What is your favorite phrase or line from a poem not in English?

By: | Post date: 2016-11-18 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Artificial Languages, Literature

Jane Marr! Why no A2A from you!

I’ve long been looking for an excuse to speak here of my favourite poem of all time.

It’s an odd choice. It’s an extremely formalist choice. It needs some setup.

Esperanto poetry is very formalist, for cultural reasons you can easily guess. At least, it was up through the 70s, which is what I read up to. Lots of rondels. Lots of sonnets. All sonnets Petrarchan. All rhymes meticulous.

Victor Sadler, an officer at the Universal Esperanto Association, published a slender volume in 1967, Memkritiko “Self Criticism”. (See discussion in Esperanto.) The shtick of the volume is that he found the poems in the Association archives, and he annotates them sarcastically. Very po-mo, but this would have been at the very outset of po-mo.

My favourite poem is a Petrarchan sonnet in his collection. Its subject matter is about dissolution.

Its form is about dissolution.

It’s a Petrarchan sonnet, but its verses are way too short. Trimeter and Dimeter, going down to a single foot at the end. The rhymes are off-rhymes, which is not normal in Esperanto. And in the sestet, the off-rhymes end up merging.

It’s like a sand castle, slowly washing away. Especially in the last three verses.

Mi, dezirante ĉerkon
(kapitulaci,
ekshipokrito laca,
ĉi ŝakan ŝercon),

pluportis mian serĉon
ĝis la palaco
de ĉi korpo kuraca,
en kies riĉon

mi kitelumas
pli pace miajn ostojn
ol feton lulas

la utero; kaj ekson
mian ĝi teksas
en naskon.

I, wishing for a coffin
(to quit,
a tired ex-hypocrite,
this joke of chess),

continued my search
until the palace
of this healing body,
in whose riches

I besmock
my bones more peacefully
than the womb lulls

the fetus; and it weaves
my expiration
into birth.

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