Poems Without Frontiers

Poems in Translation

David William Paley

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The End of a Dream
David William Paley

With target fixed, I loosed my arrow
And watched it flying true;
But lacked the power to halt a flight
That struck the hour at dead of night
With words so rashly spoken.
Thus, was enmity finally sworn
With hostilities starting at dawn.
We clashed our arms, in battle well shielded,
As each opponent circled around
Slashing with weapons, none of which yielded,
Seeking to capture the moral high ground.

We matched our swords
And struck our sparks
That glanced from fiery armour
In a blaze of condemnation
Despatching with shouted cries
The ragged shreds of wounded lives.
The wars of long forgotten feuds
Were then again renewed
When bolts of hurtful rage
Were shot like poisoned darts
And parried by our practised arts.

With banners lowered and eagles battered
We paused to count our loss
And swagger upon our victory mound
Lying as dead as a fighter slain
Where neither laurels were to be found
Nor spirits of champions striding the plain.
There stood no oak on proudest field
But weeping willow bent in prayers
That leant across the flowing stream
Fed by springs of flooding tears
That drown the last romantic dream.

What injured heart has led to this?
What wounds have we inflicted?
There is no herald I can send
Who now could plant new life
In this so barren countryside
Laid waste by constant strife.
The smoke has cleared, combatants fled.
Would that only blight remain!
But I must leave my crippled pride
To mourn for all the blood we shed
And keep remorse convulsed with pain.

Helpless I lie, replete with my sorrow,
An archer who has emptied his quiver
And carries a bow deprived of an arrow.
Here, I am trapped in a maze of despond
With neither entrance nor exit
Cursing that fray when weapons were blunted.
Hostilities close but no treaty is signed
And plenipotentiaries advance on the scene
Deploring destruction and parties maligned
But praising the day when all was serene
Within better minds before they were stunted.

Our liaison, thus, is mortally shattered
Smoking in shrapnel, bursting bespattered,
Freed from our bonds, pounded and tattered,
Blown far away in enormous explosions
To drift through the air relieved of emotions.
When guns have been silenced and relations are sundered
And the fondness at which we had wondered
Is then neglected or recklessly squandered,
We feel contempt for those we have conquered
Until we walk where the battle had thundered
And wish that commanders had not foolishly blundered.

When our embrace was struck by lightning
And love consumed in fire
In such tumultuous conflagration
That souls are seared beyond damnation,
No soothing balm could heal the rupture.
Too great was passion to be relinquished
But now, the furnace has been extinguished.
No flame can flare when all is burnt;
Nor light reflect from cinders
When ashes, sadly, bear their witness
Of bitter end to early rapture.

Tenderness parts to fly with the wind
As merely a phantom flapping in shrouds.
Memories float until they are destined
To board in their turn a flotilla of clouds
And sail out of sight over the hills
Followed by more from the harbour.
When all have departed and the shore is deserted,
Our oceans of longing, now out of reach,
Lie soothed by our flowers strewn on the waves
That wash out the castles built on the beach
Smoothing the sand and all trace of a lover.

But then, I return completely alone
Matured by the life I had formerly known,
Broken in will, incomplete, without soul,
Wise beyond years but foolish with time,
Robust in regrets that none can console.
What is the lesson I learn with my sighs?
Let anger be banished and love be regained;
Let vultures fly by and the dove be retained;
And ensure we remove the baulk from our eyes
Before we fall into a bottomless pit
Troubled by guilt that none can acquit.