Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Do you in your lonely musing hear the message of the hereafter?"

"Ah, poet, the evening draws near; your hair is turning grey.
"Do you in your lonely musing hear the message of the hereafter?"

"It is evening," the poet said, "and I am listening because some
one may call from the village, late though it be.
"I watch if young straying hearts meet together, and two pairs of
eager eyes beg for music to break their silence and speak for
"Who is there to weave their passionate songs, if I sit on the
shore of life and contemplate death and the beyond?

"The early evening star disappears.
"The glow of a funeral pyre slowly dies by the silent river.
"Jackals cry in chorus from the courtyard of the deserted house
in the light of the worn-out moon.
"If some wanderer, leaving home, come here to watch the night and
with bowed head listen to the murmur of the darkness, who is
there to whisper the secrets of life into his ears if I,
shutting my doors, should try to free myself from mortal bonds?

"It is a trifle that my hair is turning grey.
"I am ever as young or as old as the youngest and the oldest of
this village.
"Some have smiles, sweet and simple, and some a sly twinkle in
their eyes.
"Some have tears that well up in the daylight, and others tears
that are hidden in the gloom.
They all have need for me, and I have no time to brood over the
"I am of an age with each, what matter if my hair turns grey?"

From The Gardener by Rabindranath Tagore, 1915

Seated old man, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Nothing can be done about flowers falling away"

With a cup of wine, listening to songs of new words,
In the same pavilion tower and last year's weather.
The sun is setting in the west, but when will it return?

Nothing can be done about flowers falling away,
The swallows, seeming acquaintances, are coming back.
Along fragrant paths of the little garden I alone pace to and fro.

Yan Shu, Song Dynasty
Uncredited translation from China Page

Painting by Huang Quan, 10th century

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"There will be little enough to forget"

There will be little enough to forget —
The flight of crows,
A wet street,
The way the wind blows,
Moonrise: sunset:
Three words the world knows —
Little enough to forget.

From "1892 - 19—" by Archibald MacLeish.*

Figures On The Noordeinde, The Hague, Floris Arntzenius (1864-1925)

*One of the things that took me away from the blog last fall was a fiction writing workshop with Richard Bausch. It was a great experience, a gift on many levels. One of the pleasures it brought me was a renewed acquaintance with MacLeish's poetry, which I sought out after Bausch cited him as a an unjustly neglected poet. While a lot of his work doesn't seem to have held up very well, there are some beautiful pieces that shouldn't be forgotten. Check out MacLeish's Collected Poems.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This announcement will startle few, and few will be grieved by it.*

I'm back. Poe's birthday seems like a good moment to return from the void. Hope to account for myself in posts to come. Meanwhile, in honor of the day, I recommend to you one of my favorite short stories by Madison Smartt Bell, "Small Blue Thing" -- a clever tribute to the birthday boy.

And here's a short animated film that takes off the beginning of "The Tell-Tale Heart":

*Taking liberties with the line from Rufus Griswold's famous obituary for Poe: "This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it." Read the whole obit here.