Poems Without Frontiers

Poems in Translation

David William Paley

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Bedevere is a tribute to Alfred Tennyson who immortalised his Bedivere in Morte d'Arthur. The poem uses mostly ten line verse and is rhymed throughout and only a little inconsistently. The text uses mostly Anglo Saxon words rather than the ornate olde English of Tennyson; and the spelling of the protagonist's name differs from that of Mallory and Tennyson in order further to differentiate my story from theirs.

Despite his having fought a battle, rescued his mortally wounded King from the field, sprung across rocks to and from the lake several times and carried Arthur to the lakeside, Bedivere's character is somewhat impugned by Tennyson in the former's disingenuous replies to his King when questioned. He, nonetheless, marvels at the closing scene and suffers without complaint when he is denied passage on the barge.

My poem redeems Bedivere from the suggestion that he was flawed by his desire to retain the sword in order for it to be retrieved on a future occasion should that be necessary. I present Bedevere in his full nobility in executing his task, which he carries out loyally, simply and without demur, which are qualities represented by the gradually increasing light of day that greets completion of his task.


Churchyard takes inspiration from Gray's Elegy and similarly reflects on the departed souls who are now long lost to time. It consists of nine stanzas each of eleven lines (except for the first, which is of eight lines) and has few rhymes.

An observer in the graveyard reflects upon the lives and struggles of the departed who, contrary to Gray, are not revered merely for acceptance of their humble lot. I imply that their capabilities and achievements live on beyond the grave in providing inspiration to the present world and thereby incite us to overcome the challenges of modern times.

Dead Leaves

Dead Leaves consists of six stanzas each of twelve lines and is not rhymed. It is voiced by a man who has achieved strength and endeavour during his lifetime but who is now reduced by age to a mere tool of wind and nature and feels that he will shortly depart this life.

Sad though he may be at his fate, he, nonetheless, philosophises at the new freedom it will bring him in a new found capability of movement through the air; but he is aware of the gulf that will arise between the realm he now anticipates for himself and his former state. He therefore expresses caution at desiring the change too soon but is only too conscious of the limitations imposed upon the power of man to determine his fate.

The vitality of life will continue, however, in the combined strength of nature rolling ever onward in which some remnant of his existence may still be perceived in the blowing leaves transformed into Olympian gods. In particular, he implores his wife to watch him passing with the dancing leaves blown across the fields and thereby to feel that he is always present.


A man in the depths of despair welcomes a night of rest but quickly descends into misgivings at the thought that he will be granted only torment and that he may not see another day. All the delights of the world will be denied to him and he will, soon, pass into the grave. He wonders why he must continue to suffer when the future appears so bleak; but concludes that he is indifferent to his fate. He neither wishes for the end nor for an extension to life; but is able to conclude with some hope that the darkness may finally be lifted.

Format is five stanzas of between thirteen and twenty lines each the length of which reflects the turmoil of his mind. The poem is irregularly rhymed.

Floating on The Wind

A man (or woman) welcomes his recurrent dream that brings to view his, now, deceased lover and brings her almost physically into his embrace. He regrets that past pleasures cannot displace present sadness but lives for her rustling with the breeze in the leaves and sight of her in his sleep. His visions are interrupted by the dawn, however, and he must wait for the next night to bring her to him, once more.

Format is seven stanzas each of two quatrains rhymed irregularly throughout.

Last Voyage

Last Voyage consists of seven stanzas each of twelve lines and is not rhymed.

It addresses the anguish of a relative who, too late, discovers that a troubled person has removed himself from the world. His remorse is expressed in loving tones and understanding with the promise that they will someday be re-united.

The poem uses maritime analogies in order to signify the inner turmoil of the departed and the later reunification in harbour. The moment of anguish is expressed by reference to the permanence of winter weather and the black birds wheeling about the churchyard. But it is followed by the wish that the departed may finally rejoice in the warmer climes beyond the seas where that brief life will find fulfilment in the love that accompanies him.

New Life

New Life consists of seven stanzas the first four of which being of nine lines and the last three being of eleven lines none of which are rhymed.

The poem is a tribute to a man who has rejected a dissolute lifestyle with which he has become sated and is determined to reform. He is aware of the difficulties and the opprobrium in which he will be held by the moralists whom he regards as the lesser people of the world.

In the protagonist's rejection of fate, I make allusion to Charon and to the Morte d'Arthur of Tennyson; and, in his determination to succeed, there is also an allusion to the words that Tennyson gives his Ulysses in his last venture.

Reaching the Harbour

Reaching the Harbour consists of nine stanzas each of six lines and is not rhymed.

The poem tells of a sailing boat approaching the harbour at night through difficult seas. It relies on rhythm to convey the action wherein the boat is driving across wild seas but is able to make the harbour and rest in safety at the quay.

But there may an alternative interpretation.

Remnant of Spring

Remnant of Spring consists of twelve stanzas each of eight lines rhymed D, H.

A man likens his deceased lover to a flower that bloomed in spring but has succumbed too soon to winter's gloom. He deplores her loss and his powerlessness to revive their happy days, but, in his bitterness, exhorts her to rise again although sadly conscious that winter will not thaw. Even if he were to retain the flower, he is only too aware that his tears will last forever.


Stream is a poem not so much of lost love but rather of self-mockery at its loss and the protagonist's former foolishness. It consists of eight stanzas of eight lines each rhymed DE.

The rejected lover loads all his thoughts onto a craft, as flimsy as is now his former love, in a determined effort to rid himself of his delusions. He imagines their journey on the stream through fields and groves, past rocks and finally tumbling into the sea that expiates all former folly. He ends by philosophising that the stream, that has carried away the remnants of this episode, continues to flow and that the waters, as they become continuously replenished, will thereby be able to bring to his life a new experience more hopeful than the last.

The Curtain Falls

A jilted man is incensed at the sudden departure of his lover who has raised false hopes of permanence within him.

Using metaphors of the stage in which he alleges she has merely played a role whilst he had invested his full sincerity in her, he rages at her apparent duplicity in misleading him to the belief that her feelings echoed his for her. He expresses his anguish at her parting and turns to irony and protest claiming that he would need a century to recover and ends in recriminations at her disloyalty.

The format is six stanzas each of thirteen lines rhymed KM with a few other rhymes randomly placed.

The Doll's House

The Dolls House consists of six stanzas that vary from thirteen to seventeen lines in length and is irregularly rhymed.

It deals with the frustration of a young woman and her overwhelming desire to break out from the well-meant but resented restrictions imposed upon her. In her perfect house, she has no cares or worries but, nonetheless, wants to launch a career for herself despite having had no preparation for life. She is condemned to a life of idleness at home and expresses the wish to exchange her security for the worrisome but rewarding life similar to those led by the ordinary people she can see from her window.

Above all, she rails against dismissal of her ambitions as though she were merely a doll.

The End of a Dream

This is an account, in the form of a mediaeval duel, of a relationship ending in acrimony.

The lover is racked with remorse at the parting and the anger that had been engendered. He bitterly regrets that there can be no reconciliation given the annihilation of all feelings now fled over horizons and which are, consequently, irretrievable. He is disconsolate in his loneliness, aware of their faults and their lasting guilt at their inability to admit them.

Format is nine stanzas each of eleven lines and is fulsomely rhymed.

The Face in the Frame

The Face in the Frame consists of ten stanzas each of twelve lines and is rhymed mostly BD, HK and IK.

The poem describes the impression on an art gallery visitor gained when viewing a portrait of an unknown lady. The visitor is struck by the mysterious beauty of the subject about whom little is known; and he imagines the life she must have led. Her face and features are so fascinating that he builds his own picture of her role and the events in her life seeing her almost as a living being. He is finally joined in the now silent gallery by the guide who evidently shares his fascination as they continue to admire the painting together.

The Flower

The Flower consists of three stanzas each of seven lines where a statement of four lines is answered by a response of three lines. It is written in free verse without rhyme or regular meter, although iambs are prevalent, but I hope that the story of the lovers parting is sufficiently poetic to compensate. There are a few internal rhymes and assonances, however, eg "play, May", "new, through", "afresh, perish", "blossoms, kisses".

I envisage the story to be related by a man; but a woman could easily be the protagonist. He is not a mere youth as in many poems of lost love, however, but somewhat older with a certain maturity of judgement and insight into human feelings that enable him to view his loss with detachment from the perspective of wisdom gained by experience rather than from the immaturity and self-indulgence of the despair of youth.

He compares a deep felt loss, probably of a dearly loved woman who has left him for some unexplained and probably unjust reason. He sees in a newly plucked flower a means to contrast his everlasting love with the ephemeral passage of emotions she has demonstrated and now has so cruelly withdrawn from him.

The poem begins with the analogy of love represented by the flower overcoming all obstacles and confident that it will be perpetually renewed each spring in contrast to the vulnerability of a love that will not regenerate once it has encountered a rebuff. The poem then suddenly plunges into the foreboding of impending loss which is confirmed, in emulation of her sudden departure, by the jilted lover plucking the flower which will now wither rather than be renewed.

The flower will be reborn to grace a later spring but with no memory of past despair whereas the jilted lover cannot believe that another love will be as heartfelt as that which he has felt for his recently lost beloved and which, in contrast, will die of grief and never reawaken despite his constancy.

The poem calls in aid the passage of the year from spring through summer that, in the winds and buds of May, and with their waving flowers, expresses the joys of love. This is contrasted with the despair evoked by the cruelty he has suffered when his love was spurned. What had evidently been a deep and reciprocated love has suddenly dissolved after some disagreement has arisen between them and they have parted in bleakened circumstances with the consequence that their separation has transformed a flower strewn life of former joy into a barren moor. They have taken their separate paths and she has gone to some unknown place for some unknown reason whilst he is left gazing at an empty arena.

I use the double meaning of the verb "to press" in order to echo his dilemma. The perfection of his love could have been preserved by pressing the flower in a book; but the flower is no longer the emblem of their undivided love kept forever in treasured memory but petals blowing in the wind in representation of their fractured love. They are, nonetheless, his ambassadors of love and his last remnant of hope that they may find her and restore her love for him.

The wind has a personality that is favourably disposed towards the couple having once fanned their love and is now willing to be pressed into service in order to aid them in this trial by blowing the remnants of the flower in pursuit of the woman in a vain attempt to salvage their relationship. By setting free the petals in the hope that they may find and restore his previous happiness, the lover sacrifices the emblem of his love in this last act of desperation thereby not only forgoing the pleasure that it may have brought some consolation to him in future years but also demonstrating his commitment to their relationship despite her having left him.

He is confident that the same wind that blew in spring can seek her out; but he knows deep within his soul that she has severed their relationship and that he will not be able to rekindle her former feelings. She has broken free having evidently been captivated in her love for him and will not now return; and neither will the wind. His feelings are that much more poignant for her having renounced him voluntarily whilst his love remains as deep and permanent as ever.

He has probably exhausted any argument he may have had that would achieve a reconciliation. All he can do now is gaze after the petals borne on the wind and stoically accept that, whilst spring will revive the flower, his love will never be requited. Those bleak feelings felt upon her departure will remain. Only heather upon the moorland that, as the fourth character in the drama, has maintained a sombre silence throughout, will know that his feelings are as strongly felt as those posed by the finality of death.

The Lark

The protagonist expresses his admiration of the lark using five 'Petrarchan' sonnets, each of which are rhymed, mostly, AC, BD, EG, FH, MN.

As the notes scatter over the fields, the poet admires the devotion of the lark to its calling. He easily disregards its apparently wanton life and wonders how it came by its song concluding that it must be from the purity of nature and contact with the gods. He dreads the cessation of its song knowing that he must spend the winter in lonely wait willing the bird's reappearance.

The View From My Kitchen Window

The View From My Kitchen Window consists of ten stanzas mostly of eight lines being two quatrains with a few irregularly placed rhymes.

It is, indeed, a poem about my garden, which is quite unexceptional apart from its reasonably well tended lawn and labour saving, but attractive, shrubs. The poem contains no drama except the passing of the seasons with their colours, blossoms and birds. I, nonetheless, express regret at the changes steadily wrought by nature closing in on the view.

The poem expresses my preference for light rather than dark and for the conquest of spring over winter, which I personify in the closing verses. At time of writing, this scenario has been a source of satisfaction to me for almost thirty years.

The Warriors

The Warriors is written in a deliberately anachronistic style in order not to identify the subject with any conflict. For example, it contains references to cannon as well as to blasted woods; and refers to the warriors returning by sail to their native land but also to tending garden lawns.

It consists of eighteen stanzas each of nine lines and is irregularly rhymed throughout; but, with few exceptions, I and J are rhymed consistently. Each stanza contains an opening quatrain and a closing cinquain.

The poem is spoken by a narrator who presents both sides of the conflict from the point of view of the combatants and of the loved ones left behind. The text is interspersed with the thoughts of the lover of the combatant on the opposing side. She, perhaps, is one of those who is unable, or is precluded, from openly expressing her love. The deceased opposing combatant is described, in a Shakespearean reference, as just as heroic as the survivors.

The suffering of some lovers being too soon deprived of happiness is not omitted. The deceased combatants of the homeland speak from the grave. After bidding farewell to departing comrades, they are left to join the throng of combatants of both sides who have no enmity now but, nonetheless, in death, remember the lovers they have left behind.

The survivors return to be greeted by their lovers and by village bands, or silence if they so choose, and seek to resume their civilian lives; but only with the poignant reminder at the close that not everybody was able to participate in the rejoicing.

The Wind on the Cliff

The Wind on the Cliff consists of twenty-five stanzas each of eight lines being two quatrains rhymed DH.

The poem tells the story of the enlightenment gained by a young woman of her role in life. The revelation is imparted by a benevolent wind blowing on the cliff top around the figure who is standing there. Her view from the cliff reveals a clear and open sea that resembles the young woman's trouble free life to date and the vastness of the bewildering choices that confront her; but the wind imparts the wisdom of experience with sound advice on how to face her future.

Thus encouraged, she sets out on life's voyage and, in distant years to come, returns in spirit to the beach below the cliff where she joins her knowledge of life to the bay ready to fly aloft in the wind and impart further advice to those who may have need of it.

Thoughts of Mortality

Thoughts of Mortality consists of nine stanzas each of ten lines except the first which is of nine lines. It is only sparsely rhymed.

My debt to Wordsworth may be here discerned in the subject matter if not in the prose. Having evidently experienced the loss of a close friend, the protagonist reflects for the first time on the fragility of life wondering whether he may also soon feel the hand of fate. He dismisses the foolish arrogance of man in considering himself and his works immortal and bemoans man's inability to achieve worthy objectives.

He is almost prepared to surrender his will to live long; and he philosophically greets the notion of dying as merely a transition to a further life and renewal of old contacts. But then, reason prevails and he rejects his sad solemnity in favour of his former vigour and, in a Wordsworthian allusion, shakes off the sentimentality into which his former sadness has drawn him.

Whispers in the Dark

Whispers in the Dark consists of six stanzas each of eight lines and is rhymed throughout mainly AC, BD, FH, CG but with variations.

Many poems have been written by lovers who have survived the death of a partner and who address him or her in the grave. This poem expresses the contact with the survivor from beyond, or rather, from within the grave.

A deep love has been severed by some catastrophe but the deceased still wishes to convey a love that has never died from a place evoked by suitably sombre imagery. He recalls their previous happy life as the sound of bells and laughter linger in his ear. He implores them to ring out again and for his lover to sing her love as she sang before.

Since a pair is the union of complementary items, he claims that her whispers from above will join his thoughts and thereby bridge the gulf between life and death.