Monday, October 11, 2010

The Mamelukes May Love

Warning: there will be poems on this blog. I picked up a sweet little volume called The Penguin Book of Italian Verse (from 1958) at the Friends of the Seattle Library Booksale (which happens two times a year, two of the most wonderful times of the year). I didn’t even really open it, just grabbed it. It was so pretty, and such a handy size (fits right in a pocket), that I knew it would be a fantastic companion for moving to Italy. Only when I came home did I realize that all the poems were only presented in Italian. There are prose descriptions of each, but the poems themselves—only Italian. So, I plan on trying to translate some and post them here. Even though my Italian is limited, my dictionary is robust. The following isn’t from that book (as I haven’t yet had time to do any translating), but is another Italian translation I already did, for the book I edited that recently came out, called In Their Cups: Poems About Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers. I thought this poem would be a good one to set the tone. It fits into that somewhat argumentative/declarative mode that was popular way back when, which a lot of older drinking poems follow up on, coming out swinging for their drink of choice (this before poets started becoming introspective boors. I kid, I kid. There’s not one boorish poet, alive or dead, in In Their Cups)

The Mamelukes may love

The Mamelukes may love
their Nile waters, the Spanish
may swear by the raging
Tagus river, but I will not
be sucked in to sipping this weak wetness.
And if ever one of my friends
dips a single finger into these deeps,
I’ll strangle them with my own hands.
Let the quacks and quaking go pluck
lean lettuces, herbs, and chicory
to mix with water and rid
them of evil thoughts.
My friends and I skip
the spigots of plain water, even
banish watered Limoncello
from our parties. Sweet ladies,
for a moment, do not drink,
but run your  fingers like garlands
through my hair. I won’t crave your
sugary egg punch, or golden
sorbets, a thousand fragranced waters,
because these indolent drinks are only
for your sweet lips. Wine, wine
is for those desire euphoria,
to forget their fears. But be not shy about it--
I tip my glasses crazily, happily,
at least six times a year.

----Francesco Redi (translation by me)

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