Translation: Michael R Burch (Poetry)

This World's Joy

anonymous Middle English lyric (circa 1300)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Winter awakens all my care

as leafless trees grow bare.

For now my sighs are fraught

whenever it enters my thought:

regarding this world's joy,

Michael R. Burch

how everything comes to naught.

I Have Labored Sore

anonymous Medieval English lyric (circa the 15th century)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

I have labored sore     and suffered death,

so now I rest     and catch my breath.

But I shall come     and call right soon

heaven and earth     and hell to doom.

Then all shall know     both devil and man

just who I was     and what I am.

 

Is this the oldest carpe diem poem in the English language? …

 

Whan the turuf is thy tour

anonymous Middle English lyric (circa the 13th century)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

When the turf is your tower

and the pit is your bower,

your pale white skin and throat

shall be sullen worms’ to note.

What help unto you, then,

was all your worldly hope?

 

Ech day me comëth tydinges thre

anonymous Middle English lyric (circa the 13th century)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Each day I’m plagued by three doles,

These gargantuan weights on my soul:

First, that I must somehow exit this fen.

Second, because I cannot know when.

And yet it’s the third that torments me so,

Having no way to know where the hell I will go!

 

Sumer is icumen in

anonymous Middle English lyric (circa 1260)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Summer is a-comin’!

Sing loud, cuckoo!

The seed grows,

The meadow blows,

The woods spring up anew.

Sing, cuckoo!

 

The ewe bleats for her lamb;

The cows contentedly moo;

The bullock roots,

The billy-goat poots ...

Sing merrily, cuckoo!

 

Cuckoo, cuckoo,

You sing so well, cuckoo!

Never stop, until you're through!

 

Sing now cuckoo! Sing, cuckoo!

Sing, cuckoo! Sing now cuckoo!


This is one of the eeriest poems I have read, in any language …

A Lyke-Wake Dirge

anonymous Medieval English lyric (circa the 16th century)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

The Lie-Awake Dirge is “the night watch kept over a corpse.”

 

This one night, this one night,

     every night and all;

fire and sleet and candlelight,

     and Christ receive thy soul.

 

When from this earthly life you pass

     every night and all,

to confront your past you must come at last,

     and Christ receive thy soul.

 

If you ever donated socks and shoes,

     every night and all,

sit right down and slip yours on,

     and Christ receive thy soul.

 

But if you never helped your brother,

     every night and all,

walk barefoot through the flames of hell,

     and Christ receive thy soul.

 

If ever you shared your food and drink,

     every night and all,

the fire will never make you shrink,

     and Christ receive thy soul.

 

But if you never helped your brother,

     every night and all,

walk starving through the black abyss,

     and Christ receive thy soul.

 

This one night, this one night,

     every night and all;

fire and sleet and candlelight,

     and Christ receive thy soul.

 

Rejection

by Geoffrey Chaucer

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Your beauty from your heart has so erased

Pity, that it’s useless to complain;

For Pride now holds your mercy by a chain.

I’m guiltless, yet my sentence has been passed.

I tell you truly, needless now to feign:

   Your beauty from your heart has so erased

   Pity, that it’s useless to complain.

Alas, that Nature in your face compassed

Such beauty, that no man may hope attain

To mercy, though he perish from the pain;

   Your beauty from your heart has so erased

   Pity, that it’s useless to complain;

   For Pride now holds your mercy by a chain.

 

Escape

by Geoffrey Chaucer

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,

I never plan to be in his prison lean;

Since I am free, I count it not a bean.

He may question me and counter this and that;

I care not: I will answer just as I mean.

   Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,

   I never plan to be in his prison lean.

 

Love strikes me from his roster, short and flat,

And he is struck from my books, just as clean,

Forevermore; there is no other mean.

   Since I’m escaped from Love and yet still fat,

   I never plan to be in his prison lean;

   Since I am free, I count it not a bean.

This next translation may be of the oldest poem in the English language by a female poet …

 

Wulf and Eadwacer

anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem, circa 960 AD

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

My clan’s curs pursue him like crippled game.

They’ll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.

It is otherwise with us.

 

Wulf’s on one island; I’m on another.

His island’s a fortress fastened by fens.

Here, bloodthirsty curs howl for carnage.

They’ll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.

It is otherwise with us.

 

My hopes pursued Wulf like panting hounds,

but whenever it rained—how I wept!

the boldest cur clutched me in his paws.

Good feelings for him, but for me, loathsome!

Wulf, O, my Wulf, my ache for you

has made me sick; your seldom-comings

have left me famished, deprived of real meat!

Do you hear, Eadwacer? Watchdog!

A wolf has borne our wretched whelp to the woods.

One can easily sever what never was one:

our song together.

 

Excerpt from “Ubi Sunt Qui Ante Nos Fuerunt?”

anonymous Middle English poem, circa 1275

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Where are the men who came before us,

who led hounds and hawks to the hunt,

who commanded fields and woods?

Where are the elegant ladies in their boudoirs

who braided gold through their hair

and had such fair complexions?

 

Once eating and drinking gladdened their hearts;

they enjoyed their games;

men bowed before them;

they bore themselves loftily ...

But then, in an eye’s twinkling,

they were gone.

                                                                                                                       

Where, now, are their laughter and their songs,

the trains of their dresses,

the arrogance of their entrances and exits,

their hawks and their hounds?

All their joy has vanished;

their “well” has come to “oh, well”

and to many dark days ...

 

Adam Lay Ybounden

(anonymous Medieval English lyric, circa the 15th century)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Adam lay bound, bound in a bond;

Four thousand winters, he thought, were not too long.

And all was for an apple, an apple that he took,

As clerics now find written in their book.

But had the apple not been taken, or had it never been,

We'd never have had our Lady, heaven's queen and matron.

So blesséd be the time the apple was taken thus;

Therefore we sing, "God is gracious!"


Ich have y-don al myn youth

“I have done it all my youth”

anonymous Middle English lyric (circa the 13th century)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

I have done it all my youth:

Often, often, and often!

I have loved long, yearned zealously ...

And oh what grief it has brought me!

 

now skruketh rose and lylie flour

anonymous Middle English lyric (circa the 11th century)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Now the rose and the lily skyward flower,

That will bear for awhile that sweet savor:

In summer, that sweet tide;

There is no queen so stark in her power

Nor any lady so bright in her bower

That Death shall not summon and guide;

But whoever forgoes lust, in heavenly bliss will abide

With his thoughts on Jesus anon, thralled at his side.

And because we have been discussing publishers …

NOVELTIES

by Thomas Campion

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Booksellers laud authors for novel editions

as pimps praise their whores for exotic positions.

 

Original Latin text:

 

IN LIBRARIOS

 

Impressionum plurium librum laudat

Librarius; scortum nec non minus leno.

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