“In days of gold we dreamed on the heather”

A poem written by Lucius Somesuch, originally posted by him at Chateau Heartiste and in the comments on my blog yesterday. 

In days of gold we dreamed on the heather
Beneath Heaven’s broad splendor that brightly shone.
Tonight we writhe in highwaisted pleather
Frantically doing things best left undone.

My locks are coiffed to tres chic perfection,
My alabaster limbs with glitter flicker.
My glassy gaze gives strangers an erection,
My thoughts are distant, on liquor, twitter.

Time threatens furrows, the prudes would warn me
And Beauty’s prime prances ‘fore an open grave,
And the Air’s Dark Prince muses to harm me,
But the beat goes on, and tonight I rave.

What have I to do with maidenly prudence
Or with the matron’s fond worrisome cares?
Why should I sit all alone and rue? Dance!
I’ve got left before me many fine years!

The Invisible Worm wings on the blast
And the omens are rich that Eyes Wide Shut
Was a documentary. But I have cast
Mine with the devils’ lot. Snort a line. Rut.

— Lucius Somesuch

Nature Poems

Two Czesław Miłosz poems in translation, then a couple of compositions by Eric Satie. You will enjoy the video if you have half-an-hour to detach.

The Sun

All colors come from the sun. And it does not have
Any particular color, for it contains them all.
And the whole Earth is like a poem
While the sun above represents the artist

Whoever wants to paint the variegated world
Let him never look straight at the sun
Or he will lose the memory of things he has seen.
Only burning tears will stay in his eyes.

Let him kneel down, lower his face to the grass,
And look at the light reflected on the ground.
There he will find everything we have lost:
The stars and the roses, the dusks and the dawns.

— Czesław Miłosz, 1943

***

To Robinson Jeffers

If you have not read the Slavic poets
so much the better. There’s nothing there
for a Scotch-Irish wanderer to seek. They lived in a childhood
prolonged from age to age. For them, the sun
was a farmer’s ruddy face, the moon peeped through a cloud
and the Milky Way gladdened them like a birch-lined road.
They longed for the Kingdom which is always near,
always right at hand. Then, under apple trees
angels in homespun linen will come parting the boughs
and at the white kolkhoz tablecloth
cordiality and affection will feast (falling to the ground at times).

And you are from surf-rattled skerries. From the heaths
where burying a warrior they broke his bones
so he could not haunt the living. From the sea night
which your forefathers pulled over themselves, without a word.
Above your head no face, neither the sun’s nor the moon’s,
only the throbbing of galaxies, the immutable
violence of new beginnings, of new destruction.

All your life listening to the ocean. Black dinosaurs
wade where a purple zone of phosphorescent weeds
rises and falls on the waves as in a dream. And Agamemnon
sails the boiling deep to the steps of the palace
to have his blood gush onto marble. Till mankind passes
and the pure and stony earth is pounded by the ocean.

Thin-lipped, blue-eyed, without grace or hope,
before God the Terrible, body of the world.
Prayers are not heard. Basalt and granite.
Above them, a bird of prey. The only beauty.

What have I to do with you? From footpaths in the orchards,
from an untaught choir and shimmers of a monstrance,
from flower beds of rue, hills by the rivers, books
in which a zealous Lithuanian announced brotherhood, I come.
Oh, consolations of mortals, futile creeds.

And yet you did not know what I know. The earth teaches
More than does the nakedness of elements. No one with impunity
gives to himself the eyes of a god. So brave, in a void,
you offered sacrifices to demons: there were Wotan and Thor,
the screech of Erinyes in the air, the terror of dogs
when Hekate with her retinue of the dead draws near.

Better to carve suns and moons on the joints of crosses
as was done in my district. To birches and firs
give feminine names. To implore protection
against the mute and treacherous might
than to proclaim, as you did, an inhuman thing.

— Czesław Miłosz (1963)

***

A cold landscape generates inner heat. The Earth is a big place.

“Caligula”

This one goes out to various Western leaders.

Reading the old chronicles, poems and biographies, Mr. Cogito sometimes experiences the physical presence of long-dead persons

Caligula speaks:

of all the citizens of Rome
I only loved one
Incitatus – the horse

when he entered the senate
the flawless toga of his coat
glistened immaculate among the gutless purple-hemmed cutthroats

Incitatus had many virtues
he never gave speeches
stoic nature
I think that at night in the stables he read the philosophers

I loved him so much that one day I decided to crucify him
but his noble anatomy opposed it

indifferently he accepted the dignity of the consul
he executed his power superlatively
what I mean is, he did not do it at all

he couldn’t be persuaded into a permanent bond of love
with my fourth wife Caesonia
so unfortunately the line of emperor-centaurs was not created

therefore Rome fell

I decided to nominate him god
but on the ninth day before February
Cherea Cornelius Sabinus and other fools obstructed these sacred intentions

he calmly accepted the news of my death

he was banished from the palace and sentenced to exile

he took that blow with dignity

he died without heirs
slaughtered by a thick-skinned butcher from the town of Anzio

on the posthumous fate of his meat
Tacitus is silent

— Zbigniew Herbert (c. 1974) from his volume of poetry “Mr. Cogito”

My translation. The original poem is under Show More in the YouTube video.

The Tragedy of Compromise

A nation can be snuffed out though violence or miscegenation, but only if the genocide is complete or they might come back stronger. But can a nation survive a utopia? Huxley pondered the end of history and to my recollection, he did not account for a fissile ruling class or the material goods losing their flavor.

But in the real world, the hard edge of globalism is bruising us hard. Unless you consider the mud invasion utopian. Below is my translation of a poem about the folly of a nobleman who tired to work with the system. That’s a difficult thing to do when the system is implacable and the grievances of your constituents are absolute.

If the war gets hot, what do we fight for? For nothing less than total victory. What is total victory? Securing what’s ours. Reach for more and you are courting downfall. The meek shall…

Aleksander Wielopolski (1803 – 1877) ran Poland’s civil administration within the Russian Empire and to forestall the bloodshed that would result from the growing independence movement, he ordered a conscription of Polish nationalists into twenty-year enlistments in the Tsar’s army. That decision sparked the January 1863 Uprising, the very outcome Wielopolski wanted to avoid.

The original poem is in the YouTube video below under “Show More.” It is written in trochaic meter with an ABAB rhyme scheme.

Margrave Wielopolski

Through Saxon Square, Circassian hundreds gallop
And by the palace, a hundred campfires burn
How do you do it, Your Excellency
That you’re despised on every side?

Lord Margrave, you don’t think in lockstep
So with the Tsar you’re already suspect —
Neither Petersburg nor Moscow will trust
A Pole who has his own plans

Lord Margrave still walks the tightrope
It’s dangerous to walk so high
After all, disaster won’t spare him
Because bad luck has he, who is born here
Your contempt, no one will forgive
We’re superstitious, fervent and teary
And you’re proud, you won’t deign wallow
In the national borscht with us
Why bother splashing logic in our faces?
We did not read Hegel, sire
For us it’s Chopin, peas and cabbage
And from time to time an uprising

Lord Margrave still walks the tightrope
Abyss on the left and abyss on the right
If he avoids death by a countryman’s hand
Then he’ll leave office in disgrace
All that work, Lord Margrave, and for nothing
In vain, the forced conscription
Things will be as they must — business as usual
To battle unarmed, backbreak and welts
Lord Margrave, you won’t change a nation
Here, good sense is rarely used
And the one thing we can do truly well
Is to lose most beautifully in the world

Lord Margrave still walks the tightrope
Though awkwardly and with a wild boar’s posture
And when he falls, he’ll gain only
A traitor’s shame instead of a monument
That you fell, that’s normal Polish fate
In the end, everyone falls off that rope
Only why did you forget, Wielopolski,
That the fall must look good?

– Jerzy Czech (c. 1981)

“Dispatches from a Besieged City”

Here is a fragment from Zbigniew Herbert’s poem “Dispatches from a Besieged City” (orig. “Raport z oblężonego Miasta”). Herbert wrote this poem during Poland’s 1981-1983 Martial Law as an allegory for that event, using imagery from the 1939 siege of Warsaw and the 1944 Uprising to tell a larger story of nations that are under attack. Do we know of any nations that are under attack today?

Translated excerpts from Herbert’s poem:

Too old to carry a weapon and fight like the others —
I was assigned by their grace the chronicler’s role
I write — do not know for whom — about the siege
I have to be exact but I do not know when the raid precisely began
two hundred years ago last December September maybe yesterday at dawn
all of us here ail of the loss of the sense of time
[…]
I write as well as I can to the rhythm of endless weeks
Monday: the warehouses are empty the rat became a unit of currency
Tuesday: the mayor has been murdered by unknown perpetrators
Wednesday: talks of a ceasefire the enemy interned our emissaries
we don’t know of their whereabouts read: their place of slaughter
Thursday: after a stormy meeting the majority rejected
the spice merchants’ proposal for unconditional surrender
Friday: the beginning of plague Saturday: N.N. the steadfast defender
committed suicide Sunday: no water we repelled an attack at the Eastern Gate
[…]
in the evening I like to wander around the borders of the City
along the borders of our uncertain freedom
I look down at the ant heaps of their troops their lights
I listen to the noise of the drums the barbaric screams

[…]

(The full original poem is HERE. Przemysław Gintrowski interprets the poem musically HERE.)

The selected passages above feature a speaker who reports on the everyday conditions of the siege in a resigned and matter-of-fact way. Herbert then shifts the speaker’s tone, over the course of several additional free-verse stanzas, into bitterness and then anger upon noting the ghastly precociousness of the city’s children.

Herbert’s speaker then reaches an epiphany to resist despite the lack of hope. He gets there by connecting his situation to that of history’s other besieged people who have always been ignored, or at best condescendingly pitied, by the rest of the world. He concludes that defending the real and the metaphoric ruins is all that’s left to do.

***

In his Harvard lectures that he later compiled and published in a volume titled “The Witness of Poetry,” Czesław Miłosz said that in reading the scribbled notes of concentration camp inmates, he noticed that it was not educated adults, but rather children who most vividly described their conditions.

One of the worst thing a child can feel is a recognition that he is abandoned by trusted adults. And in thinking about cities under siege from a child’s — or in this case a teenage girl’s — point of view, see a German girl’s now-famous YouTube video, which was banned from Facebook. The brave 16-year-old girl, named Bibi Wilhailm, makes a heartfelt appeal for help. She also denounces the adults and authority figures who have abandoned her to the terror of the refugees.

Her video is at the end of this post. Here is a transcript of her words from the English subtitles:

16 y/o German girl talks about muslim immigration, destruction of her own country (Engl. subs)   [title of the YouTube video]

Hello, you can read the newspapers but this video is about the real situation in Germany. I would like to tell everyone about this on Youtube and Facebook. I am almost 16. I would like everyone to know what is going on, what I am authentically feeling at this moment.

And I am so scared everywhere. For example, if my family and I go out together, or if I see a movie with my friends. Usually I stay at home, but sometimes I stay out until 6 pm in winter, and it is so scary. It is just very hard to live day-to-day life as a woman.

I just want to say that I am not a racist. But one day, a terrible thing happened at the supermarket. I ran all the way home. I was so frightened for my life. There’s no other way to describe it.

My aunt and her friend have said you have to grow up. Why should we, children, have to grow up in such fear? It’s not just me, my friends too. You can see on Facebook, a 17 year old attacked, a 15 year old attacked, two 12-year olds attacked, so many. It is really so sad that this is happening … because of YOU PEOPLE.

I cannot understand why they do this. But more importantly, I cannot understand why Germany is doing nothing! Why is Germany standing by, watching, and then doing nothing? Please explain, why. Men of Germany, these people are killing your children, they are killing your women. We need your protection. We are so scared, we don’t want to be frightened to go to the grocery store alone after sunset. The politicians live alone in their villas, drink their cocktails, and do nothing. They do nothing! I do not know what world they live in, but please, people, please help us! Please, do something! I cannot understand why this is happening. One day, my friend and I were walking down the street, and a group of Arabs were protesting and demonstrating. They shouted, “Allah! Allah! Allah is the one God! Kill those infidels! Allah Allah!” What should I do? Should I wear a burka? Why should I have to convert to Islam?

It’s fine if you believe in Allah, but why do you want to make everyone else believe in Allah too? I just think it would be better if there were no religion. Stop trying to make everyone else believe in your God when they do not want to.

Please, people of Germany. Do something!

When I try to tell the authorities about what has happened, they hold their hand up towards me and they say it is a problem and then ignore it. and they laugh. It is unfair. They laugh at us. They say we are dumb. They think this not only of me, but of the entire state of Germany. They don’t care about our fear. Please help us. This is an emergency! There are more and more of them.

One time in summer, the Muslims said we were sluts for walking outside in a t-shirt.

Yes, we were wearing t-shirts. It’s summer!

Another day, I was wearing this. My friend and I purchased it while shopping hehe. If we feel like wearing it, we will wear it! And you Muslims have no right to physically assault or rape us for it! God willing, never in my life. You have no right to attack us because we are wearing t-shirts. You also have no right to rape.

The life of Germany has changed because these people cannot integrate. We give them so much help. We support them financially and they do not have to work. But they only want more babies and more welfare and more money. Men of Germany, please, patrol the streets and protect us. Do this for your women and your children. If you do that, I believe that we will have a chance.

This sort of action would be wonderful. We would be so grateful and thankful. So many thanks, if steadily, more men would come to protect us. We are so scared.

I am so upset about what Merkel has done.

Thank you, Angela Merkel, for killing Germany! I have no more respect for you, Merkel. I do not think you know what you have done. You do not see how our lives have changed. Open your eyes! Is this normal? Should I, a 16-year old who is almost 17, be so scared to walk outside my house? No, it is not normal. You have killed Germany!

This is the truth. We are no longer allowed to walk outside. We are no longer allowed to wear our clothes. We are no longer allowed to live the German life. This is the sad truth.

I think it’s about time to end this video. I believe I have given a full account from a normal person. I hope others can see this and understand.

I only want to end with one message: Men, please, help your women. Help your children. I am so scared. My friends have the same fear. We are shocked that this has happened. I hope this video can convince you, and that this terrible events can stop.