These are my modern English translations of haiku about plum blossoms, plums and plum trees. In Japanese poetry the plum ("ume") is associated with the beginning of spring and good fortune; plum trees were often planted facing northeast to ward off bad luck. Plum blossoms are widely loved and appreciated by the Japanese people; they symbolize refinement, purity, nobility and the remembrance of love.

Picking autumn plums
my wrinkled hands
once again grow fragrant
― Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



These are my modern English translations of the Roman, Latin and Italian poets Anonymous, Marcus Aurelius, Catullus, Guido Cavalcanti, Cicero, Dante Alighieri, Veronica Franco, Guido Guinizelli, Hadrian, Primo Levi, Martial, Michelangelo, Seneca, Seneca the Younger and Leonardo da Vinci. I also have translations of Latin poems by the English poets Aldhelm, Thomas Campion and Saint Godric of Finchale.

Pablo Neruda translations


You can crop all the flowers but you cannot detain spring.
―Pablo Neruda, loose translation by Michael R. Burch

While nothing can save us from death,
still love can redeem each breath.
―Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

As if you were set on fire from within,
the moon whitens your skin.
—Pablo Neruda, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Bertolt Brecht Translations

Bertolt Brecht Translations

These are my modern English translations of poems written in German by Bertolt Brecht. After the poems I have translations of epigrams and quotations by Bertolt Brecht.

The Burning of the Books
by Bertolt Brecht
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When the Regime
commanded the unlawful books to be burned,
teams of dull oxen hauled huge cartloads to the bonfires.

Then a banished writer, one of the best,
scanning the list of excommunicated texts,
became enraged: he'd been excluded!

Michelangelo translations


Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564)was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet. He and his fellow Florentine, Leonardo da Vinci, were rivals for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man. Michelangelo is considered by many to be the greatest artist of all time.


I saw the angel in the marble and freed him.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

I hewed away the coarse walls imprisoning the lovely apparition.―Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch

Chixiao (“The Owl”) translation from the ancient Chinese by Duke Zhou

Chixiao (“The Owl”)
by Duke Zhou (c. 1100-1000 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You've stolen my offspring,
Don't shatter my nest!
When with labors of love
I nurtured my fledglings.

Before the skies darkened
And the dark rains fell,
I gathered mulberry twigs
To thatch my nest,
Yet scoundrels now dare
Impugn my enterprise.

With fingers chafed rough
By the reeds I plucked
And the straw I threshed,
I now write these words,
Too hoarse to speak:
I am homeless!

Shijing or Shi-Jing translations from the Chinese

The Shijing or Shi-Jing or Shih-Ching (“Book of Songs” or “Book of Odes”) is the oldest Chinese poetry collection, with the poems included believed to date from around 1200 BC to 600 BC. According to tradition the poems were selected and edited by Confucius himself. Since most ancient poetry did not rhyme, these may be the world’s oldest extant rhyming poems.

Shijing Ode #4: “JIU MU”
ancient Chinese rhyming poem circa (1200 BC - 600 BC)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Thomas Wyatt translation/modernization of "Whoso List to Hunt"

Whoso List to Hunt, or, Whoever Longs to Hunt
original poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder
loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Whoever longs to hunt, I know the deer;
but as for me, alas!, I may no more.
This vain pursuit has left me so bone-sore
I'm one of those who falters, at the rear.
Yet friend, how can I draw my anguished mind
away from the doe? Thus, as she flees before
me, fainting I follow. I must leave off, therefore,
since in a net I seek to hold the wind.

English Translations by Michael R. Burch

These are my English translations of poems by the Jewish Holocaust poet Miklos Radnoti, the Scottish poet William Dunbar, the German poet Georg Trakl, the English poet Pauline Mary Tarn who wrote poems in French as Renee Vivien, and other poets. 

Postcard 1
by Miklós Radnóti, written August 30, 1944
translation by Michael R. Burch

English translation of "To the boy Elis" by Georg Trakl

This is my modern English translation of the poem "To the boy Elis" by Georg Trakl.

To the boy Elis
by Georg Trakl
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Elis, when the blackbird cries from the black forest,
it announces your downfall.
Your lips sip the rock-spring's blue coolness.

Your brow sweats blood
recalling ancient myths
and dark interpretations of birds' flight.

Yet you enter the night with soft footfalls;
the ripe purple grapes hang suspended
as you wave your arms more beautifully in the blueness.


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