Here are my favorite lines from John Milton’s “L’Allegro,” published in 1645.
“L’Allegro” translates from Italian as “The Happy Man.” Milton wrote this and another poem, “Il Penseroso” (The pensive or thoughtful man) as a companion piece. Two moods are contrasted to pleasant effect by this pair of poems.
As with anything written so long ago, footnotes prove essential. One of the better online poetry resources I’ve encountered is The John Milton Reading Room, a project of Dartmouth College. For the full text with footnotes, click here.
Illustration is by William Blake, “Mirth and Her Companions.”
Omar Khayyam and Hafiz – two poets who seem like old friends to me.
When I first encountered Persian poetry, I marvelled at how wonderful it was. One reason? It has an audience… a culture that celebrates, values — and funds –its expression:
— from “A Year with Hafiz” by Daniel Ladinsky. Excerpt from Henry S. Mindlin’s introduction. I highly recommend this book!
Charles Baudelaire is acknowledged as the greatest French poet of the 19th century, and Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du Mal) is his great work.
It’s regrettable that I can’t read French, but one thing that can provide lasting amusement is seeking out different translations for comparison.
Here are two stanzas from A Madigral of Sorrow. This translation is by F.P. Sturm, and appears in the New Directions edition pictured below.
Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
that may buy you just a moment of pleasure
but then drag you for days like a broken
man behind a farting camel.
— from A Year with Hafiz, Daily Contemplations.
Translated / rendered by Daniel Ladinsky
My love was an overly lavish
expenditure of emotion.
I’m sorry, I can’t accept this, she said.
Too extravagant, too soon.
And this, after she overwhelmed me
With her gifts.
This article provides a good summary of a concept developed by the poet John Keats: negative capability.