Category Archives: Favourite Poems

(from) Cavafy’s ITHAKA

Always in your mind keep Ithaca.
To arrive there is your destiny.
But do not hurry your trip in any way.
Better that it last for many years;
that you drop anchor at the island an old man,
rich with all you’ve gotten on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

My favourite lines from “Ithaca” by C. P. Cavafy. This is not my translation – I don’t know who did it but it is perfect.

The First Epic Poem: The Descent of Inanna

Interesting Literature

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle travels back over four millennia to find the oldest surviving epic poem

What’s the oldest epic poem in the world? Did it all begin with Homer’s Iliad? In one sense, we can grant this as an acceptable proposition, but if we wish to trace the true origins of ‘the epic’ as a literary form, we need to go back considerably further into the very hazy early years of literary history.

For the epic began in the Middle East with works like The Epic of Gilgamesh, the tale of a Sumerian king who possesses seemingly inhuman strength and who meets his match in the mysterious figure of Enkidu; this poem also, notably, features the Flood motif we also find in the Book of Genesis. But even Gilgamesh wasn’t the first epic. That honour should probably go to

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LOVE ROSE BETWEEN US (Miguel Hernández)

(from the Spanish of Miguel Hernández)

Love rose between us
like the moon between two palm trees
that never embraced.

An intimate murmur in both our bodies,
love swelled to a song,
but the sound was hoarse and strained.
Our lips were like stone.

The urge to cling drove on our flesh,
lit up our fevered bones,
but our arms when they reached out
died in each other’s arms.

Love passed, the moon, between us
and consumed our lonely bodies.
Now, two ghosts who seek each other,
we meet far away.

“Double Acrostic” – Lewis Carroll

On May 20, 1871, Lewis Carroll sent the following poem to Mabel and Emily Kerr of Canada. The poem was titled “Double Acrostic”. Can you figure out where the acrostics are? Thanks, thanks, fair Cousins, for your gift So swiftly borne to Albion’s isle — Though angry waves their crests uplift Between our shores, for […]

via Lewis Carroll’s “Double Acrostic” Poem — Learn Fun Facts

Clink on the link to read the poem. (I found MABEL, but not EMILY!) 

THE MOON COMES OUT (Federico García Lorca)

(from the Spanish of Federico García Lorca)

The moon comes out
and bells ring unheard;
impenetrable
pathways appear.

The moon comes out
and sea covers the land;
the heart feels like
an island in infinite space.

Nobody eats oranges
under a full moon.
You have to eat
green fruit, ice-cold.

The moon comes out
from a hundred identical faces
and silver money
sobs in the purse.

William Wordsworth – Three Sonnets

Just read them. Each one is perfect – a gem.

SURPRISED BY JOY

Surprised by joy – impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport – Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind –
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss! That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

COMPOSED UPON WESTMINSTER BRIDGE, SEPTEMBER 3, 1802

Earth hath not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

George Thaniel

George Thaniel was born on February 22nd 1938. I meant to get this post out yesterday, but …

Anyway, I recently discovered that a collection of his poems is available HERE so we can all read them. He wrote his poems in Greek – he was born and grew up in Greece and, after living in Canada for a while, died in 1991 back home in Greece, as I’m sure he would have wished – but they are beautifully translated here by his friend Edward Phinney. Click on the image above for a one-page biography, and on these examples of his work to make them large enough to read: