Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations

David Ferry

Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations
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Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations

David Ferry

Your Personal God From Horace, Epistles, II. 2. II. 180-89 Jewels, marble, ivory, paintings, beautiful Tuscan meter? Pottery, silver, Gaetulian robes dyed purple - Many there are who’d love to have all of these things. There are some who don’t care about them in the least. Why one twin brother lives for nothing but pleasure, And loves to fool around even more than Herod Loves his abundant gardens of date-trees, while The other twin brother works from morning to night Improving his farm, ploughing and clearing the lands, Pruning and planting, working his ass off, only The genius knows, the personal god who knows And controls the birth start of every person There is in the world. Your personal god is the god Who dies in a sense when your own breath gives out, And yet lives on, after you die, to be The personal god of somebody other than you; Your personal god, whose countenance changes as He looks at you, smiling sometimes, sometimes not. To read David Ferry’s Bewilderment is to be reminded that poetry of the highest order can be made by the subtlest of means. This is the passionate nature and originality of Ferry’s prosodic daring works astonishing transformations that take your breath away. His diction modulates beautifully between plainspoken high eloquence and colloquial vigor, making his distinctive speech one of the most interesting and ravishing achievements of the past half century. Ferry has fully realized both the potential for vocal expressiveness in his phrasing and the way his phrasing plays against - and with - his genius for metrical variation, thus becoming an amazingly flexible instrument of psychological and spiritual inquiry and which gives him access to an immense variety of feeling. Sometimes that feeling is so powerful it’s like witnessing a volcanologist taking measurements in the midst of an eruption. Ferry’s translations, meanwhile, are vitally related to the original poems around them.

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