“Wallenstein Garden,” by Jaroslav Seifert

I've been translating a few things from Czech lately, when I should have been doing something else. This poem is about a garden in Prague full of neoclassical statuary.

Wallenstein Garden
by Jaroslav Seifert

When violets rain down
into the strings of the old lyre,
held under one arm
as if it were a distorted discus

by the pretty young goddess
—there was a time when
a burbling fountain used to dress her
in his glittering silver—

when the wind beats
moldering leaves up against a staircase
and eats from an empty fountain
as from a bowl,

a nude crouches silently
under the cold ivy
and we tell each other
gentle foolishnesses again.

Next to the old musket,
there, in a corner gray with mildew,
I wiped the kisses off
the lips of your damp roses

much the way time, which has played quietly
here in the harps of the old trees,
long ago wiped the blood away
from the rusty weapons.

Licenses taken: I haven't tried to reproduce the rhyme or the rhythm of the original. In Czech, the goddess is a "little young goddess," not quite colloquial in English; I changed "little" to "pretty" in an attempt to capture the affection implied in Czech by the dimininutive. There's no second em dash in the original, but I think the conventions of English punctuation require one.