30 January 2010

Translating poetry

Many people can translate from one language into another but very few can do it properly. Translating from one language into another is not easy at all as there are so many aspects to take into consideration that even a single word can become a nightmare for anyone who wants to have a try at it. Very often, experienced translators have difficulties in translating technical texts, legal texts, novels, essays and so on. However, poetry is another story.

A few days ago, I came across a poem written by the Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo entitled Miré los muros de la patria mía and noticed that his poem has been translated into English by quite a few authors. The differences are enlightening. Take a look at two of the translations I have come across. This is the original poem written by the Spanish poet:

Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645)

Miré los muros de la patria mía,
si un tiempo fuertes ya desmoronados
de la carrera de la edad cansados
por quien caduca ya su valentía.

Salíme al campo: vi que el sol bebía
los arroyos del hielo desatados,
y del monte quejosos los ganados
que con sombras hurtó su luz al día.

Entré en mi casa: vi que amancillada
de anciana habitación era despojos,
mi báculo más corvo y menos fuerte.

Vencida de la edad sentí mi espada,
y no hallé cosa en que poner los ojos
que no fuese recuerdo de la muerte.

If we were to translate the text literally line by line, the task would not be too difficult. However, the real difficulty arises when the translator takes into consideration poetic elements such as rhyme, type of poem, rhetorical tricks, number of syllables and so on. If the translator forgets about those poetic elements the outcome will certainly be a different poem which will have very little to do with the original.

Consequently, it is paramount to bear in mind that Quevedo’s poem is a sonnet (14 verses) divided into two quatrains (stanza of four verses) and two tercets (stanza of three verses). Besides, the rhyme of the sonnet is ABBA ABBA CDE CDE and each line contains 11 syllables. Perfect.

With these technical elements in mind, to come up with a very good translation is a difficult task indeed. Let us take a look at the entire poem as translated by two different authors:

John Masefield (1878-1967)

I saw the ramparts of my native land
One time so strong, now dropping in decay,
Their strength destroyed by this new age's way
That has worn out and rotted what was grand.

I went into the fields; there I could see
The sun drink up the waters newly thawed;
And on the hills the moaning cattle pawed,
Their miseries robbed the light of day for me.

I went into my house; I saw how spotted,
Decaying things made that old home their prize;
My withered walking-staff had come to bend.

I felt the age had won; my sword was rotted;
And there was nothing on which to set my eyes
That was not a reminder of the end.

Robert Lowell (1917-1977)

I saw the musty shingles of my house,
raw wood and fixed once, now a wash of moss
eroded by the ruin of age
furning all fair and green things into waste.

I climbed the pasture. I saw the dim sun drink
the ice just thawing from the boldered fallow,
woods crowd the foothills, sieze last summer's field,
and higher up, the sickly cattle bellow.

I went into my house. I saw how dust
and ravel had devoured its furnishing;
even my cane was withered and more bent,

even my sword was coffined up in rust—
there was no hilt left for the hand to try.
Everything ached, and told me I must die.

Do they keep the original meaning? Do they respect the structure of the original ? Which one do you prefer? If your Spanish and English are good enough, can you try your own translation?
I would appreciate if you could send me your own translation. Thank you.

28 January 2010

Scent of a woman

The first time I read Sonnet 64 from Spencer´s Amoretti, I was surprised by the perfect way he describes a kiss, a smell, a scent of a woman. Then I relized that his sonnet was very similar to what king Solomon wrote in the biblical book of Song of Solomon chapter four. With the use of wonderful rhetorical tricks such as metaphors, comparisons and vivid images, the king describes the beauty of a woman in theses terms:

     How beautiful you are, my love,
         how very beautiful!
     Your eyes are doves
         behind your veil.
     Your hair is like a flock of goats,
         moving down the slopes of Gilead.
 2  Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
         that have come up from the washing,
     all of which bear twins,
         and not one among them is bereaved.
 3  Your lips are like a crimson thread,
         and your mouth is lovely.
     Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
         behind your veil.
 4  Your neck is like the tower of David,
         built in courses;
     on it hang a thousand bucklers,
         all of them shields of warriors.
 5  Your two breasts are like two fawns,
         twins of a gazelle,
         that feed among the lilies.
 6  Until the day breathes
         and the shadows flee,
     I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh
         and the hill of frankincense.
 7  You are altogether beautiful, my love;
         there is no flaw in you.
 8  Come with me from Lebanon, my bride;
         come with me from Lebanon.
     Depart from the peak of Amana,
         from the peak of Senir and Hermon,
     from the dens of lions,
         from the mountains of leopards.
 9  You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
         you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,
         with one jewel of your necklace.
 10  How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!
         how much better is your love than wine,
         and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
 11  Your lips distill nectar, my bride;
         honey and milk are under your tongue;
         the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon.
 12  A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
         a garden locked, a fountain sealed.
 13  Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates
         with all choicest fruits,
         henna with nard,
 14  nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
         with all trees of frankincense,
         myrrh and aloes,
         with all chief spices

And Spencer (1552-1599) wrote  in the fourteen beautiful lines of his Sonnet 64 what follows:

Comming to kisse her lyps, (such grace I found)
   me seemd I smelt a gardin of sweet flowres:
   that dainty odours from them threw around
   for damzels fit to decke their lovers bowres.
Her lips did smell lyke unto Gillyflowers,
   her ruddy cheekes lyke unto Roses red:
   her snowy browes lyke budded Bellamoures,
   her lovely eyes lyke Pincks but newly spred.
Her goodly bosome lyke a Strawberry bed,
   her neck lyke to a bounch of Cullambynes:
   her brest lyke lillyes, ere theyr leaves be shed,
   her nipples lyke yong blossomd jessemynes.
Such fragrant flowres doe give most odorous smell,
   but her sweet odour did them all excell.

Solomon and the queen of Sheba by Giovanni Demin (1789-1859)
(Photograph taken from Wikipedia)

Whether Spencer´s Sonnet 64 is a paraphrase of Solomon´s Song or not I am not sure. What I know is that  these two lovely pieces of writing describe very well the same topic.

Can you thin of other poems whose descripition is as direct and vivid as in the poems above? Please, send them to me. Thank you.

26 January 2010

Doctors in Haiti

From Madrid, from Warsaw, from New York, from Moscow...hundreds of doctors from all over the world have fled to Haiti to help those in need. From the very first moment they arrived in that desolated land, they have been distributing medicines, operating children and amputating the limbs of those whose situation was tragic. Certainly, their main goal is to help, to heal and to make people´s lives better. They are doing a very good job worth praising. It is good to know that healing others has no skin colour, no gender, no religion and no political ideas.

Dr. Faustus. Act 1. Scene 1
by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

Summum bonum medicinae sanitas (16)
The end of physic is our bodies´health (17)

The Latin espression can also be rendered this way: "Good health is the object of medicine".
Could you send me Latin expressions used in literature to refer to other sciences ? Thank you.
I am posting a link to a video that describes some of the activities of a group of doctors in Haiti:

24 January 2010

The art itself is Nature

This weather is changing all around me. I see the landscape as I had never seen it before. It has snowed so much that I see my life in grey and white: the roads are grey, the pavement is white; the sky is grey, the trees are white; the parking places are grey, the cars are white; the ducks are grey, the riverbank is white; Yet, life in two colours is beautiful too. Nature is the master, art is the student.

Winter´s Tale
Act IV, Scene IV

by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Nature is made better by no mean (89)
But nature makes that mean; so over that art
Which you say adds to Nature, is an art
That Nature makes. You see,sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to he wildest stock,
And make conceve a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race. This is an art
Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
The art itself is nature.

21 January 2010

Samson, Milton and my father- in- law

It´s been already five years since my father-in-law died. When he passed away we were in Spain and my wife had to take the first flight to Poland. The following months were very sad for all of us because he was an excellent man, a loving grandfather and a great father-in-law.

I still remember very vividly the great time we had in his small dzialka (small piece of land) were he had around 50 wooden beehives with thousands of honey bees flying around and producing tasty honey in the honeycombs. The first time I wore the white gown, the gloves and that funny bee gear in my head I was a bit scared because I thought the bees were going to sting all my body. Thankfully, nothing happened and the experience was unforgettable.

I have never tasted anything like the honey of those beehives !

I simply do not know why but, for some strange reason, each time I think of my father-in-law, the biblical reference to Samson and his riddle about honey come to my mind. I know that Milton wrote the poem Samson Agonistes (1671) but I am almost sure he does not refer to the riddle. Please, if I am mistaken, let me know.

Judges 14:18
by the Prophet Samuel

"What is sweeter than honey?
and what is stronger than a lion?"

Samson said to them.

To see more photographs of bees and to learn more about how bees make honey click here.

The first photograph has been taken from here and the second one from here.

20 January 2010

Why ?

During the last week I have been watching so many TV programs about Haiti in ruins that I simply cannot believe it. An entire city is gone ! The news about hundreds of people pillaging, about thousands on people queuing nearby U.N trucks just to get something to eat and drink makes me wonder why.

Why so many countries all over the world are sending food, medicine and water but people in Haiti have not received anything yet?, why so many non-governmental organizations are collecting millions of money all over the world and people in Haiti have not seen a dollar yet?, why do evil people take advantage of these terrible events to make money?, why are there so many international organizations whose main aim is to help others but in Haiti no one can see such help clearly?

The lack of answers is bringing pain to the people of Haiti.
A lot of pain.

The Mystery of Pain
by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Pain has an element of blank; (1)
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.

It has no future but itself, (5)
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain.

There is pleny of "pain" (1) in Haiti these days, pain that "cannot recollect" (2) when it started because the lives of those in Haiti have suffered a lot during the last years. Yet, their physical and emotional pain during the last week is even greater and seems to have "no future but itself" (5).

I simply hope this pain is temporary and "new periods of pain" (8) will not come .

19 January 2010


On January 19, 1809 Edgar Alan Poe was born in Boston. I love his short stories, especially that one entitled "The Cask of Amontillado". Catacombs, carnivals, Italy and masons are the perfect language to produce a short masterpiece.

However, as this is a blog about poetry, I would like to include today one of his poems. The poem I am posting is entitled Alone and the reason why I have chosen this one is because its references to childhood (1, 9), and to a “stormy life”, which reminds me of all those children who lost their parents in the Haiti earthquake last week. I hope “the cloud that took the form [….]of a demon" (20-22) may turn into a beautiful view in the near future.

Are they alone ?


by Edgar Alan Poe (1809-1849)

From childhood's hour I have not been (1)
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn (9)
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form (20)
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view. (22)

17 January 2010

The weather is not getting better

It´s been almost a month since it started snowing heavily and the weather is not getting better. This situation is getting me very tired because I spend most of the time at home. Well, staying at home so many hours gives me the opportunity to do things that I would not do if the weather was better. If we had sunny days I would spend plenty of time walking and taking photographs. However, the huge amount of snow in the balcony and in the windows are starting to cause humidity in the dinning room walls. It is time to do something about it.

Storm Windows
by Howard Nemerow (1920-1991)

People are putting up storm windows now,
Or were, this morning, until the heavy rain
Drove them indoors. So, coming home at noon,
I saw storm windows lying on the ground,
Frame-full of rain; through the water and glass
I saw the crushed grass, how it seemed to stream
Away in lines like seaweed on the tide
Or blades of wheat leaning under the wind.
The ripple and splash of rain on the blurred glass
Seemed that it briefly said, as I walked by,
Something that I should have liked to say to you,
Something . . .the dry grass bent under the pane
Brimful of bouncing water . . . something of
A swaying clarity which blindly echoes
This lonely afternoon of memories
And missed desires, while the wintry rain
Unspeakable the distance in the mind!)
Runs on the standing windows and away.

13 January 2010

Death and Destruction in Haiti

I have seen the news. I have seen people crying in the streets, buildings destroyed and horror in the faces of the survivors. What a tragedy !

The Consolation. Night IX, at Last

by Edward Young (1683-1765)

I think of nothing else; I see ! I feel it!
All Nature, like an earthquake, trembling round.

What is going to happen now? How can we help them? How is it possible that noone managed to foresee the earthquake? Could governments spend more money on systems to predict earthquakes?

I think of all the people who have lost their lives. I think of all the children who will never see their parents again. I think of all the parents who have lost their children..."I think of nothing else; I see it! I feel it !"
I have included this post in today´s The New York Times (entry 489)

12 January 2010

Trees and snow

Yesterday a friend of mine sent me some photographs from Madrid, Spain. I was shocked. I saw my neighbourhood as I have never seen it, so white, so different, so beautiful.

Here in Poland things are not different. The heavy snows of the last days have left beautiful views worth watching. For some strange reason, I do like observing trees dressed in white because they change the entire landscape and transform it into a different world, a new way to see my reality, my life, my past, present and future.

Seeing all in one colour makes me wonder whether the world I know is my real world or just one of the very many worlds that may exist in my own reality.

Some Trees
by John Ashbery (1927- )

These are amazing: each
Joining a neighbor, as though speech
Were a still performance.
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning
From the world as agreeing
With it, you and I
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are:
That their merely being there
Means something; that soon
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented
Some comeliness, we are surrounded:
A silence already filled with noises,
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning.
Place in a puzzling light, and moving,
Our days put on such reticence
These accents seem their own defense.

Take a look at some of the photographs I took yesterday near the place where I work and send me one if you wish.

9 January 2010

Spanish omelette

Today I am going to make an omelette. The truth is that most Saturdays I make a tasty Spanish omelette because it is one of the very few days that we all eat together and my family like it. Besides, as Spain is too far from where I am now, I guess making an omelette or preparing any other delicious Spanish dish from time to time keeps me a bit closer to my real home. The peculiar smell and taste of a Spanish omelette in unbeatable even though the ingredients and the way of making it are very simple.

Would you like to try ? If the omelette is for three people, just peel off and thinly chop off enough potatoes to fill up a medium size frying pan. Then, fry the potatoes in the frying pan. Now, peel off a small onion and chop it off in very, very small pieces. (Don't cry, please !). Mix the onion with the fried potatoes and make sure the onion gets fried too. Take a bowl and beat 4 eggs energetically. Take out the fried potatoes and the onions (leave the remaining oil in the frying pan) and put it in the bowl with the beaten eggs. Mix it all.

Put the content of the bowl in the frying pan again and wait. Do not move the frying pan energetically, just move it gently so that the content does not stick to the surface of the frying pan. When you notice (and you will) that the bottom is done, with one hand put a plate on the top of the omelette and with the other turn up the frying pan so that the already done side of the omelette stays on top (Be careful not to drop it or you will have to order a pizza!). Now, put the undone side of the omelette back to the frying pan and wait a bit again. Soon the smell will tell you when to put the omelette in a clean plate ready to serve.

It should look more or less like this one:

Buen provecho ! Good appetite ! Smacznego !

Of course, the most problematic process is when you peel the onions because if you are not careful, you can easily cry ! So , be careful.

Peeling Onions
by Adrienne Rich (1929- )

Only to have a grief
equal to all these tears! (2)

There’s not a sob in my chest.
Dry-hearted as Peer Gynt
I pare away, no hero,
merely a cook. (6)

Crying was labor, once
when I’d good cause.
Walking, I felt my eyes like wounds
raw in my head,
so postal-clerks, I though, must stare.
A dog’s look, a cat’s, burnt to my brain—
yet all that stayed
stuffed in my lungs like smog. (14)

These old tears in the chopping-bowl
. (15)

By the way, this post is very much related to the one I included on Decembre 7, 2009.

8 January 2010

Polish Constitution

You may remember that yesterday I asked three questions with the intention to show the kind of topics students do not seem to be interested in these days. I am sure the first two answers were very simple: 12 and Buenos Aires. However, I do not think the last question was so easy for most people. I asked what happened on May 3, 1791 in Poland and the answer is to do with the Constitution. If it is said that the first written constitution in the world was adopted for the U.S. in 1787, the second written constitution in the world was the one that Poland adopted in 1791.

(image and photograph footnote taken from wikipedia)

3 Constitution, by Matejko (1891). King Stanislaw Augustus enters St. John Cathedral

Certainly, there is nothing like freedom and liberty for the citizens of any country in the world and yet, there are so many millions of people who do not have it !


by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Once I wished I might rehearse
Freedom's paean in my verse,
That the slave who caught the strain
Should throb until he snapped his chain,
But the Spirit said, 'Not so;
Speak it not, or speak it low;
Name not lightly to be said,
Gift too precious to be prayed,
Passion not to be expressed
But by heaving of the breast:
Yet,--wouldst thou the mountain find
Where this deity is shrined,
Who gives to seas and sunset skies
Their unspent beauty of surprise,
And, when it lists him, waken can
Brute or savage into man;
Or, if in thy heart he shine,
Blends the starry fates with thine,
Draws angels nigh to dwell with thee,
And makes thy thoughts archangels be;
Freedom's secret wilt thou know?--
Counsel not with flesh and blood;
Loiter not for cloak or food;
Right thou feelest, rush to do.'

7 January 2010

Teachers, students and knowledge

Back to school in Poland. Each semester is more complicated and one of the students´complaints is why they have to learn things that do not seem to be very important for their future plans. What is the square root of 144, what is the capital of Argentina or what happened on May 3, 1791 in Poland do not seem to be fascinating topics for students nowadays.

Well, I suppose things have not changed much since I was a student at school because I can only remember a couple of teachers who tried to show us the importance of what we were learning. I even remember their names.

Certainly, teachers have the responsability to teach but also to show the reason why students should learn things that they consider useless. It will help them understand.

To David, About His Education
by Howard Nemerov (1920- 1991)

The world is full of mostly invisible things,
And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,
Or its nose, in a book, to find them out,
Things like the square root of Everest
Or how many times Byron goes into Texas,
Or whether the law of the excluded middle
Applies west of the Rockies. For these
And the like reasons, you have to go to school
And study books and listen to what you are told,
And sometimes try to remember. Though I don’t know
What you will do with the mean annual rainfall
On Plato’s Republic, or the calorie content
Of the Diet of Worms, such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their turn.

By the way, do you know the answers to the questions above ?

(Image taken from wikipedia)

5 January 2010

The Three Kings

Here in Poland students enjoy Chrismas holidays from 23 Dec-3 Jan, but Christmas holidays are much longer in Spain because kids go back to school on 11 Jan. In this way, they have a few days to play with the presents they get from the Three Kings on 6 Dec, that is to say, tomorrow !

Presents, sweets, smiles... Oh yes ! Tomorrow is a great day for the vast majority of the children who live in Spain and for all those who celebrate the same festivity.

Painting by Murillo
(Image from Wikipedia)

The Three Kings

by Henry Wadsworth Lonfellow (1807-1882)

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.

"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar,
"Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
To find and worship the King of the Jews."

And the people answered, "You ask in vain;
We know of no King but Herod the Great!"
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
Like riders in haste, who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem,
And bring me tidings of this new king."

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped --it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body's burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
And returned to their homes by another way.

4 January 2010

Without winter tyres

When I lived in Spain I never heard about "summer" tyres and "winter" tyres but since I live in Poland it is absolutely necessary to have the car tyres changed before it starts snowing.

For a good variety of reasons, I did not find the time to organize an appointment with the mechanic workshop in November and now it is almost impossible to get through to them. Luckily, two days ago I managed to speak to a lady who arranged an appointment for today at 0900. However, yesterday before going to bed it started snowing and my exhilaration has turned into despair this morning when I have noticed all the buildings in white and all the trees covered with a heavy layer of snow. I have just cancelled the appointment because I am too scared to drive under these weather conditions. The roads are so slippery these days that my “summer” tyres are not good enough for these white roads. I will have to wait until they clean the roads with a horrible mixture of salt and sand that most probably will not do any good to the bottom of the car . I cannot imagine winter without winter tyres anymore.

Yet, all looks beautiful again !

From The Auroras of Autumn

by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

To imagine winter? When the leaves are dead,
Does it take its place in the north and enfold itself,
Goat-leaper, crystalled and luminous, sitting

In highest night? And do these heaves adorn
And proclaim it, the white creator of black, jetted
By extinguishings, even of planets as may be,

Even of earth, even of sight, in snow,
Except as needed by way of majesty,
In the sky, as crown and diamond cabala?

See the entire poem here.

2 January 2010

Ants, Haiku and You

I do not remember having told you the reason why I started this blog. I will tell you briefly: a friend of mine who lives in Madrid opened his blog a few months ago and told me that it was a very nice experience to write and share information with others even if you did not know them. At first I was a bit reluctant to open my own blog because I was not sure whether it would make sense to write to an abstract reader, to a cybernetic reader who I cannot see. So, one day I just logged in and posted my first poem and comment. I felt good. I did not know whether somebody would ever find the way to reach my blog until I realized that in the icon of statistics that you can see by scrolling down the page, there is a little man in red and a number. By clicking there twice, you get a map of the world with small red stars. Each star is a reader or a group of readers. It is amazing how many red stars from so many different parts of the world I can see even though I just opened this blog a month ago !

If you are a reader, you are my star. Thank you for being there.

The following poem is dedicated to the person who encouraged me to open the blog. He is a bohemian man of science, a man whose enormous interest in the small ant has broadened my interest in the little things that make life worth living.

As ants are a very small animal I believe the brief poem below, which is an example of traditional Japanese poetry or haiku, is one of the best ways to refer to ants in poetry.

Harvester ants at work in a Madrid street.
(Photograph posted with permission of the author)

Also, this video from the same author shows in detail how active ants can be:

Shuson Kato (1905-1993)

I kill an ant
and realize my three children
have been watching.

To read more about haiku, see here.

I would appreciate if you could send me a poem about ants where they are depicted as lovely working creatures in constant motion. Unfortunately, in the one above, they die. Thank you very much.

First Contribution

Some of you may remember that on 28 Dec, 2009 I included a brilliant poem written by William Wordsworth entitled Perfect Woman. At the very end of my comment I asked you to send me poems where male beauty is depicted and Panishka has contributed with Poem of the Body, a very ambitious poem where the beauty of both men and women is described. The poem is part of Whitman´s Leaves of Grass (1855).

Poem of the Body

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

THE bodies of men and women engirth me, and
I engirth them,
They will not let me off, nor I them, till I go with
them, respond to them, love them.

Was it doubted if those who corrupt their own live
bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as
they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the

The expression of the body of man or woman
balks account,
The male is perfect, and that of the female is per-

The expression of a well-made man appears not
only in his face,
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in
the joints of his hips and wrists,

I encourage you to read the poem entirely in order to grasp Whitman´s thoughts to the full.

After reading the whole poem, the first idea that crosses my mind is that we are all the same, regardless of gender, colour of the skin and religion. However, much as we are and look the same, we are also different because nobody is like you and I suppose Whitman´s poem is like a big celebration of our own individuality to reach complete happiness. Understanding that “The expression of the body of man or woman balks account, The male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect”, seems to be a perfect way to enjoy life to the full. Why would I like to be somebody else?

1 January 2010

In remembrance

Many people passed away in 2009. Most of them were unknown to the vast majority of the population and just a few of them were known to all of us. However, all of them have something in common: they will be remembered by what they did.

Yesterday I left a short comment (number 41) in The New York Times that I would like to share with you:

Yes. Every single year there are people who leave us and it is very sad. This always reminds me of John Milton´s Lycidas. When Milton´s colleage died, the poet wrote the beautiful pastoral poem Lycidas. In one of his verses we read:

“But,oh ! the heavy change, now thou art gone, (38)
Now thou art gone,and never must return ! [...]
And all their echoes, mourn”. (41)


John Milton, Lycidas, in Justa Edovardo King naufrago, 1638, Cambridge: Th. Buck and R. Daniel, Special Printed Collections, Alexander Turnbull Library

However, even though they will never return again, their films, pictures, books, poems and songs will stay with us forever.

You can find the entire poem of Lycidas here.
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