Friday, October 9, 2015

Poem from the Asuka Period

When she was still alive
We would go out, arm in arm,
And look at the elm trees
Growing on the embankment
In front of our house.
Their branches were interlaced.
Their crowns were dense with spring leaves.
They were like our love.
Love and trust were not enough to turn back
The wheels of life and death.
She faded like a mirage over the desert.
One morning like a bird she was gone
In the white scarves of death.
Now when the child
Whom she left in her memory
Cries and begs for her,
All I can do is pick him up
And hug him clumsily.
I have nothing to give him.
In our bedroom our pillows
Still lie side by side,
As we lay once.
I sit there by myself
And let the days grow dark.
I lie awake at night, sighing till daylight.
No matter how much I mourn
I shall never see her again.
They tell me her spirit
May haunt Mount Hagai
Under the eagles’ wings.
I struggle over the ridges
And climb to the summit.
I know all the time
That I shall never see her,
Not even so much as a faint quiver in the air.
All my longing, all my love
Will never make any difference.
- Hitomaro (circa 640 AD)

3 comments:

FreeThinke said...

What a delicate, ultra-refined expression of grief for a lost love! So incredibly ancient it's timeless.

I wish he had been able to realize that we never lose those who've enhanced our lives as long as we remember them.

I didn't know that New Age Music had hit Japan. I find the endless repetition tedious, but at least the sound, itself, is tolerable –– unlike so many other depraved, malformed manifestations of quasi-musical elements in this Pst-Modern era.

FreeThinke said...

I live with Him — I see His face —
I go no more away
For Visitor — or Sundown —
Death's single privacy

The Only One — forestalling Mine —
And that — by Right that He
Presents a Claim invisible —
No wedlock—granted Me —

I live with Him — I hear His Voice —
I stand alive — Today —
As witness to the Certainty
Of Immortality —

Taught Me — by Time — the lower Way—
Conviction — Every day —
That Life like This — is endless —
Be Judgment — what it may —


~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Who could the "He" to whom she refers possibly be? Improbable that it could have been a lost lover; Emily never married, and, as far as we know, never courted. Could it have been her father for whom she had a great deal of sympathy even though they had a fairly distant relationship? Could it have been God with whom she had a tenuous relationship at best, though she longed for Him even as she doubted His existence?

I think most likely "He" must have been someone she adored, yearned for, and loved from afar. Someone she kept locked in the vault of her vivid, passionate, infinitely precious imagination. She probably knew "Him," but realized and accepted His unattainability. "He" most likely was married, probably a good deal older than she would be my guess, and quite unaware of His immense importance in the rich inner life of this remarkable recluse. At any rate her interior vision of Him was probably far superior to the real man, himself.

It's my guess Miss Emily was better off living as she did almost entirely within the confines of her incredible mind than she would have been otherwise. Like Beethoven, who composed his most sublime music after he became literally stone deaf, and the world-renowned blind organists, AndrĂ© Marchal and Helmut Walcha, both of whom performed a vast repertoire including the complete organ works of J.S. Bach, what appears to most of to us be profound deprivation, –– even tragedy ––, Milton, Emily, and Ludwig and others with rare and precious gifts lead lives that were absolutely blessed.

As Thornton Wilder's Stage Manager in Our Town observed when asked by another Emily if anyone alive knew how wonderful life on earth really is, "Only the Saints and Poets, they do –– some," was all he said.

Thersites said...

I agree, the music does grate.

And as wonderful as her works were, I feel bad for Ms. Dickinson. The loneliness must have been, at times, intolerable.