Monday, August 16, 2004

In the mail

The joys of insomnia. A kind gentleman I have yet to thank was good enough to send in a link to the new website, goodnewsiran. The Bible in Farsi. Many thanks to David.

I might be naïve to think some people might actually be interested in seeing how the opening lines of the Gospel of John (Yohana) sounds like in Farsi. Simple curiosity, you ask? Nah! Why bother? It can’t be invaded, bombed, tortured…nor intimidated by the threats of nuclear decimation, right?

Who knows though… here it goes:

Dar azal,[…] kalameh vojoud dāsht.

va nazd khodā boud.

Ou hamvāreh zendeh boudeh, va khodeh ou khodāst.

Pretty don’t you think?

Can’t be thinking about Jesus without also thinking of Romans. So I thought you might actually enjoy reading a short piece about the shenanigans, in Persia , of a certain Roman general, Marcus Licinius Crassus as well as those of our other beloved warrior, Antony. You will also get to learn (if you haven’t already) the origin of the phrase “Parthian shot.”

A couple of short pieces from Poland, thanks again to our learned guide Natalia. A short story by the playwrite Mrozak. And this one by S. W. Witkiewicz. Last, but not least, another poem by Zbignew Herbert who is fast becoming one of my all time favorite Poets:

Elegy of Fortinbras

Now that we're alone we can talk prince man to man
though you lie on the stairs and sec more than a dead ant
nothing but black sun with broken rays
I could never think of your hands without smiling
and now that they lie on the stone like fallen nests
they are as defenceless as before The end is exactly this
The hands lie apart The sword lies apart The head apart
and the knight's feet in soft slippers

You will have a soldier's funeral without having been a soldier
they only ritual I am acquainted with a little
There will be no candles no singing only cannon-fuses and bursts
crepe dragged on the pavement helmets boots artillery horses drums
drums I know nothing exquisite

those will be my manoeuvres before I start to rule
one has to take the city by the neck and shake it a bit

Anyhow you had to perish Hamlet you were not for life
you believed in crystal notions not in human clay
always twitching as if asleep you hunted chimeras
wolfishly you crunched the air only to vomit
you knew no human thing you did not know even how to breathe

Now you have peace Hamlet you accomplished what you had to
and you have peace The rest is not silence but belongs to me
you chose the easier part an elegant thrust
but what is heroic death compared with eternal watching
with a cold apple in one's hand on a narrow chair
with a view of the ant-hill and clock' dial

Adieu prince I have tasks a sewer project
and a decree on prostitutes and beggars
I must also elaborate a better system of prisons
since as you justly said Denmark is a prison
I go to my affairs This night is born
a star named Hamlet We shall never meet
what I shall leave will not be worth a tragedy

It is not for us to greet each other or bid farewell we live on archipelagos
and that water these words what can they do what can they do prince

Translated by Czeslaw Milosz

No comments: