Monday, November 24, 2008
The Waste Land
I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 10
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie, 15
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, 20
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock, 25
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. 30
Frisch weht der Wind
Der Heimat zu.
Mein Irisch Kind,
Wo weilest du?
'You gave me hyacinths first a year ago; 35
'They called me the hyacinth girl.'
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, 40
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Od' und leer das Meer.
Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe, 45
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations. 50
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water. 55
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.
Unreal City, 60
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet. 65
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying 'Stetson!
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae! 70
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
'Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,
'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again! 75
'You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!'
II. A GAME OF CHESS
THE Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out 80
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra
Reflecting light upon the table as
The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
From satin cases poured in rich profusion; 85
In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid—troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air
That freshened from the window, these ascended 90
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
Huge sea-wood fed with copper
Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone, 95
In which sad light a carvèd dolphin swam.
Above the antique mantel was displayed
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale 100
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
'Jug Jug' to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time
Were told upon the walls; staring forms 105
Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.
Footsteps shuffled on the stair.
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still. 110
'My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
'Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
'I never know what you are thinking. Think.'
I think we are in rats' alley 115
Where the dead men lost their bones.
'What is that noise?'
The wind under the door.
'What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?'
Nothing again nothing. 120
'You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes. 125
'Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?'
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It's so elegant
So intelligent 130
'What shall I do now? What shall I do?'
'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
'With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
'What shall we ever do?'
The hot water at ten. 135
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.
When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said—
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself, 140
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set, 145
He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you.
And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don't give it him, there's others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said. 150
Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can't.
But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling. 155
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.) 160
The chemist said it would be alright, but I've never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don't want children?
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME 165
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
HURRY UP PLEASE IT'S TIME
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight. 170
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.
III. THE FIRE SERMON
THE river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed. 175
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors; 180
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept...
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear 185
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.
A rat crept softly through the vegetation
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank
While I was fishing in the dull canal
On a winter evening round behind the gashouse 190
Musing upon the king my brother's wreck
And on the king my father's death before him.
White bodies naked on the low damp ground
And bones cast in a little low dry garret,
Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year. 195
But at my back from time to time I hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter 200
They wash their feet in soda water
Et, O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!
Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc'd. 205
Under the brown fog of a winter noon
Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants 210
C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
Asked me in demotic French
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.
At the violet hour, when the eyes and back 215
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives 220
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays, 225
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—
I too awaited the expected guest. 230
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare,
One of the low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.
The time is now propitious, as he guesses, 235
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence; 240
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall 245
And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
Bestows on final patronising kiss,
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit...
She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover; 250
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
'Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over.'
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, 255
And puts a record on the gramophone.
'This music crept by me upon the waters'
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City city, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street, 260
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold. 265
The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails 270
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
Down Greenwich reach 275
Past the Isle of Dogs.
Elizabeth and Leicester
Beating oars 280
The stern was formed
A gilded shell
Red and gold
The brisk swell
Rippled both shores 285
Carried down stream
The peal of bells
Weialala leia 290
'Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe.' 295
'My feet are at Moorgate, and my heart
Under my feet. After the event
He wept. He promised "a new start".
I made no comment. What should I resent?'
'On Margate Sands. 300
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest 310
IV. DEATH BY WATER
PHLEBAS the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep seas swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea 315
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, 320
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
V. WHAT THE THUNDER SAID
AFTER the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying 325
Prison and place and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience 330
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink 335
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit 340
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
If there were water 345
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
A spring 350
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock 355
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together 360
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you? 365
What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only 370
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London 375
A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings 380
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.
In this decayed hole among the mountains 385
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one. 390
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves 395
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder
D A 400
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed 405
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
D A 410
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours 415
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded 420
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands
I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order? 425
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins 430
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih
Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston's book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance (Macmillan). Indeed, so deeply am I indebted, Miss Weston's book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with these works will immediately recognize in the poem certain references to vegetation ceremonies.
I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD
Line 20 Cf. Ezekiel 2:7.
23. Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:5.
31. V. Tristan und Isolde, i, verses 5–8.
42. Id. iii, verse 24.
46. I am not familiar with the exact constitution of the Tarot pack of cards, from which I have obviously departed to suit my own convenience. The Hanged Man, a member of the traditional pack, fits my purpose in two ways: because he is associated in my mind with the Hanged God of Frazer, and because I associate him with the hooded figure in the passage of the disciples to Emmaus in Part V. The Phoenician Sailor and the Merchant appear later; also the 'crowds of people', and Death by Water is executed in Part IV. The Man with Three Staves (an authentic member of the Tarot pack) I associate, quite arbitrarily, with the Fisher King himself.
60. Cf. Baudelaire:
Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves,
Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant.
63. Cf. Inferno, iii. 55–7:
si lunga tratta
di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto
che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta.
64. Cf. Inferno, iv. 25–27:
Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare,
non avea pianto, ma' che di sospiri,
che l'aura eterna facevan tremare.
68. A phenomenon which I have often noticed.
74. Cf. the Dirge in Webster's White Devil.
76. V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal.
II. A GAME OF CHESS
77. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II. ii. 190.
92. Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I. 726:
dependent lychni laquearibus aureis incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt.
98. Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, iv. 140.
99. V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, vi, Philomela.
100. Cf. Part III, l. 204.
115. Cf. Part III, l. 195.
118. Cf. Webster: 'Is the wind in that door still?'
126. Cf. Part I, l. 37, 48.
138. Cf. the game of chess in Middleton's Women beware Women.
III. THE FIRE SERMON
176. V. Spenser, Prothalamion.
192. Cf. The Tempest, I. ii.
196. Cf. Marvell, To His Coy Mistress.
197. Cf. Day, Parliament of Bees:
When of the sudden, listening, you shall hear,
A noise of horns and hunting, which shall bring
Actaeon to Diana in the spring,
Where all shall see her naked skin...
199. I do not know the origin of the ballad from which these lines are taken: it was reported to me from Sydney, Australia.
202. V. Verlaine, Parsifal.
210. The currants were quoted at a price 'carriage and insurance free to London'; and the Bill of Lading, etc., were to be handed to the buyer upon payment of the sight draft.
218. Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem. The whole passage from Ovid is of great anthropological interest:
...Cum Iunone iocos et 'maior vestra profecto est
Quam, quae contingit maribus', dixisse, 'voluptas.'
Illa negat; placuit quae sit sententia docti
Quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque nota.
Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
Corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu
Deque viro factus, mirabile, femina septem
Egerat autumnos; octavo rursus eosdem
Vidit et 'est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae',
Dixit 'ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet,
Nunc quoque vos feriam!' percussis anguibus isdem
Forma prior rediit genetivaque venit imago.
Arbiter hic igitur sumptus de lite iocosa
Dicta Iovis firmat; gravius Saturnia iusto
Nec pro materia fertur doluisse suique
Iudicis aeterna damnavit lumina nocte,
At pater omnipotens (neque enim licet inrita cuiquam
Facta dei fecisse deo) pro lumine adempto
Scire futura dedit poenamque levavit honore.
221. This may not appear as exact as Sappho's lines, but I had in mind the 'longshore' or 'dory' fisherman, who returns at nightfall.
253. V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield.
257. V. The Tempest, as above.
264. The interior of St. Magnus Martyr is to my mind one of the finest among Wren's interiors. See The Proposed Demolition of Nineteen City Churches (P. S. King & Son, Ltd.).
266. The Song of the (three) Thames-daughters begins here. From line 292 to 306 inclusive they speak in turn. V. Götterdammerung, III. i: The Rhine-daughters.
279. V. Froude, Elizabeth, vol. I, ch. iv, letter of De Quadra to Philip of Spain:
In the afternoon we were in a barge, watching the games on the river. (The queen) was alone with Lord Robert and myself on the poop, when they began to talk nonsense, and went so far that Lord Robert at last said, as I was on the spot there was no reason why they should not be married if the queen pleased.
293. Cf. Purgatorio, V. 133:
'Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma.'
307. V. St. Augustine's Confessions: 'to Carthage then I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears'.
308. The complete text of the Buddha's Fire Sermon (which corresponds in importance to the Sermon on the Mount) from which these words are taken, will be found translated in the late Henry Clarke Warren's Buddhism in Translation (Harvard Oriental Series). Mr. Warren was one of the great pioneers of Buddhist studies in the Occident.
309. From St. Augustine's Confessions again. The collocation of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism, as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident.
V. WHAT THE THUNDER SAID
In the first part of Part V three themes are employed: the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous (see Miss Weston's book), and the present decay of eastern Europe.
357. This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit-thrush which I have heard in Quebec County. Chapman says (Handbook of Birds in Eastern North America) 'it is most at home in secluded woodland and thickety retreats.... Its notes are not remarkable for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and exquisite modulation they are unequalled.' Its 'water-dripping song' is justly celebrated.
360. The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.
367–77. Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos:
Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligen Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.
401. 'Datta, dayadhvam, damyata' (Give, sympathize, control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found in the Brihadaranyaka--Upanishad, 5, 1. A translation is found in Deussen's Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489.
407. Cf. Webster, The White Devil, V, vi:
Ere the worm pierce your winding-sheet, ere the spider
Make a thin curtain for your epitaphs.
411. Cf. Inferno, xxxiii. 46:
ed io sentii chiavar l'uscio di sotto
Also F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, p. 346:
My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it.... In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.
424. V. Weston, From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher King.
427. V. Purgatorio, xxvi. 148.
'Ara vos prec per aquella valor
'que vos guida al som de l'escalina,
'sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor.'
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina.
428. V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela in Parts II and III.
429. V. Gerard de Nerval, Sonnet El Desdichado.
431. V. Kyd's Spanish Tragedy.
433. Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. 'The Peace which passeth understanding' is a feeble translation of the conduct of this word.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
"Rather than struggling to understand the poems, to take pleasure in their arrangement the way you listen to music."
(click where it says: "Streaming Video")
The History of My Life
Once upon a time there were two brothers.
Then there was only one: myself.
I grew up fast, before learning to drive,
even. There was I: a stinking adult.
I thought of developing interests
someone might take an interest in. No soap.
I became very weepy for what had seemed
like the pleasant early years. As I aged
increasingly, I also grew more charitable
with regard to my thoughts and ideas,
thinking them at least as good as the next man's.
Then a great devouring cloud
came and loitered on the horizon, drinking
it up, for what seemed like months or years.La Historia de mi Vida
Había una vez dos hermanos.
Después quedó uno solo: Yo.
Crecí rápido, antes incluso de aprender a manejar.
Heme ahí un adulto apestoso.
Pensaba en el desarrollo de intereses en los que alguien pudiera interesarse. Ni sopas.
Me volví muy llorón, al parecer como en aquellos tranquilos primeros años.
Conforme crecí, gradualmente, me hice más generoso en cuanto
a mis pensamientos e ideas
pensando que eran tan buenas
como las de mi próximo.
Después una enorme nube voráz
se estacionó en el horizonte
y lo engulló
por lo que parecieron ser meses
Sunday, June 8, 2008
como un escenario por la mente construido
que no es mío, pues es un lugar ya hecho,
pero es mío, tan cercano al corazón,
eterno forraje oculto en todo pensar
que tiene pues su sala ahí
que es un lugar ya hecho, formado de luz
en donde las sombras que son las formas caen.
Donde todas las arquitecturas que soy caen
donde hay apariciones del Primer Amor
son sus flores llamas encendidas a la Dama.
La que es Reina Bajo La Colina
sus huestes son tropel de palabras en palabras
que es un campo preparado.
Es tan solo un sueño de pastizal volando
al oriente contra el surtidor del sol
un momento antes del ocaso
cuyo secreto vemos en el juego de niños
rodea el aro de rosas contado.
A menudo me es dado volver a un prado
cual si fuera una determinada facultad mental
que sostienen ciertos lazos contra el caos,
que es el lugar del permiso primero
eterna profecía de cuanto es.
Monday, June 2, 2008
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.
Por Que No Soy Pintor.
No soy pintor, soy poeta.
¿Por qué? Creo que debería ser
pintor pero no lo soy. Ahí tenemos
a Mike Goldberg, por ejemplo,
comenzando un cuadro. Le visito.
"Siéntante y sírvete un trago" dice.
Me lo tomo; brindamos. Miro bien.
"Pusiste SARDINAS en él".
"Sí, necesitaba poner algo"
"Oh". Me voy y los días pasan
y le visito otra vez. El cuadro sigue
y sigue y le visito y los días
pasan. Le vuelvo a visitar. El cuadro
ha sido terminado. "¿Dónde quedó
Todo lo que queda son letras
"Era demasiado" dice Mike.
¿Y yo? Un día pienso en
un color: naranja. Escribo
acerca del naranja. Muy pronto
es un página llena de palabras,
no frases. Y luego otra página.
Y pronto serán muchas más,
no de naranja, de palabras,
de cuán tremendo es el naranja
y la vida. Los días pasan. El texto
está en prosa, soy un
verdadero poeta. Mi poema está
listo y no he dicho naranja todavía.
Son doce poemas, les he titulado
NARANJAS. Y un día en una galería
veo el cuadro de Mike titulado
Friday, May 30, 2008
Ya casi no podemos ver la luna
así que no te extrañe
que se vea tan bella cuando aparece de pronto
Ahí la vemos deslizarse sobre los puentes, su cara quebrada,
cursando suave, brillante, y una fresca brisa te vuela el pelo
sobre la frente y los recuerdos
del paisaje en tren de Red Grooms
Yo quiero un whisky/tu pides naranjas/yo amo la cazadora de cuero
que me dió Norman
y el abrigo de pana que te dió David,
es más misterioso que la primavera, los cielos de El Greco
abriéndose y cerrándose de nuevo como leones
en el vasto, trágico telón.
Esto es superior a nuestras pequeñas existencias y a nuestra pasajera unión de
pasiones en la catedral de los eneros.
Todo es tan comprensible
estos son mis poemas tiernos y acariciantes
supongo que vendrán más de los otros, como en el
Pero por hoy la luna se entrega como una perla
a mi corazón también desnudo.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
“Period by period the sentences are bound. / Fragments deliverd up / to what celestial timekeeper?” wrote Robert Duncan.
When we read a novel that has our attention, that sucks us in and moves us, we want it to go on forever. A bad novel—we can’t wait for it to be over. Same with movies.
And a poem? When we read a good poem, we want to read it again and again. Its time is more intense—not the duration of fiction, not the continuous flow of life, but the moment of insight, revelation, of primordial memory and the instantaneous recognition of truth. Or, as Frank O’Hara wrote, “Everything / suddenly honks: it is 12:40 of / a Thursday.”
Friday, May 23, 2008
por John Ashbery
Lo vimos venir desde siempre,
luego ya estaba aquí, en línea
con el paseo de aquel día. Para entonces, éramos nosotros
los que habíamos desaparecido, en el túnel de un libro.
Despertando en la madrugada, nos unimos al flujo
de las noticias de mañana. ¿Por qué no? A diferencia
de algunos otros, no tenemos nada que pedir
o que tomar prestado. No somos sino piezas de sólida geometría:
cilindros o romboides. Cierta satisfacción
nos ha sido otorgada. Sí, claro, siempre volvemos
a por más... Es parte del aspecto "humano"
del desfile. Y existen regiones más oscuras
perfiladas, que habría que explorar alguna vez.
Por ahora nos basta con que el día se haya acabado.
Trajo su carga de frescura, la dejó caer
y se marchó. En cuanto a nosotros, seguimos aquí, ¿no es cierto? ~
— Versión de Jordi Doce
ASHBERY AND GUADALAJARA ... "How limited, but how complete withal, has been our experience of Guadalajara!"
The Instruction Manual
As I sit looking out of a window of the building
I wish I did not have to write the instruction manual on the uses of a new
I look down into the street and see people, each walking with an inner peace,
And envy them--they are so far away from me!
Not one of them has to worry about getting out this manual on schedule.
And, as my way is, I begin to dream, resting my elbows on the desk and leaning
out of the window a little,
Of dim Guadalajara! City of rose-colored flowers!
City I wanted most to see, and did not see, in Mexico!
But I fancy I see, under the press of having to write the instruction manual,
Your public square, city, with its elaborate little bandstand!
The band is playing Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov.
Around stand the flower girls, handing out rose- and lemon-colored flowers,
Each attractive in her rose-and-blue striped dress (Oh! such shades of rose and
And nearby is the little white booth where women in green serve you green and
The couples are parading; everyone is in a holiday mood.
First, leading the parade, is a dapper fellow
Clothed in deep blue. On his head sits a white hat
And he wears a mustache, which has been trimmed for the occasion.
His dear one, his wife, is young and pretty; her shawl is rose, pink, and
Her slippers are patent leather, in the American fashion,
And she carries a fan, for she is modest, and does not want the crowd to see
her face too often.
But everybody is so busy with his wife or loved one
I doubt they would notice the mustacioed man's wife.
Here come the boys! They are skipping and throwing little things on the
Which is made of gray tile. One of them, a little older, has a toothpick in his
He is silenter than the rest, and affects not to notice the pretty young girls
But his friends notice them, and shout their jeers at the laughing girls.
Yet soon this all will cease, with the deepening of their years,
And love bring each to the parade grounds for another reason.
But I have lost sight of the young fellow with the toothpick.
Wait--there he is--on the other side of the bandstand.
Secluded from his friends, in earnest talk with a young girl
Of fourteen or fifteen. I try to hear what they are saying
But it seems they are just mumbling something--shy words of love, probably.
She is slightly taller than he, and looks quietly down into his sincere eyes.
She is wearing white. The breeze ruffles her long fine black hair against her
Obviously she is in love. The boy, the young boy with the toothpick, he is in
His eyes show it. Turning from this couple,
I see there is an intermission in the concert.
The paraders are resting and sipping drinks through straws
(The drinks are dispensed from a large glass crock by a lady in dark blue),
And the musicians mingle among them, in their creamy white uniforms, and talk
About the weather, perhaps, or how their kids are doing at school.
Let us take this opportunity to tiptoe into one of the side streets.
Here you may see one of those white houses with green trim
That are so popular here. Look--I told you!
It is cool and dim inside, but the patio is sunny.
An old woman in gray sits there, fanning herself with a palm leaf fan.
She welcomes us to her patio, and offers us a cooling drink.
"My son is in Mexico City," she says. "He would welcome you too
If he were here. But his job is with a bank there.
Look, here is a photograph of him."
And a dark-skinned lad with pearly teeth grins out at us from the worn leather
We thank her for her hospitality, for it is getting late
And we must catch a view of the city, before we leave, from a good high place.
That church tower will do--the faded pink one, there against the fierce blue of
the sky. Slowly we enter.
The caretaker, an old man dressed in brown and gray, asks us how long we have
been in the city, and how we like it here.
His daughter is scrubbing the steps--she nods to us as we pass into the tower.
Soon we have reached the top, and the whole network of the city extends
there is the rich quarter, with its houses of pink and white, and its
crumbling, leafy terraces.
There is the poorer quarter, its homes a deep blue.
There is the market, where men are selling hats and swatting flies
And there is the public library, painted several shades of pale green and
Look! There is the square we just came from, with the promenaders.
There are fewer of them, now that the heat of the day has increased.
But the young boy and girl still lurk in the shadows of the bandstand.
And there is the home of the little old lady--
She is still sitting in the patio, fanning herself.
How limited, but how complete withal, has been our experience of Guadalajara!
We have seen young love, married love, and the love of an aged mother for her
We have heard the music, tasted the drinks, and looked at colored houses.
What more is there to do, except stay? And that we cannot do.
And as a last breeze freshens the top of the weathered old tower, I turn my
Back to the instruction manual which has made me dream of Guadalajara.
-- John Ashbery
EL MANUAL DE INSTRUCCIONES
Sentado mirando por la ventana del edificio
no querría tener que escribir el manual de instrucciones acerca de los usos de un
Miro la calle y veo gente, cada cual caminando en paz,
y los envidio -¡tan lejos de mí!
No tienen que preocuparse por terminar este manual a tiempo.
Y, como siempre, empiezo a soñar, con los codos
sobre el escritorio y asomándome un poco a la ventana,
¡en la tenue Guadalajara! ¡ciudad de flores rosadas!
¡La ciudad que más quise ver, y vi menos, en México!
¡Pero me imagino que veo, bajo la presión de tener que escribir el manual de
tu plaza pública, ciudad, con su adornado quiosco de música!
La banda está́ tocando Sherezade de Rimsky -Korsakov.
Alrededor las floristas ofrecen flores de color rosa y limón,
cada una atrayente con su vestido a rayas rosa y azul (¡oh!, qué tonos de rosa y
Y cerca hay un pequeño puesto blanco donde algunas mujeres de verde brindan
fruta verde y amarilla.
Las parejas desfilan; todos están con ánimo de fiesta.
Delante, encabezando el desfile, hay un tipo buenmozo
de azul oscuro. Lleva puesto un sombrero blanco
y tiene bigote, recortado para la ocasión.
Su querida, su esposa, es joven y bonita; su chal es encarnado, rosado y blanco.
Lleva zapatillas de cuero, a la moda yanqui,
y un abanico, porque es modesta y no quiere que la gente le vea la cara
Pero cada cual está tan entretenido con su mujer o amante
que dudo que se fijen en la mujer del bigotudo.
¡Ahora pasan los muchachos! Van esquivando los bultos y tirando
porquerías a la vereda, que es de baldosas grises. Uno, un poquito mayor, tiene un
palillo entre los dientes.
Está más callado que los otros, y pretende no ver a las lindas chicas de blanco.
Pero sus amigos las ven, y las muchachas se ríen de las cosas que les gritan.
Esto se acabará pronto, cuando crezcan,
y el amor los traiga a la plaza por otro motivo.
Se me perdió el muchachito del escarbadientes.
Un momento: ahí está: del otro lado del quiosco de música,
escondido de los amigos, en seria conversación con una chica
de catorce o quince. Trato de oir lo que dicen
pero parece que apenas murmuran algo-tímidas palabras de amor, posiblemente.
Ella es un poco más alta que él, y lo mira tranquila a los ojos, que parecen sinceros.
Está de blanco. La brisa ondea el pelo negro, largo y fino, contra su mejilla bronceada.
Sin duda está enamorada. El muchacho, el jovencito con el escarbadiente, también está enamorado;
se le ve en los ojos. Al darme vuelta
me doy cuenta de que paró la música.
La gente descansa y bebe con pajillas
(los tragos son distribuidos de una gran jarra de vidrio por una mujer de azul oscuro),
y los músicos se mezclan con sus uniformes blanco crema, y hablan
acerca del tiempo, quizá, o de cómo se portan sus hijos en la escuela.
Aprovechemos la oportunidad para entrar de puntas a una de las calles laterales.
Se ve una de esas casas blancas con cerco verde
que son tan comunes aquí. Miren -¿qué les decía?
El interior es fresco y oscuro, pero el patio está bañado por el sol.
Hay una vieja sentada afuera, que se abanica con un abanico de palma.
Nos invita al patio, y nos ofrece una bebida fría.
“Mi hijo está en México”, dice. “También él les daría la bienvenida
si estuviera aquí. Pero trabaja en un banco.
Vean, ésta es su foto”.
Y un hombre de piel oscura con dientes como perlas esboza una sonrisa desde un marco de cuero
Le agradecemos la hospitalidad, pues ya se hace tarde
y queremos contemplar la ciudad desde un lugar alto antes de irnos,
desde ese campanario -el rosado descolorido, allí, contra el azul salvaje del cielo. Entramos despacio.
El sacristán, un viejo vestido de marrón y gris, nos pregunta cuándo llegamos y si nos gusta el lugar.
Su hija está fregando los escalones -nos saluda con la cabeza cuando pasamos hacia la torre.
La subimos rápido, y el conjunto de la ciudad se extiende ante nosotros.
Ahí está el barrio acomodado, con sus casas rosadas y blancas, y sus terrazas ruinosas, cubiertas de
Allí está el barrio pobre, sus casas azul profundo.
Allá está el mercado, donde los hombres venden sombreros y aplastan las moscas,
y la biblioteca pública, en distintos tonos de verde pálido y beige.
¡Miren! Ahí está la plaza de donde salimos, con los paseantes.
Ahora, que el calor aumenta, hay menos gente,
pero el jovencito y la muchacha todavía emergen entre las sombras del quiosco de música.
Y al lado está la casa de la viejecita
-todavía está sentada en el patio, abanicándose.
¡Qué limitada, y qué completa sin embargo, ha sido nuestra experiencia de Guadalajara!
Hemos visto el amor juvenil, el amor conyugal, y el amor de una madre anciana por su hijo.
Oímos la música, probamos los tragos, vimos las casas de colores.
¿Qué queda por hacer, salvo quedarse? Pero no podemos.
Y mientras una brisa tardía refresca la punta de la torre antigua y deteriorada, me vuelvo
hacia el manual de instrucciones que me hizo soñar con Guadalajara.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am,” wrote Sylvia Plath.
And John Ashbery wrote, “My guide in these matters is your self, / Firm, oblique, accepting everything with the same / Wraith of a smile, and as time speeds up so that it is soon / Much later, I can know only the straight way out, / The distance between us.”
When you speak, when you write, how many times do you begin a sentence with the word “I”? Well, it is I who am speaking, I who am writing, but isn’t it odd that the one word that represents my self—I—is the one word I have to share with everyone else?
The “I” of the poet, the “I” of the poem, the “I” of the reader—both Plath and Ashbery write from the poetic I. This is at least a convention of lyric poetry. So, Who is I?