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The Gardener and Death

March 27, 2020

The Gardener and Death

A Persian nobleman:

This morning, white with fear, my gardener flees
Into my house: ‘Master, a moment please!

Out in the rose-beds, pruning shoots with care,
I looked behind me. Death was standing there.

I gave a start, and sought my getaway,
But glimpsed his hand that made as if to slay.

Master, your horse, and at full tilt I’ll ride,
Ere evening comes, in Isfahan I’ll hide!’ –

This afternoon – long since he off had set –
Amongst the cedars Death I also met.

‘Why’, I inquire, since he waits silently,
‘Did you my servant treat so threateningly?’

Smiling he said: ‘A threat caused in no wise
Your gardener to flee. I showed surprise

To find this morning still working here the man
I must this evening fetch in Isfahan.’

P.N. Van Eyck 1887-1954 – translation: John Irons
from 100 Dutch-Language Poems