Small Bouquet of Flowers in a Ceramic Vase by Jan Bruegel the Elder.


The numbing  tumults of a listless day

Are thought to be matters of great import,

Though these passing tempests rarely relay

Passions of the highest or purest sort.

How stupid of me to write these verses!

Heaping scorn upon what is beneath it

While my guardian spirit rehearses

Nervously over what he will submit

To the starry judges of mortal deeds,

Who to me kindly  granted a reward

To which no common compass ever leads:

An ivory muse who has made me her lord.

In this way inspiration is ordained

And our unfailing melody sustained


I peer down to find their affairs tired and tried

From this throne under which their kingdoms reside

Seated between the broad forms behind their art

Watching high thoughts come only to depart.

From the misty rim of history’s hubris,

Unfading but presumed to be rootless,

In verse I for a time may capture you,

Pushing onward with my pen to renew

Our story’s beauties and its beatitude.  

For the day when their faith in love dwindles

Escaping into the clouds that occlude,

Let these lines be the wood that rekindles

The image of pure hearts rightly construed,

To which our poor arts can only allude


You saw my soul was sick, but did not leave  

You let it writhe and listened to it whine

In your kind way you asked for no reprieve,    

Letting your balms with my illness align.

Yet its cause could you ever really quell?

Affection has wrought it, you are its source,

And with the cure the pain runs parallel,

Tracing a seemingly uncertain course.

If I am to be yours I must have worth

Or nature could never condone this bond.

This mandate forces a trying rebirth

And commands my maladies to abscond.

In sickness health will find its expression

And jealousy a better profession


When care is strained by the whims of fortune,

Which tears the stoutest of resolves apart,

Every moment comes too late and too soon

For the searing patience of the longing heart.

Dumbly grasping for the night we last met

Crawling toward the next day we will meet,

Turning golden embrace into regret

And lambent daydreams into grey defeat.

Yet it commands us to remain undaunted,

Orders us to be unflinching and true,

For all other powers seem too vaunted

Next to what lets our love be born anew.

Let distance and folly attempt to rend

What our one purpose will rise to defend


When you are gone I toil without an aim

Daft, dumb, and still, hesitant to embark

On my ventures once great, but now lame –

Sorely clasping toward your ensnaring mark. 

For to what will all my efforts amount

Without my gift, your judgement, or the whip?

Should I then labour on my own account,

Without a more refined mind’s gentle grip?

I would rather lay my songs at your feet

Than see them besmirched by another’s ears

And traverse the unforgiving arête,

Prepared for when your visage reappears.

I will wait and summon a stronger might

And in striving for you find purer delight.


There are only ink stains on this page

Symbols too mournfully stiff to be real

And so my expressions beg me to rage,

To never write a merely modest appeal.  

What scraps can my pauper of a pen collect

From waterfall songs or the twilight’s jewel?

It does not reel, for an attempt to defect

Sends it back to its task, gainfully cruel.  

My shame would be worse if I refrained

From my failing endeavors to duplicate  

Your presence, and having so abstained

Would make art’s stomach more insatiate.

Then let me rise once more to raise my pen,

And with ardor charge the unreal again.


A dunce alone would doubt your affections

Once pierced by the arrows of your glare,

To others you give costumed reflections

But for your love you remain always bare.

In a life without a single granted boon

Who could not question such a downpour?

Forgive the fool who finds fault with fortune,

He does not know how he earned its favour.  

Parched by the sun, stricken by the swelter

All things green and good seemed suspect

Faltering, I sought a mirage for shelter,

And gained entry to its every aspect.

The vision I thought could not be possessed

Is now too real for my doubts to contest

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