Poems in Translation-1





[My love is one and only, without peer]

My love is one and only, without peer, 
         lovely above all Egypt’s lovely girls. 
On the horizon of my seeing, 
         see her, rising, 
Glistening goddess of the sunrise star 
         bright in the forehead of a lucky year.  
So there she stands, epitome 
         of shining, shedding light, 
Her eyebrows, gleaming darkly, marking 
         eyes which dance and wander. 
Sweet are those lips, which chatter
         (but never a word too much), 
And the line of the long neck lovely, dropping
         (since song’s notes slide that way) 
To young breasts firm in the bouncing light 
         which shimmers that blueshadowed sidefall of hair. 
And slim are those arms, overtoned with gold, 
         those fingers which touch like a brush of lotus.
And (ah) how the curve of her back slips gently 
         by a whisper of waist to god’s plenty below.
(Such thighs as hers pass knowledge
         of loveliness known in the old days.)
Dressed in the perfect flesh of woman
         (heart would run captive to such slim arms),
                  she ladies it over the earth,
Schooling the neck of each schoolboy male
         to swing on a swivel to see her move.
(He who could hold that body tight
                  would know at last
                          perfection of delight-—
Best of the bullyboys,
         first among lovers.)
Look you, all men, at that golden going,
         like Our Lady of Love,
                       without peer.

                                         Ramesside Period (1292-1070 BC ca.)

by Anonymous; translated from ancient Egyptian by John L. Foster


I wish I were her Nubian girl,
              one to attend her (bosom companion),
Confidante, and child of discretion:
              Close hidden at nightfall we whisper
As (modest by day) she offers
              breasts like ripe berries to evening-—
Her long gown settles, then, bodiless,
              hangs from my helping hand.
O she'll give pleasure! in future
              no grown man will deny it!
But tonight, to me, this chaste girl
              bares unthinking the delicate blush
Of a most secret landscape,
              her woman's body.

by Anonymous; translated from ancient Egyptian by John L. Foster

[CLICK HERE] for “The Bones of Zhuangzi” by Zhang Heng (78-139 A.D.) as translated by Arthur Waley

Clicking the above link will bring up “The Temple and Other Poems.” Click on Table of contents and scroll to “The Bones of Chuang Tsu” by Chang Heng.


They fought south of the Castle, 

They died north of the wall. 

They died in the moors and were not buried. 
Their flesh was the food of crows. 

"Tell the crows we are not afraid; 

We have died in the moors and cannot be buried. 
Crows, how can our bodies escape you?” 

The waters flowed deep 

And the rushes in the pool were dark. 

The riders fought and were slain: 

Their horses wander neighing.

by Anonymous, G.I24 B.C.; translated from the Chinese by Arthur Waley

[CLICK HERE] for “The Odyssey” by Homer as translated by Robert Fitzgerald



Sparrow, the Special Delight of My Girl

Sparrow, the special delight of my girl, 
whom often she teases and holds on her lap 
and pokes with the tip of her finger, provoking 
counterattacks with your mordant beak, 
whenever my luminous love desires 
something or other, innocuous fun, 
a bit of escape, I suppose, from her pain, 
a moment of peace from her turbulent passion, 
I wish I could play like she does with you 
and lighten the cares of my sorrowful soul. 
It thrills me as much as the nimble girl 
in the story was thrilled by the gilded apple 
that finally uncinched her virginal gown.

To me that man seems like a god in heaven (51)

To me that man seems like a god in heaven,
seems—-may I say it?—-greater than all gods are,
who sits by you & without interruption
	watches you, listens

to your light laughter, which casts such confusion
onto my senses, Lesbia, that when I 
gaze at you merely, all of my well-chosen
	words are forgotten

as my tongue thickens & a subtle fire
runs through my body while my ears deafened
by their own ringing & at once my eyes are
	covered in darkness!

Leisure, Catullus. More than just a nuisance,
leisure: you riot, overmuch enthusing.
Fabulous cities & their sometime kings have
	died of such leisure.

Let Us Live and Love (5)

My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love;
And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
Let us not weigh them. Heaven's great lamps do dive
Into their west, and straight again revive;
But, soon as once set is our little light,
Then must we sleep one ever-during night.

If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armor should not be;
No drum nor trumpet peaceful sleeps should move,
Unless alarm came from camp of love.
But fools do live and waster their little light,
And seek with pain their ever-during night.

When timely death my life and fortune ends,
Let not my hearse be vexed with mourning friends;
But let all lovers rich in triumph come,
And with sweet pastime grace my happy tomb.
And, Lesbia, close up thou my little light,
And crown with love by ever-during night.


Throw Hannibal on the scales, how many pounds
does the great captain come to? This is he
who found the plains of Africa too small,
rich Carthage with her mercenary grip 
stretched from Gibratar to the steaming Nile
and back to Ethiopia, her stud 
for slaves and elephants. He set his hand
firmly on Spain, then scaled the Pyrenees;
when snows, the Alps, and Nature blocked his road,
he derricked rocks, and split the mountainsides
with vinegar. Now Italy is his;
the march goes on. 'Think nothing done,' he says,
'until my Punic soldiers hack through Rome,
and plant my standard over the Suburva's
whorehouses.' What a face for painters! Look,
the one-eyed leader prods his elephant!
And what's the end? O glory! Like the others,
he is defeated, then the worried flight, 
the great, world-famous client cools his heels
in royal anterooms, and waits on some 
small despot, sleeping off a drunken meal.
What is the last day of this mighty spirit
whose valor turned the known world on its head?
Not swords, or pikes, or legions--no, not these,
his crown for Cannae and those seas of blood
is poison in a ring. March, madman, cross
the Alps, the Tiber--be a purple patch
for schoolboys, and them for declamation!

by Decimus Junius Juvenalis, (55–60? CE127?); translated loosely from Latin by Robert Lowell



A cup of wine, under the flowering trees;
I drink alone, for no friend is near.
Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
For he, with my shadow, will make three men.
The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine;
Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.
Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave
I must make merry before the Spring is spent.
To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;
In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.
While we were sober, three shared the fun;
Now we are drunk, each goes his way.
May we long share our odd, inanimate feast,
And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky.


In the third month the town of Hsien-yang 
Is thick-spread with a carpet of fallen flowers. 
Who in Spring can bear to grieve alone? 
Who, sober, look on sights like these? 
Riches and Poverty, long or short life, 
By the Maker of Things are portioned and disposed; 
But a cup of wine levels life and death 
And a thousand things obstinately hard to prove. 
When I am drunk, I lose Heaven and Earth.
Motionless—I cleave to my lonely bed. 
At last I forget that I exist at all, 
And at that moment my joy is great indeed.


If High Heaven had no love for wine,
There would not be a Wine Star in the sky.
If Earth herself had no love for wine,
There would not be a city called Wine Springs.[2]
Since Heaven and Earth both love wine,
I can love wine, without shame before God.
Clear wine was once called a Saint;[3]
Thick wine was once called "a Sage."[3]

Of Saint and Sage I have long quaffed deep,
What need for me to study spirits and hsien?[4]
At the third cup I penetrate the Great Way;
A full gallon—Nature and I are one...
But the things I feel when wine possesses my soul
I will never tell to those who are not drunk.

by  Li Po, 701-762; translated from the Chinese by Arthur Waley

Pound’s English-language version of poem by Li Po [aka Rihaku]–“The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” read here by actress Jodie Foster:

The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter

                                        After Li Po

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chōkan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed
You went into far Ku-tō-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me.
I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Chō-fū-Sa.

by  Li Po, 701-762; loosely translated from Chinese by Ezra Pound, 1885–1972 from the manuscripts of Ernest Fenollosa

from Pound’s Selected Poems (1957)



By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
       to watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
Barbarous kings.
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
        No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihoku's* name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

by Li Po (a.k.a. Rihaku), 701-762; loosely translated from Chinese by Ezra Pound, 1885–1972 from the manuscripts of Ernest Fenollosa

*Rihoku, not to be confused with Rihaku (Li Po), is the Japanese for Li Mu, a Chinese general who defended China against the Tartars and died in 223 B.C.E. (Richard Sieburth, Ezra Pound: Poems and Translations, Library of America, 2003).



In the high autumn skies of September
  the wind cried out in rage,
Tearing off in whirls from my rooftop
  three plies of thatch.
The thatch flew across the river,
  was strewn on the floodplain,
The high stalks tangled in tips
  of tall forest trees,
The low ones swirled in gusts across ground
  and sank into mud puddles
The children from the village to the south
  made a fool of me, impotent with age,
Without compunction plundered what was mine
  before my very eyes,
Brazenly took armfuls of thatch,
  ran off into the bamboo,
And I screamed lips dry and throat raw,
  but no use.
Then I made my way home, leaning on staff,
  sighing to myself.
A moment later the wind calmed down,
  clouds turned dark as ink,
The autumn sky rolling and overcast,
  blacker towards sunset,
And our cotton quilts were years old
  and cold as iron,
My little boy slept poorly,
  kicked rips in them.
Above the bed the roof leaked,
  no place was dry,
And the raindrops ran down like strings,
  without a break.
I have lived through upheavals and ruin
  and have seldom slept very well,
But have no idea how I shall pass
  this night of soaking
Oh, to own a mighty mansion
  of a hundred thousand rooms,
A great roof for the poorest gentlemen
  of all this world,
  a place to make them smile
A building unshaken by wind or rain,
  as solid as a mountain,
Oh, when shall I see before my eyes
  a towering roof such as this?
Then I'd accept the ruin of my own little hut
  and death by freezing.

by Tu Fu, 712-770; translated from the Chinese by Stephen Owen



Go, grieving rimes of mine, to that hard stone
Whereunder lies my darling, lies my dear,
And cry to her to speak from heaven's sphere.
Her mortal part with grass is overgrown.

Tell her, I'm sick of living; that I'm blown
By winds of grief from the course I ought to steer,
That praise of her is all my purpose here
And all my business; that of her alone

Do I go telling, that how she lived and died
And lives again in immortality,
All men may know, and love my Laura's grace.

Oh, may she deign to stand at my bedside
When I come to die; and may she call to me
And draw me to her in the blessèd place!

by Francis Petrarch, 1304-1374; translated from Italian by Morris Bishop




I give you horses for your games in May,
   And all of them well trained unto the course,—
   Each docile, swift, erect, a goodly horse;
   With armour on their chests, and bells at play
Between their brows, and pennons fair and gay;
   Fine nets, and housings meet for warriors,
   Emblazoned with the shields ye claim for yours,
   Gules, argent, or, all dizzy at noonday.
And spears shall split, and fruit go flying up
   In merry counterchange for wreaths that drop
   From balconies and casements far above;
And tender damsels with young men and youths
   Shall kiss together on the cheeks and mouths;
   And every day be glad with joyful love.

by Folgore da San Gimignanp, 1250?-1317; translated from Italian 
   by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


Last, for December, houses on the plain,
   Ground-floors to live in, logs heaped mountain-high,
   And carpets stretched, and newest games to try,
   And torches lit, and gifts from man to man:
(Your host, a drunkard and a Catalan;)
   And whole dead pigs, and cunning cooks to ply
   Each throat with tit-bits that shall satisfy;
   And wine-butts of Saint Galganus' brave span.
And be your coats well-lined and tightly bound,
   And wrap yourselves in cloaks of strength and weight,
   With gallant hoods to put your faces through.
And make your game of abject vagabond
   Abandoned miserable reprobate
   Misers; don't let them have a chance with you.

by Folgore da San Gimignanp, 1250?-1317; translated from Italian 
   by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“The Inferno” by Dante Alighieri as translated by Mark Musa:

Romance Sonámbulo (Sleepwalking Ballad)

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green.
Big hoarfrost stars
come with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.

--My friend, I want to trade
my horse for her house,
my saddle for her mirror,
my knife for her blanket.
My friend, I come bleeding
from the gates of Cabra.
--If it were possible, my boy,
I'd help you fix that trade.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
--My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed
Of iron, if that's possible,
with blankets of fine chambray.
Don't you see the wound I have
from my chest up to my throat?
--Your white shirt has grown
thirty dark brown roses.
Your blood oozes and flees
around the corners of your sash.
But now I am not I,
nor is my house now my house.
--Let me climb up, at least,
up to the high balconies;
Let me climb up! Let me,
up to the green balconies,
Railings of the moon
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up,
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood.
Leaving a trail of teardrops.
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green,
green wind, green branches.
The two friends climbed up.
The stiff wind left
in their mouths, a strange taste
of bile, of mint, and of basil
My friend, where is she--tell me--
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you!
How many times would she wait for you,
cool face, black hair,
on this green balcony!
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water.
The night became intimate
like a little plaza.
Drunken 'Guardias Civiles'
were pounding on the door.
Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea.
And the horse on the mountain.

by Frederico Garcia Lorca; translated from the Spanish by William Logan

The Unfaithful Married Woman

I took her to the river,
believing her unwed;
the fact she had a husband
was something left unsaid.
St. Jame's night is timely--
She would not let me wait--
The lights are put out early,
the fireflies light up late.

I roused her sleeping bosom
right early in our walk;
her heart unfolded for me
like hyacinths on the stalk.
Her starchy skirts kept rustling
and crackled in my ears
like sheets of silk cut crosswise
at once by twenty shears.

The dark unsilvered treetops
grew tall, as on we strode;
dogs barked, a whole horizon,
far from the river road.

When we had passed the brambles
and the thickets on our round,
her coiled hair made a pillow
in a hollow on the ground:
As I undid my necktie,
her petticoats left their place;
I shed my leather holster,
and she, four layers of lace.

Not nard nor snail had ever
texture of skin so fine,
nor crystal in the moonlight
glimmered with purer shine:
Her thighs slipped from beneath me
like little trout in fright,
half chilly (but not frigid),
half full of shining light.

The whole night saw me posting
Upon my lovely mare;
mother-of-pearl the saddle,
no need for bridle and spur;
and what her whispers told me
a man should not repeat
when perfect understanding
has made the mind discreet.

Dirty with sand and kisses
I brought her from the shore
as the iris poised green sabres
at the night wind once more.

To act in decent fashion
as loyal gypsy should,
I gave her a sewing-basket,
satin and straw, and good;
and yet I would not love her
in spite of what she said
when I took her to the river,
for she was not unwed.

by Federico Garcia Lorca; translated from Spanish by Rolfe Humphries


Far away and alone.

Black pony, big moon, 
and olives in my saddle-bag.
Although I know the roads
I’ll never reach Córdoba.

Through the plain, through the wind,
black pony, red moon.
Death is looking at me
from the towers of Córdoba.

Ay, How long the road!
Ay, My valiant pony!
Ay, That death should wait me
before I reach Córdoba.

Far away and alone.

by Federico Garcia Lorca; translated from Spanish by Stephen Spender and J. L. Gili

Philip Levine reads Federico Garcia Lorca’s “New York (Office and Denunciation).”  The translator is uncredited. Written while García Lorca was a student at Columbia University in 1929-30, Poet in New York is arguably one of the poet’s most important works, and a powerful testament to New York City as seen through the eyes of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century:

A visual interpretation of Pablo Neruda‘s “Ode to my Socks” by Emma Wood:

Ode to My Socks by Pablo Neruda; translated by William Carlos Williams  [Spanish Text]

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
that she knitted with her own hands
of a shepherdess,
two soft socks
you’d say they were rabbits.
In them
I stuck my feet
as in
jewel cases
with threads of
and lamb skins.Violent socks,
my feet were
two fish
made of wool,
two long sharks
of ultramarine blue
with a tress of gold,
two gigantic blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this manner
They were
so beautiful
that for the first time
my feet seemed to me
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
of that embroidered
those luminous
I resisted
the acute temptation
to keep them
as schoolboys
or the erudite
sacred documents,
I resisted
the furious impulse
to put them
in a cage
of gold
and to feed them
every day
bird seed
and the pulp of rosey
Like discoverers
who in the forest
yield the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and with regret
eat it,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled over them
then my shoes.And this is
the moral of my ode:
twice beautiful
is beauty
and what is good is twice
when it is two socks
made of wool
in winter.

To see the Stephen Mitchell translation of Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Artichoke” click here.  Please note that the English version appears on alternate pages with the Spanish.


The street
filled with tomatoes,
the light
in two 
of tomato,
the juice
through the streets.
In June
the tomato
cuts loose,
the kitchens,
takes over lunches,
sits down
on sideboards,
among the glasses,
the butter dishes,
the blue saltshakers.
It has 
its own light,
a benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we have to
assassinate it:
the knife 
into its living flesh,
it is a red
a cool,
fills the salads
of Chile,
is cheerfully married
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate,
lets itself
son and essence
of the olive tree,
onto the half-open hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism:
it is the day's
little flags,
vigorously boil,
with its aroma
the steak
on the door,
it's time!
let's go!
and on
the table, in the belt
of summer,
the tomato,
luminary of earth,
and fertile
shows us
its convolutions,
its canals,
the illustrious plenitude
and the abundance
without pit,
without husk,
without scales or thorns,
the gift
of its fiery color
and the totality of its coolness.

by Pablo Neruda, 1904–1973; translated by Stephen Mitchell


From the window I saw the horses.

I was in Berlin, in winter. The light
was without light, the sky without sky.

The air white like wet bread.

And from my window a vacant arena,
bitten by the teeth of winter.

Suddenly, led by a man,
ten horses stepped out into the mist.

Hardly had they surged forth, like flame,
than to my eyes they filled the whole world,
empty till then. Perfect, ablaze,
they were like ten gods with pure white hoofs,
with manes like a dream of salt.

Their rumps were worlds and oranges.

Their color was honey, amber, fire.

Their necks were towers
cut from the stone of pride,
and behind their transparent eyes
energy raged, like a prisoner.

And there, in silence, in the middle
of the day, of the dark, slovenly winter,
the intense horses were blood
and rhythm, the animating treasure of life.

I looked, I looked and was reborn: without knowing it,
there, was the fountain, the dance of gold, the sky,
the fire that revived in beauty.

I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter.

I will not forget the light of the horses.

by Pablo Neruda, 1904–1973; translated by Stephen Mitchell


I like for you to be still 
it is as though you are absent 
And you hear me from far away 
And my voice does not touch you 
it seems as though your eyes had flown away 
And it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth 
As all things are filled with my soul 
You emerge from the things 
Filled with my soul 
You are like my soul 
A butterfly of dream 
And you are like the word: Melancholy 

I like for you to be still 
And you seem far away 
it sounds as though you are lamenting 
A butterfly cooing like a dove 
And you hear me from far away 
And my voice does not reach you 
Let me come to be still in your silence 
And let me talk to you with your silence 
That is bright as a lamp 
Simple, as a ring 
You are like the night 
With its stillness and constellations 
Your silence is that of a star 
As remote and candid 

I like for you to be still 
it is as though you are absent 
Distant and full of sorrow 
So you would've died 
One word then,
One smile is enough 
And I'm happy; 
Happy that it's not true

by Pablo Neruda, 1904–1973; translator unknown

Neruda’s poem (also translator unknown) is read by Tom O’Bedlam:


A Little Girl Tugs at the Tablecloth 

She’s been in this world for over a year,
and in this world not everything’s been examined
and taken in hand.

The subject of today’s investigation
is things that don’t move by themselves.

They need to be helped along,
shoved, shifted,
taken from their place and relocated.

They don’t all want to go, e.g., the bookshelf,
the cupboard, the unyielding walls, the table.

But the tablecloth on the stubborn table
—when well-seized by its hems—
manifests a willingness to travel.

And the glasses, plates,
creamer, spoons, bowl,
are fairly shaking with desire.

It’s fascinating,
what form of motion will they take,
once they’re trembling on the brink:
will they roam across the ceiling?
fly around the lamp?
hop onto the windowsill and from there to a tree?

Mr. Newton still has no say in this.
Let him look down from the heavens and wave his hands.
This experiment must be completed.
And it will.

by Wisława Szymborska; translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.

from MONOLOGUE OF A DOG: New Poems by Wisława Szymborska, translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. English translation copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won't
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass, and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We'll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

by Wisława Szymborska

from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wisława Szymborska, 2001
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak. Copyright 2001 by Wisława Szymborska. All rights reserved.

To see Hitler’s baby picture click here

Hitler’s First Photograph

And who's this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That's tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers' little boy!
Will he grow up to be an LL.D.?
Or a tenor in Vienna's Opera House?
Whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose?
Whose tummy full of milk, we just don't know:
printer's, doctor's, merchant's, priest's?
Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?
To garden, to school, to an office, to a bride,
maybe to the Burgermeister's daughter? 

Precious little angel, mommy's sunshine, honeybun,
while he was being born a year ago,
there was no dearth of signs on the earth and in the sky:
spring sun, geraniums in windows,
the organ-grinder's music in the yard,
a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper,
then just before the labor his mother's fateful dream:
a dove seen in dream means joyful news,
if it is caught, a long-awaited guest will come.
Knock knock, who's there, it's Adolf's heartchen knocking. 

A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
like the tots in every other family album.
Shush, let's not start crying, sugar,
the camera will click from under that black hood.

The Klinger Atelier, Grabenstrasse, Braunau,
and Braunau is small but worthy town,
honest businesses, obliging neighbors,
smell of yeast dough, of gray soap.
No one hears howling dogs, or fate's footsteps.
A history teacher loosens his collar
and yawns over homework.

by Wislawa Szymborska

Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. from Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wisława Szymborska. Copyright 2001 by Wisława Szymborska.