By Robert Herrick, that underappreciated 17th century Brit.
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration, each way free,
O, how that glittering taketh me!
By Lu Chih, China, c. 1243-1315.
I think a man’s seventy years are few!
Of his hundred years’ allotted span,
Thirty are lost.
Of his seventy years,
Ten are spent as a foolish child,
Ten are spent completely decrepit.
The fifty left divide into days and nights;
Only half have the light of day.
Wind and rain hasten one another,
The hare runs and the crow flies.
Carefully I ponder it all;
What’s better than
To be happy and at ease?
By Bhartrihani, around 650AD in what is now India.
A man may tear a jewel
From a sea monster’s jaws,
Cross a tumultuous sea
Of raging tides,
Or twine garlandwise
A wrathful serpent on his head.
But no man can alter
The thoughts of an obstinate fool.
Kaccipettu Nannakaiyar, from the Classical Tamil Anthologies (c. AD 50-300).
My lover capable of terrible lies
at night lay close to me
in a dream
that lied like truth.
I woke up, still deceived,
and caressed the bed
thinking it my lover.
It’s terrible. I grow lean
like a water lily
gnawed by a beetle.
By Emperor Juntoku, 13th century Japan (It says retired emperor, but I’m gonna go with emeritus).
for the then,
in the now.
It’s World Poetry Day! And it falls on Poetry Tuesday! What are the odds? (Approx. 1 out of 7, taking leap year into account.)
Here’s an anonymous Irish work about non-permanence a thousand years before Shelley’s Ozymondius.
The fort over against the oak wood
Once it was Bruidge’s, it was Cathal’s,
It was Aed’s, it was Ailill’s,
It was Conaing’s, it was Cuiline’s,
And it was Maelduin’s;
The fort remains after each in his turn–
And the kings asleep in the ground.
By Yang Wan-li (1124-1206)
Our boat going upstream barely moves by the inch;
The dark cliffs on both sides deepen into the dusk’s gloom
With a clap of thunder the heavens threaten rain;
A wind rushing in from the South Seas beyond the horizon
Angrily blasts the gorges asunder–
A hundred men shout and beat the big drums,
While a single swain flies up the towering mast.
When the sails are rigged, all hold their hands in their sleeves
And sit down to watch their boat–
a goose feather skimming over the waters.