Odysseus Elytis: The Autopsy

The Autopsy

And so they found that the gold of the olive root had dripped in the re-
      cesses of his heart.

And from the many times that he had lain awake by candlelight waiting
      for the dawn, a strange heat had seized his entrails.

A little below the skin, the blue line of the horizon sharply painted. And
      ample traces of blue throughout his blood.

The cries of birds which he had come to memorize in hours of great loneli-
      ness apparently spilled out all at once, so that it was impossible for
      the knife to enter deeply.

Probably the intention sufficed for the evil

Which he met—it is obvious—in the terrifying posture of the innocent.
      His eyes open, proud, the whole forest moving still on the unblem-
      ished retina.

Nothing in the brain but a dead echo of the sky.

Only in the hollow of his left ear some light fine sand, as though in a shell.
      Which means that often he had walked by the sea alone with the pain
      of love and the roar of the wind.

As for those particles of fire on his groin, they show that he moved time
      hours ahead whenever he embraced a woman.

We shall have early fruit this year.

Translated by Edmund Keeley & Philip Sherrard

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Juan Ramón Jiménez: Three Poems

No, It Is Not Possible

No, it is not possible to fit
my ideal hours into the hours
of my material day!

It is not possible to cut
the rose of fire until
we find the exact limits
imposed by the implacable clock!

For if my life lasts only
one hour, eternity can only
become my morning or afternoon!


Thought; sweet magnet
that takes us away from everything,—duty,
love, guilt,
glory, sadness, joy;—
holding us like a tree,
its top full and beautiful,
alone, standing and alien, among other trees,
hour after hour;
moon in the dark evening, large and clear,
more our homeland than the world!


All those slow walks along the pier of life,
before you embarked!
                                       —The evening falls
with an infinite peace—for I have returned to you—
as it was before,
when you were by the window
of the patio all in bloom, thinking.—
                                                             A sad desire
of gathering in my soul
the last of the whole spring
and presenting it to you in my mouth, my eyes,
makes me weep, sing, laugh at all the light.—My voice is
so good, that now even yours seems
less good in its great kindness.—
                                                         I would like
to overwhelm you with music as high as those
stars, that shine in your eyess, sweetly,
as they do in the dark sky; to fill with light
all your soul—so many winters without me—
with my love, sustained
by an inner sun of magic gold,
on this evening, blue and high, made eternal…
                                                                 And upon returning
tonight, slowly, as if towards death,
you will feel happy, immensely
satisfied with my past,
desiring only to sleep well and slowly,
under the pure light, magical and complete,
of all the stars—all your good memories…

Translated by Antonio T. de Nicolas

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Li Qingzhao: Written to the Tune “The Fisherman’s Honor”

Written to the Tune “The Fisherman’s Honor”

The sky becomes one with its clouds,
the waves with their mist.
In Heaven’s starry river, a thousand sails dance.
As if dreaming, I return to the place
where the Highest lives,
and hear a voice from the heavens:
Where am I going?
I answer, “The road is long,”
and sigh; soon the sun will be setting.
Hard to find words in poems to carry amazement:
on its ninety-thousand-mile wind,
the huge inner bird is soaring.
O wind, do not stop—
My little boat of raspberry wood
has not yet reached the Immortal Islands.

Translated by Jane Hirshfield

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Yu Xuanji: At Home in the Summer Mountains

At Home in the Summer Mountains

I’ve come to the house of the Immortals:
In every corner, wildflowers bloom.
In the front garden, trees
Offer their branches for drying clothes;
Where I eat, a wine glass can float
In the springwater’s chill.
From the portico, a hidden path
Leads to the bamboo’s darkened groves.
Cool in a summer dress, I choose
From among heaped piles of books.
Reciting poems in the moonlight, riding a painted boat…
Every place the wind carries me is home.

Translated by Jane Hirshfield

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Anonymous: Four Poems from The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue

O God of the Sword-spell

O God of the sword-spell,
you’re unwise to withold your wealth
from me; you’ve deceived
the sword-point’s reddener.
I’ve something else to explain—
‘Serpent-tongue’ as a child
was my name. Now again
here’s my chance to prove why.

I’m Ready to Tread the Isle

I’m ready to tread the isle
where combat is tried
—God grant the poet victory—
a drawn sword in my hand;
into two I’ll slice the hair-seat
of Helga’s kiss-gulper;
finally, with my bright sword,
I’ll sever his head from his neck.

The Poet Doesn’t Know

The poet doesn’t know
which poet will rejoice—
wound-sickles are drawn,
the edge fit to bite leg.
Alone and a widow, the young girl,
the thorn-tray, will hear from the Thing
—though bloodied I might be—
news of her man’s bravery.

My Sword was Stained with Gore

My sword was stained with gore,
but the Odin of swords
sword-swiped me too; on shields
shield-giants were tried overseas.
I think there stood blood-stained
blood-goslings in blood round my brain.
Once more the wound-eager wound-raven
wound-river is fated to wade.

Translated by Diana Whaley

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Anonymous: Threee Poems from The Saga of Hallfred Troublesome-Poet

The Anger of the Busy

The anger of the busy
bucket-sinker, a true pansy,
all-heathen, is about
as terrible to my eyes
as if, fair-sized, outside,
worst of all when guests arrive,
(I swell the poetry) at the pantry-door
an aged pantry-dog fretted.

It Was Different

It was different in former days, when
I made fine sacrifices to the mind-swift
(change has come to the fortunes of men)
Lord of Hlidskjalf himself.

He Lumbers

He lumbers (like a fulmar
swimming) to his bed,
the shearer of fjord-flame
(herring-stuffed on the foam-path),
before he, beguiler of scythes,
unlovely, dares to slide,
(with the Gunn of lace he’s not swift
into bed) under the blankets.

Translated by Diana Whaley

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Anonymous: Four Poems from Kormak’s Saga

The Moon of Her Eyelash

The moon of her eyelash—that valkyrie
of herb-surf, adorned with linen—
shone hawk-sharp upon me
beneath her brows’ bright sky;
but that beam from the eyelid-moon
of the goddess of the golden torque
will later bring trouble to me
and to the ring-goddess herself.

A Cow’s Inquisitive Feeder

A cow’s inquisitive feeder
asked me how I liked pot-snakes;
red round the eyelids he seems to me
from time spent at home in the kitchen.
I know that that grimy no-gooder,
that bruiser with filthy matted hair
—the one who manured the homefields—
was treated like a bitch and beaten.

Tooth-gnasher I have now Slain

Tooth-gnasher I have now slain,
my killings are now thirty-one;
and my own teeth I show in a grin;
let men bear these words from the slaying.
The god of the rowing-bench steeds
will come to all the better a realm;
though ageing, he’ll more often stain
with gore the swan of the blood’s seat.

Goddess of Arm’s Fires

Goddess of arm’s fires, we repose
on either side of a screen;
the mighty fates have their way,
and are hostile; I see it clearly.
Yet whenever we share a bed,
we have not a care in the world,
so dear are you, sea-goddess,
to the sword of the love-hair’s island.

Translated by Diana Whaley

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