Tranquil Dragon

Tranquil Dragon

Embroidered with orange lights
are the fanned steel wings of the bridge

suspended in the summer night,
a tranquil dragon bringing luck. 

Wide is the night and warm,
like the dark wine of old and ardent love.

The sky reads the low, slow river
as my eye reads yours in a dream.

Sparkling with lights is the city,
sparkling with lights is my soul.

Christina Egan © 2003


Dragons, of course, are noble and bring luck in Chinese mythology.

I must have been thinking of Hammersmith Bridge in London.

You can read more poems about suspension bridges at On the Orange Bridge (San Francisco) and Rosenquarzkammern (Malmö).

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By the River I was Sitting

By the River I was sitting

By the River I was sitting
Watching barges floating by
Like the clouds so full of promise
In the blue and burning sky

Bearing jewels, bearing silver
From the mountains crowned with snow
Bearing spices, sweet and fiery
From the jungles down below

By the River I was waiting
For a boat to pick me up
Till the oars were folded inward
And the city-gates were shut

On my roof-top I was watching
Night like lapis-lazuli
While the stars were slowly rolling
Round the tiny lonely me

By Two Rivers I was dwelling
In a house of golden bricks
In my dress of snow and silver
Waving to intrepid ships

When the stars had come full circle
Strangers broke my city-gate
And my boat lay by the palm-trees
Finest date-wine was its freight

And it flew against the current
And it floated with the storm
Till I climbed the purple mountains
Where the River Twins are born

Christina Egan © 2011

Jar, elegantly curved, with brown and blue glaze.

 

This song of the woman by the river is taken
from my stage play The Bricks of Ur  (© 2011).

Place: City of Ur, Mesopotamia — Time: 2000 B.C.

Photograph: Assyrian jar (9th to 7th c. BC).
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

City Made of Dreams / Stadt aus Träumen

City Made of Dreams

This is the city made of dreams: it knows
no end. Its splendid roads roll on and round
the bristling castles and across the mound
and down across the squares. Its fabric glows.
But right below this net of rugged ground
a second net of ample pathways flows:
the rivers and canals in sparkling bows;
below the bridges, barges go around.
I stand astounded, lost amongst the towers
and giant spires, and walk on for hours…
This is the ancient city without end.
A steep and green embankment is resounding
with laughter and guitars, with life abounding.
This is the Queen of Flanders: this is Ghent.

Christina Egan © 2018

Castle with turrets directly on high street, with life-size statues of historical figures in front.

Stadt aus Träumen

Dies ist die Stadt aus Träumen. Ihr Gehege
ist grenzenlos. Die stolzen Straßen klimmen
empor den Hügel, strömen um die Zinnen
und über Plätze, leuchtendes Gewebe.
Doch unter jenem rauhen Netz der Wege
sieht man ein zweites weites Netz sich krümmen,
Kanäle oder Flüsse glitzernd rinnen,
und Boote gleiten unter breite Stege.
Ich steh verwundert, wandere verloren
im riesenhaften Wald von Türmen, Toren…
Dies ist die Altstadt, die kein Ende kennt.
Die steile grüne Böschung hallt mir wider
vom frohen Rhythmus der Gitarrenlieder.
Dies ist die Königin von Flandern: Ghent.

Christina Egan © 2018

Bridge over river lined by ancient stone and brick buildings with steep gables.

In both languages, the poem follows the same strict sonnet form.

There are only five rhymes, placed as: abba – baab – cce – dde. The final line is linked to one other line, with both of them carrying the main message together: “This is the ancient city without end. / This is the Queen of Flanders: this is Ghent.”

There are also enjambments, particularly “it knows / no end”: unusually, a very short sentence is cut in half so that the vastness of the place is felt in the pause at the end of the line.

The verse are also full of assonances and alliterations and other sound clusters, e.g. “verwundert, wandere” and the corresponding “stand astounded”. In this way, the form of the poem corresponds to the content, a description of a web of roads and rivers and a forest of towers and battlements.

Form and content cannot be separated. This is an essay; the above is a poem!

Photographs of Ghent: Christina Egan © 2018.

Sambation

Sambation

O daß der Mühlenräderlärm der Plätze
verrauschte wie ein Sommerwolkenbruch,
das grelle purzelnde Geröll der Menge
versiegte in der Großstadtstraßenschlucht,

auf daß das Flußbett sich durchwandern ließe
an Pforten, Traufen, Blumentrog vorbei
und nur die Schwalbe in die Stille stoße,
hoch, froh, mit Sichelflug und Silberschrei.

O daß die Lichterstrecken, Lichterhaufen
verblaßten wie das Nordlicht überm Meer,
auf daß die Sterne aus dem Dunkel tauchten
wie ein mit Bronze überglänztes Heer!

Christina Egan © 2017


The mythical river Sambation at the edge of the known world cannot be crossed because it is wild and full of mud and rocks — or even consists of rocks instead of water.

Here, the busy streets of a big city are experienced as a ravine full of tumbling stones, while the screech like grinding millstones; by night, the galaxies of lamplights drown the stars.

The opposite images are the quiet riverbeds of empty streets; the silent sky punctuated by the flight and cry of a swallow; and then the stars re-emerging…

This poem will be published in the German-language calendar Münsterschwarzacher Bildkalender 2019 (available from mid-August).

Westminster Bridge, Mitte März

Westminster Bridge, Mitte März

Im Überfluß hingeschüttet, schimmernd
und erstmals wieder erquickend
der Sonnenschein, und schon erstreckt sich
aus silbernen Plättchen gehämmert
das Straßenpflaster, entrollt sich
die hellblaue Teppichbahn
des Stromes, schon stemmen sich,
stumme starke Löwenflanken,
die Brückenpfeiler empor, ragen
lotrecht die Honigwaben
der Sandsteinfassaden, rasselt
endlos das bunte Geröll
der Menschenmassen vorüber…

Und unabwendbar naht sich
die Machtergreifung des Lichtes.

Christina Egan © 2014


 

The rhythmic stream of words recreates an everyday and vibrating scene: the enlivening flow of the spring sunshine; the rolling-out of a silver carpet and a blue carpet — Westminster Bridge and the River Thames; an avalanche of colourful boulders or pebbles people from all over the world; and the upward pull of the bridge pillars and mighty buildings — the Houses of Parliament.

Arles im Winter

Arles im Winter

Die Fensterläden wie ein Farbenkasten,
kornblumenblau und flieder und türkis;
die goldnen Wände, die im Wind verblaßten,
die Gasse, die den kurzen Schnee verschlief.

Die Bogengänge wie bestickte Bänder,
die Krippenbilder wie ein Glockenspiel…
Und das Theater wechselnder Gewänder,
wo nie – seit Rom – der letzte Vorhang fiel.

Die weiche Luft am weiten Strom von Norden,
wo beißendkalter Wind bis eben blies,–
er wälzt sich meerwärts, kostet wohl schon morgen
Kornblumenblau und Flieder und Türkis!

Christina Egan © 2016

Lane with old houses, window shutters in various shades of turquoise and green.The Old Town of Arles is huddled together within the precincts of the Roman city, next to the vast River Rhône  and close to its mouth into the Mediterranean Sea – with the churches built of the stones of the temples and the houses built with the stones of the theatre.

Down the funnel of the river valley, there is a forceful and often icy wind, the Mistral; but there is also a mild wind from south, the Wind from the Sea, which may warm up the city in the midst of winter, so that you can sit in the Roman ruins…

Model village on steep hills as backdrop to a nativity scene

There are exhibitions of nativity scenes and figurines in all styles, even contemporary, at Saint-Trophime; in another mediaeval church, a whole side-chapel is filled with a model village with rocks and trees, running water and flickering fire, and hundreds of tiny local people.

I have written another poem on Arles and the Vent de la mer  in French and English. This one here may work quite well in a translation software.

Photographs: Arles. Christina Egan © 2011.

Glazed Clay

Jar, elegantly curved, with brown and blue glaze.Glazed Clay

Two mighty rivers’ ceaseless flow
beneath a high and cloudless sky;
to either side the ochre glow
of arid countries rolling by;

and here and there a golden maze,
the buildings’ cubes, the cities’ grid:
this jar with blue and brownish glaze
from Babylon still mirrors it.

Christina Egan © 2016

Mesopotamian jar (9th to 7th c. BC) Photograph: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The city and country of ‘Babylon’ were under Assyrian rule at the time the little jar was made, but I just used the name as the most familiar for all the civilisations of Mesopotamia.

For a German poem about Babylon with the Euphrates and the Hanging Gardens, see Die Hängenden Gärten.

The perfect elegance of this tiny everyday object is an example for the simple beauty I call for in Fewer Things, where you can also see a red Roman bowl.