here’s another old thing that i never got around to posting. a while back i read pablo neruda’s the book of questions. the collection consists solely of two line questions, divided into sets of three or four. the content gets to be a bit dull, but every once in a while neruda comes across something startlingly whimsical or proverbial or both. a coincidence is that i had picked up the book unseen rain: quatrains of rumi a few weeks earlier. rumi was an ancient mystical persian poet, and the foreword of the neruda book compared neruda’s book of questions to rumi’s poetry. i liked neruda much better, although this was not neruda’s best work. unlike neruda, the directness and simplicity of rumi’s poetry was dull and unenlightening instead of focused and intense. anyway, here are some excerpts:

unseen rain: quatrains of rumi (coleman barks translator)
Sleep this year has no authority.
Night might as well stop looking for us
when we’re like this,
invisible, except at dawn.

If you want to live, leave your banks,
as a small stream enters the Oxus, miles wide,
or as cattle moving around a millstone
suddenly circle to the top of the sphere.

the book of questions (william o’daly translator)
from XIII
Is it true that a black condor
flies at night over my country?

Es verdad que vuela de noche
sobre mi patria un cóndor negro?

from XV
But is it true that the vests
are preparing to revolt?

Pero es verdad que se prepara
la insurrección do los chalecos?

from LXIV
Do we learn kindness
or the mask of kindness?

Es que se aprende la bondad
o la máscara de la bondad?


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