Poems for Peace

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE (William Butler Yeats - 1865-1939)

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.


 

ÉPITAPHE (Léopold Sedar Senghor - 1906-2001)

When I'm dead, my friends, Place me below Shadowy Joal,
On the hill, by the bank of the Mamanguedy, Near the ear of Serpents' Sanctuary.
But place me between the Lion and ancestral Tening-Ndyae.

When I'm dead, my friends, place me beneath Portuguese Joal.
Of stones from the Fort build my tomb, and cannons will keep quiet.
Two oleanders -- white and pink -- will perfume the Signare.


 

SONNET XL VIII (Pablo Neruda - 1904-1973)

Two happy lovers make one bread,
a single moon drop in the grass.
Walking, they cast two shadows that flow together;
waking, they leave one sun empty in their bed.

Of all the possible truths, they chose the day;
they held it, not with ropes but with an aroma.
They did not shred the peace; they did not shatter words;
their happiness is a transparent tower.

The air and wine accompany the lovers.
The night delights them with its joyous petals.
They have a right to all the carnations.

Two happy lovers, without an ending, with no death,
they are born, they die, many times while they live:
they have the eternal life of the Natural.


 

DEATH AND THE RIVER (Bader Chakir Al-Sayyab - 1926–1964)

Buwayb
Buwayb
Bells of a tower lost in the sea bed
dusk in the trees, water in the jars
spilling rain bells
crystals melting with a sigh
"Buwayb ah Buwayb,"
and a longing in my blood darkens
for you Buwayb
river of mine, forlorn as the rain.
want to run in the dark
gripping my fists tight
carrying the longing of a whole year
in each finger, like someone bringing you
gifts of wheat and flowers.
I want to peer across the crests of the hills,
catch sight of the moon
as it wades between your banks, planting shadows filling baskets
with water and fish and flowers.
I want to plunge into you, following the moon,
hear the pebbles hiss in your depths,
sibilance of a thousand birds in the trees.
Are you a river or a forest of tears?
And the insomniac fish, will they sleep at dawn?
And these stars, will they stop and wait
feeding thousands of needles with silk?
And you Buwayb .
I want to drown in you, gathering shells,
building a house with them, where the overflow
from stars and moon
soaks into the green of trees and water,
and with your ebb in the early morning go to the sea.
For death is a strange world fascinating to children,
and its door was in you, mysterious, Buwayb.
Buwayb ah Buwayb.
twenty years have passed each one a lifetime.
And this day when the dark closes in,
when I lie still and do not sleep,
and listen with my conscience keen-a great tree reaching toward first light, sensitive
its branches, birds, and fruit-
I feel like rain the blood, the tears shed
Shed by the sad world;
my death bells ring and shake my veins,
and in my blood a longing darkens
for a bullet whose deadly ice
might plow through my soul in its depths, hell
setting the bones ablaze.
I want to run out and link hands with others in the struggle,
clench my fists and strike Fate in the face.
I want to drown in my deepest blood
that I may share with the human race its burden
and carry it onward, giving birth to life
My death
shall be a victory.

Translated by Christopher Middleton and Lena Jayyusi


 

CONVERSATION WITH GRANDSON (Samuil Marshak - 1887-1964)

I called my grandson playing in the yard through an open window:
-What kind of game are you playing? - Underwater warfare!

-Warfare? Why do you need war? Listen, captain,
Nations do not need war. Why don't you better play (imitate) ‘peace’?

He left after hearing my advice. Then he came back
And asked me quietly: Grandpa, how does one play peace?..

Listening to the morning news on the radio,
I was thinking: it's time to stop
Playing with war, so that our children
Learn to play peace!


 

POEME FOR WEI BA (Du Fu - 712-770)

Often a man's life is such
that he seldom sees his friends,
like the constellations Shen and Shang
which never share the same sky.
If not this evening, then what evening
should we share this lamp light?
How long can our youth and vigor last?
The hair at our temples is already gray.
We inquire about old acquaintances
to find that half are ghosts--
shocked cries betray
the torment of our hearts.
How could I have known
that it would be twenty years
before I again entered
your honored home.
When we parted last
you were yet unmarried;
now your sons and daughters
line up in a smiling row
to greet their father's friend.
They ask whence I have come
but before I can answer all questions
you chase them off
to bring wine and cups.
In the night rain, chives are cut
for the freshly steamed rice
mixed with yellow millet.
Saying how difficult it has been
for us to meet at last,
you pour ten cups in a row!
But even after ten cups
I'm not drunk, being so moved
by your lasting friendship.
Tomorrow we will be separated
by the peaks of mountains,
each of our worldly affairs
lost to the other's sight.

Translated by David Lunde

Back to top