I remember purchasing the Robert Bly poetry book “My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy” in the summer of 2005. Robert Bly had me at the title of the book. The exclamation point of the book is the poem “Stealing Sugar from the Castle.” The title of that poem would later become the title of the book of Robert Bly’s poetic life of 63 years.
My sentence was a thousand years of joy
Robert Bly has not only written many poems over his long career, but he has translated poems from a number of different cultures and languages. “Stealing sugar from the castle” is his image for his efforts at poetic translation. I share this poem as a valentine to those who are translating the New Message from God from its original language of English, to the languages of the world.
We are poor students who stay after school to study joy.
We are like those birds in the India mountains.
I am a widow whose child is her only joy.
The only thing I hold in my ant-like head
Is the builder’s plan of the castle of sugar.
just to steal one grain of sugar is a joy!
Like a bird, we fly out of darkness into the hall,
Which is lit with singing, then fly out again.
Being shut out of the warm hall is also a joy.
I am a laggard, a loafer, and an idiot. But I love
To read about those who caught one glimpse
Of the Face, and died twenty years later in joy.
I don’t mind your saying I will die soon.
Even in the sound of the word soon, I hear
The word you which begins every sentence of joy.
“You’re a thief!” the judge said. “Let’s see
Your hands!” I showed my callused hands in court.
My sentence was a thousand years of joy.
Normally I would recite this poem, but I have something even better, Robert Bly’s recitation of his poem, accompanied by music and video provided by filmmaker DJ Kadagian.
The translators currently do their work in relative obscurity. But I believe that one day, they too will say, like Robert Bly, “My sentence was a thousand years of joy.”
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