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The Muse
Song II
Song IX
Song XXV
Lament IX
Sonnet II
Sonnet V

On Human Life

Everything we think is but a trifle,
Everything we do is but a trifle.
In this world there's no dependable thing,
In vain man cares here about anything.
Esteem, beauty, power, money, greatness,
All this will pass away like the field grass.
We and our arrangements will be laughed at,
And, treated like puppets, tossed in a sack.


Book One

On Trifles

You'll find here good trifles, also fair, and worthless,
Walls are not always built with the finest substance. 
They put redder brick and dressed stone on the outside,
Broken pieces and cast off rubble go inside.


To His Lady

Your name, sweet lady, that I gladly cite, 
You will find often written in my lines. 
And when it's read by many people's eyes, 
You will surpass others, if I am right.

If I would sculpt you out of rich marble, 
If I would cast you in most pure gold 
(To give beauty and goodness fitting mold), 
I still would not bring you lasting laurel.

No monuments, no Egyptian cities
Can at the end be free from ravagement; 
Either the fire or the sudden waters 
Or jealous years will overpower them.

Poetic talent brings eternal fame, 
It knows no ruin, nor fears it will wane.


Book Two

On Human Life

Eternal Thought, existing longer than Time's span, 
If You are ever moved by the same thing as man, 
I believe in heaven You must have a true show,
Looking at various matters of this world below. 
You barely toss something out, when we, like children,
Will snatch up even scraps in this turmoil and din, 
One will have his sleeve torn off, one will lose his cap;
While still another will lose some hair in this scrap. 
At the very end misfortune or death sets in,
And one will soon drop those trinkets, though unwilling.
Lord, if I may, let me feel this pleasure with You, 
Let others fight on, while I wonder at the view.


On the Linden Tree

Guest, sit beneath my leaves and rest at ease! 
The sun will not reach you here, I promise, 
Even if it truly soars, and straight beams 
Draw the scattered shadows under the trees. 
Here cool breezes always blow from the field, 
Here nightingales and starlings sweetly keen, 
From my fragrant flower, industrious bees 
Take honey which graces nobleman's feast. 
With my soft whisper I know by what means 
To lull you with ease into sweetest dreams. 
Though I do not bear apples, my lord prizes me 
The most fruitful plant among the Hesperian trees.


To Sleep

O sleep, that teaches all people to die 
And shows them the taste of the future life, 
Put down for a short rest this mortal part, 
And for a moment let the soul depart. 
If it wants, where bright dawns come from the sea, 
If it wants, where at dusk late glows recede.
Or where the snow and the ice dominate,
Or where from heat waters evaporate.
Let it wonder at the stars in the skies
And watch closely their diversified flights, 
Which like the spheres in communal passing 
Make music most lovely for our hearing.
Let it enjoy itself, poor thing, at will, 
And let the body, which wants to rest still, 
Experience in the meantime no worry 
And mark anon what it means not to be.


To the Mountains and Forests

High mountains and forests attired in leaves,
How gladly I see you and reminisce
On my earlier years, left behind up there,
When for a stable life one didn't much care.'
Where haven't I been then? What haven't I savored?
Across the bottomless sea I have sailed,
I've called on the French, Germans, Italians,
I've visited the Sibylline caverns.
One day a quiet scholar, the next day
A sworded knight; one day in court array
In lord's palace, then a mute clergyman
In the council, though not with holy men
In grey cowls, but in double scapular;
And why not, if you could be a rector?
Such was Proteus, changing to a viper,
Then rain, then fire, then feigned shape of vapor.
What will happen next? My hair turns grey,
I keep with the man who seizes the day.


Book Three

On Health

O noble health 
No one will learn, 
How good you taste, 
Until you fail. 
Then a man truly 
Sees it quite clearly 
And he asserts: 
Nothing like health, 
Nothing is better,
Nothing is dearer; 
Because possessions, 
Pearls, even jewels, 
Also sweet youth, 
Gift of good looks, 
A high position, 
Vast domination 
Are all good, but 
With health intact; 
When strength is missing
The world isn't pleasing.
O precious stone, 
My humble home 
Loyal to you, 
Make your own


On My House at Czarnolas

Lord, this is my toil and Your endowment;
Deign to give Your benison to the end.
Let others own the marble palace halls,
With rich brocade let them cover their walls,

Let me, Lord, dwell in this ancestral nest, 
Grant to me health and conscience that is blest, 
Ample provisions, man's benevolence, 
Friendly relations, pleasant senescence.


Translated by Michal J. Mikos


©2000 Jan Rybicki
This page was last updated on 02/12/01 .