Author Archives: paulwhitberg

FORTUNE

A translation/adaptation [by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess] of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde [Book IV, lines 1-7]

Alas, one’s joy’s for but a little while
Since changes make the Lady Fortune grin.
She seems the truest when she would beguile.
With her songs she reels her blinded captives in
Then proves as false as traitor’s ever been.
When, from her wheel, she casts a person down,
She laughs to see her helpless victim frown.

The Original Passage:
But al to litel, weylaway the whyle,
Lastesth swich joie, ythonked be Fortune,
That semeth trewest whan she wol bygyle
And kan to fooles so hire song entune
That she hem hent and blent, traitour comune!
And whan a wight is from hire whiel ythrowe,
Than laugeht she, and maketh hym the mow.

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TROILUS AND CRISEYDE

from Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde Book I, Lines 225-59; translated/adapted from Middle English by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

The Translation:
…It was thus for the brave and prideful knight.
As Priam’s son, a prince of Trojan race,
He’d never dreamed that any force’s might
Could pierce his heart and make it beat apace.
His heart was set ablaze by Beauty’s face,
And he, whose pride had soared so high above,
Was promptly put in chains by potent Love.

What better evidence can one adduce
To show those thinking, “Love can’t conquer me”
That Cupid wields the powers that reduce
To servitude a heart that once was free?
This rule has held and will eternally:
The chains of Love will bind whatever lives,
And none can break a law which Nature gives.

This truth’s been shown and will be shown again.
Some reading would reveal to all on Earth
That love enslaves the best there’s ever been.
It captures those with thoughts of endless worth,
Imprisons men with muscles great in girth,
And puts in thrall the peers of royal name.
The ways of Love have always been the same.

I truly think the ways of Love are fair,
And sages tend to hold the same belief.
So many men succumbing to despair
Have found that Love’s the perfect cure for grief,
And it provides the cruelest hearts relief.
It’s pushed the great to even greater fame
And made the shameless feel a sense of shame.

Since Love’s a god no person can resist
[and is the sea that’s Virtue’s flowing source],
Present to Love your willing heart and wrist,
Lest he decide to bind them both by force.
It’s better that a sapling take the course
Of wind that’d snap its tender trunk in two
… “Obey the god,” is my advice to you.

The Original Passage:
…So ferde it by this fierse and proude knyght
Though he worthy kynges sone were
And wende nothing hadde swich might
Ayeyns his wille that shuld his herte stere,
Yet with a look his herte wex a-fere,
That he now was moost in pride above
Wax sodeynly moost subgit unto love

Forthy ensample taketh of this man,
Ye wise, proude, and worthi folks alle
To scornen Love, which that so soone kan
The freedom of youre hertes to hym thralle
For evere it was, and evere it shall byfalle
That Love is he that alle thing may bynde
For may no man fordon the law of kynde.

That this be soth, hath preved and doth yit.
For this trowe I ye knowen alle or some,
Men redden nat that folk han gretter wit
Than they that han be most with love ynome
And strengest folk ben therwith overcome,
The worthiest and grettest of degree:
This was, and is, and yet men shall it see.

And trewelich it sit well to be so,
For alderwisest han therwith ben pleased;
And they that han ben aldermost in wo,
With love han ben comforted moost and esed;
And ofte it hath the cruel herte apesed,
And worthi folk maad worthier of name,
And causeth moost to dreden vice and shame.

Now sith it may nat goodly ben withstonde,
And is a thing so vertuous in kynde,
Refuseth nat to Love for to ben bonde,
Syn, as hymselven liste, he may yow bynde;
The yerde is bet that bowen wole and wynde
Than that that brest, and therefore I yow rede
To follow hym that so wel kan yow lede.

BEER: A BALLAD

[The ballad without its “Classical Intro”]

A beer can make a person wise
And make a person witty.
It’s not allowed at school and work,
And that’s a bloody pity.

Though not allowed at school or work,
A beer enhances play.
My doctor recommends I drink
A pint or two a day:

“A pint to welcome morning’s sun,
Another one at noon—
Then, wash your dinner down with beer
To welcome Mother Moon.”

Those were the orders doctor gave.
I swear it on my life.
You’ll listen to the doc, I’m sure,
If you’re a loving wife.

It’s best you didn’t call the doc,
For he’s a busy man.
The only question left for now
Is “Bottle, draught, or can?”

The hours dissolve like foam, my dear,
Like bubbles in a cup.
Relax and have a beer with me
To bring your spirits up.

Recline a moment on the couch.
I’ll pour you out a glass.
I’ll pick a brew that’s fit for you,
That’s sweet but got some sass.

A life is filled with bitter things
But also with delight,
So let us shun the bitter beers
And drink a Belgian White.

BEER

“Beer: a Ballad in Two Parts” [“Part II” will likely grow]

Part I: Dramatic Classical Intro

The Greeks believed in Hippocrene,—
An art-inspiring spring—
And Bacchus with his wine was thought
To make the poets sing.

If Homer were alive today,
He surely would agree
That beer’s a liquid that can set
Artistic powers free.

We need a song to grace a bar
Or local billiard hall.
I’m tired of hearing ‘bout
The “bottles…on the wall”–

So, darling, let us join in song
Like Greeks once did for wine.
Now lift your voice and help a bard
To prove that beer’s divine.

Part II: The Folk Ballad
A beer can make a person wise
And make a person witty.
It’s not allowed at school and work,
And that’s a bloody pity.

Though not allowed at school or work,
A beer enhances play.
My doctor recommends I drink
A pint or two a day:

“A pint to welcome morning’s sun,
Another one at noon—
Then, wash your dinner down with beer
To welcome Mother Moon.”

Those were the orders doctor gave.
I swear it on my life.
You’ll listen to the doc, I’m sure,
If you’re a loving wife.

It’s best you didn’t call the doc,
For he’s a busy man.
The only question left for now
Is “Bottle, draught, or can?”

The hours dissolve like foam, my dear,
Like bubbles in a cup.
Relax and have a beer with me
To bring your spirits up.

Recline a moment on the couch.
I’ll pour you out a glass.
I’ll pick a brew that’s fit for you,
That’s sweet but got some sass.

A life is filled with bitter things
But also with delight,
So let us shun the bitter beers
And drink a Belgian White.

“FORTUNE COOKIES”

An Italian Sonnet about Chinese* Restaurants (Written in English by an American) [*Chinese restaurants in America…Chinese immigrants often choke on the fortune the first time they eat a fortune cookie.]

What did the slips inside my cookies say?
“The dish of life contains a lot more spice
For people eating dumplings, pork, and rice
At San Francisco’s China House Buffet.”

“Ours is the only place to spend your pay.
At Chang’s the chicken’s mixed with chunks of mice,
And waiters’ heads are breeding grounds for lice
[Which like to mingle with the beef fillet.]”

“You’ll live to see another creature’s year
If eating only China House’s food.
“A person who believes that life is dear
Won’t let these words be lost or misconstrued:
Those eating Chinese food that’s not from here
Are nailed inside their coffins and/or screwed.”

 

“GOING DEEP”

My Muse is scared of going underground,
So she’ll not take me places too profound.
And, if she ventures deep into my soul,
She’ll tunnel through it like a digging mole
Who sniffs his way around because he’s blind
And never sees the things his nose will find.
Perhaps her fear that I’ll be trapped or hurt
Prevents my pen from prying ‘neath the dirt.
The times I’ve grabbed the map to Caves of Self,
She’s whispered, “Please return that to the shelf.”
I’ve wondered if she keeps my poems light
Because she deems my talents sadly slight
And hopes I’ll never have to fail and know
I’ve gone the deepest that I’ll ever go.

“Get Well Soon (for a coworker)”

A Tasteless Greeting Card

“Recover soon,” is what’s polite to say,
But—while I hope you’re feeling fine—
I like it best by far when you’re away
[Where I don’t have to hear you mope and whine].
Although you do a slack and lousy job,
You think you’re one of Foxe’s martyred saints,
And—while you’re idler than a cab’net’s knob,
You criticize the rest and file complaints.
I want your bout of feeling ill to end,
[…Of course, I’d rather that you didn’t die]
But saying more would cause the truth to bend
Until it stretched into a twisted lie.
I’m confident that you’ll not get the axe
For taking time to heal up and relax.