For Boris and Miona
They find a garden lush with plum-air scents
As spring sun filters through the dew-dust leaves
And subtle sighs arise while fruit ferments,
For Eden enters Earth when minds conceive.
Within the garden deep an oak tree grows,
Preserving plum and fruit from sudden squalls
With roots that sink in soil where winds oppose,
To keep the flowers fresh as flurries fall.
Emerging from primordial chaos fair,
This Earth now holds the veins where plum wine flows:
Red as a peach with a smile on her face,
Face with a smile as a peach in her place.
Willow that hangs and shakes its drapery low,
Low is the willow that hangs as wind does flow.
Waves the blossom as wind and hair entwine,
Entwines the hair and wind, this blossom of mine.
Roams the road as the moon sinks west,
West sinks the moon where the road roams best.
After “Reckless Spirit” (Barbarian Bodhisattva) by Liu Dao (1511-1598)
A fern surrounds my life like a hollow maze
In the intricate lattice of love’s first gaze;
Following a pattern that guides me on this road
I reach for her lips beneath the mistletoe.
My love comes forth with the apple of desire,
A tangled taste that takes a life to acquire;
Magic and nightshade in a mandrake stew,
I drink the nighttime herbs in a witch’s brew.
Seared in my skin like a tattoo of her name,
My cry has faded to a touch without shame;
Pulled by a thread that stains the earth and sky
30. On the Death of Rusticus -
On thee by guilty waves his corpse was tossed.
Close in her breast his loving spouse conveyed
The sacred urn, too soon the seas were crossed,
Too soon those ashes in the earth she laid,
And seemed twice widowed of a love twice lost.
27. To Flaccus -
To love a dame who loves stale vinegar,
A dame whose palate whelks and tripe enchant,
Who thinks bananas too extravagant,
Whose maid brings in (rare trove!) a common pot
Of spoiled sardines to eat before they rot;
Grown lowish now and not afraid to shock
She begs for flannelette to make a frock;
My dame will ask for attar, precious stuff,
" Worth " for her frocks is hardly good enough:
Fine graded pearls and emeralds I must find.
And gold is copper to her generous mind.
56. The Voyage -
And soon to Libya his way will wend.
Give him, dear Love, a wand and those soft darts
Wherewith thou woundest eager lovers' hearts.
Cuirass and shield and helm I leave to thee,
He will be safe if naked he shall be,
E'en as Parthenopaeus felt no blow
From foemen's dart while they could see his brow.
But whomsoe'er he pierces straight will die
Of love — how happy in death's agony!
O beauty bright, from Africa come home
And grow to manhood here with us in Rome.
14. On a Parasite -
Has got you for friend, can true friendship afford?
It's your oysters and mullet he loves, sir, not you:
If my dinners were good, he would be my friend too.
If Thou Were Dead!: 15 -
How could one summer sunset dare to gleam
Above the ripples of the rosied stream?
How could one rose blush into mocking red?
If death's wreath whitened round thy dear dark head
No leaf of bay would lure my glance again:
For thou art as the fountain of my strain,
Whence buoyant waters towards the plains are led.
If thou wert gone, O love, — if thou wert gone, —
How could the thoughtless heartless sun shine on!
How could the same chant fill the sea's dull soul
Alone: 13 -
The holy spirit of spotless God descends
And with their souls magnificently blends,
Till as their lips touch lo! their souls are white,
And as their eyes meet lo! those eyes are bright
With the eternal power God's spirit sends:
Far-off from home, apart from fame or friends,
They rest in God's unutterable light.
O love, we were unspeakably alone
With Love and God: thou wast alone with me,
And I with God who claimed us for his own,
And thou with God, and I alone with thee, —
Our Self-Existence: 6 -
With the immortal mountain-winds of God,
Whereunto winds a weird untravelled road,
Thrilled by the high song of the mountain-air.
The altar of our faithful love is there
On the sheer hill-side trackless and untrod;
By power of earnest endless passion shod
Our feet have climbed the rocks and glaciers bare.
And now we stand together on the height
And sweeter than the singing of the vale
Is this my harp-string that the keen airs smite,