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World Poetry (anthology)

World Poetry
An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time

Edited by Clifton Fadiman, Katherine Washburn, John S. Major
2000, Hardcover, pages 1,376
Publisher: W.W. Norton

Life is short: read poetry first.
A great book of poems is a garden of earthly and unearthly delights. World Poetry introduces more than 1,600 poems, from countless countries and cultures, from BCE 2,000 to the 20th Century. Even if you live, breathe, and eat poetry — here you’ll find almost all your favorite poets, and many of your favorite poems.

Got Dover Beach? … “Ah Love, let us be true .. “.
Kubla Khan? … Complete with stately pleasure-dome.
Cavafy’s Ithaka ? … In the simply stellar translation by Keeley and Sherrard.
The Love Song of AJP? … Every measuring coffee spoon.
Poems by Homer, Ovid, Dante, Shakespeare, Heine, Whitman, Rilke, Neruda, e.e., H.D., D.H. (Lawrence), Marianne Moore, Sappho, and Anna Akhmatova? … This book has them all.

In addition to the favorites, we rejoice in serendipitous discoveries — poets and poems to us previously unknown. If we play at bibliomancy, and stick our finger anywhere into the pages of this 4-pound book, we will pull out a plum of poem. Guided by pure luck, I found an anonymous poem from India’s Golden Age of courtly verse (translated by Andrew Schelling), titled NEXT MORNING

Next morning
when a damnfool parrot —
right before her parents —
starts to mimic
last night’s cries of love,
the girl leaps up,
claps her hands to
start the children dancing —
jangle of her bracelets
drowning out
the parrot’s calls.

One more fortuitous choice, this by Virgil (translated by OWH), DEATH PLUCKS MY EAR:

Death plucks my ear and says,
“Live — I am coming.”

Excellent translations abound. There is one classic poem by Sappho that contains three translations (respectively by 1. Jim Powell, 2. Kenneth Rexroth, and 3. Sam Hamill) of the same ancient poem , not only letting us compare, but also making us appreciate some struggles of the translator’s art:

The moon has set
and the Pleiades; it is the middle
of the night and the hours go by
and I lie here alone.

The moon has set
and the Pleiades; it is
Midnight. Time passes.
I sleep alone.

The Pleiades disappear,
the pale moon goes down.
After midnight, time blurs:
sleepless, I lie alone.

Loneliness and love, humor and tragedy, despair and hope, cold patience and fiery carpe diem — all humans in all times and places have experienced these wonders within. And 3,000 years of the best that has been felt and thought and said are planted here.

— Michael Pastore