The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Wednesday


Singer
By Steven Cramer


I knew trouble and endured it,
grief and desire my companions.
In winter my enemy attacked.
The better of the two, I was bound
in rope made from my own sinew.
All that has passed, and so may this.

There was a man condemned to live
outside the city he loved -- even death
meant less in exile -- and a woman
who dreaded the child inside her.
Her dreams were dreams of drowning.
All that has passed, and so may this.

If the mind becomes a wolf's mind,
it will force misery on misery,
make cowards heroes. If courtiers
want the kingdom overthrown, yet fail
to speak, they will remain courtiers.
All that has passed, and so may this.

At first doom sees, wherever it turns,
more doom. Then, in time: joy.
I'll say this about myself: my name
was a name you knew, and I sang
until another singer took my place.
All that has passed, and so will this.

--------

From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in last Sunday's Washington Post Book World, very appropriate for my mood as the poem is based on the Anglo-Saxon "Deor." Pinsky writes, "For many centuries poets did not make a hard distinction between writing and translation. The 'originality' was in the style, reflecting the poet's actual choices and decisions, so that Surrey or Sidney might translate Petrarch, or incorporate his ideas, as Herrick might make a poem partway out of a poem by Anacreon. In the same spirit, Shakespeare lifts a little out of sources like North's translation of Plutarch. Then, with a bit of rearranging to make it come out in iambic pentameter, he puts the passage into the mouth of Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra." The poem above is from Cramer's new book Goodbye to the Orchard, where Pinsky says he "makes a memorable American poem from the shape and general contents of...an enigmatic Anglo-Saxon lyric." Here is a translation of the original.

--------

By the time we left for Heathrow on Monday afternoon, the weather had cleared up and we found ourselves looking out the windows at spring flowers and the fewer sheep in the fields of Surrey than those of Yorkshire. I had hoped to meet elanor_isolda in the airport but we ran late at the rental car return (warning to anyone going to England: beware National Car Rental, no matter how good their rates, we have ugly stories from both picking up and returning vehicles), and I never managed to find her.

The flight home was quite smooth however. I watched National Treasure and Being Julia, two excellent films for leaving England, as one has to do with the American Founding Fathers and has a British bad guy (Sean Bean, no less!) while the other is set in London and is about shenanigans on and off the English stage earlier this century and has Jeremy Irons. We had forgotten all the CDs to which we intended to listen while we were in England and had been stuck with freebies from the Daily Express, and I found it ironic that United Airlines was playing Loreena McKennitt, one of the main CDs I missed, as we took off. Once again it was cloudy as we passed over Ireland, but we had a clear view of the glaciers in northeastern Canada and a lovely sunset landing at the airport outside DC after seeing the monuments just before landing.

So I'm back, very tired as my body has not yet adjusted to the shift in time nor the extra several hours in my day yesterday, but the laundries are done and I actually managed to get two articles posted in addition to answering a boatload of comments and monkeying with a handful of photos. Shall finish answering comments in the morning as I can no longer see straight. I still haven't looked at my friends' list beyond a couple of people's journals to see if they were silent just because I was gone or because of some crisis. Hope everyone is well!


The Rollright Stones, near Chipping Norton.
Tags: britain 05
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