nieces
THE World cheats those who cannot read;
I, happily, have mastered script and pen.
The World cheats those who hold no office;
I am blessed with high official rank.
    The old are often ill;
I, at this day have not an ache or pain.
    They are often burdened with ties;
But I have finished with marriage and giving in marriage.
No changes happen to disturb the quiet of my mind;
No business comes to impair the vigour of my limbs.
Hence it is that now for ten years
Body and soul have rested in hermit peace.
And all the more, in the last lingering years
What I shall need are very few things.
A single rug to warm me through the winter;
One meal to last me the whole day.
It does not matter that my house is rather small;
One cannot sleep in more than one room!
It does not matter that I have not many horses;
One cannot ride in two coaches at once!
As fortunate as me among the people of the world
Possibly one would find seven out of ten.
As contented as me among a hundred men
Look as you may, you will not find one.

In the affairs of others even fools are wise;
In their own business even sages err.
To no one else would I dare to speak my heart,
So my wild words are addressed to my nephews and nieces.

- Po Chu-I, translated from Chinese by Arthur Waley

It's not because I'm now too old,
More wizened than you guess. . . .
If I say no, it's only
Because I fear that yes
Would bring me nothing, in the end,
But a fiercer loneliness.

- Lady Ki no Washika, translated from Japanese by Graeme Wilson

He is more than a hero
He is more than a hero
He is a god in my eyes —
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you — he

who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing

laughter that makes my own
heart beat fast. If I meet
you suddenly, I can’t

speak — my tongue is broken;
a thin flame runs under
my skin; seeing nothing,

hearing only my own ears
drumming, I drip with sweat;
trembling shakes my body

and I turn paler than
dry grass. At such times
death isn’t far from me.

- Sappho, translated from Greek by Mary Barnard
Tags: anthology, glbt, international, poetry, translation

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