O that we might be our ancestors’ ancestors.
A clump of slime in a warm bog.
Life and death, fertilizing and parturition
Would be all the functions of our silent juices.
An algal leaf or a sand dune,
Shaped by the wind and basal and heavyset.
Even a dragonfly’s head or a gull’s wing
Would be too evolved and suffer too much.
Gottfried Benn, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Heureux qui comme Ulysse
Happy the man who, journeying far and wide
As Jason or Ulysses did, can then
Turn homeward, seasoned in the ways of men,
And claim his own, and there in peace abide!
When shall I see the chimney-smoke divide
The sky above my little town: ah, when
Stroll the small gardens of that house again
Which is my realm and crown, and more beside?
Better I love the plain, secluded home
My fathers built, than bold façades of Rome;
Slate pleases me as marble cannot do;
Better than Tiber’s flood my quiet Loire,
Those little hills than these, and dearer far
Than great sea winds the zephyrs of Anjou.
Joachim du Bellay, translated by Richard Wilbur.