Michael R. Burch

1958
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Best Poetry Translations of Michael R. Burch (III)

Mnemosyne was stunned into astonishment when she heard honey-tongued Sappho, wondering how mortal men merited a tenth Muse. — Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sappho, fragment 42
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:
wild winds whipping desolate mountains
uprooting oaks.

Sappho, fragment 155
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A short transparent frock?
It's just my luck
your lips were made to mock!

Sappho, fragment 156
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She keeps her scents
in a dressing-case.
And her sense?
In some undiscoverable place.

Sappho, fragment 130
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

May the gods prolong the night
—yes, let it last forever!—
as long as you sleep in my sight.

Sappho, fragment 137
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Gold does not rust,
yet my son becomes dust?

Sappho, fragment 52
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The moon has long since set;
the Pleiades are gone;
now half the night is spent
and yet I sleep alone.

Sappho, fragment 145
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If you're squeamish,
don't trouble
the beach rubble.

Sappho, fragment 94
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Shepherds trample the hyacinth;
its petals litter the heath ...
foreshadowing shepherds' grief.

Sappho, fragment 134
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Selene came to Endymion in the cave,
made love to him as he slept,
then crept away before the sun could prove
its light the more adept.

Sappho, fragment 137
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Death is evil;
the Gods have so judged:
for, had it been good,
the Gods would die
(or do the Gods lie?).

Sappho, fragment 145
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Prometheus the Fire-Bearer
robbed the Gods and the Sun, and so
brought mankind and himself to woe ...
must you repeat his error?

Sappho, fragments 122 & 123
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your voice—a sweeter liar
than the lyre,
more dearly sold
and bought, than gold.

Sappho, fragment 42
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She wrapped herself then in
most delicate linen.

Sappho, fragment 57
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
That country wench bewitches your heart?
Hell, her most beguiling art's
hiking her dress
to seduce you with her ankles' nakedness!

2.
That hayseed tart
bewitches your heart?
Hell, her most beguiling art's
hiking her dress
to seduce you with her ankles' nakedness!

Sappho, fragment 100
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The softest pallors grace
her lovely face.

Sappho, fragment 113
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No buzzing bee
nor even the bearer of honey
for me!

Sappho, fragment 121
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A tender maiden plucking flowers
persuades the knave
to heroically brave
the world's untender hours.

Sappho, fragment 125
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love, bittersweet Dispenser of pain,
Weaver of implausible fictions:
flourishes in prosperity,
weeps for life's perversity,
quails before adversity,
dies haggard, believing she's pretty.

Sappho, fragment 127
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To the brightness of Love
not destroying the sight—
sweet, warm noonday sun
lightening things dun:
whence comes the Night?

Sappho, fragment 132
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love, the child of Aphrodite and heaven;
Sappho, of earth;
Who had the more divine birth?

Sappho, fragment 133
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Of all the stars the fairest,
Hesperus,
Lead the maiden straight to the bridegroom's bed,
honoring Hera, the goddess of marriage.

Sappho, fragment 138
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The beautiful courtesan Rhodopis,
lies here entombed, more fair
than when she walked with white lilies
plaited in her dark hair,
but now she's as withered as they:
whose dust is more gray?

Sappho, fragment 140
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Phaon ferried the Goddess across:
the Goddess of Love, so men say
who crowned him with kingly laurels.
Was he crowned for only a day?

Sappho, fragment 148
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A vagabond friendship,
a public blessing ...
gentle Rhodopis!

Sappho, fragment 153
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Queen Dawn,
solemn Dawn,
come!

Sappho, fragment 129
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sappho's sweetest utterance
Was the hymeneal hymn of Love.

Sappho, fragment 159
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

May I lead?
Will you follow?
Foolish man!
Ears so hollow,
minds so shallow,
never can!

Sappho, fragment 68
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Death shall rule thee
eternally
now, my Lady,
for see:
your name lies useless, silent and forgotten
here and hereafter;
never again will you gather
the roses of Pieria, but only wander
misbegotten,
rotten
and obscure through Hades
flitting forlornly among the dismal shades.

Hymn to Aphrodite
by Sappho
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Immortal Aphrodite, throned in splendor!
Wile-weaving daughter of Zeus, enchantress, and beguiler!
I implore you, dread mistress, discipline me no longer
with love's weariness, anguish and distress!

But come to me once again in kindness,
heeding my prayers as you have done before;
O, come Divine One, descend once again
from your Father's golden dominions!

Your chariot yoked to love's consecrated doves,
their multitudinous pinions aflutter,
you once came gliding from heaven's utmost heights,
descending through bright ether to the dark-bosomed earth.

Swiftly they came and vanished, leaving you,
O my Goddess, smiling, your face eternally beautiful,
asking me what unfathomable longing
compelled me to cry out.

Asking me what I sought in my bewildered desire.
Asking, "Who has harmed you,
why are you so alarmed, my poor Sappho?
Whom should Persuasion summon here?"

"Though today she flees love, soon she will pursue you;
spurning love's gifts, soon she shall return them;
tomorrow she will woo you, however unwillingly!"

Come to me now, most Holy Aphrodite!
Release me from my heavy heartache and anguish;
grant me all I request, be once again my ally and protector!

"Hymn to Aphrodite" is the only poem by Sappho of Lesbos to survive in its entirety. The poem survived intact because it was quoted in full by Dionysus, a Roman orator, in his "On Literary Composition," published around 30 B.C.

Catullus (c. 84–54 BC) was a Latin poet of the late Roman republic who influenced Ovid and Virgil, among others.

Catullus CVI: “That Boy”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

See that young boy, by the auctioneer?
He’s so pretty he sells himself, I fear!

Catullus LI: “That Man”
This is Catullus’s translation of a poem by Sappho of Lesbos
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I’d call that man the equal of the gods,
or,
could it be forgiven
in heaven,
their superior,
because to him space is given
to bask in your divine presence,
to gaze upon you, smile, and listen
to your ambrosial laughter
which leaves men senseless
here and hereafter.

Meanwhile, in my misery,
I’m left speechless.

Lesbia, there's nothing left of me
but a voiceless tongue grown thick in my mouth
and a thin flame running south...

My limbs tingle, my ears ring, my eyes water
till they swim in darkness.

Call it leisure, Catullus, or call it idleness,
whatever it is that incapacitates you.
By any other name it’s the nemesis
fallen kings, empires and cities rue.

Catullus I (“cui dono lepidum novum libellum”)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To whom do I dedicate this novel book
polished drily with a pumice stone?
To you, Cornelius, for you would look
content, as if my scribblings took
the cake, when in truth you alone
unfolded Italian history in three scrolls,
as learned as Jupiter in your labors.
Therefore, this little book is yours,
whatever it is, which, O patron Maiden,
I pray will last more than my lifetime!

Catullus LXXXV: “Odi et Amo”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
I hate. I love.
You ask, “Why not refrain?”
I wish I could explain.
I can’t, but feel the pain.

2.
I hate. I love.
Why? Heavens above!
I wish I could explain.
I can’t, but feel the pain.

3.
I hate. I love.
How can that be, turtledove?
I wish I could explain.
I can’t, but feel the pain.

Catullus XLIX: “A Toast to Cicero”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cicero, please confess:
You’re drunk on your success!
All men of good taste attest
That you’re the very best—
At making speeches, first class!
While I’m the dregs of the glass.

Catullus CI: “His Brother’s Burial”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
Through many lands and over many seas
I have journeyed, brother, to these wretched rites,
to this final acclamation of the dead ...
and to speak — however ineffectually — to your voiceless ashes
now that Fate has wrested you away from me.
Alas, my dear brother, wrenched from my arms so cruelly,
accept these last offerings, these small tributes
blessed by our fathers’ traditions, these small gifts for the dead.
Please accept, by custom, these tokens drenched with a brother’s tears,
and, for all eternity, brother, “Hail and Farewell.”

2.
Through many lands and over many seas
I have journeyed, brother, to these wretched rites,
to this final acclamation of the dead ...
and to speak — however ineffectually — to your voiceless ashes
now that Fate has wrested you away from me.
Alas, my dear brother, wrenched from my arms so cruelly,
accept these small tributes, these last gifts,
offered in the time-honored manner of our fathers,
these final votives. Please accept, by custom,
these tokens drenched with a brother’s tears,
and, for all eternity, brother, “Hail and Farewell.”

[Here "offered in the time-honored manner of our fathers" is from another translation by an unknown translator.]

[What do the gods know, with their superior airs,
wiser than a mother’s tears
for her lost child?
If they had hearts, surely they would be beguiled,
repeal the sentence of death!
Since they have none,
or only hearts of stone,
believers, save your breath.
—Michael R. Burch, after Catullus]

Catullus IIA: “Lesbia’s Sparrow”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sparrow, my sweetheart’s pet,
with whom she plays cradled to her breast,
or in her lap,
giving you her fingertip to peck,
provoking you to nip its nib ...
Whenever she’s flushed with pleasure
my gorgeous darling plays such dear little games:
to relieve her longings, I suspect,
until her ardour abates.
Oh, if only I could play with you as gaily,
and alleviate my own longings!

Catullus V: “Let us live, Lesbia, let us love”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I take this to be an “accounting” poem because conturbare is an accounting term for “fiddling the figures.”

Let us live, Lesbia, let us love,
and let the judgments of ancient moralists
count less than a farthing to us!

Suns may set then rise again,
but when our brief light sets,
we will sleep through perpetual night.

Give me a thousand kisses, a hundred more,
another thousand, then a second hundred,
yet another thousand, then a third hundred...

Then, once we’ve tallied the many thousands,
let’s jumble the ledger, so that even we
(and certainly no malicious, evil-eyed enemy)
will ever know there were so many kisses!

Catullus VII: “How Many Kisses”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask, Lesbia, how many kisses
are enough, or more than enough, to satisfy me?
As many as the Libyan sands
swirling in incense-bearing Cyrene
between the torrid oracle of Jove
and the sacred tomb of Battiades.
Or as many as the stars observing amorous men
making love furtively on a moonless night.
As many of your kisses are enough,
and more than enough, for mad Catullus,
as long as there are too many to be counted by inquisitors
and by malicious-tongued bewitchers.

Catullus VIII: “Advice to Himself”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Snap out of it Catullus, stop this foolishness!
It’s time to cut losses!
What is dead is gone, accept it.
Once brilliant suns shone on you both,
when you trotted about wherever she led,
and loved her as never another before.
That was a time of such happiness,
when your desire intersected her will.
But now she doesn’t want you any more.
Be resolute, weak as you are, stop chasing mirages!
What you need is not love, but a clean break.
Goodbye girl, now Catullus stands firm.
Never again Lesbia! Catullus is clear:
He won’t miss you. Won’t crave you. Catullus is cold.
Now it’s you who will grieve, when nobody calls.
It’s you who will weep that you’re ruined.
Who’ll submit to you now? Admire your beauty?
Whom will you love? Whose girl will you be?
Who will you kiss? Whose lips will you bite?
But you, Catullus, you must break with the past, hold fast.

Catullus LX: “Lioness”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Did an African mountain lioness
or a howling Scylla beget you from the nether region of her loins,
my harsh goddess? Are you so pitiless you would hold in contempt
this supplicant voicing his inconsolable despair?
Are you really that cruel-hearted?

Catullus LXX: “Marriage Vows”
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My sweetheart says she’d marry no one else but me,
not even Jupiter, if he were to ask her!
But what a girl says to her eager lover
ought to be written on the wind or in running water.

Unholy Trinity
by Angelus Silesius, a German poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

True Wealth
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

The Rose
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

The Rose
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The rose lack "reasons"
and merely sways with the seasons;
she has no ego
but whoever put on such a show?

Eternal Time
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eternity is time,
time eternity,
except when we
are determined to "see."

Visions
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Our souls possess two eyes:
one examines time,
the other visions
eternal and sublime.

Godless
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

God is absolute Nothingness
beyond our sense of time and place;
the more we try to grasp Him,
The more He flees from our embrace.

The Source
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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.

Ceaseless Peace
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Unceasingly you seek
life's ceaseless wavelike motion;
I seek perpetual peace, all storms calmed.
Whose is the wiser notion?

Well Written
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Friend, cease!
Abandon all pretense!
You must yourself become
the Writing and the Sense.

Worm Food
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No worm is buried
so deep within the soil
that God denies it food
as reward for its toil.

Mature Love
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

God's Predicament
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

God cannot condemn those with whom he would dwell,
or He would have to join them in hell!

Clods
by Angelus Silesius
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A ruby
is not lovelier
than a dirt clod,
nor an angel
more glorious
than a frog.

Mirror
by Kajal Ahmad, a Kurdish poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My era's obscuring mirror
shattered
because it magnified the small
and made the great seem insignificant.
Dictators and monsters filled its contours.
Now when I breathe
its jagged shards pierce my heart
and instead of sweat
I exude glass.

The Lonely Earth
by Kajal Ahmad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The pale celestial bodies
never bid her "Good morning!"
nor do the creative stars
kiss her.
Earth, where so many tender persuasions and roses lie interred,
might expire for the lack of a glance, or an odor.
She's a lonely dusty orb,
so very lonely!, as she observes the moon's patchwork attire
knowing the sun's an imposter
who sears with rays he has stolen for himself
and who looks down on the moon and earth like lodgers.

Kurds are Birds
by Kajal Ahmad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Per the latest scientific classification, Kurds
now belong to a species of bird!
This is why,
traveling across the torn, fraying pages of history,
they are nomads recognized by their caravans.
Yes, Kurds are birds! And,
even worse, when
there's nowhere left to nest, no refuge from their pain,
they turn to the illusion of traveling again
between the warm and arctic sectors of their homeland.
So I don't think it strange Kurds can fly but not land.
They wander from region to region
never realizing their dreams
of settling,
of forming a colony, of nesting.
No, they never settle down long enough
to visit Rumi and inquire about his health,
or to bow down deeply in the gust-
stirred dust,
like Nali.

Bi Havre (“Together”)
possibly the oldest Kurdish poem
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I want us to be together:
we would eat together,

climb the mountain together,
sing songs together, songs of love,

songs from the heart, from above.
I want us to have one heart, together.

Many words in this ancient poem are in doubt, so I have excerpted what I grok to be the central meaning.

I choose to love you in silence
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I choose to love you in silence
where there is no rejection;

to possess you in loneliness
where you are mine alone;

to adore you from a distance
which diminishes pain;

to kiss you in the wind
stealthier than my lips;

to embrace you in my dreams
where you are limitless ...

Songbird/Birdsong
by Rumi, a Persian poet who also wrote in Turkish, Arabic and Greek
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!

The Field
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Far beyond sermons of right and wrong there's a sunlit field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lazes in such lush grass
the world is too full for discussion.

Beyond
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don’t demand union:
there’s a closer closeness, beyond.
The instant love descends to rest in me,
many beings become One.
In a single grain of wheat ten thousand sheaves germinate.
Within the needle’s eye innumerable stars radiate.

Two Insomnias
by Rumi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I’m with you, we’re up all night.
When we part, I’m unable to sleep.
I’m grateful for both insomnias
and the difference maker.

Untitled

Raise your words, not their volume.
Rain grows flowers, not thunder.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your heart’s candle is ready to be kindled.
Your soul’s void is ready to be filled.
You can feel it, can’t you?
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is love: to fly toward a mysterious sky,
to cause ten thousand veils to fall.
First, to stop clinging to life,
then to step out without feet ...
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am not this hair,
nor this thin shell of skin;
I am the Soul that abides within.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let yourself be guided by the strange magnetism of what you really love:
It will not lead you astray.
The lion is most majestic when stalking prey.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Forget security!
Live by the perilous sea.
Destroy your reputation, however glorious.
Become notorious.
—Rumi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Willibrordus Surendra Broto Rendra (1935-2009), better known as W. S. Rendra or simply Rendra, was an Indonesian dramatist and poet.

THE WORLD'S FIRST FACE
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill—
both of them naked,
both consisting of nothing but themselves.

As in all beginnings
the world is naked,
empty, free of deception,
dark with unspoken explanations—
a silence that extends
to the limits of time.

Then comes light,
life, the animals and man.

As in all beginnings
everything is naked,
empty, open.

They're both young,
yet both have already come a long way,
passing through the illusions of brilliant dawns,
of skies illuminated by hope,
of rivers intimating contentment.

They have experienced the sun's warmth,
drenched in each other's sweat.

Here, standing by barren reefs,
they watch evening fall
bringing strange dreams
to a bed arrayed with resplendent coral necklaces.

They lift their heads to view
trillions of stars arrayed in the sky.
The universe is their inheritance:
stars upon stars upon stars,
more than could ever be extinguished.

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill—
both of them naked,
to recreate the world's first face.

SONNET
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Best wishes for an impending deflowering

Yes, I understand: you will never be mine.
I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
I contemplate
irrational numbers—complex & undefined.

And yet I wish love might ... ameliorate ...
such negative numbers, dark and unsigned.

But at least I can’t be held responsible
for disappointing you. No cause to elate.
Still, I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
The gods have spoken. I can relate.

How can this be, when all it makes no sense?
I was born too soon—such was my fate.
You must choose another, not half of who I AM.
Be happy with him when you consummate.

Yasna 28, Verse 6
by Zarathustra/Zoroaster, an ancient Iranian poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lead us to pure thought and truth
by your sacred word and long-enduring assistance,
O, eternal Giver of the gifts of righteousness.

O, wise Lord, grant us spiritual strength and joy;
help us overcome our enemies' enmity!

The Ruins of Balaclava
by Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), a Polish poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, barren Crimean land, these dreary shades
of castles—once your indisputable pride—
are now where ghostly owls and lizards hide
as blackguards arm themselves for nightly raids.

Carved into marble, regal boasts were made!
Brave words on burnished armor, gilt-applied!
Now shattered splendors long since cast aside
beside the dead here also brokenly laid.

The Greeks erected shimmering marble here.
The Romans drove wild Mongol hordes to flight.
The Mussulman prayed eastward, day and night.

Now owls and dark-winged vultures watch and leer
as strange black banners, flapping overhead,
mark where the past piles high its nameless dead.

Adam Bernard Mickiewicz (1798-1855) is widely regarded as Poland's greatest poet and as the national poet of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. He was also a dramatist, essayist, publicist, translator, professor and political activist. As a principal figure in Polish Romanticism, Mickiewicz has been compared to Byron and Goethe.

Speaking of Goethe ...

ON LOOKING AT SCHILLER’S SKULL
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here in this charnel-house full of bleaching bones,
like yesteryear’s
fading souvenirs,
I see the skulls arranged in strange ordered rows.

Who knows whose owners might have beheaded peers,
packed tightly here
despite once repellent hate?
Here weaponless, they stand, in this gentled state.

These arms and hands, they once were so delicate!
How articulately
they moved! Ah me!
What athletes once paced about on these padded feet?

Still there’s no hope of rest for you, lost souls!
Deprived of graves,
forced here like slaves
to occupy this overworld, unlamented ghouls!

Now who’s to know who loved one orb here detained?
Except for me;
reader, hear my plea:
I know the grandeur of the mind it contained!

Yes, and I know the impulse true love would stir
here, where I stand
in this alien land
surrounded by these husks, like a treasurer!

Even in this cold,
in this dust and mould
I am startled by a strange, ancient reverie, ...
as if this shrine to death could quicken me!

One shape out of the past keeps calling me
with its mystery!
Still retaining its former angelic grace!
And at that ecstatic sight, I am back at sea ...

Swept by that current to where immortals race.
O secret vessel, you
gave Life its truth.
It falls on me now to recall your expressive face.

I turn away, abashed here by what I see:
this mould was worth
more than all the earth.
Let me breathe fresh air and let my wild thoughts run free!

What is there better in this dark Life than he
who gives us a sense of man’s divinity,
of his place in the universe?
A man who’s both flesh and spirit—living verse!

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller

#2 - Love Poetry

She says an epigram’s too terse
to reveal her tender heart in verse ...
but really, darling, ain’t the thrill
of a kiss much shorter still?
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#5 - Criticism

Why don’t I openly criticize the man? Because he’s a friend;
thus I reproach him in silence, as I do my own heart.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#11 - Holiness

What is holiest? This heart-felt love
binding spirits together, now and forever.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#12 - Love versus Desire

You love what you have, and desire what you lack
because a rich nature expands, while a poor one retracts.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#19 - Nymph and Satyr

As shy as the trembling doe your horn frightens from the woods,
she flees the huntsman, fainting, uncertain of love.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#20 - Desire

What stirs the virgin’s heaving breasts to sighs?
What causes your bold gaze to brim with tears?
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#23 - The Apex I

Everywhere women yield to men, but only at the apex
do the manliest men surrender to femininity.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#24 - The Apex II

What do we mean by the highest? The crystalline clarity of triumph
as it shines from the brow of a woman, from the brow of a goddess.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#25 -Human Life

Young sailors brave the sea beneath ten thousand sails
while old men drift ashore on any bark that avails.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#35 - Dead Ahead

What’s the hardest thing of all to do?
To see clearly with your own eyes what’s ahead of you.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#36 - Unexpected Consequence

Friends, before you utter the deepest, starkest truth, please pause,
because straight away people will blame you for its cause.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

#41 - Earth vs. Heaven

By doing good, you nurture humanity;
but by creating beauty, you scatter the seeds of divinity.
―from “Xenia” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Günter Wilhelm Grass (1927-) is a German-Kashubian novelist, poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist, sculptor and recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is widely regarded as Germany's most famous living writer.

“Was gesagt werden muss” (“What must be said”)
by Günter Grass
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Why have I remained silent, so long,
failing to mention something openly practiced
in war games which now threaten to leave us
merely meaningless footnotes?

Someone’s alleged “right” to strike first
might annihilate a beleaguered nation
whose people march to a martinet’s tune,
compelled to pageants of orchestrated obedience.
Why? Merely because of the suspicion
that a bomb might be built by Iranians.

But why do I hesitate, forbidding myself
to name that other nation, where, for years
—shrouded in secrecy—
a formidable nuclear capability has existed
beyond all control, simply because
no inspections were ever allowed?

The universal concealment of this fact
abetted by my own incriminating silence
now feels like a heavy, enforced lie,
an oppressive inhibition, a vice,
a strong constraint, which, if dismissed,
immediately incurs the verdict “anti-Semitism.”

But now my own country,
guilty of its unprecedented crimes
which continually demand remembrance,
once again seeking financial gain
(although with glib lips we call it “reparations”)
has delivered yet another submarine to Israel—
this one designed to deliver annihilating warheads
capable of exterminating all life
where the existence of even a single nuclear weapon remains unproven,
but where suspicion now serves as a substitute for evidence.
So now I will say what must be said.

Why did I remain silent so long?
Because I thought my origins,
tarred by an ineradicable stain,
forbade me to declare the truth to Israel,
a country to which I am and will always remain attached.

Why is it only now that I say,
in my advancing age,
and with my last drop of ink
on the final page
that Israel’s nuclear weapons endanger
an already fragile world peace?

Because tomorrow might be too late,
and so the truth must be heard today.
And because we Germans,
already burdened with many weighty crimes,
could become enablers of yet another,
one easily foreseen,
and thus no excuse could ever erase our complicity.

Furthermore, I’ve broken my silence
because I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy
and because I hope many others too
will free themselves from the shackles of silence,
and speak out to renounce violence
by insisting on permanent supervision
of Israel’s atomic power and Iran’s
by an international agency
accepted by both governments.

Only thus can we find the path to peace
for Israelis and Palestinians and everyone else
living in a region currently consumed by madness
—and ultimately, for ourselves.

Published in Süddeutschen Zeitung (April 4, 2012)

Are these the oldest rhyming poems in the English language? Reginald of Durham recorded four Anglo-Saxon/Old English verses of Saint Godric's: they are the oldest songs in English for which the original musical settings survive.

The first song is said in the Life of Saint Godric to have come to Godric when he had a vision of his sister Burhcwen, like him a solitary at Finchale, being received into heaven. She was singing a song of thanksgiving, in Latin, and Godric renders her song in English bracketed by a Kyrie eleison:

Led By Christ and Mary
by Saint Godric of Finchale (1065-1170)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

By Christ and Saint Mary I was so graciously led
that the earth never felt my bare foot’s tread!

Crist and sainte marie swa on scamel me iledde
þat ic on þis erðe ne silde wid mine bare fote itredie

In the second poem, Godric puns on his name: godes riche means “God’s kingdom” and sounds like “God is rich” ...

A Cry to Mary
by Saint Godric of Finchale (1065-1170)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I.
Saintë Marië Virginë,
Mother of Jesus Christ the Nazarenë,
Welcome, shield and help thin Godric,
Fly him off to God’s kingdom rich!

II.
Saintë Marië, Christ’s bower,
Virgin among Maidens, Motherhood’s flower,
Blot out my sin, fix where I’m flawed,
Elevate me to Bliss with God!

Saintë Marië Virginë,
Moder Iesu Cristes Nazarenë,
Onfo, schild, help thin Godric,
Onfong bring hegilich
With the in Godës riche.

Saintë Marië Cristes bur,
Maidenës clenhad, moderës flur;
Dilie min sinnë, rix in min mod,
Bring me to winnë with the selfd God.

Godric also wrote a prayer to St. Nicholas:

Prayer to St. Nicholas
by Saint Godric of Finchale (1065-1170)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Saint Nicholas, beloved of God,
Build us a house that’s bright and fair;
Watch over us from birth to bier,
Then, Saint Nicholas, bring us safely there!

Sainte Nicholaes godes druð
tymbre us faire scone hus
At þi burth at þi bare
Sainte nicholaes bring vs wel þare

"The Rhyming Poem" also known as "The Riming Poem" and "The Rhymed Poem" is perhaps the oldest English rhyming poem. It was included in the Exeter Book, which has been dated to circa 960-990 AD. However the poem may be older than the collection in which it was discovered.

The Rhymed Poem aka The Rhyming Poem and The Riming Poem
anonymous Old English/Anglo-Saxon poem from the Exeter Book, circa 990 AD
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

He who granted me life created this sun
and graciously provided its radiant engine.
I was gladdened with glees, bathed in bright hues,
deluged with joy’s blossoms, sunshine-infused.

Men admired me, feted me with banquet-courses;
we rejoiced in the good life. Gaily bedecked horses
carried me swiftly across plains on joyful rides,
delighting me with their long limbs' thunderous strides.
That world was quickened by earth’s fruits and their flavors!
I cantered under pleasant skies, attended by troops of advisers.
Guests came and went, amusing me with their chatter
as I listened with delight to their witty palaver.

Well-appointed ships glided by in the distance;
when I sailed myself, I was never without guidance.
I was of the highest rank; I lacked for nothing in the hall;
nor did I lack for brave companions; warriors, all,
we strode through castle halls weighed down with gold
won from our service to thanes. We were proud men, and bold.
Wise men praised me; I was omnipotent in battle;
Fate smiled on and protected me; foes fled before me like cattle.
Thus I lived with joy indwelling; faithful retainers surrounded me;
I possessed vast estates; I commanded all my eyes could see;
the earth lay subdued before me; I sat on a princely throne;
the words I sang were charmed; old friendships did not wane ...

Those were years rich in gifts and the sounds of happy harp-strings,
when a lasting peace dammed shut the rivers’ sorrowings.
My servants were keen, their harps resonant;
their songs pealed, the sound loud but pleasant;
the music they made melodious, a continual delight;
the castle hall trembled and towered bright.
Courage increased, wealth waxed with my talent;
I gave wise counsel to great lords and enriched the valiant.

My spirit enlarged; my heart rejoiced;
good faith flourished; glory abounded; abundance increased.
I was lavishly supplied with gold; bright gems were circulated ...
Till treasure led to treachery and the bonds of friendship constricted.

I was bold in my bright array, noble in my equipage,
my joy princely, my home a happy hermitage.
I protected and led my people;
for many years my life among them was regal;
I was devoted to them and they to me.

But now my heart is troubled, fearful of the fates I see;
disaster seems unavoidable. Someone dear departs in flight by night
who once before was bold. His soul has lost its light.
A secret disease in full growth blooms within his breast,
spreads in different directions. Hostility blossoms in his chest,
in his mind. Bottomless grief assaults the mind's nature
and when penned in, erupts in rupture,
burns eagerly for calamity, runs bitterly about.

The weary man suffers, begins a journey into doubt;
his pain is ceaseless; pain increases his sorrows, destroys his bliss;
his glory ceases; he loses his happiness;
he loses his craft; he no longer burns with desires.
Thus joys here perish, lordships expire;
men lose faith and descend into vice;
infirm faith degenerates into evil’s curse;
faith feebly abandons its high seat and every hour grows worse.

So now the world changes; Fate leaves men lame;
Death pursues hatred and brings men to shame.
The happy clan perishes; the spear rends the marrow;
the evildoer brawls and poisons the arrow;
sorrow devours the city; old age castrates courage;
misery flourishes; wrath desecrates the peerage;
the abyss of sin widens; the treacherous path snakes;
resentment burrows, digs in, wrinkles, engraves;
artificial beauty grows foul;
the summer heat cools;
earthly wealth fails;
enmity rages, cruel, bold;
the might of the world ages, courage grows cold.
Fate wove itself for me and my sentence was given:
that I should dig a grave and seek that grim cavern
men cannot avoid when death comes, arrow-swift,
to seize their lives in his inevitable grasp.
Now night comes at last,
and the way stand clear
for Death to dispossesses me of my my abode here.

When my corpse lies interred and the worms eat my limbs,
whom will Death delight then, with his dark feast and hymns?
Let men’s bones become one,
and then finally, none,
till there’s nothing left here of the evil ones.
But men of good faith will not be destroyed;
the good man will rise, far beyond the Void,
who chastened himself, more often than not,
to avoid bitter sins and that final black Blot.
The good man has hope of a far better end
and remembers the promise of Heaven,
where he’ll experience the mercies of God for his saints,

freed from all sins, dark and depraved,
defended from vices, gloriously saved,
where, happy at last before their cheerful Lord,
men may rejoice in his love forevermore.

This is my translation of one of my favorite Dimash Kudaibergen songs, the French song "S.O.S." ...

S.O.S.
by Michel Berger
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Why do I live, why do I die?
Why do I laugh, why do I cry?

Voicing the S.O.S.
of an earthling in distress ...

I have never felt at home on the ground.

I'd rather be a bird;
this skin feels weird.

I'd like to see the world turned upside down.

It ever was more beautiful
seen from up above,
seen from up above.

I've always confused life with cartoons,
wishing to transform.

I feel something that draws me,
that draws me,
that draws me
UP!

In the great lotto of the universe
I didn't draw the right numbers.
I feel unwell in my own skin,
I don't want to be a machine
eating, working, sleeping.

Why do I live, why do I die?
Why do I laugh, why do I cry?

I feel I'm catching waves from another world.
I've never had both feet on the ground.
This skin feels weird.
I'd like to see the world turned upside down.
I'd rather be a bird.

Sleep, child, sleep ...

"Late Autumn" aka "Autumn Strong"
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
based on the version sung by Dimash Kudaibergen

Autumn ...

The feeling of late autumn ...

It feels like golden leaves falling
to those who are parting ...

A glass of wine
has stirred
so many emotions swirling in my mind ...

Such sad farewells ...

With the season's falling leaves,
so many sad farewells.

To see you so dispirited pains me more than I can say.

Holding your hands so tightly to my heart ...

... Remembering ...

I implore you to remember our unspoken vows ...

I dare bear this bitterness,
but not to see you broken-hearted!

All contentment vanishes like leaves in an autumn wind.

Meeting or parting, that's not up to me.
We can blame the wind for our destiny.

I do not fear my own despair
but your sorrow haunts me.

No one will know of our desolation.

Westron Wynde
(anonymous Middle English lyric, found in a partbook circa 1530 AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Western wind, when will you blow,
bringing the drizzling rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
and I in my bed again!

NOTE: The original poem has "the smalle rayne down can rayne" which suggests a drizzle or mist, either of which would suggest a dismal day.

Excerpt from “Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos Fuerunt?”
(anonymous Middle English poem, circa 1275)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where are the men who came before us,
who led hounds and hawks to the hunt,
who commanded fields and woods?
Where are the elegant ladies in their boudoirs
who braided gold through their hair
and had such fair complexions?

Once eating and drinking gladdened their hearts;
they enjoyed their games;
men bowed before them;
they bore themselves loftily ...
But then, in an eye’s twinkling,
they were gone.

Where now are their laughter and their songs,
the trains of their dresses,
the arrogance of their entrances and exits,
their hawks and their hounds?
All their joy has vanished;
their “well” has come to “oh, well”
and to many dark days ...

A Lyke-Wake Dirge
(anonymous medieval lyric circa the sixteenth century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Lie-Awake Dirge is “the night watch kept over a corpse.”

This one night, this one night,
every night and all;
fire and sleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.

When from this earthly life you pass
every night and all,
to confront your past you must come at last,
and Christ receive thy soul.

If you ever donated socks and shoes,
every night and all,
sit right down and slip yours on,
and Christ receive thy soul.

But if you never helped your brother,
every night and all,
walk barefoot through the flames of hell,
and Christ receive thy soul.

If ever you shared your food and drink,
every night and all,
the fire will never make you shrink,
and Christ receive thy soul.

But if you never helped your brother,
every night and all,
walk starving through the black abyss,
and Christ receive thy soul.

This one night, this one night,
every night and all;
fire and sleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.

A Proverb from Winfred's Time
anonymous Old English poem, circa 757-786
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
The procrastinator puts off purpose,
never initiates anything marvelous,
never succeeds, and dies alone.

2.
The late-deed-doer delays glory-striving,
never indulges daring dreams,
never succeeds, and dies alone.

3.
Often the deed-dodger avoids ventures,
never succeeds, and dies alone.

Winfrid or Wynfrith is better known as Saint Boniface (c. 675–754). The poem might better be titled "A Proverb Against Procrastination from Winfred's Time." This may be the second-oldest English poem, after "Caedmon's Hymn."

Franks Casket Runes
anonymous Old English poems, circa 700
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The fish flooded the shore-cliffs;
the sea-king wept when he swam onto the shingle:
whale's bone.

Romulus and Remus, twin brothers weaned in Rome
by a she-wolf, far from their native land.

"The Leiden Riddle" is an Old English translation of Aldhelm's Latin riddle Lorica ("Corselet").

The Leiden Riddle
anonymous Old English riddle poem, circa 700
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The dank earth birthed me from her icy womb.
I know I was not fashioned from woolen fleeces;
nor was I skillfully spun from skeins;
I have neither warp nor weft;
no thread thrums through me in the thrashing loom;
nor do whirring shuttles rattle me;
nor does the weaver's rod assail me;
nor did silkworms spin me like skillfull fates
into curious golden embroidery.
And yet heroes still call me an excellent coat.
Nor do I fear the dread arrows' flights,
however eagerly they leap from their quivers.

Solution: a coat of mail.

If you see a busker singing for tips, you are seeing someone carrying on an Anglo-Saxon tradition that goes back to the days of Beowulf ...

He sits with his harp at his thane's feet,
Earning his hire, his rewards of rings,
Sweeping the strings with his skillful nail;
Hall-thanes smile at the sweet song he sings.
—"Fortunes of Men" loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Fairest Between Lincoln and Lindsey
(anonymous Middle English poem, circa late 13th century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When the nightingale sings, the woods turn green;
Leaf and grass again blossom in April, I know,
Yet love pierces my heart with its spear so keen!
Night and day it drinks my blood. The painful rivulets flow.

I’ve loved all this year. Now I can love no more;
I’ve sighed many a sigh, sweetheart, and yet all seems wrong.
For love is no nearer and that leaves me poor.
Sweet lover, think of me — I’ve loved you so long!

A cleric courts his lady
(anonymous Middle English poem, circa late 13th century)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My death I love, my life I hate, because of a lovely lady;
She's as bright as the broad daylight, and shines on me so purely.
I fade before her like a leaf in summer when it's green.
If thinking of her does no good, to whom shall I complain?

Shota Rustaveli (c. 1160-1250), often called simply Rustaveli, was a Georgian poet who is generally considered to be the preeminent poet of the Georgian Golden Age.

The Knight in the Panther's Skin
by Shota Rustaveli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

excerpts from the PROLOGUE

I sing of the lion whose image adorns the lances, shields and swords
of our Queen of Queens: Tamar, the ruby-throated and ebon-haired.
How dare I not sing Her Excellency’s manifold praises
when those who attend her must bring her the sweets she craves?

My tears flow profusely like blood as I extoll our Queen Tamar,
whose praises I sing in these not ill-chosen words.
For ink I have employed jet-black lakes and for a pen, a flexible reed.
Whoever hears will have his heart pierced by the sharpest spears!

She bade me laud her in stately, sweet-sounding verses,
to praise her eyebrows, her hair, her lips and her teeth:
those rubies and crystals arrayed in bright, even ranks!
A leaden anvil can shatter even the strongest stone.

Kindle my mind and tongue! Fill me with skill and eloquence!
Aid my understanding for this composition!
Thus Tariel will be tenderly remembered,
one of three star-like heroes who always remained faithful.

Come, let us mourn Tariel with undrying tears
because we are men born under similar stars.
I, Rustaveli, whose heart has been pierced through by many sorrows,
have threaded this tale like a necklace of pearls.

The next poem is a loose translation of the work of the Romanian poet Stefan Ovidiu. This was my first translation after "Elegy for a little girl, lost" and the first one in which I translated the words of another poet.

Under Water
by Stefan Ovidiu
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Even my dreams
cry
sometimes,
for the souls of transported soldiers
buried so deep
beneath
the water mark.

They lost
their fortunate stars,
far from home's capacious skies
and their lovers' eyes,
unborn to the womb
of the earth's great lies.

I awake in the night
hearing the sound of the sea
breathe with you,
sighing, distracted,
probing the declivities

of a land so full of tears and stars.

The Temple Hymns of Enheduanna
with modern English translations by Michael R. Burch

Enheduanna, the daughter of the famous King Sargon the Great of Akkad, is the first ancient writer whose name remains known today. She appears to be the first named poet in human history and the first known author of prayers and hymns. Enheduanna, who lived circa 2285-2250 BCE, is also one of the first women we know by name.

Lament to the Spirit of War
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You hack down everything you see, War God!

Rising on fearsome wings
you rush to destroy our land:
raging like thunderstorms,
howling like hurricanes,
screaming like tempests,
thundering, raging, ranting, drumming,
whiplashing whirlwinds!

Men falter at your approaching footsteps.

Tortured dirges scream on your lyre of despair.

Like a fiery Salamander you poison the land:
growling over the earth like thunder,
vegetation collapsing before you,
blood gushing down mountainsides.

Spirit of hatred, greed and vengeance!

Dominatrix of heaven and earth!

Your ferocious fire consumes our land.

Whipping your stallion
with furious commands,
you impose our fates.

You triumph over all human rites and prayers.

Who can explain your tirade,
why you carry on so?

Temple Hymn 15
to the Gishbanda Temple of Ningishzida
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most ancient and terrible shrine,
set deep in the mountain,
dark like a mother's womb ...

Dark shrine,
like a mother's wounded breast,
blood-red and terrifying ...

Though approaching through a safe-seeming field,
our hair stands on end as we near you!

Gishbanda,
like a neck-stock,
like a fine-eyed fish net,
like a foot-shackled prisoner's manacles ...
your ramparts are massive,
like a trap!

But once we’re inside,
as the sun rises,
you yield widespread abundance!

Your prince
is the pure-handed priest of Inanna, heaven's Holy One,
Lord Ningishzida!

Oh, see how his thick, lustrous hair
cascades down his back!

Oh Gishbanda,
he has built this beautiful temple to house your radiance!
He has placed his throne upon your dais!

NOTE: Ningishzida was a deity of the Netherworld: he was the chair-bearer who carried notable persons to their destination. The ancient Sumerians believed the Netherworld was set deep in the mountains, so a mountain shrine was perhaps a "natural" for Ningishzida.

The Exaltation of Inanna: Opening Lines and Excerpts
Nin-me-šara by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lady of all divine powers!
Lady of the resplendent light!
Righteous Lady adorned in heavenly radiance!

Beloved Lady of An and Uraš!
Hierodule of An, sun-adorned and bejeweled!
Heaven’s Mistress with the holy diadem,
Who loves the beautiful headdress befitting the office of her high priestess!

Powerful Mistress, seizer of the seven divine powers!
My Heavenly Lady, guardian of the seven divine powers!
You have seized the seven divine powers!
You hold the divine powers in your hand!
You have gathered together the seven divine powers!
You have clasped the divine powers to your breast!

You have flooded the valleys with venom, like a viper;
all vegetation vanishes when you thunder like Iškur!
You have caused the mountains to flood the valleys!
When you roar like that, nothing on earth can withstand you!

Like a flood descending on floodplains, O Powerful One, you will teach foreigners to fear Inanna!

You have given wings to the storm, O Beloved of Enlil!
The storms do your bidding, blasting unbelievers!

Foreign cities cower at the chaos You cause!
Entire countries cower in dread of Your deadly South Wind!
Men cower before you in their anguished implications,
raising their pitiful outcries,
weeping and wailing, beseeching Your benevolence with many wild lamentations!

But in the van of battle, everything falls before You, O Mighty Queen!

My Queen,
You are all-conquering, all-devouring!
You continue Your attacks like relentless storms!
You howl louder than the howling storms!
You thunder louder than Iškur!
You moan louder than the mournful winds!
Your feet never tire from trampling Your enemies!
You produce much wailing on the lyres of lamentations!

My Queen,
all the Anunna, the mightiest Gods,
fled before Your approach like fluttering bats!
They could not stand in Your awesome Presence
nor behold Your awesome Visage!

Who can soothe Your infuriated heart?
Your baleful heart is beyond being soothed!

Uncontrollable Wild Cow, elder daughter of Sin,
O Majestic Queen, greater than An,
who has ever paid You enough homage?

O Life-Giving Goddess, possessor of all powers,
Inanna the Exalted!

Merciful, Live-Giving Mother!
Inanna, the Radiant of Heart!
I have exalted You in accordance with Your power!
I have bowed before You in my holy garb,
I the En, I Enheduanna!

Carrying my masab-basket, I once entered and uttered my joyous chants ...

But now I no longer dwell in Your sanctuary.
The sun rose and scorched me.
Night fell and the South Wind overwhelmed me.
My laughter was stilled and my honey-sweet voice grew strident.
My joy became dust.

O Sin, King of Heaven, how bitter my fate!

To An, I declared: An will deliver me!
I declared it to An: He will deliver me!

But now the kingship of heaven has been seized by Inanna,
at Whose feet the floodplains lie.

Inanna the Exalted,
who has made me tremble together with all Ur!

Stay Her anger, or let Her heart be soothed by my supplications!
I, Enheduanna will offer my supplications to Inanna,
my tears flowing like sweet intoxicants!
Yes, I will proffer my tears and my prayers to the Holy Inanna,
I will greet Her in peace ...

O My Queen, I have exalted You,
Who alone are worthy to be exalted!
O My Queen, Beloved of An,
I have laid out Your daises,
set fire to the coals,
conducted the rites,
prepared Your nuptial chamber.
Now may Your heart embrace me!

These are my innovations,
O Mighty Queen, that I made for You!
What I composed for You by the dark of night,
The cantor will chant by day.

Now Inanna’s heart has been restored,
and the day has become favorable to Her.
Clothed in beauty, radiant with joy,
she carries herself like the elegant moonlight.

Now to the Noble Hierodule,
to the Wrecker of foreign lands
presented by An with the seven divine powers,
and to my Queen garbed in the radiance of heaven ...

O Inanna, praise!

Temple Hymn 7: an Excerpt
to the Kesh Temple of Ninhursag
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, high-situated Kesh,
form-shifting summit,
inspiring fear like a venomous viper!

O, Lady of the Mountains,
Ninhursag’s house was constructed on a terrifying site!

O, Kesh, like holy Aratta: your womb dark and deep,
your walls high-towering and imposing!

O, great lion of the wildlands stalking the high plains! ...

NOTE: Ninhursag was the goddess of nature and animals, wild and tame. She was also the goddess of the womb and form-shaping. And she was the patron deity of Kesh.

Temple Hymn 17: an Excerpt
to the Badtibira Temple of Dumuzi
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house of jeweled lapis illuminating the radiant bed
in the peace-inducing palace of our Lady of the Steppe!

Temple Hymn 22: an Excerpt
to the Sirara Temple of Nanshe
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house, you wild cow!
Made to conjure signs of the Divine!
You arise, beautiful to behold,
bedecked for your Mistress!

Temple Hymn 26: an Excerpt
to the Zabalam Temple of Inanna
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O house illuminated by beams of bright light,
dressed in shimmering stone jewels,
awakening the world to awe!

Temple Hymn 42: an Excerpt
to the Eresh Temple of Nisaba
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house of brilliant stars
bright with lapis stones,
you illuminate all lands!

...

The person who put this tablet together
is Enheduanna.
My king: something never created before,
did she not give birth to it?

Hurrian Hymn No. 6
ancient Akkadian hymn
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"Hurrian Hymn No. 6" was discovered in the ruins of Ugarit, near the modern town of Ras Shamra in Syria. It is the oldest surviving substantially complete work of notated music, dating to around 1400 BCE. The hymn is addressed to the goddess Nikkal (aka Ningal), the wife of the moon god Sin in ancient Mesopotamian mythology. "Hurrian Hymn No. 6" is one of 36 ancient Akkadian hymns called the "Hurrian Hymns" that were preserved in cuneiform, although the rest of the hymns are not as well-preserved.

1.
Having endeared myself to the Deity, she will embrace me.
May this offering of bread I bring wholly cover my sins.
May the sesame oil purify me as I bow low before your divine throne in awe.
Nikkal will make the sterile fertile, cause the barren to be fruitful:
They will bring forth children like grain.
The wife will bear her husband’s children.
May she who has not yet borne children now conceive them!

2.
For those who receive my offerings,
I place two loaves in their bowls as I perform the rites.

The couple have raised sacrifices to the heavens for their health and good fortune!

I have placed the loaves before your Divine Throne.

I will purify their sins, without denying them.

I will bring the lovers to you, that you may find them agreeable, for you love those who come forward to be reconciled.

I have brought their sins before you, to be removed through the reconciliation ritual.

I will honor you at your footstool.

Nikkal will strengthen them.
She allows married couples have children.
She allows children to be conceived by their fathers.

But the unreconciled will weep: "Why have I not yet born my husband children?"

Ammiditāna's Hymn to Ištar
Ancient Akkadian poem, author unknown
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1 iltam zumrā rašubti ilātim
2 litta''id bēlet iššī rabīt igigī
3 ištar zumrā rašubti ilātim
4 litta''id bēlet ilī nišī rabīt igigī

1 Sing the praises of the Goddess, our awe-inspiring Goddess!
2 Sing the praises of our Lady, the greatest of the gods!
3 Sing the praises of Ishtar, our awe-inspiring Goddess!
4 Sing the praises of our Lady, the greatest of the gods!

5 šāt mēleṣim ruāmam labšat
6 za'nat inbī mīkiam u kuzbam
7 šāt mēleṣim ruāmam labšat
8 za'nat inbī mīkiam u kuzbam

5 Ishtar who becomes aroused, exuding lust,
6 dripping desire—voluptuous and amorous!
7 Ishtar who becomes aroused, exuding lust,
8 dripping desire—voluptuous and amorous!

9 šaptīn duššupat balāṭum pīša
10 simtišša ihannīma ṣīhātum
11 šarhat irīmū ramû rēšušša
12 banâ šimtāša bitrāmā īnāša šitārā

9 Her lips drip honey-sweetness, her mouth is life itself,
10 Her cheeks are flushed with delight!
11 She is lovely, with beads braided in her hair!
12 Her cheeks are comely, her eyes are iridescent!

13 eltum ištāša ibašši milkum
14 šīmat mimmami qatišša tamhat
15 naplasušša bani bu'āru
16 baštum mašrahu lamassum šēdum

13 Our Goddess is pure, her counsel uncontested;
14 She holds the fates of all worlds in her hands!
15 Seeing her brings prosperity and happiness
16 for her pride, splendor, and protective spirit!

17 tartāmī tešmê ritūmī ṭūbī
18 u mitguram tebēl šīma
19 ardat tattadu umma tarašši
20 izakkarši innišī innabbi šumša

17 She is the Goddess of love-making and seduction,
18 of pleasure and harmony!
19 She teaches the naked girl to become a mother;
20 She will advance her name among the people!

21 ayyum narbiaš išannan mannum
22 gašrū ṣīrū šūpû parṣūša
23 ištar narbiaš išannan mannum
24 gašrū ṣīrū šūpû parṣūša

21 Who can rival her glory?
22 Her powers are unlimited, exalted and manifest!
23 Who can rival Ishtar's glory?
24 Her powers are unlimited, exalted and manifest!

25 gaṣṣat inilī atar nazzazzuš
26 kabtat awassa elšunu haptatma
27 ištar inilī atar nazzazzuš
28 kabtat awassa elšunu haptatma

25 Highest of the gods, her standing immense,
26 Her word is law, she towers above them!
27 Ishtar among the gods, her standing immense,
28 Her word is law, she towers above them!

29 šarrassun uštanaddanū siqrīša
30 kullassunu šâš kamsūšim
31 nannarīša illakūši
32 iššû u awīlum palhūšīma

29 They beg their queen to issue them orders;
30 they bow down obsequiously before her!
31 Acolytes orbit around her;
32 Men and women approach her in fear!

33 puhriššun etel qabûša šūtur
34 ana anim šarrīšunu malâm ašbassunu
35 uznam nēmeqim hasīsam eršet
36 imtallikū šī u hammuš

33 Foremost in the assembly, her speech altogether exalted,
34 she sits throned among them, an equal to Anu, the king!
35 She is wise beyond comprehension
36 when she and her chieftan confer!

37 ramûma ištēniš parakkam
38 iggegunnim šubat rīšātim
39 muttiššun ilū nazzuizzū
40 epšiš pîšunu bašiā uznāšun

37 They sit at the dais together,
38 in their delightful dwelling,
39 as the gods stand respectfully
40 awaiting her bidding.

41 šarrum migrašun narām libbīšun
42 šarhiš itnaqqišunūt niqi'ašu ellam
43 ammiditāna ellam niqī qātīšu
44 mahrīšun ušebbi li'ī u yâlī namrā'i

41 The king, their favourite, their hearts' beloved,
42 offers his sacrifice before them in splendour.
43 In their presence, Ammiditana, with his own hands
44 makes fattened offerings of bulls and stags.

45 išti anim hāmerīša tēteršaššum
46 dāriam balāṭam arkam
47 madātim šanāt balāṭim ana ammiditāna
48 tušatlim ištar tattadin

45 From Anum, her bridegroom, she has demanded
46 for the king a long fruitful life.
47 Many long years of life for Ammiditana
48 Ishtar has granted!

49 siqrušša tušaknišaššu
50 kibrat erbe'im ana šēpīšu
51 u naphar kalīšunu dadmī
52 taṣammissunūti ana nīrīšu

49 At her command the four corners of the earth
50 bow down to him!
51 She has bound the entire orb of the earth
52 to his yoke!

53 bibil libbīša zamar lalêša
54 naṭumma ana pîšu siqri ea īpuš
55 ešmēma tanittaša irissu
56 libluṭmi šarrašu lirāmšu addāriš

53 Her heart's desire, the praise-filled song,
54 is suited to his mouth, the commandment of Ea.
55 "I have heard her eulogy," said Ea, "and I was delighted with it!"
56 "May her king live long and may she love him forever!"

57 ištar ana ammiditāna šarri rā'imīki
58 arkam dāriam balāṭam šurqī

57 O Ishtar, may he live long and prosper,
58 Ammiditana, the king who loves you!



New Haiku Translations, added 6/27/2022

As the monks sip their morning tea,
chrysanthemums quietly blossom.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The fragrance of plum blossoms
on a foggy path:
the sun rising.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The sea darkens ...
yet still faintly white
the wild duck protests.
—Matsuo Basho, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pear tree blossoms
whitened by moonlight:
a young woman reading a letter.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Outlined in the moonlight ...
who is that standing
among the pear trees?
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your coolness:
the sound of the bell
departing the bell.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As the moon flies west
the flowers' shadows
creep eastward.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

By such pale moonlight
even the wisteria's fragrance
seems distant.
—Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Leaves
like crows’ shadows
flirt with a lonely moon.
Kaga no Chiyo (1703-1775), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let me die
covered with flowers
and never again wake to this earthly dream!
—Ochi Etsujin, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To reveal how your heart flowers,
sway like the summer grove.
—Tagami Kikusha-Ni (1753-1826), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In the thicket's shade
a solitary woman sings the rice-planting song.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Unaware of these degenerate times,
cherry blossoms abound!
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These silent summer nights
even the stars
seem to whisper.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The enormous firefly
weaves its way, this way and that,
as it passes by.
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Composed like the Thinker, he sits
contemplating the mountains:
the sagacious frog!
Kobayashi Issa, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A fallen blossom
returning to its bough?
No, a butterfly!
Arakida Moritake (1473-1549), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the harvest moon
smoke is caught creeping
across the water ...
Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fanning its tail flamboyantly
with every excuse of a breeze,
the peacock!
Masaoki Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Waves row through the mists
of the endless sea.
Masaoki Shiki (1867-1902), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I hurl a firefly into the darkness
and sense the enormity of night.
—Kyoshi Takahama (1874-1959), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

As girls gather rice sprouts
reflections of the rain ripple
on the backs of their hats.
—Kyoshi Takahama (1874-1959), loose translation by Michael R. Burch

THE RUIN
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

well-hewn was this wall-stone, till Wyrdes wrecked it
and the Colossus sagged inward ...

broad battlements broken;
the Builders' work battered;

the high ramparts ransacked;
tall towers collapsed;

the great roof-beams shattered;
gates groaning, agape ...

mortar mottled and marred by scarring hoar-frosts ...

the Giants’ dauntless strongholds decaying with age ...

shattered, the shieldwalls,
the turrets in tatters ...

where now are those mighty Masons, those Wielders and Wrights,
those Samson-like Stonesmiths?

the grasp of the earth, the firm grip of the ground
holds fast those fearless Fathers
men might have forgotten
except that this slow-rotting siege-wall still stands
after countless generations!

for always this edifice, grey-lichened, blood-stained,
stands facing fierce storms with their wild-whipping winds
because those master Builders bound its wall-base together
so cunningly with iron!
it outlasted mighty kings and their clans!

how high rose those regal rooftops!
how kingly their castle-keeps!
how homely their homesteads!
how boisterous their bath-houses and their merry mead-halls!
how heavenward flew their high-flung pinnacles!
how tremendous the tumult of those famous War-Wagers ...
till mighty Fate overturned it all, and with it, them.

then the wide walls fell;
then the bulwarks buckled;
then the dark days of disease descended ...

as death swept the battlements of brave Brawlers;
as their palaces became waste places;
as ruin rained down on their grand Acropolis;
as their great cities and castles collapsed
while those who might have rebuilt them lay gelded in the ground—
those marvelous Men, those mighty master Builders!

therefore these once-decorous courts court decay;
therefore these once-lofty gates gape open;
therefore these roofs' curved arches lie stripped of their shingles;
therefore these streets have sunk into ruin and corroded rubble ...

when in times past light-hearted Titans flushed with wine
strode strutting in gleaming armor, adorned with splendid ladies’ favors,
through this brilliant city of the audacious famous Builders
to compete for bright treasure: gold, silver, amber, gemstones.

here the cobblestoned courts clattered;
here the streams gushed forth their abundant waters;
here the baths steamed, hot at their fiery hearts;
here this wondrous wall embraced it all, with its broad bosom.

... that was spacious ...
36 Total read