Wednesday 27 February 2008

as Fate approaches

Yet now as Fate
Approaches, and the Hours are breathing low,
The sands of Time are changed to golden grains.

E.A. Poe (Politian)

Tuesday 26 February 2008

 A thing which fades
With no outward sign
Is the flower
Of the heart of man
In this world!

Ono no Komachi, 9th century


Saturday 23 February 2008

So auf Erden

Aber wir, zufrieden gesellt, wie die liebenden Schwäne,
Wenn sie ruhen am See, oder, auf Wellen gewiegt,
Niedersehn in die Wasser, wo silberne Wolken sich spiegeln,
Und ätherisches Blau unter den Schiffenden wallt,
So auf Erden wandelten wir.

Friedrich Hölderlin (Menons Klagen um Diotima)

But we, contentedly joined, like the loving swans who
When they rest upon the lake, or rock upon the waves,
Look down into the waters, where silver clouds mirror themselves,
And ethereal blue moves beneath the shipping
So upon the earth did we roam.


Wednesday 20 February 2008

浮船 Ukifune 1

Without expressing
My anguish,
Eventually I threw myself
Into the Uji River in Yamashiro.
Yet I could not sink deep enough,
And I do not know
Where I will drift to.
How lamentable is my fate!

In a tiny boat
Carrying brush and wattles,
I travel this miserable world.
When I look at the water dripping
From the end of the boatman's oar,
My thoughts turn to the past,
And my sleeves become soaked
With tears.

Song composed for koto by Mitsuhashi Kengyo (1693-1760)
(translated by Tsuge Gen'ichi)


浮船 Ukifune 2

In seclusion

At the quiet Ono retreat:

She was afraid to be heard

Or seen,

Even by wind from the summit

Or by a young stag,

She suppressed her voice


Neither the two ancient verses,

Nor something special

Has she in mind

When she seats herself

At the inkstone.

Yet it is in writing practice

That she passes her hours of idleness

And silent tears.

Song composed for koto by Mitsuhashi Kengyo (1693-1760)
(translated by Tsuge Gen'ichi)

Monday 18 February 2008

the floating bridge of dreams

The floating bridge of dreams

of the brief spring night of love

has now broken off:

dawn sky with a wisp of cloud

taking its leave of the peak.

Haru no yo no

Yume no ukihashi

Todae shite

Mine ni wakaruru

Yokogumo no sora

(Fujiwara Teika, translation: Paul St John Mackintosh)

the floating bridge of dreams (2)

The poem alludes to the last chapter of Genji Monogatari, entitled The Floating Bridge of Dreams (Yume no Ukihashi). Ukifune (Floating Boat) tries to break loose from Kaoru's pursuite and throws herself into the Uji River. She however survives and finally decides to become a nun. But the tale is left unfinished.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Hold Infinity

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

William Blake

my eyes

My Eyes more & more
Like a Sea without shore
Continue Expanding
The Heavens commanding

William Blake

as in your own Bosom you bear
your Heaven
And Earth, & all you behold, tho it appears Without it is
Within In your Imagination of which this World of Mortality is
but a Shadow

William Blake

If the Spectator could Enter into these Images in his

Imagination approaching them on the Fiery Chariot of
his Contemplative Thought if he could Enter into Noahs
Rainbow or into his bosom or could make a Friend &
Companion of one of these Images of wonder, which
always intreats him to leave mortal things as he must
know then would he arise from his Grave then would he
meet the Lord in the Air & then he would be happy.

William Blake

Monday 11 February 2008

This world of Imagination is the World of Eternity it is the Divine bosom into which we shall all go after the death of the Vegetated body.

William Blake

Sunday 10 February 2008

quietly back

If I should live long,

Then perhaps the present days

May be dear to me,

Just as past time filled with grief

Comes quietly back in thought.

Fujiwara no Kiyosuke



Saturday 9 February 2008

But this evening all my flowers suddenly turned black.

Friday 8 February 2008

Tea for Antonia

Antonia's gift. the warmth of her herringbone-coat and the glimpse of never-ending sienna hair, unseen for millenia. I didn't know how to thank her. but I could do something: make tea for her, for I knew she liked to drink tea on the gloomy mornings, especially when she couldn't decide what to do next, and the day waiting out there for her seemed a burden and not a joy. the joy was in the flowers, white and frail, floating over the tea bowl. I watched them for some time, for so long, because so much I knew: she liked to inhabit such flowers.

I opened the lid of the tea jar, and my fingers lingered to stroke the little Genji-lady, enveloped in her twenty kimono-layers, living in the black lacquer. silently so, many years passed, many years to come. the green powder rose in the air, like vapour, like mist. Antonia dwelled in the calm and stillness of the afternoon.

the touch of the tea scoop was so smooth, and the green so vibrant. boiling water. beauty being born, that very minute.

when the bamboo whisk woke the tea to its true life, to light, it seemed to me, for a moment, that I could feel Antonia's thoughts - she wanted to think hellebore-coloured thoughts on that bridge, so much I knew - turn green. the long, unending hair seemed suddenly to shine with a deeper red against the jade in the bowl. and then the thoughts were gone. the pain was gone. the purity of joy came down upon our heads. and we met somewhere below the surface, and jenseits of the word. because not everything is about voyeuristic interest, but the need and mystery of embracing the other as the whole, open world. Antonia held the bowl in her two hands for a long time, before bringing it to her lips.

when Antonia left, we both passed by the bowl which I had offered to the unseen god or maybe the unknown guest or maybe the dead, the trembling presence between us, in the room, in the garden outside. on the windowsill I had offered it, and now we both saw the rose had lost its petals and the tea had also cherished this death. Antonia's smile.

Monday 4 February 2008

Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow

Then a woman said: "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Khalil Gibran, The Prophet