Poems Without Frontiers

Poems in Translation

David Paley






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Bedevere

Bedevere is a tribute to Alfred Tennyson who immortalised his Bedivere in Morte d'Arthur. The poem uses mostly ten line verse and is rhymed throughout and only a little inconsistently. The text uses mostly Anglo Saxon words rather than the ornate olde English of Tennyson; and the spelling of the protagonist's name differs from that of Mallory and Tennyson in order further to differentiate my story from theirs.

Despite his having fought a battle, rescued his mortally wounded King from the field, sprung across rocks to and from the lake several times and carried Arthur to the lakeside, Bedivere's character is somewhat impugned by Tennyson in the former's disingenuous replies to his King when questioned. He, nonetheless, marvels at the closing scene and suffers without complaint when he is denied passage on the barge.

My poem redeems Bedivere from the suggestion that he was flawed by his desire to retain the sword in order for it to be retrieved on a future occasion should that be necessary. I present Bedevere in his full nobility in executing his task, which he carries out loyally, simply and without demur, which are qualities represented by the gradually increasing light of day that greets completion of his task.






Churchyard

Churchyard takes inspiration from Gray's Elegy and similarly reflects on the departed souls who are now long lost to time. It consists of nine stanzas each of eleven lines (except for the first, which is of eight lines) and has few rhymes.

An observer in the graveyard reflects upon the lives and struggles of the departed who, contrary to Gray, are not revered merely for acceptance of their humble lot. I imply that their capabilities and achievements live on beyond the grave in providing inspiration to the present world and thereby incite us to overcome the challenges of modern times.






Dead Leaves

Dead Leaves consists of six stanzas each of twelve lines and is not rhymed. It is voiced by a man who has achieved strength and endeavour during his lifetime but who is now reduced by age to a mere tool of wind and nature and feels that he will shortly depart this life.

Sad though he may be at his fate, he, nonetheless, philosophises at the new freedom it will bring him in a new found capability of movement through the air; but he is aware of the gulf that will arise between the realm he now anticipates for himself and his former state. He therefore expresses caution at desiring the change too soon but is only too conscious of the limitations imposed upon the power of man to determine his fate.

The vitality of life will continue, however, in the combined strength of nature rolling ever onward in which some remnant of his existence may still be perceived in the blowing leaves transformed into Olympian gods. In particular, he implores his wife to watch him passing with the dancing leaves blown across the fields and thereby to feel that he is always present.






Lost Love

A man has been untrue to his lover and been left by her as a consequence but he regrets his past actions and wishes to re-tread the past in order to obviate his mistakes.

He wonders whether their love is still extant but concludes that time has irretrievably registered his faults and he can only regret the deceits in the hope that the grains of sand may run again when the glass is turned. Perhaps they will be re-united but he fears they may not, in which case, his world will end.

Format is nine stanzas each of ten lines all of which are heavily rhymed.






Lost Treasure

A man reminisces on the intense experience of his past love that affected him to the exclusion of all else. The lovers had no wealth except that collected in their relationship; but they suddenly feared that their relationship could not last and, therefore, parted leaving emptiness all about.

He wonders whether the experience could have been as vivid as his memory depicted and feels he should be able to return to the scene and unwind his journey through time. Feeling that he can recall their words, he implores the fates to waft him to the scenes they knew in order to dispel his sadness.

Format is seven stanzas of ten, eleven or twelve lines irregularly rhymed.






New Life

New Life consists of seven stanzas the first four of which being of nine lines and the last three being of eleven lines none of which are rhymed.

The poem is a tribute to a man who has rejected a dissolute lifestyle with which he has become sated and is determined to reform. He is aware of the difficulties and the opprobrium in which he will be held by the moralists whom he regards as the lesser people of the world.

In the protagonist's rejection of fate, I make allusion to Charon and to the Morte d'Arthur of Tennyson; and, in his determination to succeed, there is also an allusion to the words that Tennyson gives his Ulysses in his last venture.






No Harbour

No Harbour consists of eleven stanzas mostly of nine lines, rhymed EI, but the first two are of eight lines, rhymed DH, and the last is of ten lines rhymed EJ.

Life is related in a shipping allegory where youthful confidence and strength of body triumphs over all obstacles leading to ever greater achievements and success. Starting from modest beginnings, we invest in new ventures where success leads on to international fame.

But success is followed by decline represented by the failing strength of an old steamer thrust ashore by untiring waves that pursue mankind without remorse. We are swiftly consumed by the waves and fame survives only briefly. The sea regains its placid appearance and lures others to venture upon it where they play out their lives in a repeat of the experience.






Reaching the Harbour

Reaching the Harbour consists of nine stanzas each of six lines and is not rhymed.

The poem tells of a sailing boat approaching the harbour at night through difficult seas. It relies on rhythm to convey the action wherein the boat is driving across wild seas but is able to make the harbour and rest in safety at the quay.

But there may an alternative interpretation.






Stream

Stream is a poem not so much of lost love but rather of self-mockery at its loss and the protagonist's former foolishness. It consists of eight stanzas of eight lines each rhymed DE.

The rejected lover loads all his thoughts onto a craft, as flimsy as is now his former love, in a determined effort to rid himself of his delusions. He imagines their journey on the stream through fields and groves, past rocks and finally tumbling into the sea that expiates all former folly. He ends by philosophising that the stream, that has carried away the remnants of this episode, continues to flow and that the waters, as they become continuously replenished, will thereby be able to bring to his life a new experience more hopeful than the last.






The Curtain Falls

A jilted man is incensed at the sudden departure of his lover who has raised false hopes of permanence within him.

Using metaphors of the stage in which he alleges she has merely played a role whilst he had invested his full sincerity in her, he rages at her apparent duplicity in misleading him to the belief that her feelings echoed his for her. He expresses his anguish at her parting and turns to irony and protest claiming that he would need a century to recover and ends in recriminations at her disloyalty.

The format is six stanzas each of thirteen lines rhymed KM with a few other rhymes randomly placed.






The Days that Were

After many years, a man reflects upon his love for a girl long since parted and regrets the passage of time that bars access to the past as if the days were imprisoned in an impregnable fortress.

He visits a scene where the lovers had spent a happy day and is transported in memory back to his youth. The experience is short lived but he feels that he can revisit that life at any time. His thoughts are still so vivid that he is convinced that Time can set no impediment to his recall but will even assist his return to the scenes he had known.

Format is ten stanzas mostly of ten heavily rhymed lines.






The Doll's House

The Dolls House consists of six stanzas that vary from thirteen to seventeen lines in length and is irregularly rhymed.

It deals with the frustration of a young woman and her overwhelming desire to break out from the well-meant but resented restrictions imposed upon her. In her perfect house, she has no cares or worries but, nonetheless, wants to launch a career for herself despite having had no preparation for life. She is condemned to a life of idleness at home and expresses the wish to exchange her security for the worrisome but rewarding life similar to those led by the ordinary people she can see from her window.

Above all, she rails against dismissal of her ambitions as though she were merely a doll.






The End of a Dream

This is an account, in the form of a mediaeval duel, of a relationship ending in acrimony.

The lover is racked with remorse at the parting and the anger that had been engendered. He bitterly regrets that there can be no reconciliation given the annihilation of all feelings now fled over horizons and which are, consequently, irretrievable. He is disconsolate in his loneliness, aware of their faults and their lasting guilt at their inability to admit them.

Format is nine stanzas each of eleven lines and is fulsomely rhymed.






The Face in the Frame

The Face in the Frame consists of ten stanzas each of twelve lines and is rhymed mostly BD, HK and IK.

The poem describes the impression on an art gallery visitor gained when viewing a portrait of an unknown lady. The visitor is struck by the mysterious beauty of the subject about whom little is known; and he imagines the life she must have led. Her face and features are so fascinating that he builds his own picture of her role and the events in her life seeing her almost as a living being. He is finally joined in the now silent gallery by the guide who evidently shares his fascination as they continue to admire the painting together.






The Lark

The protagonist expresses his admiration of the lark using five 'Petrarchan' sonnets, each of which are rhymed, mostly, AC, BD, EG, FH, MN.

As the notes scatter over the fields, the poet admires the devotion of the lark to its calling. He easily disregards its apparently wanton life and wonders how it came by its song concluding that it must be from the purity of nature and contact with the gods. He dreads the cessation of its song knowing that he must spend the winter in lonely wait willing the bird's reappearance.






The Warriors

The Warriors is written in a deliberately anachronistic style in order not to identify the subject with any conflict. For example, it contains references to cannon as well as to blasted woods; and refers to the warriors returning by sail to their native land but also to tending garden lawns.

It consists of eighteen stanzas each of nine lines and is irregularly rhymed throughout; but, with few exceptions, I and J are rhymed consistently. Each stanza contains an opening quatrain and a closing cinquain.

The poem is spoken by a narrator who presents both sides of the conflict from the point of view of the combatants and of the loved ones left behind. The text is interspersed with the thoughts of the lover of the combatant on the opposing side. She, perhaps, is one of those who is unable, or is precluded, from openly expressing her love. The deceased opposing combatant is described, in a Shakespearean reference, as just as heroic as the survivors.

The suffering of some lovers being too soon deprived of happiness is not omitted. The deceased combatants of the homeland speak from the grave. After bidding farewell to departing comrades, they are left to join the throng of combatants of both sides who have no enmity now but, nonetheless, in death, remember the lovers they have left behind.

The survivors return to be greeted by their lovers and by village bands, or silence if they so choose, and seek to resume their civilian lives; but only with the poignant reminder at the close that not everybody was able to participate in the rejoicing.






The Wind on the Cliff

The Wind on the Cliff consists of twenty-five stanzas each of eight lines being two quatrains rhymed DH.

The poem tells the story of the enlightenment gained by a young woman of her role in life. The revelation is imparted by a benevolent wind blowing on the cliff top around the figure who is standing there. Her view from the cliff reveals a clear and open sea that resembles the young woman's trouble free life to date and the vastness of the bewildering choices that confront her; but the wind imparts the wisdom of experience with sound advice on how to face her future.

Thus encouraged, she sets out on life's voyage and, in distant years to come, returns in spirit to the beach below the cliff where she joins her knowledge of life to the bay ready to fly aloft in the wind and impart further advice to those who may have need of it.






Too Far,Too Soon

The protagonist has been separated from his wife by the overwhelming power of a loving God who has called her with a strength that could not be denied. He reminisces on their deeply felt love that would have lasted throughout their lives.

He has given his heart away but, nonetheless, keeps it with him within his soul and wonders whether she hears the angels sing and whether she resides among the flowers. He implores her to visit him in his dreams until, at some distant date, he may join her in her celestial abode.

Format is eight stanzas each of ten lines except the first of eleven lines mostly rhymed HJ.






Transfigured Day

This poem is indebted to Dehmel's Verklärte Nacht in that two lovers walk silently through a wood troubled by some minor disagreement.

The autumn breeze sounds softly through the branches as if in a cathedral. The couple are witnessed, not only by the rooks, but also by the falling leaves that, in tumbling through the air, entice the lovers with their fluttering dance to join them as they are driven along the path to the strains of music in the trees. The lovers are infected by their movement and regain their joyful mood as they reach the edge of the wood and run across the field in pursuit of dancing leaves.

The analogy of the cathedral is reinforced by the rooks settling as a congregation to hear a sermon from the owl upon the joys of reconciliation. The lovers, reunited in their happiness, hear the wood resounding to the melody of the breeze through the trees as if it were a hymn in a cathedral.

Format is thirteen stanzas of either ten or eight lines irregularly rhymed.






Whispers in the Dark

Whispers in the Dark consists of six stanzas each of eight lines and is rhymed throughout mainly AC, BD, FH, CG but with variations.

Many poems have been written by lovers who have survived the death of a partner and who address him or her in the grave. This poem expresses the contact with the survivor from beyond, or rather, from within the grave.

A deep love has been severed by some catastrophe but the deceased still wishes to convey a love that has never died from a place evoked by suitably sombre imagery. He recalls their previous happy life as the sound of bells and laughter linger in his ear. He implores them to ring out again and for his lover to sing her love as she sang before.

Since a pair is the union of complementary items, he claims that her whispers from above will join his thoughts and thereby bridge the gulf between life and death.






Wind

A lover calls upon the wind to rise from distant oceans and to race across the seas in order to batter entrance to castle strongholds, as well as to descend from mountains to fan the fires. It will, thereby, carry his sighs to his now dead truelove in order that she may appear within his dreams with memories of scenes they knew before.

He thanks the wind and forgives its blast. He asks the wind to carry love to all the corners of the world because it has the ability to resolve despair even in the slightest breeze as well as in its greatest rage. He concludes that love will have whispered comfort to all who are now parted because the wind has power to lift their souls from grief.

Format is eight stanzas each of eleven lines except the last which is of twelve lines; and is heavily rhymed throughout.