Monday, May 28, 2012

Off the Shelf Archive~May

As usual I've procrastinated insufferably on this feature, waiting till the absolute last day of the month to change out the Off the Shelf selection. Again I'm falling back on a poem I've lived with for the last few decades, one from Octavio Paz, called Beyond Love. I couldn't tell you how many times I've read this one in a dark midnight.  

You'll find it here, in the Off the Shelf archives for July.

And here is a biography of the man, in my opinion one of the great Spanish language poets of our time.

So without further ado, here's last month's selection for a final read before it enters the archives, an even older favorite of mine by John Donne, 
 A Valediction; Forbidding Mourning:

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning 

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move,
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant,
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun. 

~ by John Donne

Image: Carlysle Wall(The Lovers), 1853,  by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 


  1. First, this is my favorite Dunne poem. I've always found his poetry to be richly wise and a pleasure to read.

    But the Octavio Paz! What is it with these Spanish language poets? I tend to like them extremely well. am not familiar with Paz, but I LOVE the poem you posted, with such vibrant imagery and language. You may be sure that I will be looking up Octavio Paz in the future. ow did you come to know about him?

  2. Thanks, Shay. I bought a book of Spanish language love poems, translated, in my twenties, and that's how I met Paz, Lorca and Neruda, among others. It's sad that so few here in the US have heard of Paz--he won the Nobel Prize for literature--poets just are so below the mainstream in our culture compared to the people that seem to interest us--reality TV stars, lying politicians and celebrity whackos.

  3. I haven't heard of Paz... but love Lorca and Neruda too.

    This John Donne is one of my favourite of metaphysical poems - that image of the compass is unsurpassed.. and gold to aery thinness beat... What a line!

  4. Yes, that line is one of the really immortal ones in poetry--I first read it maybe thirty years ago, and I can still quote that stanza and the preceding one from memory. And my memory is pretty much shot. ;_) Thanks for stopping by Kerry.

  5. nice...thanks for the enjoyable read on the dunne poem...will pop over to octavio paz as well as i def dont feel familiar with the name at all..

  6. Great choice, HW

    Hope you can speak/understand Spanish to really LOVE/appreciate those ones even more- Great translations though!

    1. Only a little--it just amazes me how good all three of these poets are translated--I do get a feel in the original, though. My little book has both Spanish and English, so it helps. Thanks for reading, Dulce.

  7. Both very beautiful poems and oddly similar. k.

  8. you are right i do like paz...enjoyed your selection over there and looking up som more...


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats