Jan Kochanowski

1530 - 1584 / Sycyna / Poland

Lament XVI

Misfortune hath constrained me
To leave the lute and poetry,
Nor can I from their easing borrow
Sleep for my sorrow.

Do I see true, or hath a dream
Flown forth from ivory gates to gleam
In phantom gold, before forsaking
Its poor cheat, waking?

Oh, mad, mistaken humankind,
'Tis easy triumph for the mind
While yet no ill adventure strikes us
And naught mislikes us.

In plenty we praise poverty,
'Mid pleasures we hold grief to be
(And even death, ere it shall stifle
Our breath) a trifle.

But when the grudging spinner scants
Her thread and fate no surcease grants
From grief most deep and need most wearing,
Less calm our bearing.

Ah, Tully, thou didst flee from Rome
With weeping, who didst say his home
The wise man found in any station,
In any nation.

And why dost mourn thy daughter so
When thou hast said the only woe
That man need dread is base dishonor? -
Why sorrow on her?

Death, thou hast said, can terrify
The godless man alone. Then why
So loth, the pay for boldness giving,
To leave off living?

Thy words, that have persuaded men,
Persuade not thee, angelic pen;
Disaster findeth thy defenses,
Like mine, pretenses.

Soft stone is man: he takes the lines
That Fortune's cutting tool designs.
To press the wounds wherewith she graves us,
Racks us or saves us?

Time, father of forgetfulness
So longed for now in my distress,
Since wisdom nor the saints can steel me,
Oh, do thou heal me!
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