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I Am Constantly Wounded, by Peter Abelard

June 07, 1998

I am constantly wounded

By the deadly gossip that adds

Insult to injury, that

Punishes me mercilessly

With the news of your latest

Scandal in my ears. Wherever

I go the smirking fame of each

Fresh despicable infamy

Has run on ahead of me.

Can't you learn to be cautious

About your lecheries?

Hide your practices in darkness;

Keep away from raised eyebrows.

If you must murder love, do it

Covertly, with your candied

Prurience and murmured lewdness.

You were never the heroine

Of dirty stories in the days

When love bound us together.

Now those links are broken, desire

Is frozen, and you are free

To indulge every morbid lust,

And filthy jokes about your

Latest amour are the delight

Of every cocktail party.

Your boudoir is a brothel;

Your salon is a saloon;

Even your sensibilities

And your depraved innocence

Are only special premiums,

Rewards of a shameful commerce.

O the heart breaking memory

Of days like flowers, and your

Eyes that shone like Venus the star

In our brief nights, and the soft bird

Flight of your love about me;

And now your eyes are as bitter

As a rattlesnake's dead eyes,

And your disdain as malignant.

Those who give off the smell of coin

You warm in bed; I who have

Love to bring am not even

Allowed to speak to you now.

You receive charlatans and fools;

I have only the swindling

Memory of poisoned honey.

TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN BY KENNETH REXROTH

From "World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time," edited by Katharine Washburn, John S. Major and Clifton Fadiman (W.W. Norton: 1,338 pp., $45)

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