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·        Chinese

Po Chü-i: The Charcoal-Seller

An old charcoal seller
Cutting wood and burning charcoal in the forest of the Southern Mountain.

His face, stained with dust and ashes, has turned to the color of smoke.
The hair on his temples is streaked with gray: his ten fingers are black.
The money he gets by selling charcoal, how far does it go?
It is just enough to clothe his limbs and put food in his mouth.
Although, alas, the coat on his back is a coat without lining,
He hopes for the coming of cold weather, to send up the price of coal!
Last night, outside the city,--a whole foot of snow;
At dawn he drives the charcoal wagon along the frozen ruts.
Oxen,--weary; man,--hungry: the sun, already high;
Outside the Gate, to the south of the Market, at last they stop in the mud.
Suddenly, a pair of prancing horsemen. Who can it be coming?
A public official in a yellow coat and a boy in a white shirt.
In their hands they hold a written warrant: on their tongues--the words of an order;
They turn back the wagon and curse the oxen, leading them off to the north.
A whole wagon of charcoal,
More than a thousand pieces!
If officials choose to take it away, the woodman may not complain.
Half a piece of red silk and a single yard of damask,
The Courtiers have tied to the oxen's collar, as the price of a wagon of coal!

  • Japanese

 

Ono no Komachi: The hue of the cherry

 

The hue of the cherry
fades too quickly from sight
all for nothing
this body of mine grows old --
spring rain ceaselessly falling.

 

  • African

 

Edward Kamau Brathwaite: Limbo

Going down and under the limbo stick is likened to the slaves' going down into the hold of the ship, which carries them into slavery. In Roman Catholic tradition, limbo is a place to which the souls of people go, if they are not good enough for Heaven or bad enough for Hell. More exactly, according to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, it is

"...the permanent place or state of those unbaptized children and others who, dying without grievous personal sin, are excluded from the beatific vision on account of original sin alone."

 

 

  • Bengali
 
Bishnu Dey: ASPIRATION
 
 Wipe out the sky tonight,
 Smear darkness on the stars,
 Blot out the moon in the slough of sleeplessness.
 Cover your eyes and come
 Through the web of the wind,
 Drown the noise
 Of the strides of the night-veiled sea
 To take my breath away
 At each your soundless footfall.
 In the quiet-quelled night
 Let us meet mouth to mouth
 Upon the summit of sleeplessness.
 Shatter your world, scatter it in the sky,
 And come to me in the dark.

·        England

Samuel Taylor Coleridge:France: An Ode

O Liberty ! with profitless endeavour

Have I pursued thee, many a weary hour ;

But thou nor swell'st the victor's strain, nor ever

Didst breathe thy soul in forms of human power.

Alike from all, howe'er they praise thee,
(Nor prayer, nor boastful name delays thee)
[spacer]Alike from Priestcraft's harpy minions,
And factious Blasphemy's obscener slaves,
[spacer]Thou speedest on thy subtle pinions,

The guide of homeless winds, and playmate of the waves !
And there I felt thee !--on that sea-cliff's verge,

Whose pines, scarce travelled by the breeze above,

Had made one murmur with the distant surge !
Yes, while I stood and gazed, my temples bare,
And shot my being through earth, sea, and air,

Possessing all things with intensest love,
[spacer]O Liberty ! my spirit felt thee there.

 

·        Turkish 
 
ECE AYHAN: Sword
 
   The seas of vagabondage. The octopus beached on the
shore of unhappiness. My son is a queen. He has spread
his wings. Wrapt himself in taffeta. He forgets his father
was burnt as a sorcerer. He winters in Salonica.
 
   He talks to a woman. Of Misrayim. A purple horse,
his tiredness without fault. Falls asleep among the rocks.
Why the sea rises, no one knows. O sunken ships, O
black shimmers of exile! I am a weeping half-breed.
 
   Pessimism is an untellable sword I carry round my
waist.
 
                                           

                                           trans. MURAT NEMET-NEJAT