Friday, August 23, 2013

Suppose it were Friday lxxvi: It's fair to wonder

Mes anciens

    I sit here in a shelter
      behind the words
    Of what I'm writing,
      looking out as if
    Through a dim curtain of rain,
      that keeps me in here.

    The words are like a scrim
      upon a page,
    Obscuring what might be there
      beyond the scrim.
    I can dimly see there's something
      or someone there.

    But I can't tell if it's God,
      or one of his angels,
    Or the past, or future,
      or who it is I love,
    My mother or father lost,
      or my lost sister.

    Or my wife lost when I was
      too late to get there,
    I only know that there's something,
      or somebody, there.
    Tell me your name. How was it
      that I knew you?

    Mr Ferry's translations of Virgil
    and Horace enrich a Western mind's
    experience of life. To classicists
    they enable several layers of com-
    panionship, and for readers without
    Latin, only one or two less. At the
    same time, the publication of this
    collection of his own poetry strikes
    a sort of coup de foudre, in which
    an elating part of their challenge
    lies in revealing, as Ford Madox
    Ford has put it, that a man could
    stand up. For English speakers this
    is scrupulously and modestly, not
    showily or shallowly shorn of al-
    lusion to other glory, other times.
    The humble can understand it; we
    others are welcome to lay our bur-
    den down. This is original and gor-
    geous, as if its balsamic qualities 
    were infused with new wine, and its 
    flickering interwoven with the ages.

               I know such eyes that look so far,
               I follow them to parse the grit 
               they blink away. 
               It is not enough for me, to know 
               there is further sight, without 
               citing who would give it in his gaze.

               But admiring is remembering, while
               learning is differentiating, dis-
               tinguishing, and inconvenient. How
               do they persist, as if for me?  
               I always wonder.

David Ferry

  New Poems and

i    Ben Eidem
ii   Winchimes Cypress Point
iii  Jacob Wiechmann

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