Bertolt Brecht: Questions from a Worker who Reads (From German)

Questions from a Worker who Reads History
Bertolt Brecht
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Who built seven-gated Thebes?
The books keep the names of kings. 
Was it kings who hauled the chunks of rock?
And Babylon, destroyed and redestroyed,
Who built and rebuilt it all those times? In what houses
Of gold-gleaming Lima did its builders live? 
Where did the masons go that evening
When the Great Wall of China 
Was done? Great Rome 
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Whom 
Did the Caesars triumph over? Did much-hymned Byzantium
Have only palaces for all who lived there? Even in legended Atlantis
The night the sea devoured it, the drowning still
Shouted for their slaves. 

Young Alexander conquered India.
All by himself? 
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Had he not so much as a cook with him? 
Philip of Spain wept when his Armada
Went down. Did nobody else weep?
Frederick II won the Seven Years' War. Who
Besides him won it? 
A victory every page
Who cooked the victory feasts?
A great man every decade
Who paid the bill?

So many reports
So many questions

The Original:

Fragen eines lesenden Arbeiters
Bertolt Brecht

Wer baute das siebentorige Theben?
In den Büchern stehen die Namen von Königen.
Haben die Könige die Felsbrocken herbeigeschleppt?
Und das mehrmals zerstörte Babylon
Wer baute es so viele Male auf? In welchen Häusern
Des goldstrahlenden Lima wohnten die Bauleute?
Wohin gingen an dem Abend, wo die Chinesische Mauer fertig war
Die Maurer? Das große Rom
Ist voll von Triumphbögen. Wer errichtete sie? Über wen
Triumphierten die Cäsaren? Hatte das vielbesungene Byzanz
Nur Paläste für seine Bewohner? Selbst in dem sagenhaften Atlantis
Brüllten in der Nacht, wo das Meer es verschlang
Die Ersaufenden nach ihren Sklaven.

Der junge Alexander eroberte Indien.
Er allein?
Cäsar schlug die Gallier.
Hatte er nicht wenigstens einen Koch bei sich?
Philipp von Spanien weinte, als seine Flotte
Untergegangen war. Weinte sonst niemand?
Friedrich der Zweite siegte im Siebenjährigen Krieg. Wer
Siegte außer ihm?

Jede Seite ein Sieg.
Wer kochte den Siegesschmaus?
Alle zehn Jahre ein großer Mann.
Wer bezahlte die Spesen?

So viele Berichte.
So viele Fragen.

François Villon: Ballad of the Hanged (From Middle French)

Ballad of the Hanged
François Villon
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Brother men who live on as we are dead,
Do not look cruelly on our swinging view,
For if you pity us poor men instead
Then God will be more moved to pity you. 
You see us strung up, five or six guys, who
Overindulged the flesh which here, today,
Has rotted off and gotten pecked away,
As we the bones to ash and powder fall. 
Let none laugh at our horrible decay,
But pray to God that He forgive us all. 

If we dare call you brothers, don't be led
To scorn us. After all, you know it's true
That not all men are equal in the head, 
Though we died justly for what we did do. 
Commend us, since our flesh is cold, unto
The Virgin Mary's son, in hopes He may 
Not let his grace run dry on us. O pray
He keep us from the Hellish thunderball. 
We're dead. Nobody harries us today
But pray to God that He forgive us all. 

The rain has drubbed and laundered us, and red
Sunlight has parched and blackened us clean through. 
Crows, magpies cored the eyes from out our head,
Ripping our beards off and our eyebrows too. 
We can't rest so much as to cuss, wrenched to
And fro. Wherever wind would have us sway,
It flings us constantly in pointless play,
More pocked than thimbles as the birdbeaks maul. 
Brothers, don't join our brotherhood, we say. 
But pray to God that He forgive us all. 

Prince Jesus, in eternal majesty,
Spare us the hold of Satan's mastery.
We want no business by that protocol.
Men, there is nothing here for mockery.
But pray to God that He forgive us all.
 
The Original:

Ballade des Pendus
François Villon

Freres humains qui après nous vivez,
N'ayez les cuers contre nous endurcis,
Car, se pitié de nous povres avez,
Dieu en aura plus tost de vous mercis.
Vous nous voiez cy attachez cinq, six:
Quant de la char, que trop avons nourrie,
Elle est pieça devoree et pourrie,
Et nous, les os, devenons cendre et pouldre.
De nostre mal personne ne s'enrie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre

Se freres vous clamons, pas n'en devez
Avoir desdaing, quoy que fusmes occis
Parjustice. Toutefois, vous sçavez
Que tous hommes n'ont pas bon sens rassis;
Excusez nous, puis que sommes transis,
Envers le fils de la Vierge Marie,
Que sa grace ne soit pour nous tarie,
Nous preservant de l'infernale fouldre.
Nous sommes mors, ame ne nous harie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre!

La pluye nous a buez et lavez,
Et le soliel dessechiez et noircis;
Pies, corbeaulx nous ont les yeux cavez,
Et arrachié la barbe et les sourcis.
Jamais nul temps nous ne sommes assis;
Puis ça, puis la, comme le vent varie,
A son plaisir sans cesser nous charie,
Plus becquetez d'oyseaulx que dez a couldre.
Ne soiez donc de nostre confrarie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous vueille absouldre

Prince Jhesus, qui sur tous seigneurie,
Garde qu'Enfer n'ait de nous la maistrie:
A luy n'ayons que faire ne que souldre.
Hommes, icy n'a point de mocquerie;
Mais priez Dieu que tous nous veuille absouldre!

Neruda: Poem XVII from 'One Hundred Love Sonnets' (From Spanish)

Poem XVII from "One Hundred Love Sonnets"
By Pablo Neruda
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Comissioned by Mary Reid Bogue 

I love you not as if you were a rose of salt, topaz
or arrow of fire-popagating carnations:
I love you with the love of certain darkling things,
in secret, in between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that does not flower but bears
within itself concealed, those flowers' light,  
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from earth lives on, and darkly, in my body. 

I love you knowing not how, nor when nor whence,
I love you straightforwardly with neither pride nor problem:
so do I love you because I know no other way to love, 

than in this form in which I am not and you aren't
so close that your hand on my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dream.

If you want to hear me read the original text, head on over here

The Original:

No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,

sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.

Homer: Scylla and Charybdis (From Greek)

Scylla and Charybdis
By "Homer" (Odyssey XII.234-259)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

On we went wailing away at the oars
And steered into the strait, dire Scylla to port
And to starboard the wrathspawned seascourge Charybdis
Swallowing the salt tide smashing all courage 
And belching it back: a boiling kettle 
Seething over flames. The spume she spewed
Went spraying the crests of cliffs on the narrows.
When she sucked down the sea you could see her roiling,
Hear the roar of the rock all round, as the sand
Gaped black from bedrock. My men blanched in trauma,
Eyes fixed on that deathmaw, in fear of glutting.
And then Scylla struck, whisked up six of my men,
Our six strongest hands. As I spun my eyes aft
At good craft and dear crew I caught sight of their feet
And hands adangle overhead. Their voices
Cried out in hellhorror, calling me by name
That one last time. The way a fisherman
Crouched on a headland casting his fell bait,
His hook sheathed in horn, in his hands feels the thrash
Of a fish on his rod and rips it from the waves
To wriggle through the air, so my writhing men
Cruelly were carried to the cavern's mouth.
And there in her den she dined on them them raw,
My six toughest men, screaming and reaching
Their arms toward me in an endlife grapple
As a grisly grief gashed my spirit.
I witnessed naught worse in my warring heart
In all my quests across the strange sea.

The Original:

“ἡμεῖς μὲν στεινωπὸν ἀνεπλέομεν γοόωντες:
ἔνθεν μὲν Σκύλλη, ἑτέρωθι δὲ δῖα Χάρυβδις
δεινὸν ἀνερροίβδησε θαλάσσης ἁλμυρὸν ὕδωρ.
ἦ τοι ὅτ᾽ ἐξεμέσειε, λέβης ὣς ἐν πυρὶ πολλῷ
πᾶσ᾽ ἀναμορμύρεσκε κυκωμένη, ὑψόσε δ᾽ ἄχνη
ἄκροισι σκοπέλοισιν ἐπ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἔπιπτεν:
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἀναβρόξειε θαλάσσης ἁλμυρὸν ὕδωρ,
πᾶσ᾽ ἔντοσθε φάνεσκε κυκωμένη, ἀμφὶ δὲ πέτρη
δεινὸν ἐβεβρύχει, ὑπένερθε δὲ γαῖα φάνεσκε
ψάμμῳ κυανέη: τοὺς δὲ χλωρὸν δέος ᾕρει.
ἡμεῖς μὲν πρὸς τὴν ἴδομεν δείσαντες ὄλεθρον:
τόφρα δέ μοι Σκύλλη γλαφυρῆς ἐκ νηὸς ἑταίρους
ἓξ ἕλεθ᾽, οἳ χερσίν τε βίηφί τε φέρτατοι ἦσαν.
σκεψάμενος δ᾽ ἐς νῆα θοὴν ἅμα καὶ μεθ᾽ ἑταίρους
ἤδη τῶν ἐνόησα πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ὕπερθεν
ὑψόσ᾽ ἀειρομένων: ἐμὲ δὲ φθέγγοντο καλεῦντες
ἐξονομακλήδην, τότε γ᾽ ὕστατον, ἀχνύμενοι κῆρ.
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἐπὶ προβόλῳ ἁλιεὺς περιμήκεϊ ῥάβδῳ
ἰχθύσι τοῖς ὀλίγοισι δόλον κατὰ εἴδατα βάλλων
ἐς πόντον προΐησι βοὸς κέρας ἀγραύλοιο,
ἀσπαίροντα δ᾽ ἔπειτα λαβὼν ἔρριψε θύραζε,
ὣς οἵ γ᾽ ἀσπαίροντες ἀείροντο προτὶ πέτρας:
αὐτοῦ δ᾽ εἰνὶ θύρῃσι κατήσθιε κεκληγῶτας
χεῖρας ἐμοὶ ὀρέγοντας ἐν αἰνῇ δηιοτῆτι:
οἴκτιστον δὴ κεῖνο ἐμοῖς ἴδον ὀφθαλμοῖσι
πάντων, ὅσσ᾽ ἐμόγησα πόρους ἁλὸς ἐξερεείνων.

Florindo di Monaco: Macchu Picchu (From Latin)

This is one of my favorite Modern Latin short poems of all time, from a cycle of 10 poems titled 'Terrarum Mirabilissima Decem' (the title cannot be properly translated without being absurdly long-winded: 'Ten Things Most Wonderful From Around The World'.)

Machu Picchu
By Florindo di Monaco
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Clouds are wreathed in rays as they blank the stars out,
Shining. Here all time for all time is silent.
Grasping for gods lie the uprisen boulders 
Muted in prayer.

Whither the statecraft of the elder kingdom?
Whither the vanished power of a people?
Mystery harrows the fleeting ages' coward
Hearts now and ever.

The Original:

Cacumina Andina “Alturas de Machu Picchu” dicta

Nūbium candēns prohibet corōna
astra mīrārī. Silet omne tempus.
Caelitēs mūtīs precibus sequuntur
ēdita saxa.

Quō facultātēs soliī suprēmī,
magna quō fūgit populī potestās?
Īnstat arcānum pavidīs fugācis
cordibus aevī.

Homeric Hymn to Ares (From Greek)

Hymn to Ares
(C. 2nd-4th century A.D.)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

God-brawned Ares, gold-helmed driver
of the chariot in the stars.  Stout-spirit shieldman
bronzed in armor!  Bulwark of Olympus,
Guardian of cities  and spear-potent
Father of Victory, the fine dame at war!
Enemy-harrowing ally of Justice,
the righteous man's commander in chief,
scepter-master   of manly good
wheeling Your fireball  amid the wayfaring
planets' seven  paths through cosmic
air where Your firesteeds  forever bear You
over the thirdmost orbit immortal.

Hear me, bequeather of brave youth's bloom,
matchless ally  of mortalkind,
blaze a gentle beam from Your planet
straight into our life with strength of war
to finally beat the bite of cowardice
now and ever from out my skull.

Give my mind clout to crush the soul's
treacherous impulse, help me temper
the spirit-furies that spur me into
bloody mayhem, and make me brave
enough to keep within the kindly
laws of peace,  O Lord of War. 
Help me flee the fray of foul rancor,
and dodge the wraiths of a violent death.

The Original:

Ἆρες ὑπερμενέτα, βρισάρματε, χρυσεοπήληξ,
ὀβριμόθυμε, φέρασπι, πολισσόε, χαλκοκορυστά,
καρτερόχειρ, ἀμόγητε, δορισθενές, ἕρκος Ὀλύμπου,
Νίκης εὐπολέμοιο πάτερ, συναρωγὲ Θέμιστος,
ἀντιβίοισι τύραννε, δικαιοτάτων ἀγὲ φωτῶν,
ἠνορέης σκηπτοῦχε, πυραυγέα κύκλον ἑλίσσων
αἰθέρος ἑπταπόροις ἐνὶ τείρεσιν, ἔνθα σε πῶλοι
ζαφλεγέες τριτάτης ὑπὲρ ἄντυγος αἰὲν ἔχουσι:
κλῦθι, βροτῶν ἐπίκουρε, δοτὴρ εὐθαρσέος ἥβης,
πρηὺ καταστίλβων σέλας ὑψόθεν ἐς βιότητα
ἡμετέρην καὶ κάρτος ἀρήιον, ὥς κε δυναίμην
σεύασθαι κακότητα πικρὴν ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῖο καρήνου,
καὶ ψυχῆς ἀπατηλὸν ὑπογνάμψαι φρεσὶν ὁρμήν,
θυμοῦ αὖ μένος ὀξὺ κατισχέμεν, ὅς μ᾽ ἐρέθῃσι
φυλόπιδος κρυερῆς ἐπιβαινέμεν: ἀλλὰ σὺ θάρσος
δός, μάκαρ, εἰρήνης τε μένειν ἐν ἀπήμοσι θεσμοῖς
δυσμενέων προφυγόντα μόθον Κῆράς τε βιαίους.

Horace: Epode 1.7 "Rome's Sons March to Civil War" (From Latin)

Well, I was going to get back to translating Latin poetry eventually wasn't I? Translating the already-overtranslated poets of Graeco-Roman antiquity is for me like eating McDonalds: probably not the best use of my time, but still enjoyable. 

Rome's Sons March to Civil War
By Horace (Epode 1.7)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

What crime are you boys off to now? What are you 
Doing, with blades again in hand? 
Has not enough of Latin blood already
Gushed over sea and land?
And not so Rome might bring the haughty towers
of jumped-up Carthage down in flames,
Not so the last free Briton might go down 
the Sacred Way in slavers' chains.
But for this city to grant Persia's prayers
And disembowel herself alone. 
Not even wolves or lions can do this
violence against their own. 
Does blind rage goad you? Or some nastier power
Like guilt? Give me reply. 
Silence. A ghastly pallor dyes their cheeks. 
Their shattered brains in stupor lie. 
And so it goes: cruel fate and fratricide
Drive Romans on in crime,
Ever since blameless Remus' blood was spilled
and brought a curse on all their line.

The Original:

Quō, quō, scelestī, ruitis? aut cūr dexterīs
aptantur ēnsēs conditī?
parumne campīs atque Neptūnō super
fūsum est Latīnī sanguinis?
nōn ut superbās invidae Carthāginis
Rōmānus arcēs ūreret,
intāctus aut Britannus ut dēscenderet
Sacrā catēnātus Viā,
sed ut secundum vōta Parthōrum suā
urbs haec perīret dexterā.
neque hic lupīs mōs nec fuit leōnibus,
numquam nisī in dispār ferīs.
furorne caecus an rapit vīs ācrior
an culpa? respōnsum date!
tacent, et albus ōra pallor īnficit,
mentēsque perculsae stupent.
sīc est: acerba fāta Rōmānōs agunt
scelusque frāternae necis,
ut immerentis flūxit in terram Remī
sacer nepōtibus cruor.

Horace: Ode 1.4 Spring Sense (From Latin)

Spring Sense (Ode 1.4)
By Horace
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Hear me read this poem in Latin and in English on Youtube here 

Hard Winter's grip breaks up with the welcome spring and west wind coming, 
 the windlass drags to sea the parched dry keels. 
Cattle no longer care for stables nor ploughmen for the hearth.  
 The frostgrey cap is falling off the fields. 
Venus may well be leading Her dancers beneath a looming moon 
 somewhere. As Nymphs join hands with the svelte Graces 
tapping a lightfooted beat on the earth, hot Vulcan's men machine 
 bolts charged for summer storm in smolten places. 
Now it is time to garland your glossy hair with newgreen myrtle 
 or flowers the unfettered earth now bears,
and go to the shady grove of the woodland god to sacrifice  
 a lamb; or kid. Whichever He prefers.
Revenant ashfaced Death is walking not caring if His heel 
 hits peasant shacks or towers of kings. The fling
of life is short, dear well-heeled Sestius, and rules out betting on futures.   
 Night falls on you and ghosts are gathering
till the humbling walls of the Underhome close in. There you can't play   
 our party drinking games, and can't admire
sexy Lycidas who gets all the lads hotted up today 
 and who tomorrow will fill girls with fire.

The Original:

Solvitur ācris hiems grātā vice vēris et Favōnī
trahuntque siccās māchinae carīnās,
ac neque iam stabulīs gaudet pecus aut arātor ignī
nec prāta cānīs albicant pruīnīs.
Iam Cytherēa chorōs dūcit Venus imminente lūnā
iūnctaeque Nymphīs Grātiae decentēs
alternō terram quatiunt pede, dum gravīs Cyclōpum
Vulcānus ardēns vīsit officīnās.
Nunc decet aut viridī nitidum caput impedīre myrtō
aut flōre, terrae quem ferunt solūtae;
nunc et in umbrōsīs Faunō decet immolāre lūcīs,
seu poscat agnā sīve mālit haedō.
Pallida Mors aequō pulsat pede pauperum tabernās
rēgumque turrīs. Ō beāte Sēstī,
vītae summa brevis spem nōs vetat incohāre longam.
Iam tē premet nox fābulaeque Mānēs
et domus exīlis Plūtōnia; quō simul meāris,
nec rēgna vīnī sortiēre tālīs,
nec tenerum Lycidan mīrābere, quō calet iuventūs
nunc omnis et mox virginēs tepēbunt.

Claudio Rodríguez: "Aubade: Without Laws" (From Spanish)

Aubade: Without Laws
By Claudio Rodríguez
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

"Now the cocks crow.
My love, go.
Take good heed of dawn."
— Anonymous

On this bed where dreamy sleep is sorrow
this bed of no rest but a good day's work,
the late night overtakes us. Is the body
the question or the answer to so much
uncertain luck? A small, dry cough; a pulse
that comes out fresher and extinguishes
all the old ceremony of the flesh,
while there are no more words or gestures left
to go back and interpret the same scene
like novices. I love you. It's that evil
time for courtly unloveliness. So present
I hold you that my body finishes
in your tan body at whose hands one more
one more time I lose myself, and tomorrow
will lose my Self again. The night is over
like a war without heroes, like a peace
without alliances. And I love you.
I look for spoils. I look for a broken
medal, for a live trophy of this time
they want to steal from us. Now you are tired
and I love you. It's time. Will our flesh be
the compensation, the careening shrapnel
that justifies so much sheer struggle with
no victors and no vanquished? Be quiet.
For I love you. It's time. A tremulous
dawn enters. Never was a light so early.

The Original:

Sin Leyes
Claudio Rodríguez

Ya cantan los gallos,
amor mío. Vete:
cata que amanece.
— Anónimo

En esta cama donde el sueño es llanto,
no de reposo, sino de jornada,
nos ha llegado la alta noche. ¿El cuerpo
es la pregunta o la respuesta a tanta
dicha insegura? Tos pequeña y seca,
pulso que viene fresco ya y apaga
la vieja ceremonia de la carne
mientras no quedan gestos ni palabras
para volver a interpretar la escena
como noveles. Te amo. Es la hora mala
de la cruel cortesía. Tan presente
te tengo siempre que mi cuerpo acaba
en tu cuerpo moreno por el que una
una vez mas me pierdo, por el que mañana
me perderé. Como una guerra sin
héroes, como una paz sin alianzas,
ha pasado la noche. Y yo te amo.
Busco despojos, busco una medalla
rota, un trofeo vivo de este tiempo
que nos quieren robar. Estás cansada
y yo te amo. Es la hora. ¿Nuestra carne
será la recompensa, la metralla
que justifique tanta lucha pura
sin vencedores ni vencidos? Calla,
que yo te amo. Es la hora. Entra y un trémulo
albor. Nunca la luz fue tan temprana.

Dante Alighieri: Purgatorio 26 (From Italian)

Purgatorio 26
Dante Alighieri
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

It is around 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and the sun is on its way down in the west on Dante's right hand side. Dante, Virgil and Statius are walking south along the flaming edge of the seventh rung of Purgatory where penitents are serving time for sexual excess. A group of souls watches Dante and wonders why he casts a shadow over the flames. At one soul's request, the poet explains that he is still alive. Another group of souls, the homosexual penitents, joins the first, and the shade of the Bolognese poet Guido Guinizelli explains the nature of their sins. Dante expresses admiration for Guinizelli, and then — as author — pays the Occitan poet Arnaut Daniel the highest of possible compliments, allowing him to close out the Canto with lines of arrestingly simple verse in Lyric Occitan.

   As we went on in single file about
the edge, time and again my trusty guide
told me "Take care, I'll point the perils out." 
   My shoulder felt the sun strike from the right,
its rays already turning the west sky
from azure to a countenance of white.
   My shadow thrown as shade across the high
flames made the burning red a deeper ruddy,
and I saw several shades as they went by
   take notice. Looking, they began to study
and talk about me. One that I could hear
said "he seems not to have a fictive body"
   Then some of them came up to me, as near
as possible, remaining careful to
stay well within the bounds of burning there
   "You there who walk behind the other two,
(not out of sloth maybe, but reverence) I 
who burn in fire and thirst want words with you.
   Nor is it just me who needs your reply.
These others here are thirstier for it
than Ethiops for cold drink beneath hot sky. 
   Tell us: how do you cast a shadow yet, 
raise ramparts against sunlight with your skin?
It's like death never snatched you in his net."
   These words from one of them. I would have been     
explaining things already. But the flare
of something else surprised my eyes just then:
    middlemost down that flamey thoroughfare
came other people facing these. Forgetting
what I had meant to say, I stood to stare,
   as I saw shades rushing from each side, meeting
to kiss each other's cheek, not lingering
but satisfied with momentary greeting.
   Ants in their black ranks do this kind of thing:
each nuzzling at the other as if to seek
news of their recent luck and traveling.
   When each had kissed the other's friendly cheek,
before departing that phantasmagora
each shade tried to outscream the other's shriek...
   The newcomers howled "Sodom and Gamorrah"
The rest: "Pasiphaë enters the cow
and bends over to let the bullcalf gore her"
   Then as two flocks of cranes divide and go,
(one south to Africa, one to the Riphean Height,
these shying from the sun, those shirking snow)
   the two groups parted. One left, one went right
to us. Then went back in tears and chagrin
to crying out the mantra of their blight;
   the those who'd come my way drew close again,
— the shades that first entreated me — their eyes
as eager for my story as they had been.
   Now having seen their wish presented twice,
I made to answer: "oh souls sure to gain,
whenever it comes, your peace in Paradise,
   my limbs of human life did not remain, 
age-ripe or green, back there. They did not die.
They are on me here, complete with bone and brain. 
   I go through here to stop being blind. On high 
there is a lady who has won me grace
to bear across your world my mortal I. 
   But please — so that you may more quickly taste
what you want most of all, and heaven set
you in its loving, sheltering embrace,
   tell me (and I will make a place for it
in what I write): who are you? Who's that faction 
of people that just now ran opposite?" 
   With no less than a mountain man's reaction
when he comes red-necked to a metropolis
and stares in speechless downtowned stupefaction,
   the shades seemed flabbergasted hearing this.
But when their shock was laid under control
and blunted (as, in great hearts, it soon is)
   the shade spoke who'd addressed me first of all: 
"Blessed are you who from our shores ship keen
experience back, to die a better soul.     
   That other group committed the obscene   
same sex-act for which Caesar won the shame  
in victory of being called a Queen. 
   so they leave crying out 'Sodom' and blame
themselves aloud as you heard. The contrite
self-loathing that they feel sustains the flame. 
   Our sins were rather more hermaphrodite
but since, in disregard of man's law, we  
like beasts just acted on our appetite,
   when we pass them we scream shameheartedly 
the name of her who in the mockbeast's slime
got on all fours for bestiality. 
   Now you know all about our guilt and crime:
if you want names, I don't know all of them,
and even if I did, there isn't time.  
   I'll rid you of your want for mine: I am
Guido Guinizelli, brought here at once
as I repented well before the end."
   While King Lycurgus grieved berserk, twin sons
discovered their lost mother and made him see.
Thus was I moved (though not to their response)
   hearing him name his name: father to me
and of my betters who gave the world the dear
and graceful rhymes of love and courtesie.
   Thoughtstruck, I seemed to have no tongue or ear
as we walked on. I simply stared, then stood
a while as flames kept me from coming near.
   When I had stared my fill, more than I should,
I offered, in such terms as win good faith,
to serve him in whatever way I could.
   He said: "The things that I just heard you say
will leave in memory such clear residue
as Lethe can't blur out or wash away.
   But if the words you swore just now are true
then tell me why your speech and your look declare
the kind of love I think I see in you." 
   I said: "It is your verses, graceful and clear
which shall, so long as modern style is sung,
render the very ink that penned them dear"
   "Brother" he said, pointing out one among
the shades ahead "that soul you see there rose
as the best of craftsmen in the mother tongue. 
   He excels all who wrote in verse or prose
of love and loss, though idiots for their part
will still prefer that rhymer from Limoges. 
   Such men turn more to talk than truth and heart,
following familiar fames, set in their praise
with no regard to reasoning or art.
   Thus with Guittone whom they used to raise
above all others, with cry on cry galore,
though truth prevails with most of them these days. 
   Now if almighty privilege affords
you entry to that cloister where the master
and abbot of the college is Our Lord,
   then say on my behalf a Paternoster
or as much of one as we need, who can't be
led to temptation, but delivered faster."  
   And then, as if to yield his place with me
to someone else, he vanished in the flame
as a fish toward the bottom of the sea.
   I drew ahead a bit beside the same
shade he'd shown me, and said my heart and ear
would set a place of honor for his name.
   He answered in the language I hold dear:
"Tan m'abellis vostre cortes deman,
qu'ieu no me puesc ni voill a vos cobrir
   Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;
cossiros vei la passada folor,
e vei jauzen lo joi qu'esper, denan.
   Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l'escalai 
sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor!"
   Then he was hidden in flames that purify.


3


6


9


12


15


18


21


24


27


30


33


36


39


42


45


48


51


54


57


60


63


66


69


72


75


78


81


84


87


90


93


96


99


102


105


108


111


114


117


120


123


126


129


132


135


138


141


144


147





Notes:

Line 8:
There is some uncertainty about how the word pur is to be read here. My translation is at this point paraphrastical enough for me not to worry a great deal.

Line 32:
See Romans 16:16

Line 34-36:
See Aeneid IV.402-407

Line 40:
Those who have tried to argue that the sin punished in Inferno XV and XVI is not homosexuality are hard pressed to explain this passage in the Purgatorio. Even more absurd is the attempt by some modern commentators, desperate to see in Dante some kind of moral inspiration for the modern era, to read into this passage a tacit approval of moderate same-sex romantic relationships. It goes without saying that moderation of heterosexual lust is acceptable in Dante's view. It in no way follows that, by placing homosexual and heterosexual penitents in the same part of Purgatory, Dante was expressing the view that homosexual lust is also acceptable in moderation. Some amount of hay has been made of the fact that Dante here portrays homosexual and heterosexual lust as arising from the same source, unlike the Inferno where heterosexual vice is punished in the realm of Incontinence while homosexual behavior is punished as Violence. This probably has nothing to do with "softened views" about homosexuality, so much as the fact that Dante has painted himself into a corner by sticking to the seven capital vices in the layout of Purgatory, unlike Hell where he could maneuver more on the moral grid. The fact is that Dante thinks homosexuality is wrong, and this is not surprising from a vernacular poet writing in 14th century Europe. If any reader needs to find a way to square themselves with this fact, I would suggest that they take a leaf from Dante's book when it comes to cultural context. In Dante's Hell, nobody is punished for something they couldn't have been expected to know was wrong. The only people punished for sodomy or suicide are Christians who would have understood these things to be sinful. Greek and Roman polytheists, in whose culture these were acceptable, are not punished for them but are placed alongside the virtuous unbaptized in Limbo a.k.a Pagan Heaven. If Dante can give Sophocles a pass for sodomy, then I don't really mind giving him a pass in return on this.

Line 91:
While the basic meaning of this line is clear, the contorted syntax is puzzling and has occasioned multiple attempts to parse it, with quite different conclusions.

Line 92:
It is worth noting that Dante doesn't bother informing Guido that the other two individuals walking with him are Statius and Vergil. Presumably this would have been of interest to Guinizzelli. But as the focus of the Canto is on (medieval) vernacular poetry, Dante probably had narrative reason to keep the Latin-writing Romans out of it. No other part of the Commedia is as concerned with poetry and poetic merit.

Lines 140-147:
Dante has Arnaut Daniel speak in (slightly Italianized) Old Occitan as a nod to his lyric predecessor. It is the only extended passage of a language other than Italian in the Commedia. (And even the Latin passages are mostly scriptural quotation.) There is no other language — not even French — in which a quotation in Occitan would have precisely this effect.
What to do in translation?
Most translators, such as Longfellow and Clive James, have rendered Arnaut's speech into the same kind of English as the rest of the Commedia. Some have kept the speech in Occitan. Others have found more creative solutions. Dorothy L. Sayers has him speak pastiche Scots. John Ciardi has him speak mock-Spenserian English. Anthony Esolen makes the offensively ironic move of trying to have Arnaut speak French rather than Occitan, revealing how little he knows of either language.

One possibility is to use medieval English:

I drew ahead a bit beside that same
shade he'd shown me, and said my heart would lay 
a grateful place of honor for his name,
and of his own free will he turned to say: 

"Me pleseth so yowr courteys requeringe 
that I ne can nor wol behiden me. 
I am Arnault who sorwe and whilom singe. 
I soorè see my past follious houre,
And joying see my bidden joys cominge
Anow I preye of yow by that valoure
which gydeth to the steirès cop yowr wey: 
Remembre yow bytime of my doloure"


Then he was hidden in fires that purify.

Ultimately I decided to leave the passage in Old Occitan and simply alter it slightly for rhyme's sake. In both cases I altered items (the infinitive cobrire and the form escalina) which were Italianate insertions probably justified by rhyme considerations to begin with. (Escalina appears to be a coinage original to Dante. The form escalai is a coinage original to me.) Here is a verse translation that can also be read in its place:

He answered in the language I hold dear: 
Your courtly question is so gladdening
that I cannot, will not, stay hidden here.
   I am Arnaut who go in tears and sing
in pain I see the folly of my prime 
and rejoice seeing the joy that time will bring. 
   I beg you by the power that helps you climb
to the summit of that flight of stairs on high:
remember how I suffer in good time. 



The Original:

   Mentre che sì per l'orlo, uno innanzi altro,
ce n'andavamo, e spesso il buon maestro
diceami: «Guarda: giovi ch'io ti scaltro»;
   feriami il sole in su l'omero destro,
che già, raggiando, tutto l'occidente
mutava in bianco aspetto di cilestro;
   e io facea con l'ombra più rovente
parer la fiamma; e pur a tanto indizio
vidi molt' ombre, andando, poner mente.
   Questa fu la cagion che diede inizio
loro a parlar di me; e cominciarsi
a dir: «Colui non par corpo fittizio»;
   poi verso me, quanto potëan farsi,
certi si fero, sempre con riguardo
di non uscir dove non fosser arsi.
   «O tu che vai, non per esser più tardo,
ma forse reverente, a li altri dopo,
rispondi a me che 'n sete e 'n foco ardo.
   Né solo a me la tua risposta è uopo;
ché tutti questi n'hanno maggior sete
che d'acqua fredda Indo o Etïopo.
   Dinne com' è che fai di te parete
al sol, pur come tu non fossi ancora
di morte intrato dentro da la rete».
   Sì mi parlava un d'essi; e io mi fora
già manifesto, s'io non fossi atteso
ad altra novità ch'apparve allora;
   ché per lo mezzo del cammino acceso
venne gente col viso incontro a questa,
la qual mi fece a rimirar sospeso.
   Lì veggio d'ogne parte farsi presta
ciascun' ombra e basciarsi una con una
sanza restar, contente a brieve festa;
   così per entro loro schiera bruna
s'ammusa l'una con l'altra formica,
forse a spïar lor via e lor fortuna.
   Tosto che parton l'accoglienza amica,
prima che 'l primo passo lì trascorra,
sopragridar ciascuna s'affatica:
   la nova gente: «Soddoma e Gomorra»;
e l'altra: «Ne la vacca entra Pasife,
perché 'l torello a sua lussuria corra».
   Poi, come grue ch'a le montagne Rife
volasser parte, e parte inver' l'arene,
queste del gel, quelle del sole schife,
   l'una gente sen va, l'altra sen vene;
e tornan, lagrimando, a' primi canti
e al gridar che più lor si convene;
   e raccostansi a me, come davanti,
essi medesmi che m'avean pregato,
attenti ad ascoltar ne' lor sembianti.
   Io, che due volte avea visto lor grato,
incominciai: «O anime sicure
d'aver, quando che sia, di pace stato,
   non son rimase acerbe né mature
le membra mie di là, ma son qui meco
col sangue suo e con le sue giunture.
   Quinci sù vo per non esser più cieco;
donna è di sopra che m'acquista grazia,
per che 'l mortal per vostro mondo reco.
   Ma se la vostra maggior voglia sazia
tosto divegna, sì che 'l ciel v'alberghi
ch'è pien d'amore e più ampio si spazia,
   ditemi, acciò ch'ancor carte ne verghi,
chi siete voi, e chi è quella turba
che se ne va di retro a' vostri terghi».
   Non altrimenti stupido si turba
lo montanaro, e rimirando ammuta,
quando rozzo e salvatico s'inurba,
   che ciascun' ombra fece in sua paruta;
ma poi che furon di stupore scarche,
lo qual ne li alti cuor tosto s'attuta,
   «Beato te, che de le nostre marche»,
ricominciò colei che pria m'inchiese,
«per morir meglio, esperïenza imbarche!
   La gente che non vien con noi, offese
di ciò per che già Cesar, trïunfando,
"Regina" contra sé chiamar s'intese:
   però si parton "Soddoma" gridando,
rimproverando a sé com' hai udito,
e aiutan l'arsura vergognando.
   Nostro peccato fu ermafrodito;
ma perché non servammo umana legge,
seguendo come bestie l'appetito,
   in obbrobrio di noi, per noi si legge,
quando partinci, il nome di colei
che s'imbestiò ne le 'mbestiate schegge.
   Or sai nostri atti e di che fummo rei:
se forse a nome vuo' saper chi semo,
tempo non è di dire, e non saprei.
   Farotti ben di me volere scemo:
son Guido Guinizzelli, e già mi purgo
per ben dolermi prima ch'a lo stremo».
   Quali ne la tristizia di Ligurgo
si fer due figli a riveder la madre,
tal mi fec' io, ma non a tanto insurgo,
   quand' io odo nomar sé stesso il padre
mio e de li altri miei miglior che mai
rime d'amore usar dolci e leggiadre;
   e sanza udire e dir pensoso andai
lunga fïata rimirando lui,
né, per lo foco, in là più m'appressai.
   Poi che di riguardar pasciuto fui,
tutto m'offersi pronto al suo servigio
con l'affermar che fa credere altrui.
   Ed elli a me: «Tu lasci tal vestigio,
per quel ch'i' odo, in me, e tanto chiaro,
che Letè nol può tòrre né far bigio.
   Ma se le tue parole or ver giuraro,
dimmi che è cagion per che dimostri
nel dire e nel guardar d'avermi caro».
   E io a lui: «Li dolci detti vostri,
che, quanto durerà l'uso moderno,
faranno cari ancora i loro incostri».
   «O frate», disse, «questi ch'io ti cerno
col dito», e additò un spirto innanzi,
«fu miglior fabbro del parlar materno.
   Versi d'amore e prose di romanzi
soverchiò tutti; e lascia dir li stolti
che quel di Lemosì credon ch'avanzi.
   A voce più ch'al ver drizzan li volti,
e così ferman sua oppinïone
prima ch'arte o ragion per lor s'ascolti.
   Così fer molti antichi di Guittone,
di grido in grido pur lui dando pregio,
fin che l'ha vinto il ver con più persone.
   Or se tu hai sì ampio privilegio,
che licito ti sia l'andare al chiostro
nel quale è Cristo abate del collegio,
   falli per me un dir d'un paternostro,
quanto bisogna a noi di questo mondo,
dove poter peccar non è più nostro».
   Poi, forse per dar luogo altrui secondo
che presso avea, disparve per lo foco,
come per l'acqua il pesce andando al fondo.
   Io mi fei al mostrato innanzi un poco,
e dissi ch'al suo nome il mio disire
apparecchiava grazïoso loco.
   El cominciò liberamente a dire:
«Tan m'abellis vostre cortes deman,
qu'ieu no me puesc ni voill a vos cobrire.
   Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;
consiros vei la passada folor,
e vei jausen lo joi qu'esper, denan.
   Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l'escalina,
sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor!».
   Poi s'ascose nel foco che li affina.

Homeric Hymn to Poseidon (From Greek)

Hymn to Poseidon
(Ca. 6th century BC)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

My song begins for great Poseidon
the Earthmover,  endless shifter
of the gaping deep; god of waters,
Lord of Helicon, homed in the expanse
of ancient Aegae.  Earthshaker, you
the gods endowed with double honor
to be tamer of steeds and savior of ships.
Hail, Poseidon sire of waveroads
the blue-haired god  who girds the earth.
Blessed one, I pray your broad kind heart
take care of us who cross your seas.

The Original:

Εἲς Ποσειδῶνα

ἀμφὶ Ποσειδάωτα, μέγαν θεόν, ἄρχομ᾽ ἀείδειν,
γαίης κινητῆρα καὶ ἀτρυγέτοιο θαλάσσης,
πόντιον, ὅσθ᾽ Ἑλικῶνα καὶ εὐρείας ἔχει Αἰγάς.
διχθά τοι, Ἐννοσίγαιε, θεοὶ τιμὴν ἐδάσαντο,
ἵππων τε δμητῆρ᾽ ἔμεναι σωτῆρά τε νηῶν.
χαῖρε, Ποσείδαον γαιήοχε, κυανοχαῖτα,
καί, μάκαρ, εὐμενὲς ἦτορ ἔχων πλώουσιν ἄρηγε.

Imru' al-Qays: From the Muˁallaqa: The Thunderstorm (From Arabic)

My translation of the finale of the famous Mu'allaqa attributed to Imru'l Qays. A terrific thunderstorm rages over the mountains on the northern edge of the Najd. The scene is imagined over so vast an area that it must be poetic fiction. (As the medieval commentators note:  Sitār, Yaḏbul and Qaṭan cannot possibly all be seen from the same place.) I include a recording in a reconstruction of how Arabic may have sounded in the late Umayyad period (largely based on phonetic descriptions from early grammarians). For more on that see my discussion after the translation.

From the Muˁallaqa: A Mountain Storm
Attributed to Imru' al-Qays
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Do you see lightning, friend? Look there: its flash
bolting like hands in a crownbright cloudheap, quick
to shed its distant light; there: like the lit
lamps of a monk who has oiled each coily wick.
I sat to watch it with my friends, between
Ḍārij and Al-ˁUdhayb. Oh I gazed far
enough to see the storm raise its right arm
on Mount Qaṭan, and its left on Al-Sitār,
dumping its rainload hard around Kutayfa
and blowing flat the great Kanahbul trees.
Its shower bucked out over Mount Qanān
panicking all the whitefoot Ibices.
At Taymā' it left not one palm-trunk standing
nor rampart made of anything but rock,
Mount Thabīr in its water-onslaught stood
like a tribe's chieftain in a stripelined cloak.
Come dawn, the upper peaks of Al-Mujaymir
stood spindle-whirled with storm-debris all round,
the flood's bale flung on Al-Ghabīṭ like cloth-sacks
dropped by a Yemeni merchant to the ground.
Come morning, finches noised about the dales
as if blind drunk on pepper-fiery wine.
Come evening, raptors lay drowned at its edge
like ripped-out squills that freakishly entwine.



Audio recording in reconstructed Early Classical Arabic pronunciation

Reading in a normal spoken voice


The Arabic of my audio recording is in what I choose to call "Early Classical Arabic" pronunciation. To put it grandiosely, it is a kind of Arabic that hasn't been heard for over a thousand years. To put it plainly, it is a speculative reconstruction of the kind of Arabic pronunciation the grammarian Sibawayh might have used, based on his description of Arabic speech-sounds, and augmented with some inference based on typology. The main differences from textbook Classical Arabic as it is taught and learned today are as follows:

The ج was /ɟ/ (not /dʒ/)
The ش was /ɕ/ (not /ʃ/) 
The ص was (for an indeterminate number of speakers including Sibawayh) an affricate /t͡sˤ/ rather than the fricative /sˁ/.  (For reasoning behind this reconstruction see this article by Ahmad Al-Jallad).
The ض was a pharyngealized lateral, probably /ɮˤ/ or /d͡ɮˤ/ (the modern /dˁ/ pronunciation is much more recent)
The ت and ك appear to have been quite strongly aspirated /kʰ tʰ/. 
In addition to the familiar three vowels /a: i: u:/ there existed /e:/ for many speakers (and, more marginally, /o:/ for some.) 
The vowel /a:/ was optionally raised to [e:] due to i-mutation under a complex of different circumstances, partially neutralizing the contrast between /a:/ and phonemic /e:/ and giving the realizations of /a:/ a range and distribution not commonly heard in modern elevated poetic recitations. 

Although I render ش as alveolo-palatal /ɕ/, full disclosure requires noting that another possibility would be a true palatal non-sibilant /ç/, which is what many (perhaps most) posit based on a strict interpretation of Sibawayhi's statement. Now, Sibawayhi, who doesn't get enough credit as a phonetician, could probably have distinguished palatal from alveolo-palatal articulation. But whether he would have cared to is a different question. Although he groups ي ش ج at the same place of articulation, it is only ش which causes assimilation of the definite article. Thus there was something about šīn that made it pattern, for assimilation purposes, with the coronals rather than the dorsals. The most straightforward interpretation would be that this is because šīn was indeed a sibilant. Sibilants as an articulatory class involve a centerline grooved tongue focusing the airstream such that it strikes the teeth. Whereas non-sibilant fricatives do not involve the teeth as a secondary articulator. Sibilants, probably because of the need to involve the teeth, are always coronal. Alveolo-palatal articulation sits uneasily in a no-man's land between the dorsal and coronals, and is as far back as you can go and still produce a sound that behaves acoustically and structurally like a sibilant. For /ç/ to function as a sibilant, it must thus have front articulation [ç̟], which (notational and theoretical games aside) makes it functionally /ɕ/. 

One phonologically interesting way in which Sibawayhi's Arabic was likely counterintuitive from the standpoint of many modern accents of the standard language, and doubly so for non-native Arabic speakers given how they tend to be taught, is that what we normally think of as voiced plain stops /b d ɟ/ and voiceless plain stops /t k/ did not — strictly speaking — have presence or absence of voicing per se as their distinguishing feature. In this, Sibawayh's Arabic would align with certain modern dialects like San'ani Arabic. (See Phonation and glottal states in Modern South Arabian and San’ani Arabic by Janet Watson and Barry Heselwood for this and more, including a good explanation of a crucial articulatory category in Sibawayh's description.) The chief featural distinction between the two sets was probably aspiration in the latter and non-aspiration (with adductive glottal tension) in the former. In a dialect like this, although /b d ɟ/ probably did not have fully specified voicing, much of the time this would be of little phonetic consequence since in most positions voicing would be triggered positionally. In post-pausal position, however, although /b d ɟ/ would trigger a glottal prephonation state, their actual voice-onset time would not necessarily be different from that of a voiceless non-aspirated stop. 


The Original:


أصَاحِ تَرَِى بَرْقاً أُرِيْكَ وَمِيضَـهُ    كَلَمْـعِ اليَدَيْنِ فِي حَبِيٍّ مُكَلَّـلِ

يُضِيءُ سَنَاهُ أَوْ مَصَابِيْحُ رَاهِـبٍ    أهَانَ السَّلِيْـطَ بِالذُّبَالِ المُفَتَّـلِ

قَعَدْتُ لَهُ وصُحْبَتِي بَيْنَ ضَـارِجٍ    وبَيْنَ العـُذَيْبِ بُعْدَمَا مُتَأَمَّـلِ

عَلَا قَطَنا بِالشَّيْمِ أَيْمَنُ صَوْبِـهِ       وَأَيْسَـرُهُ عَلَى السِّتَارِ فَيَذْبُـلِ

فَأَضْحَى يَسُحُّ المَاءَ حَوْلَ كُتَيْفَةٍ     يَكُبُّ عَلَى الأذْقَانِ دَوْحَ الكَنَهْبَلِ

ومَـرَّ عَلَى القَنَـانِ مِنْ نَفَيَانِـهِ        فَأَنْزَلَ مِنْهُ العُصْمَ مِنْ كُلِّ مَنْـزِلِ

وتَيْمَاءَ لَمْ يَتْرُكْ بِهَا جِذْعَ نَخْلَـةٍ     وَلاَ أٌجُماً إِلاَّ مَشِيْداً بِجِنْـدَلِ

كَأَنَّ ثَبِيْـراً فِي عَرَانِيْـنِ وَبْلِـهِ       كَبِيْـرُ أُنَاسٍ فِي بِجَـادٍ مُزَمَّـلِ

كَأَنَّ ذُرَى رَأْسِ المُجَيْمِرِ غُـدْوَةً    مِنَ السَّيْلِ وَالأَغثَاءِ فَلْكَةُ مِغْـزَلِ

وأَلْقَى بِصَحْـرَاءِ الغَبيْطِ بَعَاعَـهُ    نُزُوْلَ اليَمَانِي ذِي العِيَابِ المُحَمَّلِ

كَأَنَّ مَكَـاكِيَّ الجِـوَاءِ غُدَّبَـةً         صُبِحْنَ سُلافاً مِنْ رَحيقٍ مُفَلْفَـلِ

كَأَنَّ السِّبَـاعَ فِيْهِ غَرْقَى عَشِيَّـةً     بِأَرْجَائِهِ القُصْوَى أَنَابِيْشُ عُنْصُـلِ

Abū Al-Qāsim Al-Shābbī: Storm in Dark (From Arabic)

Sometimes held to be Tunisia's national poet, Abu Al-Qasim Al-Shabbi, was one of the great Romantic poets of the early 20th century. He is also largely untranslated, and has to my knowledge never been translated into English in a form-conscius way. This translation is small attempt to combat both oversights. It bears repeating that this translation is not literal, but literary.

Storm In The Dark
By Abu Al-Qasim Al-Shabbi
Tr. A.Z. Foreman

If I had time clutched in my hand, I'd strew
the days out to the wind like grains of sand
and I would say: take them away with you, 
O Wind, disperse them in the hilled expanse,
Nay, in death's mountain passes, in a world
where neither light nor shade nor shadow dance. 

If I had the universe clutched in my hand
I'd hurl it into hellfire. Have it flare. 
What is this world, this kindling human race?
What are these skies, and what those stars up there?
Fire makes a fitter place for sorrow's slaves,
this theater of death, this nest of care.

O Past already passed and folded
in death and the eternal night! 
O mankind's Present that still is!
O Future yet unborn! It's quite 
silly, this world of yours. It's gotten lost
in darkness without end or sight.

Audio of me reciting the text in Arabic and then in English


The Original:



زوبعة في ظلام
ابو القاسم الشابّي

 لو كَانَتِ الأَيّامُ في قبضتي أذريتها للريح، مثل الرمال
 وقلتُ: «يا ريحُ، بها فاذهبي وبدِّديها في سَحيقِ الجبال
 "بل في فجاج الموت.. في عالَمٍ لا يرقُصُ النُّورُ بِهِ والظِّلالْ..
 لو كان هذا الكونُ في قبضتي ألقيْتُه في النّار، نارِ الجحيمْ
 ما هذه الدنيا، وهذا الورى وذلكَ الأُفْقُ، وَتِلْكَ النُّجُومْ؟
 النَّارُ أوْلى بعبيدِ الأسى ، ومسرحِ الموتِ، وعشِّ الهمومْ
 يا أيّها الماضِي الذي قد قَضَى وضمَّهُ الموتُ، وليلُ الأَبَدْ
 يا حاضِرَ النَّاس الذي لم يَزُل!  يا أيُّها الآتي الذي لم يَلِدْ
 سَخَافة ٌ دنياكُمُ هذه تائهة ٌ في ظلمة ِ لا تُحَدْ..

The Baal Cycle: Anat's Battle (From Ugaritic)

My first translation from Ugaritic, although I've studied the language off and on now for a few years. This translation has sat around among my drafts since before #Covfefe was a thing.

Anat's Battle
From the Ugaritic Baal Cycle
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

The gates of Anat's palace closed, 
 She meet the lads at the mountain's base.
Then: look how Anat wars through the valley, 
 Battles on between town and town!
She fights and maims the men of Sea West, 
 Smites and fells the folk of Sun East.
Beneath her, heads like rolling balls 
 Above her, hands like grasshoppers,
  Warriors' hands like locust swarms.
She fixes heads to her back, 
 Wears the hands on her belt.
She has gleaned knee-deep in fighter guts, 
 Gone neck-deep in soldier gore.
Her club has driven captives out
 Her bow's sinew broken foes.

Recording of me reading the original text using Tropper's reconstruction of Ugaritic phonology


The Original:

𐎋𐎍𐎀𐎚𐎟𐎘𐎙𐎗𐎚𐎟𐎁𐎅𐎚𐎟𐎓𐎐𐎚𐎟
𐎆𐎚𐎖𐎗𐎊𐎟𐎙𐎍𐎎𐎎𐎟𐎁𐎌𐎚𐎟𐎙𐎗𐎟
𐎆𐎅𐎍𐎐𐎟𐎓𐎐𐎚𐎟𐎚𐎎𐎚𐎃𐎕𐎟𐎁𐎓𐎎𐎖𐎟
𐎚𐎃𐎚𐎕𐎁𐎟𐎁𐎐𐎟𐎖𐎗𐎊𐎚𐎎𐎟
𐎚𐎎𐎃𐎕𐎟𐎍𐎛𐎎𐎟𐎃𐎔𐎟𐎊𐎎𐎟
𐎚𐎕𐎎𐎚𐎟𐎀𐎄𐎎𐎟𐎕𐎀𐎚𐎟𐎌𐎔𐎌𐎟
𐎚𐎈𐎚𐎅𐎟𐎋𐎋𐎄𐎗𐎚𐎟𐎗𐎛𐎌𐎟
𐎀𐎍𐎅𐎟𐎋𐎛𐎗𐎁𐎊𐎎𐎟𐎋𐎔𐎟
𐎋𐎟𐎖𐎕𐎎𐎟𐎙𐎗𐎎𐎐𐎟𐎋𐎔𐎟𐎎𐎅𐎗𐎟
𐎓𐎚𐎋𐎚𐎟𐎗𐎛𐎌𐎚𐎟𐎍𐎁𐎎𐎚𐎅𐎟
𐎌𐎐𐎒𐎚𐎟𐎋𐎔𐎚𐎟𐎁𐎈𐎁𐎌𐎅𐎟
𐎁𐎗𐎋𐎎𐎟𐎚𐎙𐎍𐎍𐎟𐎁𐎄𐎎𐎟𐎏𐎎𐎗𐎟
𐎈𐎍𐎖𐎎𐎟𐎁𐎎𐎎𐎓𐎟𐎎𐎅𐎗𐎎
𐎎𐎉𐎎𐎟𐎚𐎂𐎗𐎌𐎟𐎌𐎁𐎎𐎟
𐎁𐎋𐎒𐎍𐎟𐎖𐎌𐎚𐎅𐎟𐎎𐎄𐎐𐎚


Natan Alterman: Summer Night (From Hebrew)


Summer Night

By Natan Alterman
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Silence whistles in wide open spaces. 
Glitter of a knife in cats' eyes glows. 
Night. So much night! And stillness in the sky.
Stars in swaddling clothes. 

Time at large, at large. The heart's clock struck two thousand. 
Dew like a rendezvous veiled the eyes' lashes. 
A streetlamp throws black slaves down hard, prostrate
Across the platform as its gold whip flashes. 

Summer wind gone wandering. Faint. Agitated. 
Tonguing the gardens' shoulders on her arc. 
Greenish evil. Roiled lights and suspicions. 
Treasure boiling under frothy dark. 

And far up yonder with a famished roar,
Its eyes a golden-plated glower,
Wrathfully a city vaporizes, i
n stone billows
Of soaring cupola and tower.  

The Original:

ליל קיץ
נתן אלתרמן

דּוּמִיָּה בַּמֶּרְחָבִים שׁוֹרֶקֶת.
בֹּהַק הַסַּכִּין בְּעֵין הַחֲתוּלִים.
לַיְלָה. כַּמָּה לַיְלָה! בַּשָּׁמַיִם שֶׁקֶט.
כּוֹכָבִים בְּחִתּוּלִים.

זְמָן רָחָב, רָחָב. הַלֵּב צִלְצֵל אַלְפַּיִם.
טַל, כְּמוֹ פְּגִישָׁה, אֶת הָרִיסִים הִצְעִיף.
בְּמַגְלֵב זָהָב פַּנָּס מַפִּיל אַפַּיִם
עֲבָדִים שְׁחֹרִים לְרֹחַב הָרָצִיף.

רוּחַ קַיִץ שָׁטָה. עֲמוּמָה. רוֹגֶשֶׁת.
עַל כִּתְפֵי גַּנִּים שְׂפָתֶיהָ נִשְׁפָּכוֹת.
רעַֹ יְרַקְרַק. תְּסִיסַת אוֹרוֹת וָחֶשֶׁד.
רְתִיחַת מַטְמוֹן בַּקֶּצֶף הַשָּׁחֹר.

וְהַרְחֵק לגַבֹּהַּ, בִּנְהִימָה מֻרְעֶבֶת,
עִיר אֲשֶׁר עֵיניֶהָ זֹהַב מְצֻפּוֹת,
מִתְאַדָּה בְּזַעַם, בְּתִימְרוֹת הָאֶבֶן,
שֶׁל הַמִּגְדָּלִים וְהַכִּפּוֹת.



 

Du Fu: Spring Outlook (From Chinese)

Spring Outlook
By Du Fu
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in Medieval Chinese
Click here to hear me recite the original in modern Mandarin pronunciation

The state shattered, river and mountain survive 
  The city springfallen, weeds and trees take ground
Touched by the times, tears splash at sight of blossoms 
  Aggrieved at displacement, the heart jolts at birds' sound
The beacons of war  have brimmed three months with flame
  Letters from home  are now worth a thousand in gold
I scratch and pull  so much at my whitening hair 
  It'll soon be too thin  for my hatpin  to keep hold




The Original:



(The Medieval Chinese transcription system used is that of Prof. David Branner)


Han Characters 

春望  
杜甫  

國破山河在,  
城春草木深。 
感時花濺淚, 
恨別鳥驚心。 
烽火連三月,  
家書抵萬金。 
白頭搔更短, 
渾欲不勝簪。 
Medieval Chinese

tshywen3b màng3

dúo1 púo3c

kwek1 phèsran2b ghe1d dzèi1a

dzyeing3b tshywen3b tsháu1 muk1b syem3 
kám1a dzyi3d hwa2 tsàn3b lwì3c 
ghèn1 pat3bx táukeing3a sem3
phung3c hwé1 lan3b sam1b ngwat3a
ka2 syuo3b téi4 màn3a kem3x
beik2a dou1 saukèing2a twán1
ghwèn1 yuk3c pet3a syeng3 tshrem3 
Modern Mandarin 

Chūn wàng  
Dù Fǔ  

Guó pò shān hé zài,   
chéng chūn cǎo mù shēn.  
Gǎn shí huā jiàn lèi,   
hèn bié niǎo jīng xīn.  
Fēng huǒ lián sān yuè,   
jiā shū dǐ wàn jīn.  
Bái tóu sāo gèng duǎn,   
hùn yù bù shēng chēn.