E. Powys (Edward Powys) Mathers.

Coloured stars, versions of fifty Asiatic love poems online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryE. Powys (Edward Powys) MathersColoured stars, versions of fifty Asiatic love poems → online text (page 1 of 2)
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'T^iiERE is an opportunity of knowing in brilliant English
translations much of the poetry of China and Japan, of
India and Persia; and Arabic poetry is accessible; but I
believe this book to be the first general English anthology of
Asiatic verse. It is haphazard, as such books must be until
some polyglot scholar gives a whole life to the matter.
Variety was the only aim possible in a space so small, and
therefore I have selected love poems of different centuries
and of both primitive and subtle peoples. If readers care to
turn to Anthologie de L'Amour Asiatique, compiled by
Adolphe Thalasso, the late editor of the Revue Orientale in
Constantinople, they will find a full and clear study of Asia's
love poetry and see also how much I owe to this erudite and
stimulating authority. M. Thalasso's work first showed me
beauty and interest in the songs of almost unknown litera-
tures. In some instances I have translated directly and only
from his book, in others I have gratefully taken his direction
and traced poems back to their sources. Versions, also, of
some of the Chinese poems given here will be found in the
incomparable Livre de Jade of Mme. Judith Gautier. Ref-
erence to the texts of other poems is easily made at various
libraries, except with regard to a dozen which I have per-
sonally collected. These last have not before, I think, been
given a European form.

E. P. M.

London, 1918.




Shade of the Orange Leaves 9

The Dalliance of the Leopards 10

War Song 11

Black Hair 13

The Garden of Bamboos 15

Eyes that move not 16

Gazal 18

Doubt 18

Song 19

My Desire 20

Distich 24

Song 24

The Emperor 25

Song 26

Love Song 27

Fardiyat 28

Loving Things 29

Being Together at Night 29

The Peach Flower 30

Leila 31

Looking at the Moon 32

Song 33

A Love Rapture 33

English Girl 34

Gazal 35



Lover's Jealousy 36

Spring Cold 39

Climbing Up to You 41

Grief 41

Song 42

Last Time 42

Mokcha 43

Gazal 44

Vai! Tchodjouklareum 45

The Mirror 47

Fardiyat 48

At the East Gate 49

Submission 50

In the Palace 51

A Thing Remembered 52

The Most Virtuous Woman 53

The Meeting 54

The Drunken Rose 55

The Tryst 56

Zulma 57

Rubaiyat 58

Picture 58

White 59

Song 59

The Red Lotus 60

Envoy 62

Four Notes 63


'T^HE young girl tliat in her chamber from da^vii till eve alone

Broiders silk flowers on robes, deliciously shudders
At the unexpected sound of a far flute;

It seems to her that tlie voice of a young man is kissing her

And when across the oiled paper

Of the high windows the orange leaves

Come and touch and make their shadows run on her knees

It seems to her that a hand is tearing her robe of silk.

From the Qiinese of Tin-Tun-Ling.


"XTery afraid

I saw the dalliance of the leopards.
In the beauty of their coats
They sought each other and embraced.
Had I gone between them then
And pulled them asunder by their manes,
I would have run less risk
Than when I passed in my boat
And saw you standing on a dead tree
Ready to dive and kindle the river.

From the Sanskrit (5th Century).



'T^o bodies straight as palm trees,

To hips as supple as reeds,
We prefer the straight staffs of our banners
Where suppFly floats our oriflamme of Sun,
Our banners gilt like cimitars
That catch the sunset.

To silk hair, red as burning coals,

To silk hair, black as coals burned out.

To hair that is dawn or night on girls' heads,

We prefer the tufts floating in fight.

Tufts of gold hair or of black hair

Pulled from the tails of our black horses.

To shining white breasts on virgin bodies,

Firm as the thrice tried bronze

And round like marble cups.

Whence subtle and swooning odours come,

We prefer the clash of our sabres triple tried

And the shining of our round shields like mighty cups.



To the murderous arrows of black eyes

Made blacker by the bow of brows

And the kohl of love given and love taken,

The dear darkness about eyes for love's sake,

We prefer the murderous arrows

That stretch our bows in fight.

The arrows of black eyes are tipped with kisses
Not kept back, not only sped at willing hearts,
And the tips gash chance hearts often enough
And give death where no battle is waged . . .
But the arrows of our bows
Sow death only among the hardy foe.

To bodies yielding under the struggle of love

And rearing under the red fire of kisses.

We prefer our horses tricked with silver and gold.

Our horses that yield not beneath us

And bound only at the sight of the blood of battles.




T AST night my kisses dro^v^led in the softness of black hair,
■*^ And my kisses like bees went plundering the softness

of black hair.
Last night my hands were thrust in the mystery of black hair,
And my kisses like bees went plundering the sweetness of

And among the scents of the harvest above my queen's neck,

the harvest of black hair;
And my teeth played with the golden skin of her two ears.
Last night my kisses dro^viied in the softness of black hair.
And my kisses like bees went plundering the softness of black


— Your kisses went plundering the scents of my harvest,

And tlie scents laid you drunk at my side. As sleep over-
came Bahram

In the bed of Sarasya, so sleep overcame you on my bed.

I know one that has sworn your hurt for stealing the roses
from my cheeks,

Has sworn your hurt even to death, the Guardian of black

— Last night my kisses drowned in the softness of black hair.

And my kisses like bees went plundering the softness of black

My hurt, darling? The sky will guard me if you wish me

But now for my defence, dearest, roll me a cudgel of black




And give me the whiteness of your face, I am himgry for it

like a little bird.
Still, if you wish me there, loosen me among the wantonness

of black hair.
Last night my kisses drowned in the softness of black hair.
And my kisses like bees went plundering the softness of black


Sweet friend, I will part the curtain of black hair and let you

into the white garden of my breast.
But I fear you will despise me and not look back when you go

I am so beautiful and so white that the lamp-light faints to see

my face.
And also God has given me for adornment my heavy black

— Last night my kisses drowned in the softness of black hair.
And my kisses like bees went plundering the softness of black


He has made you beautiful even among his most beautiful;
I am your little slave. queen, cast me a little look.
I sent you the message of love at the dawn of day.
But my heart is stung by a snake, the snake of black hair.
Last night my kisses drowned in the softness of black hair.
And my kisses like bees went plundering the softness of black
hair. {



— Fear not, dear friend, I am the Charmer,

My breath will charm the snake upon your heart;

But who will charm the snake on my honour, my sad honour?

If you love me, let us go from Pakli. My husband is hor-

From this forth I give you command over black hair.

— Last night my kisses drowned in the softness of black hair.

And my kisses like bees went plundering the softness of black

Muhammadji has power over the poets of Pakli,

He takes tax from the Amirs of great Delhi.

He reigns over an empire and governs with a sceptre of black

Last night my kisses drowned in the softness of black hair.
And my kisses like bees went plundering the softness of black


From the Afghan of Muhammadji (19th Century).


T LIVE all alone, and I am a young girl.

I write long letters and do not know anyone to send them
Most tender things speak in my heart
And I can only say them to the bamboos in the garden.
Waiting on my feet, lifting the mat a little behind the door.
All day I watch the shadows of the people that pass.

A street soHg of Annam.



HE ashes are cold in the gold of the
perfume-brazier. It is shaped like a
fantastic lion.

Feverishly I fidget under the red wave

of my bed-clothes, and suddenly I throw
them from me to get up.

But I have not the courage to undertake

my hair-dressing, the comb is too heavy
for my dejection.

I leave the dust to tarnish the precious
thing3 on my toilet-table.

Already the sun has reached the height of
the hasp that holds up the curtain.

This grief that I have hidden from all,
this grief at a departure threatening,
becomes more bitter still.

Things to say come as far as my lips,

and I press them back into my heart.


It is indeed a new thing for me to feel

a torment; this is not an iUness caused
by getting drunk, nor by the melancholy
of approaching Autumn.

• •••••••

Ah, it is finished, it is finished.
He goes away to-day.

If I sang ten thousand times the

" Stay here by me " song, yet he
would not stay.

Now my mind has gone on a journey to the

South; to his country, which is very far away.

Look, see, the mist encumbers my pavilion;

before my eyes is but the water running round


It is my grief's sole witness, and may be

astonished to reflect so long and long the

stupefaction of my eyes that move not.

Ah, heavier still, hereafter, shall my regard

weigh down on you, pale mirror; for even as
I speak it is accomplished, this harm,
this sadness of eyes that move not.

From the Chinese of Ly-Y-Hane.


Tf the proud girl I love would cast a glance behind her,

As down the road she swings in her bright palanquin,
She would see her lover on foot, with empty hands.

Like the white buds of tuberose in a dark night
Through the lines of betel shine out her white teeth.

When she puts henna on her hands and dives in the soft river
One would think one saw fire twisting and running in the water.

From the Hindustani of Dilsoz (18th Century).


T^7iLL he be true to me?
That I do not know.
But since the dawn

I have had as much disorder in my thoughts
As in my black hair.

From the Japanese of Hori-Kawa.



T IKE the fine and silky hair of our goats
■^^ Which climb up very high on the peaks
Of inaccessible Kara-Koroum,
So fine and silky is the hair of my girl.

Her eyes are soft as the eyes of the goats
That call their males on the mountain,
Her eyes are soft as the eyes of the goats
That hold the heavy teat to their young.

Her eyes have the colour of topaz

With which she decks her head and neck

And this topaz has the soft colour

Of the soft eyes, very soft eyes of our goats.

Her body apt for work is slight and supple.

As slight and supple as the bounds

Which our goats make, when they leap

On the curved flanks of the summit of Dapsang.

Her cheeks are ever fresh to my lips.

Fresh like the milk I draw daily

When the goats come back to the stable

From the swelling udders that sweep the ground.

Love song of Thibet.


TTfTHEN in your floating robe,

Woven with red silk and golden,
In your floating robe
Held round your hips
By a broidered belt.
Showing all curves
Of your reckless body,
You pass me by.
Eyeing me boldly
With provocative eyes
And sending me from your lips
Teasing smiles.
Then I feel from your eyes,
Live like two diamonds
From the mines of Sing Fos,
And from the smile of your lips
That smell so sweet of santal,
And from your breatliing body
That your long robe shows,
I feel come to me
A wild and mad desire
Long, long to kiss your mouth
And your teeth painted with betel,


Long, long to possess

Your loving and breathing body,

Sho^v^ and hidden

By your long floating robe,

Woven with red silk and golden.

And this desire draws me to thee

As the oaks of Mandalay

Draw the lightning.

My desire is a stallion

That must have his mare,

My desire is a jaguar

Calling his female,

My desire is an elephant

Seeking his mate.

Your floating robe and your body,

Your eyes and your smile

Draw my desire to thee

As if your hands

Had passed chains

Through the rings of my ears

And dragged me

Ever behind your feet,

As life draws breath

Desire draws me to thee.



When in the month of flowers

Snow piled on Youmadong

Falls from the momitain

In a devouring torrent,

Sweeps in his passage

Trees, houses, beasts and men,

And nothing is able

To stay his great course

That grows greater and greater

And drowns with his waters

The waters of Kin Douen;

So violent is my desire

For thy desire;

It overturns all things

In coming to thee,

It smothers the precepts

That Godama gave us,

And drowns all the laws

Of the Lord of the Elephant.

What does your husband matter?
What does your family matter?
I desire you, I long for you
With a wild and a mad love.



My desire is a torrent
Falling from the mountain,
Nothing can stay it.
It breaks and upheaves.
I desire you, I long for you
With a wild and a mad love.
I want to kiss your eyes,
I want to kiss your mouth,
I want to have
Your desire and your body;
No torrent is so strong
As my desire for your body.

The desire drawing me to thee

Is natural;

Like the torrent that falls

From the heights of Youmadong,

Like the lightning which falls

On the oaks of Mandalay,

Of nature natural

Is the desire that draws me to thee.

From the Burmese of Asmapour (19th Century').




H, would that I could hide within my songs
And, every time you sang them, kiss your lips.

From the Persian of Oumara (10th Century).


OiNCE you love me and I love you

The rest matters not;
I wiU cut grass in the fields
And you will sell it for beasts.

Since you love me and I love you
The rest matters not;
I will sow maize in the fields
And you will sell it for people.




/^N a tlirone of new gold the Son of tlie Sky

is sitting among his Mandarins. He shines
with jewels and is like a sun surrounded by stars.

The Mandarins speak gravely of grave things;
but the Emperor's thought has flown out by
the open window.

In her pavilion of porcelain the Empress is

sitting among her women. She is like a bright
flower among leaves.

She dreams that her beloved stays too long
at council, and wearily she moves her fan.

A breathing of perfumed air kisses the face
of the Emperor.

" My beloved moves her fan, and sends me a
perfume from her lips."

Towards the pavilion of porcelain walks the

Emperor, shining with his jewels; and leaves his
grave Mandarins to look at each other in silence.

From the Chinese of Thou-Fou.


"VT^OU would climb after nectarines

In your little green jacket and puffy white drawers;
So that you fell and I caught you.
You made as if to break away,
And then settled wriggling in my arms,
All your lightness and softness were pressed against me,
And your face looked up from my breast
Puckered with amusement.
It would be something of the sort
If our clear blue night full of white stars
Turned to a night of coloured stars —
Red and purple and green to the zenith,
And orange and light violet and lemon,
And bright rose and crimson all about the sky.

From the Chinese (19th Century).




'T^HE mountains of Bech-Parma are great enough,
But my love is greater.

The glaciers that marble their tops are white,
But your breasts are whiter.

The antelope stricken by my bullet
Weeps a red blood from its wound

Which dyes with large red flowers

The field of the blowing jasmine flowers of snow.

Your arms are whiter than the jasmine flowers of snow;
And your kiss is redder than the blood of the antelope.

The mountains of Bech-Parma are great enough.
But my love is greater.


The wind screaming in the forest when the wind of Russia

Is milder than the desire that draws me to thee.



Your body smells richer than the resin
That weeps in the sun from slender pines.

And your mouth has more of odours
Than mint flowers throw on the air.

When you are by my side, I feel in my body
A warmth more suave than the softest sun-rays.

And when you go away from me, my sadness

Is blacker than the lowering night great with storm.

The wind screaming in the forest when the wind of Russia

Is milder than the desire that draws me to thee.



T'd wish them to put for a talisman on my tomb a pink stone;
"*• To remind folk of the stone heart and the pink fairness of
my murderess.

From the Hindustani of Schah Selim (18th Century').



T AM only a man, and yet sometimes

The green skin of unripened limes
Or the rose and gold of a naked heel
Take hold of my heart and make it feel.

And then I'm a god, that tints and blends,
Loves and laughs and comprehends;
Hunger and honour are my creed,
And tlie splendour of a windy speed.

And then I'm a wolf, that glares and runs
After the soft four-footed ones;
Moonlight is shattered on my track
Ere human voices call me back.

Modern Persian (author unknown),


T) Y black water and dark blue water,

■^^ Making tlie wide tree balance its branches

Between us and the moon,

We stood close. As close among the leaves

Small green diamonds of rain

And the far stars.

From the Chinese (19th Century).


T HAVE plucked from the branch of the peach a flower quite
little, a flower quite rose; 1

And offered it to the loved girl whose lips are smaller and
more rose than the little flower.

I have taken a swallow with black wings from its nest and

off"ered it to the loved girl,
Whose lips are little and rose and whose brows are like the

black wings of the swallow.

Next day the little rose flower was faded

And the swallow, following the soul of the flower, had taken

By the window open on to the Blue Mountain.

But on the lips of the loved girl flowers blow always small

and rose.
And the black brows over her eyes have no air of wishing to

beat their wings.

From the Cliinese of Tse-Tie.



Qh! Leila!

In your mouth are three things
A range of Bahrain pearls,
A goblet of Shiraz wine.
The musk of Thibet ;
The musk of Thibet is your breath,
The Shiraz wine the water of your mouth,
The Bahrain pearls your teeth.
Oh! Leila!

Oh! Leila!

In your eyes are three things.

Black diamonds of Hindustan,

Figured silks of Lahore,

Flames of Fusi-Yama;

The mountain flames are their brightness,

The figured silks of Lahore their dusk.

The black diamonds of Hindustan their colour.

Oh! Leila!



Oh! Leila!

In your heart are three things,
All the yellow cobras of Burma,
All the deadly fungi of Bengal,
All Nepal's poison flowers;
The poison flowers are your vows,
The deadly fungi your kisses,
The yellow cobras your deceits.
Oh! Leila!

Song of Nepal.


"XTery far from your eyes

My loving eyes regard
The sky of stars.
Ah, that the moon might be
Changed to a mirror.

From the Japanese of a Courtezan
of Nagasaki.



"PJew on the bamboos,

Cooler than dew on the bamboos
Is putting my cheek against your breasts.

The pit of green and black snakes,

I would rather be in the pit of green and black snakes

Than be in love with you.

From the Sanskrit (5th Century).


"D OUND the Palace of Waters gently the wind
moves the flowers of the water-lilies.

On the highest terrace of Kou-Sou one sees
the King of Lou lazily lying.

And before him Sy-Che, after whom beauty was
named, dances with lovely grace of delicate
weak gestures.

Then she laughs that she is so voluptuously

weary, and languidly leans to the East on
the white jade of the royal bed.

From the Chinese of Li-Tai-Pe.


T THAT lived ever about you

Never touched you, Lilian ;
You came from far away
And devils with twitching faces
Had all their will of you
For gold.

But I saw your little feet in your bedroom,
Your little heathen shoes I kept so bright.
For they regarded not your feet, Lilian,
But I regarded.

Your little heathen stockings were mine to carry
And to set out and to wash.
They regarded not your feet,
But I that lived ever about you
Never touched you, Lilian.
Their faces twitch more this frosty morning;
They have put you in a heathen box
And hidden your feet and carried you out in the frosty

They have passed with you over the foggy brook
And look like big blue men in the mist on the other side.



Now only the mist and the water remain.

They never regarded your feet,

But I regarded, Lilian.

Their faces ever twitched,

But for the seven years since I saw you

My face did not change.

They never regarded your warm feet,

But I regarded.

From the Chinese (19th Century).


Oeeing me come the heavenly girl fled very fast.

And ran surpassing fast, her tongue between her teeth.
I followed, and the heavenly girl at the noise of my following
Pulled back the leaf of the door and hid behind.
I followed, and for her savagery fast, fast I scolded her;
Till all ashamed and drawing back she could not answer me.
Why starts the morning cock his chant so fast, so fast?
An evil cock, an evil chant to shatter my delight . . .
And this song is only as threads of smoke to the heavenly girl,
That vanish surpassing fast upon the winds of Spring.

From the Hindustani of Inscha (18th Century).


A LTHOUGH you are as beautiful as Kashmir at da^vn

I am not jealous, my wanton bird,
Of the lover that you have chosen, who takes my place
To-night upon your bed. You can ask me to your feasting

I carry the scent of your body about with me.

Fear not. I will bring things to eat and things to drink;
Since love makes the belly hungry and the throat dry.
And I'll sing my finest ballads, for which you used to pay
Your mendicant of love with diamonds of tears, pearls of

laughter and rubies of kisses.
I carry the scent of your body about with me.

I will serve up to you all panting, all hot, and all crisp.
My heart which your spurns have made into roast lamb;
And for your thirst I will give you in a cup
In place of milk all the blood of my veins that you wish empty

of my love.
I carry the scent of your body about with me.



I'll sing to your handsome the words you love, words that

distilled in your ears
Make you all ripe to offer the cup of kisses,
Words I made for you yesterday, the beggar at your door,
Which to-day you want to hear cried by other lips.
I carry the scent of your body about with me.

I will sing him a ghazel of the learned way

To loose your hair and unravel your heavy black tresses,

Heavy with perfumes and little coins, with flowers and

pearl-encrusted combs.
Heavy above all with the odour of your body.
I carry the scent of your body about w^ith me.

Oh, this scent floating from your neck, your breasts, your

That circles about your thighs and your little belly ;
This scent that is fed for ever and for ever
From two shady flasks under your bright arms.
I carry the scent of your body about with me.

i Oh, this hot scent that curdles my desire.
Odour of honey and santal, of milk and rose water.
And over all your little hot skin under great love
Breathing of amber.

I carry the scent of your body about with me.



I will sing him the very slow way

Of plucking date-sweet kisses from your lips.

Of plucking from your breasts all blowing flowers, carnations

and roses,
And from between your breasts all fruits, oranges, peaches

and strawberries.
I carry the scent of your body about with me.

And to place his head on your shoulder, little bird,

Where, big and proud, your grain of beauty lies.

Like a black carnation in a desert of snow,

Like a black star in daylight.

I carry the scent of your body about with me.

My songs will teach him the things that make you mad,


Online LibraryE. Powys (Edward Powys) MathersColoured stars, versions of fifty Asiatic love poems → online text (page 1 of 2)