Michael R. Burch

1958
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Translations

TRANSLATIONS OF CHINESE POETRY


Huazi Ridge
by Wang Wei (699-759)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A bird in flight soars, limitless,
communal hills adopt autumn's resplendence;
yet from the top to bottom of Huazi Ridge,
melancholy seems endless.



"Lu Zhai" ("Deer Park")
by Wang Wei (699-759)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Uninhabited hills ...
except that now and again the silence is broken
by something like the sound of distant voices
as the sun's sinking rays illuminate lichens ...



"Lovesickness"
by Wang Wei (699-759)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Those bright red berries you have in the South,
the luscious ones that emerge each spring:
go gather them, bring them home by the bucketful,
they’re as tempting as my desire for you!

The Ormosia (a red bean called the “love pea”) is a symbol of lovesickness.



Farewell (I)
by Wang Wei (699-759)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where the mountain began its ascent,
we stopped to bid each other farewell...
Now here dusk descends as I shut my wooden gate.
Come spring, the grass will once again turn green,
but will you also return, my friend?



Farewell (II)
by Wang Wei
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We dismounted, drank to your departure.
I asked, “My friend, which way are you heading?”
You said, “Nothing here has been going my way,
So I’m returning to the crags of Nanshan.”
“Godspeed then,” I said, “You’ll be closer to Heaven,
among those infinite white clouds, never-ending!”



Spring Night
by Wang Wei
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I'm as idle as the osmanthus flowers...
This quiet spring night the hill stood silent
until the moon arrived and startled its birds:
they continue cawing from the dark ravine.

The osmanthus is a flowering evergreen also known as the devilwood.



Quiet Night Thoughts
by Li Bai (701-762)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Moonlight illuminates my bed
as frost brightens the ground.
Lifting my eyes, the moon allures.
Lowering my eyes, I long for home.

My interpretation of this famous poem is a bit different from the norm. The moon symbolizes love, so I imagine the moon shining on Li Bai’s bed to be suggestive, an invitation. A man might lower his eyes to avoid seeing something his wife would not approve of.



On Parting
by Du Mu
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My feelings are fond, yet “unfeeling” I feign;
we drink our wine, yet make merry in vain.
The candle, so bright!, and yet it still grieves,
for it melts, into tears, as the light recedes.



Farewell to a Friend
by Li Bai
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Rolling hills rim the northern border;
white waves lap the eastern riverbank...
Here you set out like a windblown wisp of grass,
floating across fields, growing smaller and smaller.
You’ve longed to travel like the rootless clouds,
yet our friendship declines to wane with the sun.
Thus let it remain, our insoluble bond,
even as we wave goodbye till you vanish.
My horse neighs, as if unconvinced.



Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain
by Li Bai
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Now the birds have deserted the sky
and the last cloud slips down the drains.

We sit together, the mountain and I,
until only the mountain remains.



Lines from Laolao Ting Pavilion
by Li Bai (701-762)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The spring breeze knows partings are bitter;
The willow twig knows it will never be green again.



A Toast to Uncle Yun
by Li Bai (701-762)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Water reforms, though we slice it with our swords;
Sorrow returns, though we drown it with our wine.

Li Bai (701-762) was a romantic figure called the Lord Byron of Chinese poetry. He and his friend Du Fu (712-770) were the leading poets of the Tang Dynasty era, the Golden Age of Chinese poetry. Li Bai is also known as Li Po, Li Pai, Li T’ai-po, and Li T’ai-pai.



Li Shen (772-846) is better known in the West as Duke Wensu of Zhao. He was a Chinese poet, professor, historian, military general and politician of the Tang Dynasty who served as chancellor during the reign of Emperor Wuzong.

Toiling Farmers
by Duke Wensu of Zhou
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Farmers toil, weeding and hoeing, at noon,
Sweat pouring down their faces.
Who knows food heaped on silver trays
Comes thanks to their efforts and graces?



Luo Binwang (c. 619-684) was a Tang Dynasty poet who wrote his famous goose poem at age seven.

Ode to the Goose
by Luo Binwang
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Goose, goose, goose!
You crane your neck toward the sky and sing
as your white feathers float on emerald-green water
and your red feet part silver waves.
Goose, goose, goose!



David Hinton said T'ao Ch'ien (365-427) "stands at the head of the great Chinese poetic tradition like a revered grandfather: profoundly wise, self-possessed, quiet, comforting." T'ao gained quasi-mythic status for his commitment to life as a recluse farmer, despite poverty and hardship. Today he is remembered as one of the best Chinese poets of the Six Dynasties Period.

Swiftly the years mount
by T'ao Ch'ien (365-427)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Swiftly the years mount, exceeding remembrance.
Solemn the stillness of this spring morning.
I will clothe myself in my spring attire
then revisit the slopes of the Eastern Hill
where over a mountain stream a mist hovers,
hovers an instant, then scatters.
Scatters with a wind blowing in from the South
as it nuzzles the fields of new corn.



Drinking Wine V
by T'ao Ch'ien (365-427)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I built my hut here amid the hurriedness of men,
but where is the din of carriages and horses today?
You ask me "How?" but I have no reply.
Here where the heart is isolated, the earth stands aloof.

Harvesting chrysanthemums by the eastern hedge,
I see the southern hills, afar;
The balmy air of the hills seems good;
migrating birds return to their nests.
This seems like the essence of life,
and yet I lack words.



Returning to Live in the Country
by T'ao Ch'ien (365-427)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The caged bird longs for its ancient woodland;
the pond-reared Koi longs for its native stream ...

Dim, dim lies the distant hamlet;
lagging, lagging snakes the smoke of its market-place;
a dog barks in the alley;
a cock crows from atop the mulberry tree ...

My courtyard and door are free from turmoil;
in these dust-free rooms there is leisure to spare.
But too long a captive caught in a cage,
when will I return to Nature?



Su Tungpo (1037-1101) is better known as Su Shi. A towering figure of the Northern Song era, Su Shi is considered to be one of China’s greatest poets and essayists. More than 2,000 of his poems survive.

“Pining”
by Su Shi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You’re ten years dead and your memory fades,
nor do I try to remember,
yet how to forget?

Your lonely grave, so distant,
these cold thoughts―how can I hash them out?

If we met today, you wouldn’t recognize me:
this ashen face, my hair like frost.

In a dream last night suddenly I was home,
standing by our bedroom window
where you sat combing your hair and putting on your makeup.

You turned to gaze at me, not speaking,
as tears coursed down your cheeks.

Year after year will it continue to break my heart―
this grave illuminated by ghostly moonlit pines?



Visiting the Temple of the God of Mercy during a Deluge
by Su Shi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The silkworms age,
The wheat yellows,
The rain falls unrestrained flooding the valleys,
The farmers cannot work their land,
Nor can the women gather mulberries,
While the Immortals sit white-robed on elevated thrones.



Our Lives
by Su Shi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
To what can our lives be likened?
To a flock of geese alighting on snow,
leaving scant evidence of their passage.

2.
To what can our lives be compared?
To a flock of geese fleeing an early snow,
all evidence of their passage quickly melting.

3.
To what can our lives be compared?
To a flock of geese alighting on snow,
leaving a few barely visible feathers.

4.
To what can our lives be compared?
To a flock of geese alighting on snow,
leaving a few frozen tailfeathers.

5.
To what can our lives be compared?
To a flock of geese alighting on snow,
leaving invisible droppings.

Mid-Autumn Moon
by Su Shi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The sunset’s clouds are distant, the air clear and cold,
the Milky Way silent, the moon a jade plate.
Neither this vista nor life will last long,
so who will admire this bright moon tomorrow?



Benevolent Moon, an excerpt from “The Moon Festival”
by Su Shi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Rounding the red pavilion,
Stooping to peer through transparent windows,
The moon shines benevolently on the sleepless,
Knowing no sadness, bearing no ill...
But why so bright when we sleep apart?



“The Moon Festival”
by Su Shi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“Where else is there moonlight?”
Wine cup in hand, I ask the dark sky,
Not knowing the hour of the night
in those distant celestial palaces.

I long to ride the wind home,
Yet dread those high towers’ crystal and jade,
Fear freezing to death amid all those icicles.

Instead, I begin to dance with my moon-lit shadow.
Better off, after all, to live close to earth.

Rounding the red pavilion,
Stooping to peer through transparent windows,
The moon shines benevolently on the sleepless,
Knowing no sadness, bearing no ill...
But why so bright when we sleep apart?

As men experience grief and joy, parting and union,
So the moon brightens and dims, waxes and wanes.
It has always been thus, since the beginning of time.

My wish for you is a long, blessed life
And to share this moon’s loveliness though leagues apart.

Su Shi wrote this famous lyric for his brother Ziyou (1039-1112), when the poet was far from the imperial court.



"Red Light District"
by Su Shi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A lonely sick old man,
my frosty hair disheveled by the wind.
My son’s mistakenly pleased by my ruddy complexion,
but I smile, knowing it's the booze.



Untitled

For fear the roses might sleep tonight,
I’ll leave a tall candle as a spotlight
to remind them of their crimson glory.
―Su Shi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

For fear the roses might sleep tonight,
I’ll light a candle to remind them of their crimson glory.
―Su Shi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Red Peonies
by Zhou Bangyan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
Such bitterness defies expression:
thus I accept that she’s gone for good,
and too far for letters.

Even if cleverer fingers could preserve both rings, 1
what we had has dissipated, like windblown mists,
like clouds thinning.

Now the apartment we shared stands empty
and dust has long since settled to an ashen seal,
making me think of roots removed and leaves shed,
of those red peonies she planted then deserted.

2.
On a nearby island the iris blossoms,
but by now her boat nears some distant shore,
with us at opposite ends of the world.

It’s vain to recall her long-ago letters:
all idle talk now, all idle chatter.
I’d like to burn the whole lot of them!

When spring returns to the river landing,
perhaps she’ll send me a spray of plum blossoms; 2
then, for the rest of my life,
wherever there are flowers and wine,
I’ll weep for her.

1 The Empress Dowager of Qi separated complexly linked rings of carved jade by smashing them to pieces.

2 In Chinese poetry the pear blossom symbolizes the transience of life and the ephemeral beauty of nature.



A Song of Two Voices
by Zhou Bangyan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“About to depart, still I linger in the lamplight,
broken-hearted. The vermilion door beckons.
But there’s no need for waterfalls to stain your cheeks:
I’ll return by the time the wild roses fade.”

“Dancing here with your hand on my waist, keeping time,
allowing others to watch as I try not to cry,
do you see the glowing embers in the golden brazier?
Don’t let your love so easily become ashes!”



Untitled

A cicada drones sadly in the distance
as I contemplate my journey.
What use are ten thousand tender sentiments,
with no one to receive them?
―Zhou Bangyan, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Departure
by Zhou Bangyan
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dawn’s clouds hang heavy,
frost stiffens the grass,
mist obscures the battlements.

The well-oiled carriage stands ready to depart,
the cup of parting nearly drained.

Hanging low enough to brush our faces, willow limbs invite being tied into knots.
Concealing rouged tears, she breaks one off with her jade hands.
Here on the banks of the Han she wonders where the wild goose wandered:
For so long now there’s been no word of him.

The land is vast, the sky immense,
the dew cold, the wind brisk,
our surroundings devoid of other people,
the water-clock disconsolate.

Here arise a myriad complications,
but hardest of all is to separate so easily.

The wine cup is not quite empty,
so I counsel the clouds to hold back,
the setting moon to remain above the western tower.

The silken girdle’s sheen safely hidden;
the patterned quilt discreetly folded up;
the linked rings severed;
the delicate perfume dispersed...



TRANSLATIONS OF TAMIL POEMS AND EPIGRAMS

Among all earth’s languages we find none, anywhere, as sweet as Tamil. ― Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The Golden Bharath is our glorious homeland:
Hail India, members of a matchless band!
―Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Mankind will achieve enlightenment only when it holds women equal with men. ― Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

You shattered my heart,
now all I see are your reflections in the shards.
―Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am the footprint erased by the rain. ― Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I keep thinking of you, like the child who sticks his hand in the flame knowing he’ll get burned. ― Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

What can a dewdrop do when the forest is aflame?―Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Can you sense when a heart is burning to ashes?―Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Let's sing and dance with glee!

Let’s sing a song to Independence, for we
are finally free!
―Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Like the lizard that peeps from a toppled tree, we enter this existence.
―Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Unlike those who think only about food,
who sit on their verandahs gossiping about meaningless things,
who dwell on their miseries,
who cause trouble for others,
who fret themselves gray,
who become slaves to their desires, then die in vain,
I shall not. I shall not fizzle out, a purposeless nothing.
―Subramanya Bharathi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



India’s Treasures
by Subramanya Bharathi, a Tamil poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The eternal Himalayas tower above us,
as no other mountains ever rose!

The gently nourishing Ganges ebbs and flows...
Do other rivers rival her? Not even close!

The Upanishads? Literature’s first and fairest Rose
will continue to keep other books on their toes!



“Sowkkiyama Kanne” (“How Are You, Dear?”)
by Subramanya Bharathi, a Tamil poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I can’t catch my breath! I can’t catch my breath!
But think nothing of it. Tell me about yourself.



"Vande Mataram"
by Subramanya Bharathi, a Tamil poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You are rich with swiftly-flowing streams
and bright with your orchards’ blossoms white.
You are cool with brisk breezes that swirl and delight.
Venerably, we bow before you.

Your skies are moonlit through the nightwatch’s hours
while your groves emit the soft incense of flowers.
Birds chirping in the trees remind us of your blessings.
Venerably, we bow before you.

Countless voices reply when you play your harp.
Countless shoulders stand poised to meet your demands.
When you issue your commands,
swords flash in seventy million hands!

Your enemies tremble as seventy million voices roar
your dreadful name, from shore to shore!

Who says you are timid? They lie!
We stand ready to defend you, or die.

Venerably, we bow before you.

You are our wisdom, you are our law.
You are our heart, our soul, and our breath.
You are our love divine and our awe.
It is your peace in our hearts that conquers death.

Yours is the courage that nerves the arm.
Yours is the beauty, yours is the charm.

Every image we hold sacred and true
In our beautiful temples is tribute to you.

Venerably, we bow before you:
Our Mother, Mother India.

Venerably, we bow before you.



“Vazhi Maraittu” (“My View is Obstructed”) from the opera "Nandanar Charitram"
by Gopalakrishna Bharati (1810-1896), a Tamil poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A Dalit ("untouchable") approaches a temple he is not allowed to enter...

my view is obstructed, as if by a Mountain:
there’s a Bull lying here, my Lord!

am i cursed? even arriving at this Holy Temple
i remain in my sins!
am i not allowed to touch Your Feet
O Holy Shiva, Lord of the Kailas?

it suffices that i am able to glimpse You in Your Chariot!
i won’t enter the Great Temple, O Lord,
but is it possible that You might move one Mighty Foot?
to not block my vision, won’t Your Bull move just a little bit?



TRANSLATIONS OF UKRAINIAN POEMS AND EPIGRAMS

Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko (1814-1861) was also known as Kobzar Taras, or simply Kobzar ("The Bard"). The foremost Ukrainian poet of the 19th century, Shevchenko was also a playwright, writer, artist, illustrator, folklorist, ethnographer and political figure. He is considered to be the father of modern Ukrainian literature and, to some degree, of the modern Ukrainian language. Shevchenko was also an outspoken champion of Ukrainian independence and a major figure in Ukraine's national revival. In 1847 he was convicted for explicitly promoting the independence of Ukraine, for writing poems in the Ukrainian language, and for ridiculing members of the Russian Imperial House. He would spend 12 years under some form of imprisonment or military conscription.

Dear God!
by Taras Shevchenko
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Dear God, disaster again!
Life was once calm ... serene ...
But as soon as we began to break the chains
Of bondage that enslaved us ...
The whip cracked! The serfs' blood flew!
Now, like ravenous wolves fighting over a bone,
The Imperial thugs are at each other's throats again.



Zapovit ("Testament")
by Taras Shevchenko
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I die, let them bury me
on some high, windy steppe,
my tomb a simple burial mound,
unnoticed and unwept.
Below me, my beloved Ukraine's
vast plains ... beyond, the shore
where the mighty Dnieper thunders
as her surging waters roar!
Then let her bear to the distant sea
the blood of all invaders,
before I rise, at last content
to leave this Earth forever.
For how, until that moment,
could I ever flee to God,
knowing my nation lives in chains,
that innocents shed blood?
Friends, free me from my grave ― arise,

sundering your chains!
Water your freedom with blood spilled
by cruel tyrants' evil veins!
Then, when you're all one family,
a family of the free,
do not forget my good intent:
Remember me.



Love in Kyiv
by Natalka Bilotserkivets, a Ukrainian poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love is more terrible in Kyiv
than spectacular Venetian passions,
than butterflies morphing into bright tapers ―
winged caterpillars bursting aflame!

Here spring has lit the chestnuts, like candles,
and we have cheap lipstick’s fruity taste,
the daring innocence of miniskirts,
and all these ill-cut coiffures.

And yet images, memories and portents still move us...
all so tragically obvious, like the latest fashion.

Here you’ll fall victim to the assassin’s stiletto,
your blood coruscating like rust
reddening a brand-new Audi in a Tartarkan alley.

Here you’ll plummet from a balcony
headlong into your decrepit little Paris,
wearing a prim white secretarial blouse.

Here you can no longer discern the weddings from the funerals,
because love in Kyiv is more terrible
than the tired slogans of the New Communism.

Phantoms emerge these inebriated nights
out of Bald Mountain, bearing
red banners and potted red geraniums.

Here you’ll die by the assassin’s stiletto:
plummet from a balcony,
tumble headlong into a brand-new Audi in a Tartarkan alley,
spiral into your decrepit little Paris,
your blood coruscating like rust
on a prim white secretarial blouse.



"Words terrify when they remain unspoken." ― Lina Kostenko, translation by Michael R. Burch

Unsaid
by Lina Kostenko, a Ukrainian poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You told me “I love you” with your eyes
and your soul passed its most difficult exam;
like the tinkling bell of a mountain stream,
the unsaid remains unsaid.

Life rushed past the platform
as the station's speaker lapsed into silence:
so many words spilled by the quill!
But the unsaid remains unsaid.

Nights become dawn; days become dusk;
Fate all too often tilted the scales.
Words rose in me like the sun,
yet the unsaid remains unsaid.



Let It Be
by Lina Kostenko, a Ukrainian poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let there be light! The touch of a feather.
Let it be forever. A radiant memory!
This world is palest birch bark,
whitened in the darkness from elsewhere.

Today the snow began to fall.
Today late autumn brimmed with smoke.
Let it be bitter, dark memories of you.
Let it be light, these radiant memories!

Don't let the phone arouse your sorrow,
nor let your sadness stir with the leaves.
Let it be light, ’twas only a dream
barely brushing consciousness with its lips.



The Beggars
by Mixa Kozimirenko a Ukrainian poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where, please tell me, should I hide my eyes
when a beggar approaches me
and my fatherland has more beggars
than anyplace else?
To cover my eyes with my hands, so as not to see,
not to hear the words ripping my soul apart?
My closed eyes cry
as the beggars walk by...
My eyes tight-shut, so as not to see them,
not to hear the words ripping my soul apart.
It is Mother Ukraine who’s weeping?
Can it be that her cry is unheard?



If the Last Rom Dies
by Mixa Kozimirenko
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If the last Rom dies,
a star would vanish above the tent,
mountains and valleys moan,
horses whinny in open fields,
thunderclouds shroud the moon,
fiddles and guitars gently weep,
giants and dwarfs mourn.

If the last Rom dies…
what trace will the Roma have left?
Ask anyone, anywhere!

The Romani soul is in their songs―look there!

In lands near and far, everywhere,
Romani songs hearten human hearts.

Although their own road to happiness is hard,
they respect Freedom as well as God,
while searching for their heaven on earth.
But whether they’ve found it―ask them!

Mixa Kozimirenko (1938-2005) was a Ukrainian Romani Gypsy poet, philosopher, educator, music teacher, composer and Holocaust survivor. He was a prominent figure and highly regarded in Ukrainian literary circles.



We Are Here
by Michael R. Burch

“We are here.” ― Volodymyr Zelensky

We are here. Were are here.
And we won’t disappear.
We are here. We are here. We are here.

We are here. Have no fear,
our position is clear.
We are here. We are here. We are here.

And yet we need help.
Will earth’s leaders just yelp?
We are here. We are here. We are here.

Our nation stands strong.
Will you choose right, or wrong?
We are here. We are here. We are here.

Now let me be clear,
Vladimir, dear:
We are here. We are here. We are here.



TRANSLATIONS OF RUSSIAN POEMS AND EPIGRAMS

The Guest
by Anna Akhmatova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Everything’s the same: a driving snow
Hammers the dining room windows.
Meanwhile, I remain my usual self.
But a man came to me.

I asked him, “What do you want?”
“To be with you in hell.”
I laughed: “It’s plain you intend
To see us both damned!”

But he lifted his elegant hand
to lightly caress the flowers.
“Tell me how they kiss you,
Tell me how you kiss.”

His eyes, observing me blankly,
Never moved from my ring,
Nor did a muscle move
In his implacable face.

We both know his delight
is my unnerving knowledge
that he is indifferent to me,
that I can refuse him nothing.



THE MUSE
by Anna Akhmatova
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My being hangs by a thread tonight
as I await a Muse no human pen can command.
The desires of my heart ― youth, liberty, glory ―

now depend on the Maid with the flute in her hand.

Look! Now she arrives; she flings back her veil;
I meet her grave eyes ― calm, implacable, pitiless.

“Temptress, confess!
Are you the one who gave Dante hell?”

She answers, “Yes.”



I have also translated this tribute poem written by Marina Tsvetaeva for Anna Akhmatova:

Excerpt from “Poems for Akhmatova”
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You outshine everything, even the sun
at its zenith. The stars are yours!
If only I could sweep like the wind
through some unbarred door,
gratefully, to where you are ...
to hesitantly stammer, suddenly shy,
lowering my eyes before you, my lovely mistress,
petulant, chastened, overcome by tears,
as a child sobs to receive forgiveness ...



I Know The Truth
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I know the truth―abandon lesser truths!
There's no need for anyone living to struggle!
See? Evening falls, night quickly descends!
So why the useless disputes, generals, poets, lovers?

The wind is calming now; the earth is bathed in dew;
the stars' infernos will soon freeze in the heavens.
And soon we'll sleep together, under the earth,
we who never gave each other a moment's rest above it.



I Know The Truth (Alternate Ending)
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I know the truth―abandon lesser truths!
There's no need for anyone living to struggle!
See? Evening falls, night quickly descends!
So why the useless disputes, generals, poets, lovers?

The wind caresses the grasses; the earth gleams, damp with dew;
the stars' infernos will soon freeze in the heavens.
And soon we'll lie together under the earth,
we who were never united above it.



Poems about Moscow
by Marina Tsvetaeva
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

5
Above the city Saint Peter once remanded to hell
now rolls the delirious thunder of the bells.

As the thundering high tide eventually reverses,
so, too, the woman who once bore your curses.

To you, O Great Peter, and you, O Great Tsar, I kneel!
And yet the bells above me continually peal.

And while they keep ringing out of the pure blue sky,
Moscow's eminence is something I can't deny ...

though sixteen hundred churches, nearby and afar,
all gaily laugh at the hubris of the Tsars.



I Loved You
by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, a Russian poet
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I loved you ... perhaps I love you still ...
perhaps for a while such emotions may remain.
But please don't let my feelings trouble you;
I do not wish to cause you further pain.

I loved you ... thus the hopelessness I knew ...
The jealousy, the diffidence, the pain
resulted in two hearts so wholly true
the gods might grant us leave to love again.



TRANSLATIONS OF GREEK POEMS AND EPIGRAMS

I am an image, a tombstone. Seikilos placed me here as a long-lasting sign of deathless remembrance.―loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Athens, celestial city, crowned with violets, beloved of poets, bulwark of Greece!―Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Do not, O my soul, aspire to immortality, but rather exhaust life.
―Pindar, Pythian Ode III, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fairest of all preludes is mine to incomparable Athens
as I lay the foundation of songs for the mighty race of Alcmaeonidae and their majestic steeds. Among all the nations, which heroic house compares with glorious Hellas?
―Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Toil and expense confront excellence in endeavors fraught with danger,
but those who succeed are considered wise by their companions.
―Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I rejoice at this accomplishment and yet I also grieve,
seeing how Envy slanders noble endeavors.
―Pindar, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Olympian Ode I
by Pindar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Water is best of all,
and after that Gold flaming like a fire in the night with the luster of imperial wealth;
but if you are reluctant, O my soul, to sing of prizes in mere games ... please consider this:
for just as the brightest star can never outshine the sun no matter how often we scan the heavens by day,
even so we shall never find any games greater than our Olympics!

Therefore we raise our voices!

Hence come these glorious hymns!

Thus our minds bend to those skillful in song,
who celebrate Zeus, the son of Kronos,
as they come to the rich and happy hearth of Hieron ...

Hieron, who wields the scepter of justice in Sicily of the many flocks!

Hieron, who culls the choicest fruits of all sorts of excellence!

Hieron, whose halls flower with the splendid music he makes, as one sings blithely at a friend’s table!

Take down from its peg the Dorian lute!

Let the wise sing of the stallion Pherenikos, the steed who carried Hieron to glory,
who now at Pisa has turned out souls toward glad thoughts and rejoicing,
because by the banks of Alpheos he ran, giving his ungoaded body to the course,
and thus delivered victory to his master, the Syracusans' king, who delights in horses!

...

Now the majesty we remember today will be ever sovereign to men. All men.
My role is to crown Hieron with an equestrian strain in an elegant Aeolian mood,
and I am sure that no host among men ― now, or ever ―

shall I ever glorify in the sounding labyrinths of song
who is more learned in the learning of honor or with more might to achieve it!

A god has set a guard over your hopes, O Hieron, and regards them with peculiar care.
And if this god does not fail you, I shall again proclaim in song a greater glory yet,
and find the appropriate words when the time comes,
when to the bright-shining mountain of Kronos I return:
my Muse has yet to release her strongest-wingéd dart!

There are many kinds of greatness in men,
but the highest can only be achieved by kings.
Think not to look further into this,
but let it be your lot to walk loftily all your life,
and mine to be friend to the game-winners, winning honor for my art among Hellenes everywhere.



TRANSLATIONS OF LATIN AND ITALIAN POEMS

Epitaph for the Child Erotion
by Marcus Valerius Martial
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lie lightly on her, grass and dew ...
So little weight she placed on you.

I created this translation after the Nashville Covenant school shooting and dedicated it to the victims of the massacre.



Coq au vin
by Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
Hosts always invite you to dinner, Phoebe,
but are you merely an éclair to the greedy?

2.
Hosts always invite you to dinner, Phoebe,
but are you tart Amaro to the greedy?

Amaro is an after-dinner liqueur thought to aid the digestion after a large meal.

3.
Hosts always invite you to dinner, Phoebe,
but are you an aperitif to the greedy?

4.
Hosts always invite you to dinner, Phoebe,
but they’re pimps to the seedy.

Ad cenam invitant omnes te, Phoebe, cinaedi.
mentula quem pascit, non, puto, purus homo est.



You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it, mon frère.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



1.
You’ll find good poems, but mostly poor and worse,
my peers being “diverse” in their verse.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

2.
Some good poems here, but most not worth a curse:
such is the crapshoot of a book of verse.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sunt bona, sunt quaedam mediocria, sunt mala plura
quae legis hic: aliter non fit, Auite, liber.



He undertook to be a doctor
but turned out to be an undertaker.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Chirurgus fuerat, nunc est uispillo Diaulus:
coepit quo poterat clinicus esse modo.



1.
The book you recite from, Fidentinus, was my own,
till your butchering made it yours alone.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

2.
The book you recite from I once called my own,
but you read it so badly, it’s now yours alone.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

3.
You read my book as if you wrote it,
but you read it so badly I’ve come to hate it.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Quem recitas meus est, o Fidentine, libellus:
sed male cum recitas, incipit esse tuus.



Recite my epigrams? I decline,
for then they’d be yours, not mine.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ut recitem tibi nostra rogas epigrammata. Nolo:
non audire, Celer, sed recitare cupis.



I do not love you, but cannot say why.
I do not love you: no reason, no lie.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare:
hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te.



You’re young and lovely, wealthy too,
and yet you’re still a silly shrew.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bella es, nouimus, et puella, uerum est,
et diues, quis enim potest negare?
Sed cum te nimium, Fabulla, laudas,
nec diues neque bella nec puella es.



"The Descent into the Underworld"
by Virgil
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The Sibyl began to speak:

“God-blooded Trojan, son of Anchises,
descending into the Underworld’s easy
since Death’s dark door stands eternally unbarred.
But to retrace one’s steps and return to the surface:
that’s the conundrum, that’s the catch!
Godsons have done it, the chosen few
whom welcoming Jupiter favored
and whose virtue merited heaven.
However, even the Blessed find headway’s hard:
immense woods barricade boggy bottomland boggy / briared
where the Cocytus glides with its dark coils.
But if you insist on ferrying the Styx twice
and twice traversing Tartarus,
if Love demands you indulge in such madness,
listen closely to how you must proceed...”



AIM HIGH
by Michael R. Burch

The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo

If we shoot for the stars
to only end up on Mars,
that's still quite a trip.
The choice is ours.




TRANSLATIONS OF NATIVE AMERICAN POEMS

What is life?
The flash of a firefly.
The breath of the winter buffalo.
The shadow scooting across the grass that vanishes with sunset.
―Blackfoot saying, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
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