Ya que de la esperanza, para la vida mía,

Here is a poem full of melancholy and sadness from Rosalia de Castro, a poem in which the sense of coming to the end of life dominates, and end of life in which the poet, following the examples of other creatures only wishes to find lone refuge in a hidden place. The hope of the title is in its final phases of decline…

Ya que de la esperanza…

Ya que de la esperanza, para la vida mía,

triste y descolorido ha llegado el ocaso,

a mi morada oscura, desmantelada y fría,

tornemos paso a paso,

porque con su alegría no aumente mi amargura

la blanca luz del día.

Contenta el negro nido busca el ave agorera;

bien reposa la fiera en el antro escondido,

en su sepulcro el muerto, el triste en el olvido

y mi alma en su desierto.

From <https://theinkbrain.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/rosalia-de-castro-selected-poems/>

It is a touching poem, with the poet seeking solitude as her hop ebbs away. She wants to return to her dark, untidy and cold house, fleeing the light of day, so that it doesn’t cheer her up. Just as the bird goes back to its dark nest, just as the wild animal curls up in its hidden burrow, just as the corpse rests in its vault, the poet’s soul seeks its deserted place. This is a poem of the end of hope, of renunciation and the realisation that nothing really matters outside one’s own state of mind.

The Poetry Dude

Hommes faillis, bertaudés de raison,

As the title claims, this is a poem full of good advice from Francois Villon , which I would say is as relevant in the 21st century as it was in the 15th. Of course, Villon himself was probably directing his advice at his own actions, give that he was quite probably guilty of a lot of the actions which he advises against in the poem.


The poem’s message, its good advice, is that people should turn away from violence, crime, discord and vengeance, and instead turn towards patience, living in peace with fellow humans, and perhaps find a positive path in religion. Villon’s experience was mostly of the violent, disorderly kind, common of course at this time in the midst of the depredations of the Hundred Years War. His gift to humanity was to be able to look beyond this and set out a better way.




Ballade de Bon Conseil


François Villon


Hommes faillis, bertaudés de raison,

Dénaturés et hors de connoissance,

Démis du sens, comblés de déraison,

Fous abusés, pleins de déconnoissance,

Qui procurez contre votre naissance,

Vous soumettant à détestable mort

Par lâcheté, las ! que ne vous remord

L’horribleté qui à honte vous mène ?

Voyez comment maint jeunes homs est mort

Par offenser et prendre autrui demaine.


Chacun en soi voie sa méprison,

Ne nous vengeons, prenons en patience ;

Nous connoissons que ce monde est prison

Aux vertueux franchis d’impatience ;

Battre, rouiller pour ce n’est pas science,

Tollir, ravir, piller, meurtrir à tort.

De Dieu ne chaut, trop de verté se tort

Qui en tels faits sa jeunesse démène,

Dont à la fin ses poings doloreux tord

Par offenser et prendre autrui demaine.


Que vaut piper, flatter, rire en traison,

Quêter, mentir, affirmer sans fiance,

Farcer, tromper, artifier poison,

Vivre en péché, dormir en défiance

De son prouchain sans avoir confiance ?

Pour ce conclus : de bien faisons effort,

Reprenons coeur, ayons en Dieu confort,

Nous n’avons jour certain en la semaine ;

De nos maux ont nos parents le ressort

Par offenser et prendre autrui demaine.


Vivons en paix, exterminons discord ;

Ieunes et vieux, soyons tous d’un accord :

La loi le veut, l’apôtre le ramène

Licitement en l’épître romaine ;

Ordre nous faut, état ou aucun port.

Notons ces points ; ne laissons le vrai port

Par offenser et prendre autrui demaine.


From <http://tpevillon.e-monsite.com/pages/analyses-de-textes/analyse-de-texte-ballade-de-bon-conseil.html>



The poem begins with an invocation adressed to imperfect men, deprived of their reason (“bertaudes”  was a new word for me, it means either castrated or having one’s ears cut off, but here clearly it is metaphorical). It enumerates the ways in which men act unreasonably, violently and selfishly. Another telling word here is “l’horriblete”, horribleness, which according to the poet leads men into shame. The stanza ends by saying all this usually ends badly with the death of many young men.


The second stanza goes on in this vein, but brings in a hint of another way in the second line – “don’t take revenge, live in patience”, even if the world is set against those virtuous people who have vanquished impatience and impetuosity. The rest of the second stanza and the first half of the third stanza rail against the uselessness of violent discord , mutual distrust and crime, before in the second half of the third stanza advising that the only solution is to turn to God.


And the final stanza builds on this good advice, exhorting readers to live in peace and harmony with young and old, following the law and the apostles’ teachings, Do not stray from the right path by offending and attacking others.


I think that is still good advice.


The Poetry Dude

The summer nights are short

Here is a nice short summer poem, by Christina Rossetti, making us conscious of the length of the days and the nights and the beauty of birdsong, when we open out ears to hear it.

The Summer Nights Are Short

The summer nights are short

Where northern days are long:

For hours and hours lark after lark

Trills out his song.

The summer days are short

Where southern nights are long:

Yet short the night when nightingales

Trill out their song.

Christina Georgina Rossetti

From <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-summer-nights-are-short/>

As we all know, nights are short and days are long in the summer, and this poem celebrates the season, implying we should be outside In the countryside, listening to the birds sing. The lark will sing all day, and we can notice it if we will but be aware. The nightingale sings at night and the beauty of its song makes the short night seem to pass by even faster.

A simple, but effective poem, to celebrate the beauty of our surroundings and the differences between the seasons.

The Poetry Dude

Que tranquilidad violeta,

Here is a poem from Juan Ramon Jimenez about riding his horse. There are actually quite a few Spanish poets who write about riding horses – I think of near contemporary poets like Rafael Alberti and Federico Garcia Lorca of course, but also Boscan and Garcilaso and Lope de Vega (I once saw a production of El Caballero de Olmedo on stage in Paris where an actual horse was ridden on to the stage at key moments in the drama). There is something in the culture, particularly in southern Spain which makes the horse a powerful symbol of human power and achievement.

In this poem, the poet is enjoying a late afternoon horse ride beside a river -and all is indeed well with the world.


¡Qué tranquilidad violeta,

por el sendero, a la tarde!

A caballo va el poeta…

¡Qué tranquilidad violeta!

La dulce brisa del río,

olorosa a junco y agua,

le refresca el señorío…

La brisa leve del río…

A caballo va el poeta…

¡Qué tranquilidad violeta!

Y el corazón se le pierde,

doliente y embalsamado,

en la madreselva verde…

Y el corazón se le pierde…

A caballo va el poeta…

¡Qué tranquilidad violeta!

Se esté la orilla dorando…

El último pensamiento

del sol la deja soñando…

Se está la orilla dorando…

¡Qué tranquilidad violeta,

por el sendero, a la tarde!

A caballo va el poeta…

¡Qué tranquilidad violeta!

From <http://www.los-poetas.com/d/juanr1.htm>

The opening and closing stanzas of the poem are the same, evoking the calm of the evening as the poet rides along the riverside track. The calm of the evening is violet in colour, presumably an interpretation of the colour of the setting sun. But the repetition takes the moment out of time and helps establish the transcendent nature of the moment.

The body of the poem has stanzas describing the breezes and scents wafting across the river; the poet’s heart losing itself in the beauty and calm of his surroundings; and the setting sun burnishing the river banks. It is indeed an idyllic pastoral scene, which stands alone as a beautiful reflection of the moment – but also the motif of the poet on horseback also links it to that poetic tradition of southern Spain in which the poetic muse is conveyed through the presence of a horse.

The Poetry Dude

La grant doulour que je porte

Towards the end of the fifteenth century and into the early years of the sixteenth century, in the midst of the turbulent years of the hundred years war, Christine de Pisan found a great talent as a poet. After marrying young and then becoming widowed with three children in he mid 20s, she found both solace and fame in poetry, and used this medium to proclaim the rights of women, mostly subordinated to men at that time.

This is a poem of grieving and sorrow, of the great pain suffered by the poet from the loss of a loved one, possibly her husband.

La grant doulour que je porte

Christine de Pisan

La grant doulour que je porte

Est si aspre et si tres forte

Qu’il n’est riens qui conforter

Me peüst ne aporter

Joye, ains vouldroie estre morte.

Puis que je pers mes amours,

Mon ami, mon esperance

Qui s’en va, dedens briefs jours,

Hors du royaume de France

Demourer, lasse ! il emporte

Mon cuer qui se desconforte ;

Bien se doit desconforter,

Car jamais joye enorter

Ne me peut, dont se deporte

La grant doulour que je porte.

Si n’aray jamais secours

Du mal qui met a oultrance

Mon las cuer, qui noye en plours

Pour la dure departance

De cil qui euvre la porte

De ma mort et que m’enorte

Desespoir, qui raporter

Me vient dueil et emporter

Ma joye, et dueil me raporte

La grant doulour que je porte.

From <http://wfr.tcl.tk/fichiers/ulis/poemes/Christine_Pisan.htm>

This poem is said to be an early work, written shortly after the death of her husband in 1390, and expressing her sorrow and pain. It is still very moving, even over 600 years later. However, this theory looks a bit off to me , given the several references to her loss being the departure from France of her loved one, first signalled at the end of the second stanza, which refers to her loved one needing to leave France within a few days.

Interestingly, the first stanza follows the same format as the modern day limerick, with rhyming on the first second and fifth lines, and a different rhyme on the third and fourth line. The rest of the poem alternates between four and six line stanzas.

The poem enumerates the various stages of grief and sorrow experienced by the poet in a very moving way, with loss of joy, loss of hope, a breaking heart, despair and the prospect of death building to a climax which finally repeats the unifying theme of the poem, “la grant doulour que je porte”.

Fortunately for her, and now for us, the poet could express her feelings through poetry.

The Poetry Dude

To whom it may concern

I guess the Liverpool poet of the 1960s and 1970s, Adrian Henri, is following a pattern set by Francois Villon in the 1400s by putting out a poetic last will and testament. And both were somewhat whimsical and anti-establishment figures in their own ways, ready to both make you look at the world through a different lens, while also bring a smile to your face. Both of those aims tick my boxes, for sure.

This poem has a quote from William Burroughs at the head of the poem – another rebellious and whimsical character, author of “The Naked Lunch” among other works.

Adrian Henri’s Last Will And Testament

`No one owns life, but anyone who can pick up a Fryingpan owns death.’

William Burroughs

To whom it may concern:

As my imminent death is hourly expected these days/ car brakes screaming on East Lancs tarmac/trapped in the blazing cinema/mutely screaming I TOLD YOU SO from melting eyeballs as the white hot fireball dissolves the Cathedral/being the first human being to die of a hangover/ dying of over­ emotion after seeing 20 schoolgirls waiting at a zebra crossing.

I appoint Messrs Bakunin and Kropotkin my executors and make the following provisions:

1. I leave my priceless collections of Victorian Oil Lamps, photographs of Hayley Mills, brass fenders and Charlie Mingus records to all Liverpool poets under 23 who are also blues singers and failed sociology students.

2. I leave the entire East Lancs Road with all its landscapes to the British people.

3. I hereby appoint Wm. Burroughs my literary executor, instructing him to cut up my collected works and distribute them through the public lavatories of the world.

4. Proceeds from the sale of relics: locks of hair, pieces of floorboards I have stood on, fragments of bone flesh teeth bits of old underwear etc. to be given to my widow.

5. I leave my paintings to the Nation with the stipulation that they must be exhibited in Public Houses, Chip Shops, Coffee Bars and the Cellar Clubs throughout the country.

6. Proceeds from the sale of my other effects to be divided equally amongst the 20 most beautiful schoolgirls in England (these to be chosen after due deliberation and exhaustive tests by an informal committee of my friends).

Adrian Henri

Jan. ‘64

Witnessed this day by:

James Ensor

Charlie `Bird’ Parker.

Adrian Henri

From <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/adrian-henri-s-last-will-and-testament/>

So the somewhat formal opening line, “To whom it may concern” transitions immediately into a musing of the various ways in which the poet might meet his imminent death, none of them involving dying of old age in his bed. A car crash on the main road between Liverpool and Manchester (the East Lancs road); being burnt to death in a fire in a cinema or a Cathedral (one of Liverpool’s two great cathedrals); succumbing from an epic hangover; or just being overcome by the sight of a gaggle of precocious schoolgirls… He wants to go out with a bang, not a whimper.

The poem then goes into a list of the poet’s intentions for the disposal of this possessions, loosely speaking. There is an overt nod to Henri’s admiration of the anarchist tradition with the notion that Bakunin and Kropotkin could come back to life and be his executors.

And then on we go with the poet’s effects, revealing his taste for jazz and blues, poetry, young people, especially young girls, Liverpool and its surroundings go along the East Lancs Road (which I have taken many times myself), and a love of those places where ordinary working class people gather for sustenance and entertainment – coffess shops, chip shops, pubs and dives – the places that make England special (although it is 30 years since I lived in England, these places are also in my heart).

This poem was written in 1964. Luckily for us all, this poem did not turn out to be a premonition of Adrian Henri’s actual death. He lived on until 2000, writing many more entertaining and thought-provoking poems.


The Poetry Dude

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non

Here is a poem with a simple and universal theme from, Charles Duke of Orleans, brother of the king of France, presumably written during his long exile in England after being taken prisoner at the battle of Agincourt. He had a lot of free time to write poems and I have posted several on this blog.

This poem is summed up by its title, repeated throughout the poem, “I love whoever loves me, if not I don’t love them” – so love must be reciprocal and balanced. This applies to friendship and communication in general, hence the universality and continued relevance of this theme. It reveals the poet to be a thoughtful and civilised man, making the best of his difficult circumstances.

Charles d’ ORLEANS   (1394-1465)

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non ;

Et non pour tant, je ne hay rien,

Mais vouldroye que tout fust bien,

A l’ordonnance de Raison.

Je parle trop, las ! se faiz mon !

Au fort, en ce propos me tien :

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non,

Et non pour tant je ne hay rien.

De pensees son chapperon

A brodé le povre cueur mien ;

Tout droit de devers lui je vien,

Et ma baillé ceste chançon :

J’ayme qui m’ayme, autrement non.

From <http://poesie.webnet.fr/lesgrandsclassiques/poemes/charles_d_orleans/j_ayme_qui_m_ayme_autrement_non.html>

Two other notions come through in this poem – even when he doesn’t love, the poet hates nothing nor nobody. And he trusts in the power of reason, above all. Admirable sentiments from an admirable man and poet…

The Poetry Dude