By Sa’di, 13th Century Persia.
Last night without sight of you my brain was ablaze.
My tears trickled and fell plip on the ground. That I with
sighing might bring my life to a close they would name
you and again and again speak your name till
with night’s coming all eyes closed save mine whose every
hair pierced my scalp like a lancet. That was
not wine I drank far from your sight but my heart’s
blood gushing into the cup. Wall and door wherever
I turned my eyes scored and decorated with shapes
of you. To dream of Laila Majnun prayed for
sleep. My senses came and went but neither your
face saw I nor would your fantom go from me.
Now like aloes my heart burned, now smoked as a censer.
Where was the morning gone that used on other nights
to breathe till the horizon paled? Sa’di!
Has then the chain of the Pleiades broken
tonight that every night is hung on the sky’s neck?
Full title: Sonnet Addressed to Henry III on the Death of Thulene, the King’s Fool. By Jean Passerat, 1534-1602.
Thulene is dead, my Lord. I saw his funeral.
But it is in your power to bring him back again.
Appoint some poet to inherit his domain.
Poets and fools are of the same material.
One scorns advancement. One has nowhere to advance.
In both accounts, the gain is greater than the loss.
Both kinds are quick to anger, difficult to cross.
One speaks on impulse, one leaves everything to chance.
One is lightheaded, but the other one is seen
Wearing a pretty cap and bells, yellow and green.
One sings his rhymes, the other capers to his chimes.
Yet we are different in one important way.
Fortune has always favored fools, or so they say.
She’s seldom favored poets in the best of times.
By Avianus, c. 400-430.
Scampering the pasture, that’s how now,
the brown cow, a calf still, sees
in the next field, yoked to a heavy plow,
the dumb ox, and stops to shoot the breeze:
“What’s that contraption? What kind of life
is that?” The questions, even the mocking laugh
get no rise from the ox, but a silent stare
as the farmer who carries a glittering butcher knife
and a light halter, coming toward the calf.
Nobody gets to choose which yoke to wear.
By Thomas More, 1477-1535.
Good prince? (Guardian of flocks.) His bark
Chases bad prince (The Wolf) from fold:
Safe from bad prince in undisturbed sleep.
Watchdog and wolf both partial to sheep.
By Solomon ibn Gabirol, 1021-1055, writing in Hebrew.
Naked without either cover or dress,
Utterly soulless, and hollow.
From its mouth comes wisdom and prudence,
And in ambush it kills like an arrow.
19th century anonymous Hawaiian.
No, it is not too soon.
I have seen in my heart
that sea of forest trees
of tall-masted ships returning
to Honolulu’s harbor of Mamala,
making every sea-murmur a word–
Mamala’s murmur of unresting love.
Love’s home is Diamond Head.
Love’s shelter is where Pearl Harbor hills reach out to the sea.
Love’s gaze is keen and long.
Perhaps I should write a letter.
Perhaps I should show my love by asking his:
Come back, dear love, bring ease to me,
comfort of mind.
For you I sing my song
of forest trees on the unresting sea.
By Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Persia, 1797-1869.
Not all, only a few, return as the rose or the tulip;
What faces there must be still veiled by the dust!
The three stars, three Daughters, stayed veiled and secret by day;
what word did the darkness speak to bring them forth in their nakedness?
Sleep is his, and peace of mind, and the nights belong to him
across whose arms you spread the veils of your hair.
We are the forerunners; breaking the pattern is our way of life.
Whenever the races blurred they entered the stream of reality.
If Ghalib must go on shedding these tears, you who inhabit the world
will see these cities blotted into the wilderness.