Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homage To Sextus Propertius - Ezra Pound

Another by Ezra Pound (see other for bio info) and possibly my favorite of all of his poems, perhaps because of its accessibility and stylistic departure from his best known.  Sextus Propertius was a Roman poet generally regarded for his elegies, of which close to one hundred survive.  They chronicle a love affair with an older woman who captured - and held - his heart early on and, it seems, until her death. 

I read this during my college years and the verse beginning with "Fool who would set a term to love's madness..." has always set the standard for expressing the absolute absurdity - and folly - of trying to control the object, arc, and/or duration of a love affair.  "The heart has its reasons, of which Reason knows nothing about", wrote Pascal, and we seem to forget that all the time.  Or how artificial barriers are just plain foolhardy and counter-productive to what our hearts want most: to connect.
Homage to Sextus Propertius

While our fates twine together,
sate we our eyes with love;
For long night comes upon you
and a day when no day returns.
Let the gods lay chains upon us
so that no day shall unbind them.

Fool who would set a term to love's madness
For the sun shall drive with black horses,
earth shall bring wheat from barley,
The flood shall move toward the fountain
Ere love know moderations,
The fish shall swim in dry streams.
No, now while it may be, let not the fruit of life cease.

Dry wreaths drop their petals,
their stalks are woven in baskets,
To-day we take the great breath of lovers,
to-morrow fate shuts us in.

Though you give all your kisses
you give but few.

Nor can I shift my pains to other,
Hers will I be dead,
If she confer such nights upon me,
long is my life, long in years,
If she give me many,
God am I for the time.
                                                      Ezra Pound - American

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