How many a weapon-shrouded warrior,
     whose approach is ruin,
inexperienced in fleeing
     or surrender,

                          Have my hands awarded
                     the quick thrust
                          of a tempered, well-joined,
                     straightened spear,

Gashing him open,
     the gurgling of his wound
guiding through the darkness
     hunger-worn wolves in search of prey.

                          I split through his breastplate
                     with a hard, cold blade—
                          the spear tip holds inviolate
                     no stout-hearted brave—

and left him carrion
     to be torn apart,
skull to wrist
     by rustling predators.

– excerpt from the Mu’allaqa of ‘Antara

translated by Michael Sells




  • durationpress/seedings-5_antarah_Did_poetry_die? [pdf]



Today I am going to behold those feet—
feet that are cooling, charming, joy-imparting,
that take away the devastating forest fire of sin,
that bear the royal imprint of goad and thunderbolt
and lotus and banner, and are colored lotus red.
I’ll find their marks through the forest, where he herds
the cows with his little cowherd friends.
Poets and scholars train their minds on those feet,
as do Shiva and Brahma and Indra,
but I will actually touch them—
with these hands and with this head.
Seeing them, Ill be compelled to leave my carriage:
I’ll throw my body to the ground,
then Surdas’s Lord will reach out with both arms
and laugh, embrace me, raise me. 

–  Surdas. excerpt from Sūr’s Ocean

translated by John Stratton Hawley