June 2015

Up betimes, and to my office, where I found Griffen’s girl making it clean, but, God forgive me! what a mind I had to her, but did not meddle with her. She being gone, I fell upon boring holes for me to see from my closet into the great office, without going forth, wherein I please myself much.
So settled to business, and at noon with my wife to the Wardrobe, and there dined, and staid talking all the afternoon with my Lord, and about four o’clock took coach with my wife and Lady, and went toward my house, calling at my Lady Carteret’s, who was within by chance (she keeping altogether at Deptford for a month or two), and so we sat with her a little. Among other things told my Lady how my Lady Fanshaw is fallen out with her only for speaking in behalf of the French, which my Lady wonders at, they having been formerly like sisters, but we see there is no true lasting friendship in the world.
Thence to my house, where I took great pride to lead her through the Court by the hand, she being very fine, and her page carrying up her train.
She staid a little at my house, and then walked through the garden, and took water, and went first on board the King’s pleasure boat, which pleased her much. Then to Greenwich Park; and with much ado she was able to walk up to the top of the hill, and so down again, and took boat, and so through bridge to Blackfryers, and home, she being much pleased with the ramble in every particular of it. So we supped with her, and then walked home, and to bed.
Observations
This I take to be as bad a juncture as ever I observed. The King and his new Queen minding their pleasures at Hampton Court. All people discontented; some that the King do not gratify them enough; and the others, Fanatiques of all sorts, that the King do take away their liberty of conscience; and the height of the Bishops, who I fear will ruin all again. They do much cry up the manner of Sir H. Vane’s death, and he deserves it. They clamour against the chimney-money, and say they will not pay it without force. And in the mean time, like to have war abroad; and Portugall to assist, when we have not money to pay for any ordinary layings-out at home.
Myself all in dirt about building of my house and Sir W. Batten’s a story higher. Into a good way, fallen on minding my business and saving money, which God encrease; and I do take great delight in it, and see the benefit of it. In a longing mind of going to see Brampton, but cannot get three days time, do what I can.
In very good health, my wife and myself.

Time gone, I fell upon
boring holes in the clock
and calling it chance,
keeping a month or two with me
like water in a boat, black
with every particular of home.
I observed the fanatics
who cry up death say
they will not pay for time,
like a road when we have
no money for ordinary dirt.
Building my house
a story higher, saving light,
I long to see time heal.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 June 1662.

This entry is part 16 of 37 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

Simone RoutierBorn in 1901 in Quebec, Simone Routier studied music, education, literature, philosophy and art, lived for a decade in Paris as a journalist and returned to Quebec in 1940 to spend some years as a Catholic nun before embarking on a successful career as a diplomat. She died in 1987. She published novels, essays and several collections of poetry. She was one of the first to write haiku in French. Little of her work appears to be still in print. These small poems, found online and first published around 1930, seemed not at all dated. Some of her haiku adopt the 5-7-5 syllable format, others not. Two of the three lines have a low-key end rhyme, which I tried to suggest or compensate for rather than rigorously translate.

Far-off violin
Reclining chairs, declining day
The silence we love

Violon lointain
Meubles bas, jour au déclin,
Notre cher silence

~

My heart awaits you
The endless silence of
so many falling leaves

Mon cour qui t’attend
Toujours le silence,
Et l’immense effeuillement

~

Deserted streets
An avalanche of heat
Sunday in July

Pavés désertés,
Chaude, étrange avalanche:
Juillet, un dimanche

~

Tinkling glasses
The cloying perfume of
departing joys

Élégantes verreries
Parfums exhalés:
Bonheurs en allés


Alas, I am Weary

Weary, alas, I am weary of life!
Weary beyond all weariness
More weary than this flesh so weary now of being bruised by love
this weary weight of loathsome flesh
this struggling impotent failing flesh
More weary than this fevered nightmare of the severed head that nestles on my pillow
More weary than the rain on a lukewarm, endless, infinitesimal day
More weary than the ox that pulls the plough until he drops
More weary than the paving stones tormented by a blazing July noon
More weary than the drunken vagrant passed out on the greasy verge
Weary, alas, I am weary of life
Weariness herself is not more weary…

Lassitude

Lassitude, ô ma lassitude de vivre !
Plus lasse que toutes les lassitudes.
Plus lasse que la chair lasse de se meurtrir et d’aimer,
que la chair opprimée d’un poids rebutant,
que la chair qui lutte et impuissante se rend,
Plus lasse que le cauchemar et la tête coupée au creux de l’oreiller fiévreux,
Plus lasse que la pluie d’un jour tiède, éternel et infinitésimal,
Plus lasse que le bœuf qui a labouré double tâche et tombe,
Plus lasse que les pavés mortifiés d’un brûlant midi de juillet,
Plus lasse que l’écroulement du chemineau ivre, dans l’herbe grasse,
Lassitude, ô ma lassitude de vivre,
Plus lasse que la lassitude elle-même…

(Lord’s day). Up by four o’clock, and to the settling of my own accounts, and I do find upon my monthly ballance, which I have undertaken to keep from month to month, that I am worth 650l., the greatest sum that ever I was yet master of. I pray God give me a thankfull, spirit, and care to improve and encrease it.
To church with my wife, who this day put on her green petticoat of flowred satin, with fine white and gimp lace of her own putting on, which is very pretty. Home with Sir W. Pen to dinner by appointment, and to church again in the afternoon, and then home, Mr. Shepley coming to me about my Lord’s accounts, and in the evening parted, and we to supper again to Sir W. Pen. Whatever the matter is, he do much fawn upon me, and I perceive would not fall out with me, and his daughter mighty officious to my wife, but I shall never be deceived again by him, but do hate him and his traitorous tricks with all my heart. It was an invitation in order to his taking leave of us to-day, he being to go for Ireland in a few days.
So home and prayers, and to bed.

green afternoon
and the fawn is off again
an art of being


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 29 June 1662.

This entry is part 2 of 19 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2015

Before the road was a road,
where did it know to go?

How did the arrow
find its nervous trajectory,

and what energy did it gather
from the bow?

Follow your bliss: enter the bright-
lit cafe or museum doorway.

Some maps clearly mark
the exits we need;

others sport ink blots
in the shape of stray cats.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 15 of 37 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

Where shall we go
where death does not exist?
But should I live weeping because of this?
May your heart find its way:
here no one will live forever.
Even the princes die,
people are reduced to ashes.
May your heart find its way:
here no one will live forever.
(translated by Miguel Léon-Portilla with Grace Lobanov)

¿Can nelpa tonyazque
canon aya micohua?
¿Ica nichoca?
Moyoliol xi melacuahuacan:
ayac nican nemiz.
Tel ca tepilhuan omicoaco,
netlatiloc.
Moyoliol xi melacuahuacan:
ayac nican nemiz.

Thanks to Colombian student filmmaker Felipe Meneses for this terrific, bilingual poetry film that allows us to hear the poem in the original Classical Nahautl while reading the Spanish translation. Fortunately I have an English translation to hand from the essential anthology Fifteen Poets of the Aztec World, by Miguel Léon-Portilla, the former director of the Institute of Historical Research of the National University of Mexico and an expert on pre-Columbian philosophy and literature.

Mexican 100-peso note featuring Nezahualcoyotl

Nezahaulcoyotl of Texcoco (1402-1472) was the epitome of the philosopher-king, and the Mexican 100-peso note includes not only his supposed likeness, but also, in tiny type, a translation of four lines of poetry attributed to him:

Amo el canto del zenzontle
Pájaro de cuatrocientas voces,
Amo el color del jade
Y el enervante perfume de las flores,
Pero más amo a mi hermano, el hombre.

I love the song of the mockingbird,
Bird of four hundred voices,
I love the color of the jadestone
And the intoxicating scent of flowers,
But more than all I love my brother, man.

Thus the Wikipedia. Spanish translations of Nezahaulcoyotl’s poetry are reprinted in a number of places on the web, but for versions in English, as well as a good biography, get the Léon-Portilla book. There are also some translations by John Curl at his website and in this useful, if somewhat crudely produced, bilingual video:

For further reading of Nahautl literature, I highly recommend A Scattering of Jades: Stories, Poems, and Prayers of the Aztecs, edited by T.J. Knab and translated by Thelma D. Sullivan. Sullivan, an anthropologist, was “the finest translator of Nahuatl in this [20th] century,” according to Knab—an opinion shared by Dennis Tedlock, an anthropologist specializing in poetics who has authored the most authoritative English translation of the Popul Vuh to date.

Up to my Lord’s and my own accounts, and so to the office, where all the forenoon sitting, and at noon by appointment to the Mitre, where Mr. Shepley gave me and Mr. Creed, and I had my uncle Wight with us, a dish of fish. Thence to the office again, and there all the afternoon till night, and so home, and after talking with my wife to bed. This day a genteel woman came to me, claiming kindred of me, as she had once done before, and borrowed 10s. of me, promising to repay it at night, but I hear nothing of her. I shall trust her no more.
Great talk there is of a fear of a war with the Dutch; and we have order to pitch upon twenty ships to be forthwith set out; but I hope it is but a scarecrow to the world, to let them see that we can be ready for them; though, God knows! the King is not able to set out five ships at this present without great difficulty, we neither having money, credit, nor stores.
My mind is now in a wonderful condition of quiet and content, more than ever in all my life, since my minding the business of my office, which I have done most constantly; and I find it to be the very effect of my late oaths against wine and plays, which, if God please, I will keep constant in, for now my business is a delight to me, and brings me great credit, and my purse encreases too.

I fish till night
kindred to the scarecrow
my quiet oaths


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 June 1662.

“A saia com mancha
De flor carmesim
E os brincos da orelha
Fazendo tlintlin?”

[“Your skirt’s stained carmine
And your earrings are clinking,
Tlintlintlin?”]

~ from “A Annunciaçāo” by Vinicius de Moraes, trans. Natalie D’Arbeloff

Someone is cracking eggs in the kitchen, tapping the tines of the fork against a porcelain bowl, making a sound like a hard, bright light. I can see the cloudy marriage of the yolks and whites, the one hand steady and the other agog with its business of whisking—

And how is it in the room where a wake is in progress, where dark-suited relatives forced to acknowledge each other with curt nods take tight little bites of cake?

The widow is wearing her one good set of pearls: they adorn her ears and they lie against her throat, milky and cold like a string of teeth. Her cheekbones, chiseled like ice, sketch a small fortress: a chapel, an island, a distant retreat.

The aunt from the other side of the family comes up to where the daughters sit quietly in a row. She stops in front of one child, touches her streaky cheek and says absently Ah, this one, this is the real beauty… Years from now, who will remember how her eyes looked, and how they paired with her cloying falsetto?

 

In response to Via Negativa: House without walls....

Up early, not quite rid of my pain. I took more physique, and so made myself ready to go forth. So to my Lord, who rose as soon as he heard I was there; and in his nightgown and shirt stood talking with me alone two hours, I believe, concerning his greatest matters of state and interest. Among other things, that his greatest design is, first, to get clear of all debts to the King for the Embassy money, and then a pardon. Then, to get his land settled; and then to, discourse and advise what is best for him, whether to keep his sea employment longer or no. For he do discern that the Duke would be willing to have him out, and that by Coventry’s means. And here he told me, how the terms at Argier were wholly his; and that he did plainly tell Lawson and agree with him, that he would have the honour of them, if they should ever be agreed to; and that accordingly they did come over hither entitled, “Articles concluded on by Sir J. Lawson, according to instructions received from His Royal Highness James Duke of York, &c., and from His Excellency the Earle of Sandwich.” (Which however was more than needed; but Lawson tells my Lord in his letter, that it was not he, but the Council of Warr that would have “His Royal Highness” put into the title, though he did not contribute one word to it.) But the Duke of York did yesterday propose them to the Council, to be printed with this title: “Concluded on, by Sir J. Lawson, Knt.” and my Lord quite left out. Here I find my Lord very politique; for he tells me, that he discerns they design to set up Lawson as much as they can and that he do counterplot them by setting him up higher still; by which they will find themselves spoiled of their design, and at last grow jealous of Lawson. This he told me with much pleasure; and that several of the Duke’s servants, by name my Lord Barkeley [of Stratton], Mr. Talbot, and others, had complained to my Lord of Coventry, and would have him out. My Lord do acknowledge that his greatest obstacle is Coventry. He did seem to hint such a question as this: “Hitherto I have been supported by the King and Chancellor against the Duke; but what if it should come about, that it should be the Duke and Chancellor against the King?” which, though he said it in these plain words, yet I could not fully understand it; but may more here after.
My Lord did also tell me, that the Duke himself at Portsmouth did thank my Lord for all his pains and care; and that he perceived it must be the old Captains that must do the business; and that the new ones would spoil all. And that my Lord did very discreetly tell the Duke (though quite against his judgement and inclination), that, however, the King’s new captains ought to be borne with a little and encouraged. By which he will oblige that party, and prevent, as much as may be, their envy; but he says that certainly things will go to rack if ever the old captains should be wholly out, and the new ones only command.
Then we fell to talk of Sir J. Minnes, of whom my Lord hath a very slight opinion, and that at first he did come to my Lord very displeased and sullen, and had studied and turned over all his books to see whether it had ever been that two flags should ride together in the main-top, but could not find it, nay, he did call his captains on board to consult them. So when he came by my Lord’s side, he took down his flag, and all the day did not hoist it again, but next day my Lord did tell him that it was not so fit to ride without a flag, and therefore told him that he should wear it in the fore-top, for it seems my Lord saw his instructions, which were that he should not wear his flag in the maintop in the presence of the Duke or my Lord.
But that after that my Lord did caress him, and he do believe him as much his friend as his interest will let him. I told my Lord of the late passage between Swan and me, and he told me another lately between Dr. Dell and himself when he was in the country.
At last we concluded upon dispatching all his accounts as soon as possible, and so I parted, and to my office, where I met Sir W. Pen, and he desired a turn with me in the garden, where he told me the day now was fixed for his going into Ireland and that whereas I had mentioned some service he could do a friend of mine there, Saml. Pepys, he told me he would most readily do what I would command him, and then told me we must needs eat a dish of meat together before he went, and so invited me and my wife on Sunday next. To all which I did give a cold consent, for my heart cannot love or have a good opinion of him since his last playing the knave with me, but he took no notice of our difference at all, nor I to him, and so parted, and I by water to Deptford, where I found Sir W. Batten alone paying off the yard three quarters pay. Thence to dinner, where too great a one was prepared, at which I was very much troubled, and wished I had not been there. After dinner comes Sir J. Minnes and some captains with him, who had been at a Councill of Warr to-day, who tell us they have acquitted Captain Hall, who was accused of cowardice in letting of old Winter, the Argier pyrate, go away from him with a prize or two; and also Captain Diamond of the murder laid to him of a man that he had struck, but he lived many months after, till being drunk, he fell into the hold, and there broke his jaw and died, but they say there are such bawdy articles against him as never were heard of. One, that he should upon his knees drink the King and Queenes health at Lisbon, wishing that the King’s pintle were in the Queenes cunt up to her heart, that it might cry ‘Knack, knockagain.
To the pay again, where I left them, and walked to Redriffe, and so home, and there came Mr. Creed and Shepley to me, and staid till night about my Lord’s accounts, our proceeding to set them in order, and so parted and I to bed.
Mr. Holliard had been with my wife to-day, and cured her of her pain in her ear by taking out a most prodigious quantity of hard wax that had hardened itself in the bottom of the ear, of which I am very glad.

Not quite rid
of myself, what
is best to keep?
According to
instructions received
from the Lord,
pleasure is a question
that I should
not understand,
my mouth ought
to rage. But
my books had been flags
without a country
and I a pen.
Cold cannot love
the winter, or
a drunk his drink.
Wishing that
the heart might
knock again,
I am taking out
a prodigious
quantity of
hardened self.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 27 June 1662.