In Homer’s bronze resplendence, your name was seen to shine,
you who make glad the heart of man, you dark mysterious wine.
For centuries on centuries you’ve passed from hand to hand,
from rhyton of Achaean to horn of Allemand:
for you were there when morning broke: you gave the passing years,
the mortal generations, your valour and your fires.
Joined to that other river that flows through nights and days,
your own runs on, by friends acclaimed, and songs of joyful praise:
wine like a great Euphrates patriarchal and profound,
your ample current courses through the story of mankind.
Within your living crystal these eyes of ours have seen
a crimson metaphor, the blood of Christ the Nazarene.
In the impassioned Rubaiyát, the quatrains of the seer,
you are the ruby and the rose, you are the scimitar.
Let others drink oblivion’s draught, Lethean misery,
I’ll seek in you the fervour of shared festivity.
A sesame that opens my immemorial night,
against oppressive darkness, a gift of candlelight:
wine of reciprocated love, or blood-red enmity,
some day I’ll call upon you. So be it: let it be.
Timothy Adès is a rhyming translator-poet. From Spanish, his book is Florentino and the Devil by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba, and he was awarded the TLS Premio Valle-Inclán Prize for Homer in Cuernavaca by Alfonso Reyes. He also translates from German, notably Brecht, but mainly from French, having books and awards for the works of Victor Hugo, Robert Desnos and Jean Cassou.