ON DOORS AND GATES
Come and stay—
Though it’s out
Of your way!
Come, hillfolk, please knock!
Rest here with assurance!
We’re well. If we’re not,
Your coming shall cure us!
Don’t knock, don’t rouse the household,
You who pass this way!
If good you bring us, enter!
If mischief, go away!
Here you’ll find a place to rest.
Your troubles here you’ll mend.
Enter as a welcome guest,
Depart a lasting friend!
Note, outsider, I’m a rider
And one rule enforce:
If you enter here, remember—
You must praise my horse!
He was no sage,
But bow to him:
He was a man.
Life he enjoyed but for the briefest span;
Address and occupation are unknown.
All that we know is that he was a man
Who, being born, did cry and, dying, moan.
This horseman drew his sword
To conquer ill,
Which does still walk abroad
While he lies still.
Hey, coward! By this hero’s grave
Forbear to raise a cheer.
Although bereft of life, he left
His gun and dagger here.
The hillman lying here below this mound
Amassed no gold, no sheep, nor anything;
Wherever people meet, his songs resound,
Wherever people meet, of him they sing.
She had to choose, young lady of the house,
Between a gravestone and a grave old spouse.
Don’t curse your fortune, passer-by!
You are more fortunate than I.
A thousand roads you build, but one thing’s clear:
Whichever road you take, you end up here!
Here lies a rider brave—
His bravery lives on.
And here’s a coward’s grave—
And cowardice lives on.
A bard of earth, I died
And now lie here.
Who’s lying at my side?
I’ve no idea!
My friend, if ever you bequeath
A dagger, don’t forget the sheath!
However hot the sun on high,
Blood on this blade shall never dry.
Of men who bear a knife ‘tis said:
More than their hand they need their head.
A fool draws
In a trice.
A wiser man
Your knife has neither ear nor eye
And, if it misses, you must cry!
When I have killed, I will
Bewail my victim’s fate.
When I’m about to kill,
I only hate.
Swear thou wilt
By my hilt!
Keep thy pledge
By my edge!
Wherever human blood be shed in feud,
It whets a knife and bloodshed is renewed.
Pause and ponder, please,
Ere my hilt you seize!
Despite its rust,
A spirit brave
Shall with this blade
Both cut and thrust.
Taunt me not with truth or rumour—
Daggers have no sense of humour!
Trim your whiskers with a razor,
Fell your timber with an axe,
Do not be a trouble-raiser—
Sheathe your dagger, and relax!
Spring-feverish and wild,
Or keen and cold as ice,
A knife begets no child
But orphans in a trice.
ON WINE HORNS
Praise water, that may gratify
A shepherd’s thirsty flocks!
But it was not for water I
Was wrested from the ox.
Men drank and died, still drink—and die
But shall Death pass non-drinkers by?
Though you withdraw and lock the door
To drink your wine alone,
Ere dusk shall fall, to one and all
Your secret shall be known.
All that is said when good wine flows,
Better than God, the wine horn knows.
Drink your fill of fragrant foam
But don’t forget the way back home!
A ban on drink won’t stop a drinking man,
Nor does it stop the authors of the ban.
A wise man drank, a fool he grew.
The opposite has happened, too.
You pour the wine and drink it like a king,
But soon discover you’re its underling!
Come drink, procrastinator,
We’ll find a reason later!
Rain swells the stalk,
And wine—our talk.
Full of wine? Then swill it!
Empty? Swiftly fill it!
Here’s to the drinkers of wine,
Who pour it, adore it,
Explore all the lore of the vine—
Or blithely ignore it!
Wine suits all men! It’s such
A pleasure to consume!
But you must know how much,
Why, when, where, and… with whom!
ON HEARTH STONES
However far abroad you roam,
You bear with you the warmth of hearth and home.
Woe befalls a friend
Whose heart is still.
Woe befalls a hearth
Whose ash is chill.
Don’t pity me, if here
You find no flame,
But those who many a year
For comfort came,
Warm hands and knees
Your heart to ease.
Never in vain
Are fireside stories told
About invaders slain
By heroes bold.
Tales from the past
Shall come to you
As you sit here
And think of stories new.
You’ll never feel a warmer glow
Than from the hearth which saw you grow!
ON WALKING STICKS
When your horse you cannot ride.
I’ll go jumping at your side.
Though with inlay bright I’m clad,
Those who walk with me are sad.
Honour is due and reverence
To you whose weight I shoulder,
For you are well advanced in years
Or else a wounded soldier.
Sit on your horse, until your fingers fumble.
Or from a blow or mortal wound you tumble.
Seek a brave man on his horse
Or asleep beneath the gorse.
Before the girth you loosen, rider, pause:
I shall not fit a horse that is not yours.
Here shall you grow, become a man:
Your cushion and your bed I am!
No sage weeps here. No fool here laughs from folly.
No coward and no hero—just my lodger.
May happy dreams appear to you,
And just as happily come true.
The child won’t let you sleep
For tears and merry laughter?
You, too, did howl and cheep—
It’s you the child takes after.
Weep, stricken hero, weep
And have no fear!
A rock, too, has been seen
To shed a tear.
An eagle, or a horseman who’s in love,
Will never ask how high the rock above.
Courage reached the summit,
Despair leapt from it.