These are my modern English translations of ancient Greek poems and epigrams by Sophocles, including antinatalist poems and epigrams.
It’s a hundred times better not be born;
but if we cannot avoid the light,
the path of least harm is swiftly to return
to death’s eternal night!
Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), Oedipus at Colonus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
Not to have been born is best,
beyond the ability of words to express.
—Sophocles, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
These are my modern English translations of poems by the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.
I Loved You
by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
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.
God forbid if something terrible happens and I lose my eyesight.
I would miss the smile on my mother's face shining with glow and always bright.
My brothers would have tears in their eyes seeing me like this,
and would never indulge in a friendly fight.
My world would be in darkness though there would be light.
I won't be able to take lonely walks on the streets, would require help by plight.
I know you say you have a heart
But I really don’t think that’s true
Because this crippling pain I’m feeling
Was caused by none other than you
You told me that you had my back
And with that you made me glow
Now my shadow’s still behind me
But where on earth did you go?
You warned me not to love you
But pulled me in at the same time
Even though I somewhat agreed with you
I tried to make you mine
You reached in through my rib cage
Snapped my heartstrings one by one
But I still stood beside you
I am drowning in my pain
Spinning faster and faster
I closed my eyes to escape
From my momentary lapse of reason
In my grave reality of my demise
But there is nowhere to hide
In a world of complete emptiness
I am going under faster and faster
Feeling nothing but helplessness
And everything was still
Just as hope seemed to have faded
There was shelter in the distance
That shelter was you and I felt warm
And everything was still
Even from the depths of my mind
I knew I was trapped frozen in time
And so it begins..
The innocent little ones are broken
Their sanity and dreams stolen
Violently without words spoken
So badly beaten and bruised
Little ones left weeping and confused
As they silently shed their tears in fear
And no one ever seems to hear
How their voices shake when they speak
And no one ever seems to see
How they tremble when their defenseless and weak
Little ones lives can be very bleak.
In a strange town in a far land
They met amid a throng;
They stared, they could not understand
How life was sudden song.
As brown eyes looked in eyes of grey
Just for a moment's space,
Twin spirits met with sweet dismay
In that strange place.
And then the mob that swept them near
Reft them away again;
Two hearts in all the world most dear
Knew puzzlement and pain.
They barely brushed in passing by,
A wildered girl and boy,
Two Blind Men
Two blind men met. Said one: "This earth
Has been a blackout from my birth.
Through darkness I have groped my way,
Forlorn, unknowing night from day.
But you - though War destroyed your sight,
Still have your memories of Light,
And to allay your present pain
Can live your golden youth again."
Then said the second: "Aye, it's true,
It must seem magical to you
To know the shape of things that are,
A women's lips, a rose, a star.
But therein lies the hell of it;
Better my eyes had never lit
In the fair morning of his life,
When his pure heart lay in his breast,
Panting, with all that wild unrest
To plunge into the great world's strife
That fills young hearts with mad desire,
He saw a sunset. Red and gold
The burning billows surged and rolled,
And upward tossed their caps of fire.
He looked. And as he looked the sight
Sent from his soul through breast and brain
Such intense joy, it hurt like pain.
His heart seemed bursting with delight.
So near the Unknown seemed, so close
(Suggested by the lives of Napoleon and Josephine.)
ONE night was full of rapture and delight-
Of reunited arms and swooning kisses,
And all the unnamed and unnumbered blisses
Which fond souls find in love of love at night.
Heart beat with heart, and each clung into each
With twining arms that did but loose their hold
To cling still closer; and fond glances told
These truths for which there is no uttered speech.
There was sweet laughter and endearing words,