The Mosque of Córdoba

The work of building the resplendent Mezquita employed thousands of artisans and labourers, and such a vast undertaking led to the development of all the resources of the district. Hard stone and beautifully veined marbles were quarried from the Sierra Morena and the surrounding regions of the city. Metals of various kinds were dug from the soil, and factories sprang up in Cordova amid the stir and bustle of an awakened industrial energy. A famous Syrian architect made the plans for the Mosque. Leaving his own house on the edge of Cordoba, the Caliph came to reside in the city, so that he might personally superintend the operations and offer proposals for the improvement of the designs. Abd-er-Rahman moved about among the workers, directing them for several hours of every day.

In Muted Tone

Gently, let us steep our love
In the silence deep, as thus,
Branches arching high above
Twine their shadows over us.
 
Let us blend our souls as one,
Hearts’ and senses’ ecstasies,
Evergreen, in unison
With the pines’ vague lethargies.
 
Dim your eyes and, heart at rest,
Freed from all futile endeavor,
Arms crossed on your slumbering breast,
Banish vain desire forever.
 
Let us yield then, you and I,
To the waftings, calm and sweet,
As their breeze-blown lullaby
Sways the gold grass at your feet.
 
And, when night begins to fall
From the black oaks, darkening,
In the nightingale’s soft call
Our despair will, solemn, sing.

"In Muted Tone" - Paul Verlaine

(translated by Norman Shapiro)

Had Death Not Had Me in Tears

Had death not had me in tears
I would have seen the barges
on life's stream sail.
I would have heard sorrow songs
in groves where the road was lost
long
where men foot prints mix with other men foot prints
By the road I wait
"death is better, death is better"
came the song
I am by the roadside
looking for the road
death is better, death is much better
Had death not had me in tears
I would have seen the barges
I would have found the road
and heard the sorrow songs.
The land wreathes in rhythm
with your soul, caressed by history
and cruel geography
landscape ineffable yet screaming
eloquent resonant like the drums
of after harvests.
We pile rocks on terracing love
Carry the pithy cloth
to cover the hearths of our mother.


Come now, you lucky ones
come to the festival of corn and lamb
to the finest feast of this land
come, now,
your lovers have unfurled
their cloths
their thighs glistening like golden knives
ready for the plunging,
for the plentiful loving time.
To whom shall I turn
to what shall I tell my woes ?
My kinsmen, the desert tree
denied us sustenance
long before the drought.
To whom shall I turn
to whom shall I tell my woes?
Some say tell the mother goat                                                                                                                                     she too is my kinswoman
elemental sister of your clan
But I cannot tell the mother goat
for she is not here.

"Had Death Not Had Me in Tears" - Kofi Awoonor

 

 

The Country of Marriage

I.

I dream of you walking at night along the streams
of the country of my birth, warm blooms and the nightsongs
of birds opening around you as you walk.
You are holding in your body the dark seed of my sleep.

II.

This comes after silence. Was it something I said
that bound me to you, some mere promise
or, worse, the fear of loneliness and death?
A man lost in the woods in the dark, I stood
still and said nothing. And then there rose in me,
like the earth's empowering brew rising
in root and branch, the words of a dream of you
I did not know I had dreamed. I was a wanderer
who feels the solace of his native land
under his feet again and moving in his blood.
I went on, blind and faithful. Where I stepped
my track was there to steady me. It was no abyss
that lay before me, but only the level ground.

III.

Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.

IV.

How many times have I come to you out of my head
with joy, if ever a man was,
for to approach you I have given up the light
and all directions. I come to you
lost, wholly trusting as a man who goes
into the forest unarmed. It is as though I descend
slowly earthward out of the air. I rest in peace
in you, when I arrive at last.

V.

Our bond is no little economy based on the exchange
of my love and work for yours, so much for so much
of an expendable fund. We don't know what its limits are--
that puts us in the dark. We are more together
than we know, how else could we keep on discovering
we are more together than we thought?
You are the known way leading always to the unknown,
and you are the known place to which the unknown is always
leading me back. More blessed in you than I know,
I possess nothing worthy to give you, nothing
not belittled by my saying that I possess it.
Even an hour of love is a moral predicament, a blessing
a man may be hard up to be worthy of. He can only
accept it, as a plant accepts from all the bounty of the light
enough to live, and then accepts the dark,
passing unencumbered back to the earth, as I
have fallen tine and again from the great strength
of my desire, helpless, into your arms.

VI.

What I am learning to give you is my death
to set you free of me, and me from myself
into the dark and the new light. Like the water
of a deep stream, love is always too much. We
did not make it. Though we drink till we burst
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.
In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill, and sleep, while it
flows through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning
to its rich waters thirsty. We enter,
willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy.

VII.

I give you what is unbounded, passing from dark to dark,
containing darkness: a night of rain, an early morning.
I give you the life I have let live for the love of you:
a clump of orange-blooming weeds beside the road,
the young orchard waiting in the snow, our own life
that we have planted in the ground, as I
have planted mine in you. I give you my love for all
beautiful and honest women that you gather to yourself
again and again, and satisfy--and this poem,
no more mine than any man's who has loved a woman.

Winter Stars

I went out at night alone;
 The young blood flowing beyond the sea
Seemed to have drenched my spirit’s wings—
 I bore my sorrow heavily.

But when I lifted up my head
 From shadows shaken on the snow,
I saw Orion in the east
 Burn steadily as long ago.

From windows in my father’s house,
 Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
I watched Orion as a girl
 Above another city’s lights.

Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,
 The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,
All things are changed, save in the east
 The faithful beauty of the stars.

Winter Stars - Sara Teasdale

The Poem

Not the sunset poem you make when you think
                         aloud,
with its linden tree in India ink
and the telegraph wires across its pink
                         cloud;

not the mirror in you and her delicate bare shoulder still glimmering there;
not the lyrical click of a pocket rhyme—
the tiny music that tells the time;

and not the pennies and weights on those evening papers piled up in the rain;
not the cacodemons of carnal pain;
not the things you can say so much better in plain prose—

but the poem that hurtles from heights unknown
—when you wait for the splash of the stone deep below,
and grope for your pen, and then comes the shiver, and then—

in the tangle of sounds, the leopards of words,
the leaflike insects, the eye-spotted birds
fuse and form a silent, intense,
mimetic pattern of perfect sense.

The Poem - Vladimir Nabokov

The Night Piece

Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee,

The shooting stars attend thee;

         And the elves also,

         Whose little eyes glow

Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.

 

No Will-o'-th'-Wisp mis-light thee,

Nor snake or slow-worm bite thee;

         But on, on thy way,

         Not making a stay,

Since ghost there's none to affright thee.

 

Let not the dark thee cumber;

What though the moon does slumber?

         The stars of the night

         Will lend thee their light,

Like tapers clear without number.

 

Then Julia let me woo thee,

Thus, thus to come unto me;

         And when I shall meet

         Thy silv'ry feet,

My soul I'll pour into thee.

 

"The Night Piece, to Julia" - Robert Herrick