complete image

Suddenly I saw myself,
a complete image,
with an expression
rehearsed over the years.
I was a man of crystal
who reflected the world,
holding nothing back.
I saw myself different
from the other images
of me alive
in the mirror:
a [darker] shadow on my head,
a [deeper] abyss at my feet,
a [thicker] wood within me;
the unconsciousness of a plant,
obedient to the breeze,
a reed of solitude,
no longer thinking,
— earthly solitude,
my only company! —
I saw myself in a fleeting reflection,
looking from outside
at the being who lives within,
a masked recluse
in his wandering seclusion.

Jorge Carrera Andrade

nobody’s perfect

To be a good man, without blame and without question,
foursquare founded hand and foot, mind also
faultless fashioned, is difficult.

Thus the word of Pittacus, but it does not
run right, though it was a wise man who said it:
that it is difficult to be excellent. Not difficult;
only a god could have this privilege; it is not possible
for a man not to go bad
when he has more bad luck than he can handle.
Any man is good while his luck is good,
bad when bad, and for the most part they are best
whom the gods love.

Therefore, I will not throw away my time and life
into unprofitable hope and emptiness, the search
for that object which cannot possibly be,
the Utterly Blameless Man among all of us who enjoy
man’s food on the wide earth.
But if I find one, I will let you know.
No, I admire all, am a friend of any
who of his own will does nothing shameful.
Against necessity not even the gods can fight.

I do not like to find fault.
Enough for me if one is not
bad, not too unsteady, knows
what is right and good for his city,
a sound man. I will not
look out his faults. For the generation
of fools is endless. Take anything as good
which is not soiled with shame.


pax animae

Speak to me no more of earthly pleasures
which I do not wish to savor. My heart
is already dead, and only the ravens of death
will enter its opened chambers.

I have no traces of the past upon me,
and sometimes I am not sure of whether I exist,
since to me life is a desert
peopled with spectral figures.

I see only a planet darkened
by the mists of drizzling twilight,
and, in the silence of profound drowsiness,

My ears only discern something
strange, indistinct, mysterious,
which drags me very far from this world.

José Julián Herculano del Casal y de la Lastra


The Patient

Doctor, a despair for life,
which is rooted and born in my innermost spirit,
the mal-de-siècle…the same illness of Werther,
Rolla, Manfred, and Leopardi.
Weariness with everything, an absolute
contempt for everything human…an incessant
abhorrence of the vileness of existence
worthy of my master Schopenhauer,
a profound malaise which grows greater
with all the tortures of analysis…

The Doctor

—It’s a question of regimen; go
for a walk first thing in the morning; get plenty of sleep;
go swimming; have a lot to drink; eat well; look after yourself;
what’s wrong with you is that you are hungry!…

José Asunción Silva

mezzo cammin

Half of my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.

Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;

Though, halfway up the hill, I see the Past
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—
A city in the twilight dim and vast,

With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,—
And hear above me on the autumnal blast
The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

life is a pleasant anticipation of the future

Life is a pleasant anticipation of the future
and a regret for the past, an uncontrollable desire
to taste and touch what has not been tasted,
an incurable distaste for what has been tasted;

a vain recalling of the desirable state of past ages,
an uncertain hope of a wished-for future,
frivolously built up on the vain
foundation of shifting expectations;

a horror of oneself, a desire for death,
a contempt of life, a pit of remorse,
a storehouse of tears, a storm-tossed sea:

in which the nearer we come to the distant shore,
the more we regret and vainly lament
that the wind has ended our journey so soon.

Jean-Baptiste Chassignet


O Beloved, let us hurry,
for time is getting short;
delay will harm
both of us.

The gifts of noble beauty
flee step by step,
and everything we have
must pass away.

The splendor of your
cheeks will pale,
your hair will be grey,
the flash of your eyes will fade,

the flame of your passion
will turn to ice;
your dear coral mouth
will lose its shape,

your hands will shrink
like snow,
and you will be old.

So let us enjoy now
the fruit of youth
before we have to follow
the flight of the years.

If you love yourself,
love me too;
give me so that when you give
I lose something too.

Martin Opitz

distribution of poetry

Wild honey I took from the plants,
salt I took from the waters, light I took from the sky.
Listen, my brothers: poetry I took from everything
to offer it to the Lord.
I did not take gold from the earth
nor blood from my brothers.
Do not disturb me, innkeepers.
Pedlars and bankers,
I can contrive distances
to keep you away.
Life is thwarted,
I believe in the magic illusions of God.
The cocks are not crowing,
the dawn has not broken.
I saw the ships go away and return.
I saw the unhappy ones go away and return.
I saw obese men in the fire.
I saw zigzags in the darkness.
Commander, where is the Congo?
Where is the isle of São Brandão?
Commander, how dark the night is!
Mastiffs are howling in the darkness.
You undesirables,
which country do you desire?
Wild honey I took from the plants,
salt I took from the waters, light I took from the sky.
I have only poetry to give you.
Be seated, my brothers.

Jorge Mateus de Lima


The world overflowing bright with purple shapes
in the deep chaos in which sadness
gently touches the wind in tatters.

We escape the force of will.
One senses future pleasures,
arriving home,
recognizing oneself in still life…

Over the hills the dinosaurs are limping!

Soon the night will open the bodies,
the embaúbas are going to gather themselves together again…

We escape the force of will.
Creatures scarcely defile the light of the glances,
they fly above each other like mysterious music.

And life, like a dishonest viol,
violates the death of courage, and plucks its strings…

Mário de Andrade


Take me back, I said, to the happy shore
where Naples reflects its palaces, its hillsides,
and its cloudless stars in a blue sea,
where the orange-tree blooms beneath a sky that is always clear.
Why do you delay? Let us depart! I want to see once again
flaming Vesuvius rising from the bosom of the waves;
from its heights I want to see the dawn rise;
I want to come down those laughing slopes once again in a dream,
guiding the steps of her whom I adore.
Follow me among the windings of this calm bay:
let us return to those shores so well known to our footsteps,
to Cynthia’s gardens, to Virgil’s tomb,
near the scattered ruins of the temple of Venus:
there, beneath the orange-trees, beneath the flowering vine
whose lithe stem is united to the myrtle and weaves a vault of flowers above your head,
there, to the gentle noise of the waves or of the murmuring wind,
alone with our love, alone with nature,
life and light will have more sweetness.

The torch of my paling days burns itself out,
it goes out gradually at the breath of misfortune, or,
if sometimes it throws a faint light,
it is when your memory rekindles it in my breast.
I do not know if at last the gods will allow me to conclude
my wearisome day down here on earth:
my horizon is confined, and my uncertain eye
hardly dares to stretch it beyond a year.
But if I must die in the morning, if,
in a land appointed for happiness,
I must let fall from my hand
this cup which fate seemed to have
crowned with roses for me,
I only ask the gods to guide my steps
to shores made more beautiful by your beloved memory,
to hail from afar those happy climes,
and to die in the places where I tasted life.

Alphonse de Lamartine