mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Horse Latitudes

When the still sea conspires an armor (*an* armor? Really, Jim?)
And her sullen and aborted
Currents breed tiny monsters
True sailing is DEAD
blah blah blah

This is one of those sargasso 'I hate my life' periods, and so as a counteractant I bring you....

Medieval Arabic Poetry from Spain!

The Oars of the Galley
--Ali Ben Hariq

It seems there are only reptiles in the hold,
which entered in Noah's day to escape the Flood.

They think the waters are rising again, and each
serpent, alarmed, flickers its tongue at an opening.

The Artichoke
--Ibn al-Talla

Daughter of earth and water, her bounty
Is offered to him who awaits her
Locked in a castle of greed.

By her whiteness, and the fastness of her refuge,
She seems like a Greek virgin
Concealed in a veil of spears.

(Artichokes in Andalusia are clearly different from those in Ontario.)

In Battle
--Abu-l-Hasan Ben Al-Qabturnuh

I remembered Sulayma when the passion
of battle was as fierce
as the passion of my body when we parted.

I thought I saw, among the lances, the tall
perfection of her body,
and when they bent toward me I embraced them.

The Storm
--Ben Suhayd

The flowers lift their open mouths in the dark
seeking the bountiful udders of the rain,

and the black clouds parade in grand battalions,
armed with the golden sabres of the lightning.

All translations by one Lysander Kemp, from the Modern Library 'An Anthology of Medieval Lyrics.' Weird as some of the ideas here may be, they make a lovely change from what's produced elsewhere in the period: the tedious tropes of chivalric love-- bloodless pining lovers, unconvincing waxen ladies-- or unpleasing encomia of war. Troubadour poetry is probably all lost in translation-- or else, possibly, it's just as tiresome in the original as it becomes in English.

ETA: I remember someone trying to convince me, back in '68, that Horse Latitudes was all about having sex with a condom on. The horses are sperm. I suppose it works.
Tags: verse

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