Myriad Stars

Chim hoàng hôn

Chiê`u nhe. lan
Trên đối hoang
Ta lắng nghe
Trong không gian
Bóng tô´i âm thầm tràn dâng lên khắp ne~o.

Và đó đây
Bát ngát
ánh tà duong luu luyê´n đi?nh cao
Nhu thãm nha.c
Muôn cánh chim tro`i vội vã thâ´p đèn sao.

Lý Lãng Nhân

The Twilight Birds

As the evening gloom spreads
Over the wild hills, 
I listen
Across vast expanses
To the darkness silently engulf the world.

Hither thither
Clings to the lingering rays on the heights
With pervasive music, 
While the birds speedily wing home like myriad stars.

Finnish Lines

While I was trying to find a suitable Ume Sami phrase for yesterday's project post, I kept stumbling across Finnish bits and pieces that were far too marvellous to just forget about. Some of the best ones I found were here, but in case you don't have a spare fifteen minutes to read all of those, I'll put my favourite below.

Juoksentelisinkohan is a word that means "I wonder if I should run around aimlessly?" all in one go. I've copied Michael's explanation below, because I wouldn't be able to do any better: 

The verb "juosta" means "to run". Well "juoksennella" means "to run around". This method is applied to other verbs too, the "lla" form of the verb is usually a more relaxed version of the original verb. For example "katsella" is a more relaxed form of "katsoa". "Minä katselen televisiota" means "I'm watching TV (but I'm doing it in a relaxed way, I'm not watching anything serious, I'm just relaxing and the TV happens to be on)". So, then we have the "isi" part. This signals that the verb is in the conditional form. "Juoksentelisin" means "I would run around"
"ko" then makes it into a question and "han" is like saying "maybe". Therefore "juoksentelisinkohan" becomes "I wonder if I should maybe, possibly, run around aimlessly".

Isn't that incredible? I think juoksentelisinkohan is a question I'm going to have to start asking myself.


I learnt a lot about Urdu poetry last night and went to sleep entirely exhausted; I find such extensive digging to be both inspiring and heartbreaking, because I can never know what it feels like to talk or write in these tongues as a native speaker. But their beauty is unchanged by that, and in addition to the quote I did yesterday for Day 37 of the 100 Day Project, below I've got a handful of intrigue and other small snippets of Urdu poetry consisting of couplets, or Sher, often used to form Shayari, which is a musical form of poetry allowing a person to express deep feelings or explain sentiments rhythmically. It goes without saying that this rhythm is lost in translation, but they are still rather lovely.

I can also tell you that Urdu poetry is fundamentally performative, and that poets gather to perform their works at events called Mushaira, which are a much beloved aspect of the culture. I imagine that would be an entirely astounding thing to attend. There seems to be too many great poets of Urdu to count, but among them are: Meer, Dard, Ghalib, Anees, Daag Dehlvi, Dabeer, Iqbal, Zauq, Josh, Akbar, Jigar, Faiz, Firaq, Shakeb Jalali, Ahmad Nadeem, Qasmi, Shair, Mohsin, Faraz, and Faizi. It's quite overwhelming. I then got stuck wondering why the name of the poet kept appearing in the actual pieces, and consequently found this: In the Urdu poetic tradition, most poets use a pen name called the Takhallus (تخلص). This can be either a part of a poet's given name or something else adopted as an identity. The traditional convention in identifying Urdu poets is to mention the takhallus at the end of the name. The word takhallus is derived from Arabic, meaning "ending". This is because in the ghazal form, the poet would usually incorporate his or her pen name into the final couplet (maqta) of each poem.

This is by Iqbal, mentioned above.

Ye khaamosh mizaaji tumhe jeene nahi degi
Isdaur me jeena hai to kohram macha do

Anees, Naddem

And these two seem to be unknown in terms of author, but you'll see why I couldn't resist.

Ik esi b ghari i thi ishq may k hum
Khak ko hath lagaty tu sitara karty

Humne kaanto ko bhi narmi se chua h aksar
Logbedard hai jo phoolo ko masal dete hai

We have touched even thorns softly,
People are so heartless that they squash flowers.

And lastly, I couldn't find an Urdu translation for this, but the line rather stuck and I'll keep looking for the source.

It Will Stop, Eventually

As you likely know, I'm taking part in a 100 Day Project over on Instagram. It's a hoot, and we're on day 36 already, which is both fun and intensely alarming to take note of.

It's 100 days of other languages, and although so far I've managed to contain the fascinating to a single post each day, mentioning one expression, saying, or small piece of a language. But as I'm consistently in awe of the richness I keep running into while searching for these, today I'm finally giving in and laying a couple more Galician expressions on you.

Notorious for receiving far more rain than the rest of Spain, I encountered numerous rain-related sayings while looking for something interesting. The one above means 'it’s never rained for so long that it didn’t eventually stop', which seems to be considered an uncharacteristically optimistic saying—bad things don’t last forever, so there’s no need to despair (things will never be so bad that they cannot be worse). That, or it just rains so relentlessly people need to be reminded it will stop.

Then we have 'A ti chóveche' which literally means 'it's raining on/in you', or you could say 'a ese home chóvelle' (it's raining in that man). These seem to be short for 'a ti chóveche na cabeza', which means 'it's raining inside your head'. The Galician speaker writing about these particular sayings explained them concisely with the following: "it's basically saying that this person's head is so empty there's enough room for water to evaporate, gather into clouds, condensate and precipitate in the form of free-falling drops of water. That's quite a lot of emptiness.".


Sweet Frame of Mind

The following is taken from a letter Darwin wrote to Charles Lyell on September 30th, 1861 and for reasons I'm sure you can fathom, I find it comforting in the extreme. Field of flowers growing entirely wrong courtesy of The Illustrated Book of Sayings.

"But I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders. I am going to write a little Book for Murray on orchids & today I hate them worse than everything so farewell & in a sweet frame of mind, I am.

Ever yours,

C. Darwin"