Girl's Song
I am happy in my love,
I want to find my beloved.
He is happy too;
I am from Elato, he from Ifaluk.

By night he comes to me
Where I lie on the mat,
Pulls aside the wall mats,
Takes off two of them and comes in ---
Bold lover, heedless of who may be there.
I call out, "Who is that?"
He is like my sweetheart ---
Then I know that it is he.
I know the strong, firm body
Tattooed black like a man-of-war bird,
A bird from far Ifaluk.

He came to Elate to find me.
"That is the woman I want for my love."
"Do you love me?" --- "If you love me I do."
He pulls me to the tattooing on his collarbone
And the tattooing of his arm.
He lays my head on the tattooing of his chest.
I say, "No! I will not stay here!"
(I lie, for I love him well.)
I say, "How much will you give me?
It is money I want; lots of it."
(I am lying; I love him dearly.)
Then he loves me fiercely;
Our bodies melt into one.

At night we go out from the house,
Walk around on the sand,
And find a beautiful place
In the woods on a bed of coconut leaves.
There we lie down together,
Where the fragrant Jamul-tree grows.
He takes off his loincloth,
He pulls me to him,
He hugs me tight,
He puts me on his thighs
(Strong young thighs they are).
He says to me,
"I want to sleep in your house every night."
I say, "I'm afraid. You are too fierce."
He is a fine man in face and body.
At last I say, "I am not afraid. We two will sleep together."
He sits up. "I am telling you the truth.
I was lying when I said I was afraid."

He is like the black ura-fish,
His thighs are as fresh as seawater.
He looks only at me.
All the women come and dance, but he likes me best.
They all paint their cheeks with turmeric
And put on fine new skirts;
He cannot rest until he finds me.

In the evening he bathes and anoints himself for me,
Puts on a new loincloth and a wreath,
And comes by night to find me.
We meet in another place now!
He comes into the house. When he sees me:
"I love you." --- "I have not forgotten,
Black fish of Ifaluk!"
Like the swift perang-fish he comes.
His home is far away,
But he covers the distance in a flash.
"Never mind what the peoiple say,
The people of Elato are not gossiping.
They think it is right for us to marry.
Like two trees growing straight together.
Though you come from a distant island,
Tattooed like the black Ifaluk fish."
He has come, and I belong to him;
We love each other well,
Each feels the other as part of himself.

--- Anonymous:
From the Caroline Islands
(20th Century)
Translation by Edwin Grant Burrows

§     §     §

A Memory

I'll never forget the boy who slept here last night.
He could be the son of a tilemaker,
The way clay yields to his touch,
Or the scion of a mole,
The way he burrows and thrusts,
Or perhaps the stripling of a seaman,
The way the oar yields to his touch.
His first experience, he avows,
A claim that raises certain doubts.
I've had my share before and I assume I'll have some more,
But the memory of that boy last night
Is a pleasure I shall always store.

--- Yi Chongbo (1690 - 1760), Korea
Translation by Kevin O'Rourke
Both poems from
World Poetry:An Anthology of Verse
From Antiquity to Our Time
Katharine Washburn,
John S. Major, Editors
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of this anthology

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