Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

The Dream of the Rood, traced to the 8th century, was the earliest of the English “dream-vision” poems. It describes in allegory the redemption of the world through the Cross. This version is from Project Gutenberg.

Lo! choicest of dreams I will relate,
What dream I dreamt in middle of night
When mortal men reposed in rest.
Methought I saw a wondrous wood
Tower aloft with light bewound, 5
Brightest of trees; that beacon was all
Begirt with gold; jewels were standing
Four[1] at surface of earth, likewise were there five
Above on the shoulder-brace. All angels of God beheld it,
Fair through future ages; ’twas no criminal’s cross indeed, 10
But holy spirits beheld it there,
Men upon earth, all this glorious creation.
Strange was that victor-tree, and stained with sins was I,
With foulness defiled. I saw the glorious tree
With vesture[2] adorned winsomely shine, 15
Begirt with gold; bright gems had there
Worthily decked the tree of the Lord.[3]
Yet through that gold I might perceive
Old strife of the wretched, that first it gave
Blood on the stronger [right] side. With sorrows was I oppressed, 20
Afraid for that fair sight; I saw the ready beacon
Change in vesture and hue; at times with moisture covered,
Soiled with course of blood; at times with treasure adorned.
Yet lying there a longer while,
Beheld I sad the Saviour’s tree 25
Until I heard that words it uttered;
The best of woods gan speak these words:
“‘Twas long ago (I remember it still)
That I was hewn at end of a grove,
Stripped from off my stem; strong foes laid hold of me there, 30
Wrought for themselves a show, bade felons raise me up;
Men bore me on their shoulders, till on a mount they set me;
Fiends many fixed me there. Then saw I mankind’s Lord
Hasten with mickle might, for He would sty[4] upon me.
There durst I not ‘gainst word of the Lord 35
Bow down or break, when saw I tremble
The surface of earth; I might then all
My foes have felled, yet fast I stood.
The Hero young begirt[5] Himself, Almighty God was He,
Strong and stern of mind; He stied on the gallows high, 40
Bold in sight of many, for man He would redeem.
I shook when the Hero clasped me, yet durst not bow to earth,
Fall to surface of earth, but firm I must there stand.
A rood was I upreared; I raised the mighty King,
The Lord of Heaven; I durst not bend me. 45
They drove their dark nails through me; the wounds are seen upon me,
The open gashes of guile; I durst harm none[6] of them.
They mocked us both together; all moistened with blood was I,
Shed from side of the man, when forth He sent His spirit.
Many have I on that mount endured 50
Of cruel fates; I saw the Lord of Hosts
Strongly outstretched; darkness had then
Covered with clouds the corse of the Lord,
The brilliant brightness; the shadow continued,[7]
Wan ‘neath the welkin. There wept all creation, 55
Bewailed the King’s death; Christ was on the cross.
Yet hastening thither they came from afar
To the Son of the King[8]: that all I beheld.
Sorely with sorrows was I oppressed; yet I bowed ‘neath the hands of men,
Lowly with mickle might. Took they there Almighty God, 60
Him raised from the heavy torture; the battle-warriors left me
To stand bedrenched with blood; all wounded with darts was I.
There laid they the weary of limb, at head of His corse they stood,
Beheld the Lord of Heaven, and He rested Him there awhile,
Worn from the mickle war. Began they an earth-house to work, 65
Men in the murderers'[9] sight, carved it of brightest stone,
Placed therein victories’ Lord. Began sad songs to sing
The wretched at eventide; then would they back return
Mourning from the mighty prince; all lonely[10] rested He there.
Yet weeping[11] we then a longer while 70
Stood at our station: the [voice[12]] arose
Of battle-warriors; the corse grew cold,
Fair house of life. Then one gan fell
Us[13] all to earth; ’twas a fearful fate!
One buried us in deep pit, yet of me the thanes of the Lord, 75
His friends, heard tell; [from earth they raised me],[14]
And me begirt with gold and silver.
Now thou mayst hear, my dearest man,
That bale of woes[15] have I endured,
Of sorrows sore. Now the time is come, 80
That me shall honor both far and wide
Men upon earth, and all this mighty creation
Will pray to this beacon. On me God’s Son
Suffered awhile; so glorious now
I tower to Heaven, and I may heal 85
Each one of those who reverence me;
Of old I became the hardest of pains,
Most loathsome to ledes[16] [nations], the way of life,
Right way, I prepared for mortal men.[17]
Lo! the Lord of Glory honored me then 90
Above the grove,[18] the guardian of Heaven,
As He His mother, even Mary herself,
Almighty God before all men
Worthily honored above all women.
Now thee I bid, my dearest man, 95
That thou this sight shalt say to men,
Reveal in words, ’tis the tree of glory,
On which once suffered Almighty God
For the many sins of all mankind,
And also for Adam’s misdeeds of old. 100
Death tasted He there; yet the Lord arose
With His mickle might for help to men.
Then stied He to Heaven; again shall come
Upon this mid-earth to seek mankind
At the day of doom the Lord Himself, 105
Almighty God, and His angels with Him;
Then He will judge, who hath right of doom,
Each one of men as here before
In this vain life he hath deserved.
No one may there be free from fear 110
In view of the word that the Judge will speak.
He will ask ‘fore the crowd, where is the man
Who for name of the Lord would bitter death
Be willing to taste, as He did on the tree.
But then they will fear, and few will bethink them 115
What they to Christ may venture to say.
Then need there no one be filled with fear[19]
Who bears in his breast the best of beacons;
But through the rood a kingdom shall seek
From earthly way each single soul 120
That with the Lord thinketh to dwell.”
Then I prayed to the tree with joyous heart,
With mickle might, when I was alone
With small attendance[20]; the thought of my mind
For the journey was ready; I’ve lived through many 125
Hours of longing. Now ’tis hope of my life
That the victory-tree I am able to seek,
Oftener than all men I alone may
Honor it well; my will to that
Is mickle in mind, and my plea for protection 130
To the rood is directed. I’ve not many mighty
Of friends on earth; but hence went they forth
From joys of the world, sought glory’s King;
Now live they in Heaven with the Father on high,
In glory dwell, and I hope for myself 135
On every day when the rood of the Lord,
Which here on earth before I viewed,
In this vain life may fetch me away
And bring me then, where bliss is mickle,
Joy in the Heavens, where the folk of the Lord 140
Is set at the feast, where bliss is eternal;
And may He then set me where I may hereafter
In glory dwell, and well with the saints
Of joy partake. May the Lord be my friend,
Who here on earth suffered before 145
On the gallows-tree for the sins of man!
He us redeemed, and gave to us life,
A heavenly home. Hope was renewed,
With blessing and bliss, for the sufferers of burning.
The Son was victorious on that fateful journey, 150
Mighty and happy,[21] when He came with a many,[22]
With a band of spirits to the kingdom of God,
The Ruler Almighty, for joy to the angels
And to all the saints, who in Heaven before
In glory dwelt, when their Ruler came, 155
Almighty God, where was His home.

[1] _Feowere_, B.’s emendation for MS. _faegere_, ‘fair.’

[2] Silken cords, or tassels, W.; sailyards, ropes, in Hall and Sweet.

[3] _Wealdendes_, S.’s emendation for MS. _wealdes_, ‘wood’; so Kl.

[4] Sty, ‘mount,’ common in Middle English.

[5] Here and below W. gives the corresponding verses from the Ruthwell Cross. They will also be found in Stopford Brooke’s “Early English Literature,” p. 337, q.v.

[6] Gr. changes MS. _naenigum_ to _aenigum_ and others follow; W. as MS.

[7] _Foreth-eode_, not _for-etheode_, ‘overcame,’ as Sw. W.’s note is an oversight.

[8] MS. _to þam aeethelinge_. Sw. follows Ruthwell Cross, _aeethele to anum_.

[9] _Banan_ must be taken as gen. pl.; B. reads _banana_; Sw. thinks it “a mistake for some other [word], possibly _beorg_,” and takes _banan_ as gen. sing. referring to the cross, though he adds, “this is very improbable.” Truly so, as the cross is speaking.

[10] _Maete werode_, lit., ‘with a small band,’ but it means ‘by himself.’

[11] _Greotende_ is Gr.’s emendation for MS. _reotende_; B. _hreotende_; K. _geotende_; Sw. as Gr.

[12] _Stefn_ is Kl.’s emendation to fill _lacuna_. W. prefers it, but does not think it convincing.

[13] _Us_ here must refer to the _three_ crosses, that of Christ and those of the two thieves.

[14] This half-line is Gr.’s emendation to fill _lacuna_ in MS. Sw. and W. leave it blank.

[15] Or, ‘of the wicked,’ ‘of criminals.’

[16] I have used this Middle English word for sake of the alliteration.

[17] Sw.’s text ends here. It was translated a few years ago in _Poet-Lore_ as if it were the whole poem.

[18] MS. _holmwudu_; K. _holtwudu_, and so Gr. with (?).

[19] MS. _unforht_, but Gr.’s _anforht_ suits the sense better.

[20] i.e., ‘by myself.’ See on 69.

[21] Lit., ‘speedy,’ ‘successful.’

[22] A company, a crowd; common in Middle English.


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A Song of Defiance

by Dobrica Eric
English Translation

the servant of God,
the Serb,
announce willingly
through chains and wires
before the witnesses
Power, Agony and Injustice,
that I am guilty and admit my crime!
I am guilty that I am a somebody
and not a nothing and a nobody.
I am guilty that in a time of general
I go to an Orthodox Christian church
and make the sign of the cross like this,
with three fingers!
I am guilty of being,
when I ought not to be.
I have been guilty for a long time now
of standing upright
and gaze upon Heaven, instead of the grass.

I am guilty of having stood up to injustice.
I am guilty,
of once again honoring my patron saint.
I am guilty of reading and writing Cyrillic.
I am guilty of singing, of laughing, and
I am guilty, this I admit,
of knowing what I do know,
and knowing what I do not know.
I am guilty, to end with my greatest crime.
I am guilty of being stubborn
and of being an Orthodox Christian
and a follower of Saint Sava and of not believing
in such things as “a holy crime”.

I am guilty
of existing,
and while already being and rudely standing,
of not admitting that I do not exist.

If I admit that I do not exist
in order to save my head,
I will lose the venerable Cross and my patron saint.
If I do not admit that,
my outlook is bleak,
then the entire world will harass my nation.
Hoards of former people
thieves and vagrants,
packs of robots and other monsters,
will attack my orchards and fields
and my white house along the road
around which, as the loveliest of maidens,
blossom cherries, apples, and plums.

So here,
I admit this too,
for the salvation of my people.
I no longer exist.
Remove me from your list.
I am from now on only
air, light and water,
three useful elements.
And this thing that before you walks and talks,
that is what you have made of me!

My enemy with a thousand hands,
a thousand servants and false handmaidens,
you have plucked my sun as you would an apple
and my joy as you would a poppy among the rye.

My descendents shall drink despair and bitterness.
But yours already drink bitter honey-wine
for the blood money which fills your money belt
from the sale of my ancestral land.
Fate will give you a straight jacket,
and then there will come daylight,
or the planet will burst from shame ,
and bury us all in the abyss!

You must be very important,
you, my dear Land,
and your sisters
Truth and Justice,
since so many powers have arisen against you,
and Untruth and Injustice
stand before you with jaws agape.

Hoards of former people,
thieves and vagrants,
packs of robots and other monsters,
already surround your orchards and fields
and my white house along the road
around which, as the loveliest of maidens,
blossom lindens, apples, and plums.

What do these warriors of jihad,
and of crusade, these farmers
that torture your sons and daughters
These worldly bands must have heard
that we have golden hearts,
so they are removing them
to transplant them into their own torsos
in hopes that they, too, will become people.

My respected prosecutors,
my judges and executioners,
you have written out your commandments for me
all over your pupils,
of the finest of glass.
The harder it is for me to live,
the easier it will be for me to die.
You have gone too deep into a late dark night,
but you will lynch in vain the most hospitable nation on the planet,
because human hearts,
miracle of miracles,
cannot be transplanted into your inhuman torsos!

We do not fear death,
or the darkness,
but rather we fear a slave’s life and lengthy illness.
Death is a frequent occurrence among the Serbs
just like spring, summer, autumn and winter,
and it is no worse,
especially by day,
than drought, floods, earthquakes, and frost,
when a man meets these on his own land
with censed soul and clear conscience.

You who wish us harm,
satiated and mad,
you have forbidden me all in my own home,
but nobody can forbid me
to sing and to laugh while dying,
two things you no longer do
even while celebrating a marriage
or birth of your kind.

Spare me the stake and rope,
and crucify me on a mountain top
just as your forbearer crucified my forbearer,
Jesus Christ the Nazarene.

I shall watch,
but you shall close your eyes,
otherwise they will burst
from the glow of my face.
Just hurry –
because the sooner you crucify me
the sooner I will resurrect.

May our brothers and sisters in Kosovo and Metohija, live free – as Serbians, as Orthodox Christians

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To Predrag Obradovic Gagi
and all the others who had to leave

The Kosovar soil’s much darker than else,
its sky is more blue, its grass is more green…
Happiness and sorrows are much more intense,
and forgetting legends is more than a sin.

Through pain, blood and battles, there were boldly set
the roots of our own newer generation,
that brought out the people who in their own sweat
kept eternal marks of their own damnation.

Now, I watch these people wondering-so sad,
people that have souls bigger than the sky;
They have no idea where to find some bread
nor where to find shelter, where to go and try…

All over around them falls Kosovar dust
to cover everything that is saint, to smear,
while in every eye emptiness makes crust
caused by all that’s taken and that they hold dear.

Their strong calloused hands powerlessly wring,
on everyone’s face new wrinkles are born,
their looks turned to someone who’s not known just cling,
while instead of answers they feel sorrow’s thorn.

Can we anyhow help their sadness end?
It’s a fact that our roots live deep in themselves…
Let’s open our eyes, let’s give them our hand,
by helping them all, we help ourselves.

The soil’s almost black, much darker than else,
as it’s sky and grass on Kosovar plot…
Happiness and sorrows are much more intense,
and these people-legends not to be forgot.

Dragana Konstantinovic
Translated by the author


= = = = =

I think most people in the USA have NO CLUE what the pull is of Middle Europeans for their countries – for their Motherlands. For them, their Motherland is just that – their Mother. They were nourished by her soil, her air – different from any other. They NEED her and long for her in the same way that a hungry baby needs and longs for its mother’s breast. This is their home. There will never be another – no matter where they go, no matter how much “better” it may be, there will never be another land, another place, that is as beautiful as satisfactory as their Motherland. This is their HOMEland. Here they must be, or they will always be sad and long for that land.

Taking Kosovo away from Serbia and thereby displacing the Serbian populance has no solved any problem in the Balkans. Rather it has fueled yet another Balkan conflagration. Kosovo! This will be the rallying cry for the hundreds of thousands of displaced souls. Just as Alamo! and The Maine! became rallying cries for US citizens in wars past. But it will be the rallying cry to a conflagration such as the world has not seen since WWII. The US just doesn’t get it.

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Last night I awoke in the middle of the night with a poem dancing in my brain. I couldn’t get back to sleep until I had recorded it, so I did. I put it on my space at Pathetic.org, (unless you knew me as a child, you won’t recognize the name – LOL!) and I include it here, also.


When I am gone
Remember that once I laughed
Great gulping gasps
of delighted rollicking roars
of merriment

That once I delightedly ran over the
new spring grass
with tender bare feet
feeling each blade bend
beneath them –
and the sharp scent of green emitted
by each broken blade of grass.

That once I had skilled hands
that competently guided new life
to slide into the world with
great splashes of thick, slick water
streaked with the blood and mucus
of reality
and coaxed the first gurgling cry
of outraged life from that
small bit of humanity in my arms

That once I could seek and find
the secret positions and
hiding places of infants
as they floated within
their mothers
in their private seas

Remember that I wept huge bitter tears
over a marriage that faded into dust
within my surprised bosom –
and that my sobs were torn from
my most inner being
I had birthed babes and now knew
I was birthing dust

Remember that I mourned –
but remember that I went on
that I wore the black
but replaced it bit by bit
once more
with the colors of life and joy

When I am gone . . ..
that I lived. (c)

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Τhe Greek language

Τhe Greek language
Nikiforos Vrettakos

When Ι sometime leave this light
Ι shall meander upwards like a
murmuring stream.
And if by chance somewhere among
the azure corridors
Ι meet with angels, Ι shall speak
to them in Greek, since
they do not know languages. They
speak among themselves with music.

[translated by Marjorie Chambers]

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Τhe field of words

Τhe field of words

Nikiforos Vrettakos

Like the bee round a wild
flower, so am Ι. Ι prowl
continuously around the word.

Ι thank the long lines
of ancestors who moulded the voice.
Cutting it into links, they made
meanings. Like smelters they
forged it into gold and it became
Homer, Aeschylus, the Gospels
and other jewels.

With the thread
of words, this gold
from gold, which comes from the depths
of my heart, Ι am linked, Ι take part in
the world.
Ι said and wrote, “Ι love.”

[translated by Marjorie Chambers]

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A smaller world

A smaller world

Nikiforos Vrettakos

Ι seek a shore where Ι can fence in
a patch of the horizon with
trees or reeds. Where, gathering infinity,
Ι can have the sense that: there are nο machines
or very few; there are nο soldiers
or very few; there are nο weapons
or very few, and those few aimed at the exit
of the forests with wolves; or that there are nο merchants
or very few at remote
points οn the earth where
paved roads have not yet been laid.
God hopes that
at least in the poets’ sobs paradise will never cease to exist.

(Diary, translated by Rick Μ. Newton )


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