Poetry Tuesday: For my Brother Hagok

By Ho Nansorhon, Korea (1563-1589).

The candlelight shines low on the dark window,
Fireflies flit across the housetops.
As the night grows colder,
I hear autumn leaves rustle to the ground.
There’s been no news for some time from your place of exile.
Because of you,
My mind is never free of worry.

Thinking of a distant temple,
I see a deserted hillside
Filled with the radiance of the moon.


Poetry Tuesday: Ultima Ratio

By Friedrich Georg Junger (1898-1977), originally in German.

Like vapor, the titanic scheme
Is dissipated,
Everything grows rusty now
That they created.

They hoped to make their craze
The lasting Plan,
Now it falls apart everywhere,
Sheet steel and span.

Raw chaos lies heaped up
On wide display.
Be patient. Even the fag-ends
Will crumble away.

Everything they made contained
What brought their fall
And the great burden they were
Crushes them all.


Poetry Tuesday: Angling

Anonymous Vietnamese, 16th century.

My rod is made of fine bamboo
My hook is made of gold.
For bait I use some flashing gems,
Then cast my line in the dragon’s mouth.
Some people fish in rivers and seas,
But I’m after girls of established families.
If you’re already married, let go of my bait.
If not, bite, and I’ll try to land you.


Poetry Tuesday: The Tain

A selection from a much longer work, written in Irish Gaelic, around 700 CE.
From the chapter Combat of Ferdia and Cuchulainn.

Ferdia of the hosts
And the hard blows, beloved
Golden brooch, I mourn
Your conquering arm

And our fostering together,
A sight to please a prince;
Your gold-rimmed shield,
Your slender sword.

The ring of bright silver
On your fine hand,
Your skill at chess,
Your flushed, sweet cheek.

Your curled yellow hair
Live a great lovely jewel,
The soft leaf-shaped belt
That you wore at your waist.

You have fallen to the Hound
I cry for it, little calf.
The shield didn’t save you
That you brought to the fray.

Shameful was our struggle,
The uproar and grief!
O fair, fine hero
Who shattered armies
And crushed them underfoot
Golden brooch, I mourn.


Poetry Tuesday: Written in the Mountains

By Kuan Hsiu, ninth or tenth century China.

A mountain’s a palace
For all things crystalline and pure:
There’s not a speck of dust
On a single one of all these flowers.

When we start chanting poems like madmen
It sets all the peaks to dancing.
And once we’ve put the brush to work
Even the sky becomes mere ornament.

For you and me the joy’s in the doing
And I’m damned if I care about “talent.”

But if, my friend, from time to time
You hear sounds like ghostly laughter. . .
It’s all the great mad poets, dead,
And just dropping in for a listen.


Poetry Tuesday: Across the Swamp

By Olaf H. Hauge, some time in the twentieth century in Norway.

It is the roots from all the trees that have died
out here, that’s how you can walk safely over the soft places.
Roots like these keep their firmness,
it’s possible they’ve lain here centuries.
And there is still some dark remains of them under the moss.
They are still in the world and hold you up so you can make it over.
And when you push out into the mountain lake,
high up, you feel how the memory of that cold person
who drowned himself here once helps hold up your frail boat.
He, really crazy, trusted his life
To water and eternity.