Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gluttenous Dragon Fingers

Late Apples
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645)

My yesterday was dream, tomorrow earth:
nothing a while ago, and later smoke;
ambitions and pretensions I invoke
blind to the walls that wall me in from birth.
In the brief combat of a futile war
I am the peril of my strategy
and while cut down by my own scimitar
my body doesn't house but buries me.
Gone now is yesterday, tomorrow has
not come; today speeds by, it is, it was,
a motion flinging me toward death.  The hour,
even the moment, is a sharpened spade
which for the wages in my painful tower
digs out a monument from my brief day.

(trans. from the Spanish by Willis Barnstone)


—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

Limblike to his own snout, projecting there,
A man was hung.  Sufficient it appeared
For all the scribes and pharisees to share,
Protruding like a swordfish from his beard.
It seemed an ill-set dial-hand, a pensile
Alembic, or an elephant, whose hose
Is turned the wrong way up, and less prehensile.
Ovid's was far less noseyfied a nose.

It seems the beak and ram of some huge galley,
Or pyramid of Egypt.  The Twelve Tribes
Of noses it exceeds and circumscribes.
For sheer nasality it has no tally.
A nose so fiercely nasel in its bias
Would even spoil the face of Ananias,

(trans. by Roy Campbell)


—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

Last of the shadows may close my eyes,
goodbye then white day
and with that my soul untie
its dear wishing

yet will not forsake
memory of this shore where it burned
but still burning swim
that cold water again
careless of the stern law

soul that kept God in prison
veins that to love led such fire
marrow that flamed in glory

not their heeding will leave
with their body
but being ash will feel
dust be dust in love

(trans. by W.S. Merwin)

 Apple Hill Barn
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

When you shake loose your hair from all controlling,
Such thirst of beauty quickens my desire
Over its surge in red tornadoes rolling
My heart goes surfing on the waves of fire.
Leander, who for love the tempest dares,
It lets a sea of flames its life consume:
Icarus, from a sun whose rays are hairs,
Ignites its wings and glories in its doom.
Charring it hopes (whose deaths I mourn) it strives
Out of their ash to fan new phoenix-lives
That, dying of delight, new hopes embolden.
Miser, yet poor, the crime and fate it measures
Of Midas, starved and mocked with stacks of treasures,
Or Tantalus, with streams that shone as golden.

(trans. by Roy Campbell)


—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

I saw the ramparts of my native land,
One time so strong, now dropping in decay,
Their strength destroyed by this new age's way,
That has worn out and rotted what was grand.

I went into the fields: there I could see
The sun drink up the waters newly thawed,
And on the hills the moaning cattle pawed;
Their miseries robbed the day of light for me.

I went into my house: I saw how spotted,
Decaying things made that old home their prize.
My withered walking-staff had come to bend.
I felt the age had won; my sword was rotted,
And there was nothing on which to set my eyes
That was not a reminder of the end.

(trans. by John Masefield)


—Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas

O you who eat with someone else's teeth,
chewing with molars, mumbling groans to us,
your gluttonous dragon fingers bite beneath
the gums, and pinch and nibble flesh and pus.
You who dissuade us from indulgent forms
of eating dive into a soup like stones
down wells; for a few crumbs, in rampant storms
you plunge in with your grandmother's jawbones.
Because of you, a peeling blames a mouth,
a hazelnut explodes in brave defeat,
its shell still boasting it a fortress bed.
Relieving hurt by pulling out a tooth
is getting rid of pain from head to feet,
and feels the same as pulling off your head.

(trans. by Willis Barnstone)


Today's LittleNip:

—Chu Hsiang (1904-1933)

Beauty runs a pawnshop,
Accepting only the hearts of men.
When the time comes for them to redeem their belongings,
She has already closed the door.

(trans. from the Chinese by Kai-yu Hsu)



For more about Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas, see

Mary Rudge
—Photo by Katy Brown
[Poets will be saddened to hear that
Bay Area Poet Mary Rudge has passed away.]