hatstuck snarl

theoretically, a hairstyling salon


The following comes from Emerson's poetry notebook EF as yet another version retranslated from Enweri, though this time he excludes credit in favor of citing Hafiz. It appears to be an attempt at writing an "original" in homage to Hafiz, though he didn't really follow through. It leaves anyway something to play with, and so I follow with a possible revision (just for fun) -

{112}[Hafiz, Diwan,] Vol I p 314

And had Hafiz
Ten tongues like the lily,
He would be silent
Like the rosebud,
While thro love his mouth is sealed.

-In- *Oer* the garden water goes the wind alone
By filing to polish the cheeks of the pond
The fire is /quenched/out/ on the -household- *house*
      hearth ­­­­­­*stone*
But it burns again in the tulips -leaf- *frond*
Yesterday the frosty way the icy wind
-I-Me from labor disinclined
Now desire -I-
I slunk to books & home
Now desire of action wakes
And the wish to roam. (Poetry Notebook EF 319)


Wind on the water teases
the cheeks of the pond, while
a tulip reflecting a cold flame
quivers. I who yesterday
withdrew to the hearth,
today respond to an inner
fever. Even with ten lily
tongues, I stand, while
assessing the sexual
urgency of a rosebud,
by words today barren.


Eala nædre! Of Þara treowa wæstme Þe sind on brecanfæst we etao on neorxenawange ofer middæg!

Ne sceole ge swa softe sinc gegangan in becomon, nædre. Þæt is michel wundor.
Thuso tha weastamas ic no yt eten min brecanfæst nieder! No doubt, yo tengo hambre!


Peter Glassgold’s 1983 anthology Hwæt! A Little Old English Anthology of American Modernist Poetry is a collection of 25 modernist poems, by writers as diverse as George Oppen, Gary Snyder, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams, among others, which have been “back translated” from modern English into Old English. Glassgold himself, in the forward to this work, describes the collection as “what began [as] part joke, part mad game,” and which eventually “grew in the delighted response of friends” (9). His aim is not to render the poems in a way that would honor or reflect Old English style, but to convert the modern English originals into Old English while maintaining the modern English appearance of the poems, “These translations, for the most part, do not draw on the Old English poetic tradition which was highly stylized—it was never my intention to recreate modern poems in the ancient alliterative manner, perfectly intelligible to King Alfred’s court” (Glassgold 10). Indeed, if Glassgold’s text and the original poem were lined up inter-linearly, it would be possible for a reader not familiar with Old English to gloss that text. Although Glassgold states that his purpose is mostly aligned with pleasure, and indeed there is a certain satisfaction in seeing poems such as those by Williams in Old English alongside the modern English text, there is also much to be learned about both Old English as well as modern English from this collection.

As a new student in the study of Old English, and as a writer of poems who is also interested in modernist poetry, translation, and language, my fascination with this project began with sheer excitement in the seemingly novelty and also the uselessness of translating into a dead language. This novelty also seems to catch the attention of Glassgold who playfully claims that his “approach is more in the spirit of Dada than Germanic philology” (Glassgold Hwæt 9). Although Glassgold maintains a playful attitude towards his texts and their purpose, on closer examination of this anthology, I became interested in what Glassgold’s text teaches us. Despite the fact that Glassgold maintains the word order and diction of the original poems, often by inventing words in order to makeup for the limits of Old English vocabulary, Glassgold’s poems, like any translated texts, produce moments in which the texts fail to correlate to the originals once they are translated back into modern English. Further, when I myself translated poems, such as those by William Carlos Williams, into Old English, using several dictionaries and my own limited knowledge of Old English vocabulary, other divergences and issues arose.

For purposes of this essay, I will examine three texts by Williams, “This is Just to Say,” “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime” as my core texts. I will rely upon the original text, Glassgold’s translation into Old English, my own translation of the text in Old English, which I have completed without consulting Glassgold’s text, as well as translations of both my own Old English version of the poem as well as Glassgold’s into modern English. I have chosen to focus on Williams because Glassgold himself admits that the poems by Williams are the most readily translatable into Old English[1]. I plan to come back to this claim later in the essay. By examining the gaps that occur between the modern English poem, Glassgold’s translations, and my own, I will begin to formulate an understanding of what Old English cannot do that modern English is able to accomplish.

Before introducing Glassgold’s superior Old English translation of several texts, allow me to offer my own translation of William Carols Williams’ “This is Just to Say,” a poem which I plan to use as the core example from Glassgold’s text[2]:

Þes Is Swa To Secgenne

Ic æt
Þa wæstmas
Þæt wæron on
Þæm ciele

and Þe
Þu wære
for brecanfæst

Forgief me
hi wæron wundorful
swa swete
and swa cald

When put back into modern English, Williams’ poem reads:

This is thus/so[3] to say

I ate
the fruits
which were in
the chill/cold

and which
thou might be
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were wonderful
so sweet and so cold

[1] I will return to this claim later: “Of all the poems in this collection, those by Williams translate most readily into OE” (Glassgold 85).
[2] I am also offering all of these translations as appendices, to ease the manner by which the reader of this essay will be able to consult the translations without consistently flipping pages.
[3] When the dictionaries and glossaries that I am consulting, which include the glossary in the back of Mitchell and Robinson’s A Guide to Old English as well as J.R. Clark Hall’s 1931 A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, offer two or more definitions that I find relevant, I have indicated both possibilities in my translation by marking them with a /. This occurs in the case of thus/so and chill/cold. This also occurs in my translation back into modern English of Glassgold’s translation of the text into Old English.


This November is peculiarly warm. Last night while out walking the dog at around 10:30, she alerted me to a movement between my feet. I looked down in the darkness and spotted a quickly moving shadow which turned out to be a tiny snake I almost stepped on. It was simply snaking along on down the street in the darkness. There are a lot of these little snakes on the street around here, most of which are flattened, though I've never seen them in November before.


butoh moshpit concrete dancer:

Steve, this is the best pink ever!


Fooling around with one of Emerson's retranslations from Hafiz via the German of Joseph von Hammer, I came up with a version of my own.

The first two versions are Emerson's, the second of which surfaces in his essay "Persian Poetry"; the third is my revision of his previous efforts:

In the garden goes now the wind over the water
To file and to polish the cheeks of the pond.
On tulips plays now the reflection of fire
Which plays now no more in chimney and hearth.
He who yesterday withdrew himself from affairs,
Him now desire sets again in activity.


O’er the garden water goes the wind alone
To rasp and polish the cheek of the wave;
The fire is quenched on the dear hearthstone,
But it burns again on the tulips brave.


Wind on the water teases the cheeks of the pond, while
a tulip reflecting a cold flame quivers. He
who yesterday withdrew to the hearth,
today responds to an inner fever.


To: Carol Cartwright

It's come to my attention that the administration at Kent State University is considering an indefinite ban or the expulsion of David Airhart from the university due to his recent action in resistance to on-campus military recruiting.

Keeping in mind that wars always lead to the polarization of opinion, I write in order to request that the university consider modifying such a harsh action. I write to ask you to please allow David Airhart to continue his education at Kent State University.

It seems to me that this incident presents the university with an opportunity for dialogue and debate about a crucial issue; it seems to me that choosing to simply expel Mr Airhart eschews the timeliness of the opportunity while it additionally allows the university to avoid responsibility for helping to perpetuate our corporate militarist economic structure.

We need to invent alternatives to this corporate militaristic model, and we need to invent these alternatives as soon as possible.

Perhaps you ought to allow the recruiters and Mr Airhart to discuss the issue of campus recruiting in a public forum.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration of this issue,

Stephen Kirbach