Spring Was Delayed
by Michael R. Burch
Winter came early:
the driving snows,
the delicate frosts
all we forget
or refuse to know,
all we regret
that makes us wise.
Spring was delayed:
the nubile rose,
the tentative sun,
the wind’s soft sighs,
all we omit
or refuse to show,
whatever we shield
behind guarded eyes.
Originally published by Borderless Journal
These are my modern English translations of the great Scottish poet William Dunbar.
Sweet Rose of Virtue
by William Dunbar (c. 1460-1530)
loose translation by Michael R. Burch
Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness,
delightful lily of youthful wantonness,
richest in bounty and in beauty clear
and in every virtue men hold most dear,
except only that you are merciless.
These are poems about roses, and what they say and don't say to us ...
Roses for a Lover, Idealized
by Michael R. Burch
When you have become to me
as roses bloom, in memory,
exquisite, each sharp thorn forgot,
will I recall—yours made me bleed?
When winter makes me think of you—
whorls petrified in frozen dew,
bright promises blithe spring forsook,
will I recall your words—barbed, cruel?
These are poems about blood roses. The rose is a symbol of love and tendernesss, but it is also the color of blood …
Frantisek “Franta” Bass was a Jewish boy born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1930. When he was 11, his family was deported by the Nazis to Terezin, where the SS had created a hybrid Ghetto/Concentration Camp just north of Prague (it was also known as Theresienstadt). Franta lived there under terrible conditions for three years. He was then sent to Auschwitz, where on October 28th, 1944, he was murdered at age 14.
Two Songs From a Play
I saw a staring virgin stand
Where holy Dionysus died,
And tear the heart out of his side.
And lay the heart upon her hand
And bear that beating heart away;
Of Magnus Annus at the spring,
As though God's death were but a play.
Another Troy must rise and set,
Another lineage feed the crow,
Another Argo's painted prow
Drive to a flashier bauble yet.
The Roman Empire stood appalled:
It dropped the reins of peace and war
When that fierce virgin and her Star
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
I know two women, and one is chaste
And cold as the snows on a winters waste,
Stainless ever I act and thought
(As a man, born dumb, in speech errs not) .
But she has malice toward her kind,
A cruel tongue and a jealous mind.
Void of pity and full of greed,
She judges the world by her narrow creed;
A brewer of quarrels, a breeder of hate,
Yet she holds the key to ‘Society’s’ Gate.
The other woman, with heart of flame,
Went mad for a love that marred her name:
And out of the grave of her murdered faith
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
A humble wild-rose, pink and slender,
Was plucked and placed in a bright bouquet,
Beside a Jacqueminot’s royal splendour,
And both in my lady’s boudoir lay.
Said the haughty bud, in a tone of scorning,
‘I wonder why you are called a rose?
Your leaves will fade in a single morning;
No blood of mine in your pale cheek glows.
‘Your course green stalk shows dust of the highway,
You have no depths of fragrant bloom;
And what could you learn in a rustic byway
To fit you to lie in my lady’s room?
Portion of this yew
Is a man my grandsire knew,
Bosomed here at its foot:
This branch may be his wife,
A ruddy human life
Now turned to a green shoot.
These grasses must be made
Of her who often prayed,
Last century, for repose;
And the fair girl long ago
Whom I often tried to know
May be entering this rose.
So, they are not underground,
But as nerves and veins abound
In the growths of upper air,
And they feel the sun and rain,
And the energy again