Epitaph For A Palestinian Child Poem by Michael Burch

Epitaph For A Palestinian Child

Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

Keywords/Tags: shooting, shootings, child, children, murder, death, funeral, grave, guns, violence, massacre, massacres, elegy, eulogy, epitaph, epigram, lament, lamentation

Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

... qui laetificat juventutem meam...
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone.
... requiescat in pace...
May she rest in peace.
... amen...

I was touched by this Latin prayer, which I discovered in a novel I read as a teenager, around age 16 or 17, and chose to incorporate into a poem. From what I now understand, 'ad deum qui laetificat juventutem meam' means 'to the God who gives joy to my youth, ' but I am sticking with my original interpretation: a lament for a little girl at her funeral. The phrase can be traced back to Saint Jerome's translation of Psalm 42 in the Vulgate Latin Bible (circa 385 AD) . I dedicated the poem to my mother, Christine Ena Burch, after her death, because she was always a little girl at heart, and pure of heart like a little girl.

Mehmet Akif Ersoy: Modern English Translations of Turkish Poems

Mehmet Âkif Ersoy was a Turkish poet, author, writer, academic, member of parliament, and the composer of the Turkish National Anthem.

by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Earth's least trace of life cannot be erased;
even when you lie underground, it encompasses you.
So, those of you who anticipate the shadows,
how long will the darkness remember you?

Zulmü Alkislayamam
'I Can't Applaud Tyranny'
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I can't condone cruelty; I will never applaud the oppressor;
Yet I can't renounce the past for the sake of deluded newcomers.
When someone curses my ancestors, I want to strangle them,
Even if you don't.
But while I harbor my elders,
I refuse to praise their injustices.
Above all, I will never glorify evil, by calling injustice 'justice.'
From the day of my birth, I've loved freedom;
The golden tulip never deceived me.
If I am nonviolent, does that make me a docile sheep?
The blade may slice, but my neck resists!
When I see someone else's wound, I suffer a great hardship;
To end it, I'll be whipped, I'll be beaten.
I can't say, 'Never mind, just forget it! ' I'll mind,
I'll crush, I'll be crushed, I'll uphold justice.
I'm the foe of the oppressor, the friend of the oppressed.
What the hell do you mean, with your backwardness?

Çanakkale Sehitlerine
'For the Çanakkale Martyrs'
by Mehmet Akif Ersoy
loose English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Was there ever anything like the Bosphorus war? ―
The earth's mightiest armies pressing Marmara,
Forcing entry between her mountain passes
To a triangle of land besieged by countless vessels.
Oh, what dishonorable assemblages!
Who are these Europeans, come as rapists?
Who, these braying hyenas, released from their reeking cages?
Why do the Old World, the New World, and all the nations of men
now storm her beaches? Is it Armageddon? Truly, the whole world rages!
Seven nations marching in unison!
Australia goose-stepping with Canada!
Different faces, languages, skin tones!
Everything so different, but the mindless bludgeons!
Some warriors Hindu, some African, some nameless, unknown!
This disgraceful invasion, baser than the Black Death!
Ah, the 20th century, so noble in its own estimation,
But all its favored ones nothing but a parade of worthless wretches!
For months now Turkish soldiers have been vomited up
Like stomachs' retched contents regarded with shame.
If the masks had not been torn away, the faces would still be admired,
But the whore called civilization is far from blameless.
Now the damned demand the destruction of the doomed
And thus bring destruction down on their own heads.
Lightning severs horizons!
Earthquakes regurgitate the bodies of the dead!
Bombs' thunderbolts explode brains,
rupture the breasts of brave soldiers.
Underground tunnels writhe like hell
Full of the bodies of burn victims.
The sky rains down death, the earth swallows the living.
A terrible blizzard heaves men violently into the air.
Heads, eyes, torsos, legs, arms, chins, fingers, hands, feet...
Body parts rain down everywhere.
Coward hands encased in armor callously scatter
Floods of thunderbolts, torrents of fire.
Men's chests gape open,
Beneath the high, circling vulture-like packs of the air.
Cannonballs fly as frequently as bullets
Yet the heroic army laughs at the hail.
Who needs steel fortresses? Who fears the enemy?
How can the shield of faith not prevail?
What power can make religious men bow down to their oppressors
When their stronghold is established by God?
The mountains and the rocks are the bodies of martyrs! ...
For the sake of a crescent, oh God, many suns set, undone!
Dear soldier, who fell for the sake of this land,
How great you are, your blood saves the Muslims!
Only the lions of Bedr rival your glory!
Who then can dig the grave wide enough to hold you. and your story?
If we try to consign you to history, you will not fit!
No book can contain the eras you shook!
Only eternities can encompass you! ...
Oh martyr, son of the martyr, do not ask me about the grave:
The prophet awaits you now, his arms flung wide open, to save!

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here in this charnel-house full of bleaching bones,
like yesteryear's
fading souvenirs,
I see the skulls arranged in strange ordered rows.

Who knows whose owners might have beheaded peers,
packed tightly here
despite once repellent hate?
Here weaponless, they stand, in this gentled state.

These arms and hands, they once were so delicate!
How articulately
they moved! Ah me!
What athletes once paced about on these padded feet?

Still there's no hope of rest for you, lost souls!
Deprived of graves,
forced here like slaves
to occupy this overworld, unlamented ghouls!

Now who's to know who loved one orb here detained?
Except for me;
reader, hear my plea:
I know the grandeur of the mind it contained!

Yes, and I know the impulse true love would stir
here, where I stand
in this alien land
surrounded by these husks, like a treasurer!

Even in this cold,
in this dust and mould
I am startled by an a strange, ancient reverie, …
as if this shrine to death could quicken me!

One shape out of the past keeps calling me
with its mystery!
Still retaining its former angelic grace!
And at that ecstatic sight, I am back at sea...

Swept by that current to where immortals race.
O secret vessel, you
gave Life its truth.
It falls on me now to recall your expressive face.

I turn away, abashed here by what I see:
this mould was worth
more than all the earth.
Let me breathe fresh air and let my wild thoughts run free!

What is there better in this dark Life than he
who gives us a sense of man's divinity,
of his place in the universe?
A man who's both flesh and spirit—living verse!

Keywords/Tags: Goethe, Schiller, skull, bones, charnel, house, grave, souls, ghosts, spirit, flesh, death, shrine, divinity, universe

These epitaphs have been ascribed to Plato...

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
But go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

We left the thunderous Aegean
to sleep peacefully here on the plains of Ecbatan.
Farewell, renowned Eretria, our homeland!
Farewell, Athens, Euboea's neighbor!
Farewell, dear Sea!
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Even as you once shone, the Star of Morning, above our heads,
even so you now shine, the Star of Evening, among the dead.
—Michael R. Burch, after Plato

The Seikilos Epitaph
by Seikilos of Euterpes
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Shine, while you live;
blaze beyond grief,
for life is brief
and time is a thief.
—Michael R. Burch, after Seikilos of Euterpes

NOTE: The famous Seikilos Epitaph is the oldest known surviving complete musical composition which includes musical notation. It is believed to date to the first or second century AD. The epitaph appears to be signed 'Seikilos of Euterpes' or dedicated 'Seikilos to Euterpe.' Euterpe was the Muse of music.

Athenian Epitaphs

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls
in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
—Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Tell the Spartans we lie
Lifeless at Thermopylae:
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Here I lie with sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouding my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that reared and suckled me;
Once again I take rest at your breast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

He lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
—Michael R. Burch, after Anacreon

They observed our fearful fetters,
marched to confront the surrounding darkness;
now we extol their excellence.
Bravely, they died for us.
—Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas:
these were men who drew valorous breath.
Assume, like pale chattels, an ashen silence at death.
—Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she'd confess:
'I am now less than nothingness.'
—Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends' tardiness,
mariner! Just man's foolhardiness.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
—Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

I am loyal to you, master, even in the grave:
just as you now are death's slave.
—Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Having never earned a penny
nor seen a bridal gown address the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Little I knew—a child of five—
of what it means to be alive
and all life's little thrills;
but little also—(I was glad not to know) —
of life's great ills.
—Michael R. Burch, after Lucian

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
—Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I'm buried.
—Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Pity this boy who was beautiful, but died.
Pity his monument, overlooking this hillside.
Pity the world that bore him, then foolishly survived.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Insatiable Death! I was only a child!
Why did you snatch me away, in my infancy,
from those who would love me?
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Tell Nicagoras that Strymonias
at the setting of the Kids
lost his.
—Michael R. Burch, after Nicaenetus

Now his voice is prisoned in the silent pathways of the night:
his owner's faithful Maltese...
but will he still bark again, on sight?
—Michael R. Burch, after Tymnes

Poor partridge, poor partridge, lately migrated from the rocks;
our cat bit off your unlucky head; my offended heart still balks!
I put you back together again and buried you, so unsightly!
May the dark earth cover you heavily: heavily, not lightly...
so she shan't get at you again!
—Michael R. Burch, after Agathias

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Aeschylus, graybeard, son of Euphorion,
died far away in wheat-bearing Gela;
still, the groves of Marathon may murmur of his valor
and the black-haired Mede, with his mournful clarion.
—Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Not Rocky Trachis,
nor the thirsty herbage of Dryophis,
nor this albescent stone
with its dark blue lettering shielding your white bones,
nor the wild Icarian sea dashing against the steep shingles
of Doliche and Dracanon,
nor the empty earth,
nor anything essential of me since birth,
nor anything now mingles
here with the perplexing absence of you,
with what death forces us to abandon...
—Michael R. Burch, after Euphorion

Though they were steadfast among spears, dark Fate destroyed them
as they defended their native land, rich in sheep;
now Ossa's dust seems all the more woeful, where they now sleep.
—Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Sail on, mariner,
for when we were perishing,
greater ships sailed on.
—Michael R. Burch, after Theodorides

My friend found me here,
a shipwrecked corpse on the beach.
He heaped these strange boulders above me.
Oh, how he would wail
that he 'loved' me,
with many bright tears for his own calamitous life!
Now he sleeps with my wife
and flits like a gull in a gale
—beyond reach—
while my broken bones bleach.
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

All this vast sea is his Monument.
Where does he lie—whether heaven, or hell?
Well friend, perhaps when the gulls repent—
they may tell.
—Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Cloud-capped Geraneia, cruel mountain!
If only you had looked no further than Ister and Scythian
Tanais, had not aided the surge of the Scironian
sea's wild-spurting fountain
filling the dark ravines of snowy Meluriad!
But now he is dead:
a chill corpse in a chillier ocean—moon led—
and only an empty tomb now speaks of the long, windy voyage ahead.
—Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

His white bones lie shining on some inhospitable shore:
a son lost to his father, his tomb empty; the poor-
est beggars have happier mothers!
—Michael R. Burch, after Damegtus

The light of a single morning
exterminated the sacred offspring of Lysidice.
Nor do the angels sing.
Nor do we seek the gods' advice.
This is the grave of Nicander's lost children.
We weep at its bitter price.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Pluto, delighting in tears,
why did you bring our son, Ariston,
to the laughterless abyss of death?
Why—why? —did the gods grant him breath,
if only for seven years?
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Although I had to leave the sweet sun,
only nineteen—Diogenes, hail! —
beneath the earth, let's have the more fun:
till human desire seems weak and pale.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Once sweetest of the workfellows,
shy teller of tall tales
—fleet Crethis! —who excelled
at every childhood game...
now you sleep among long shadows
where everyone's the same...
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Passing by, passing by my oft-bewailed pillar,
shudder, my new friend to hear my tragic story:
of how my pyre was lit by the same fiery torch
meant to lead the procession to my nuptials in glory!
O Hymenaeus, why did you did change
my bridal song to a dirge? Strange!
—Michael R. Burch, after Erinna

Suddenly this grave
holds our nightingale speechless;
now she lies here like a stone,
who once was so accomplished
while sunlight illumining dust
proves the gods all reachless,
as our prayers prove them also
unhearing or beseechless.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I, Homenea, the chattering bright sparrow,
lie here in the hollow of a great affliction,
leaving tears to Atimetus
and all scattered—that great affection.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Wert thou, O Artemis,
overbusy with thy beast-slaying hounds
when the Beast embraced me?
—Michael R. Burch, after Diodorus of Sardis

A mother only as far as the birth pangs,
my life cut short at the height of life's play:
only eighteen years old, so brief was my day.
—Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

We mourn Polyanthus, whose wife
placed him newly-wedded in an unmarked grave,
having received his luckless corpse
back from the green Aegean wave
that deposited his fleshless skeleton
gruesomely in the harbor of Torone.
—Michael R. Burch, after Phaedimus

Here Saon, son of Dicon, now rests in holy sleep:
say not that the good die, friend, lest gods and mortals weep.
—Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Keywords/Tags: translation, epitaph, epitaphs, eulogy, Ancient Greek, epigram, epigrams, death, grave, funeral, spirit, ghost, memorial, tribute, praise

by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
your poetry
through me!

by Michael R. Burch

Thirty crept upon me slowly
with feline caution and a slowly-twitching tail;
patiently she waited for the winds to shift;
now, claws unsheathed, she lies seething to assail
her helpless prey.

by Michael R. Burch

O pale, austere moon,
haughty beauty...
what do we know of love,
or duty?

Originally published by The HyperTexts

Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

O little yellow flower
like a star...
how beautiful,
how wonderful
we are!

by Michael R. Burch

Now it is winter—the coldest night.
And as the light of the streetlamp casts strange shadows to the ground,
I have lost what I once found
in your arms.

Now it is winter—the coldest night.
And as the light of distant Venus fails to penetrate dark panes,
I have remade all my chains
and am bound.

Published as 'Why Did I Go? ' in my high school journal, The Lantern

by Michael R. Burch

Poetry, I found you where at last they chained and bound you;
with devices all around you to torture and confound you,
I found you―shivering, bare.

They had shorn your raven hair and taken both your eyes
which, once cerulean as Gogh's skies, had leapt with dawn to wild surmise
of what was waiting there.

Your back was bent with untold care; there savage brands had left cruel scars
as though the wounds of countless wars; your bones were broken with the force
with which they'd lashed your flesh so fair.

You once were loveliest of all. So many nights you held in thrall
a scrawny lad who heard your call from where dawn's milling showers fall―
pale meteors through sapphire air.

I learned the eagerness of youth to temper for a lover's touch;
I felt you, tremulant, reprove each time I fumbled over-much.
Your merest word became my prayer.

You took me gently by the hand and led my steps from boy to man;
now I look back, remember when―you shone, and cannot understand
why here, tonight, you bear their brand.

I will take and cradle you in my arms, remindful of the gentle charms
you showed me once, of yore;
and I will lead you from your cell tonight―back into that incandescent light

which flows out of the core of a sun whose robes you wore.
And I will wash your feet with tears for all those blissful years:
my love, whom I adore.

Originally published by The Lyric

Published as the collection 'Epitaph for a Palestinian Child'

Sunday, December 16, 2012
Topic(s) of this poem: child,children,death,epitaph,eulogy,funeral,grave,lament,lamentation,murder
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