Wednesday, April 18, 2012

zen poetry in reality

Leonard Cohen @ Fundación Principe de Asturias Oct 2011

How he got his song. 

"Your majesty,  your royal highnesses, excellencies, members of the jury, distinguished laureates, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a great honour to stand here before you tonight. Perhaps, like the great maestro, Riccardo Muti, I’m not used to standing in front of an audience without an orchestra behind me, but I will do my best as a solo artist tonight.

I stayed up all night last night wondering what I might say to this assembly. After I had eaten all the chocolate bars and peanuts from the minibar, I scribbled a few words. I don’t think I have to refer to them. Obviously, I’m deeply touched to be recognized by the Foundation. But I have come here tonight to express another dimension of gratitude; I think I can do it in three or four minutes.

When I was packing in Los Angeles, I had a sense of unease because I’ve always felt some ambiguity about an award for poetry. Poetry comes from a place that no one commands, that no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from I would go there more often.

I was compelled in the midst of that ordeal of packing to go and open my guitar. I have a Conde guitar, which was made in Spain in the great workshop at number 7 Gravina Street. I pick up an instrument I acquired over 40 years ago. I took it out of the case, I lifted it, and it seemed to be filled with helium it was so light. And I brought it to my face and I put my face close to the beautifully designed rosette, and I inhaled the fragrance of the living wood. We know that wood never dies. I inhaled the fragrance of the cedar as fresh as the first day that I acquired the guitar. And a voice seemed to say to me, “You are an old man and you have not said thank you, you have not brought your gratitude back to the soil from which this fragrance arose. And so I come here tonight to thank the soil and the soul of this land that has given me so much.

Because I know that just as an identity card is not a man, a credit rating is not a country.

Now, you know of my deep association and confraternity with the poet Frederico Garcia Lorca. I could say that when I was a young man, an adolescent, and I hungered for a voice, I studied the English poets and I knew their work well, and I copied their styles, but I could not find a voice. It was only when I read, even in translation, the works of Lorca that I understood that there was a voice. It is not that I copied his voice; I would not dare. But he gave me permission to find a voice, to locate a voice, that is to locate a self, a self that that is not fixed, a self that struggles for its own existence.

As I grew older, I understood that instructions came with this voice. What were these instructions? The instructions were never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity and beauty.

And so I had a voice, but I did not have an instrument. I did not have a song.

And now I’m going to tell you very briefly a story of how I got my song.

Because – I was an indifferent guitar player. I banged the chords. I only knew a few of them. I sat around with my college friends, drinking and singing the folk songs and the popular songs of the day, but I never in a thousand years thought of myself as a musician or as a singer.

One day in the early sixties, I was visiting my mother’s house in Montreal. Her house was beside a park and in the park was a tennis court where many people come to watch the beautiful young tennis players enjoy their sport. I wandered back to this park which I’d known since my childhood, and there was a young man playing a guitar. He was playing a flamenco guitar, and he was surrounded by two or three girls and boys who were listening to him. I loved the way he played. There was something about the way he played that captured me. It was the way that I wanted to play and knew that I would never be able to play.

And, I sat there with the other listeners for a few moments and when there was a silence, an appropriate silence, I asked him if he would give me guitar lessons. He was a young man from Spain, and we could only communicate in my broken French and his broken French. He didn’t speak English. And he agreed to give me guitar lessons. I pointed to my mother’s house which you could see from the tennis court, and we made an appointment and settled a price.

He came to my mother’s house the next day and he said, “Let me hear you play something.” I tried to play something, and he said, “You don’t know how to play, do you?’

I said, “No, I don’t know how to play.” He said “First of all, let me tune your guitar. It’s all out of tune.” So he took the guitar, and he tuned it. He said, “It’s not a bad guitar.” It wasn’t the Conde, but it wasn’t a bad guitar. So, he handed it back to me. He said, “Now play.”

I couldn’t play any better.

He said “Let me show you some chords.” And he took the guitar, and he produced a sound from that guitar I had never heard. And he played a sequence of chords with a tremolo, and he said, “Now you do it.” I said, “It’s out of the question. I can’t possibly do it.” He said, “Let me put your fingers on the frets,” and he put my fingers on the frets. And he said, “Now, now play.”

It was a mess. He said, ” I’ll come back tomorrow.”

He came back tomorrow, he put my hands on the guitar, he placed it on my lap in the way that was appropriate, and I began again with those six chords – a six chord progression. Many, many flamenco songs are based on them.

I was a little better that day. The third day – improved, somewhat improved. But I knew the chords now. And, I knew that although I couldn’t coordinate my fingers with my thumb to produce the correct tremolo pattern, I knew the chords; I knew them very, very well.
The next day, he didn’t come. He didn’t come. I had the number of his, of his boarding house in Montreal. I phoned to find out why he had missed the appointment, and they told me that he had taken his life. That he committed suicide.

I knew nothing about the man. I did not know what part of Spain he came from. I did not know why he came to Montreal. I did not know why he played there. I did not know why he he appeared there at that tennis court. I did not know why he took his life.

I was deeply saddened, of course. But now I disclose something that I’ve never spoken in public. It was those six chords, it was that guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs and all my music. So, now you will begin to understand the dimensions of the gratitude I have for this country.

Everything that you have found favourable in my work comes from this place. Everything , everything that you have found favourable in my songs and my poetry are inspired by this soil.

So, I thank you so much for the warm hospitality that you have shown my work because it is really yours, and you have allowed me to affix my signature to the bottom of the page."

Monday, November 14, 2011

spiel nicht mit den schmuddelkindern

Franz Josef Degenhardt RIP 12/3/31-11/14/11

Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern,
sing nicht ihre Lieder.
Geh doch in die Oberstadt,
machs wie deine Brüder!
So sprach die Mutter, sprach der Vater, lehrte der Pastor.
Er schlich aber immer wieder durch das Gartentor
und in die Kaninchenställe, wo sie Sechsundsechzig spielten
um Tabak und Rattenfelle -
Mädchen unter Röcke schielten -
wo auf alten Bretterkisten
Katzen in der Sonne dösten -
wo man, wenn der Regen rauschte,
Engelbert, dem Blöden, lauschte,
der auf einen Haarkamm biß,
Rattenfängerlieder blies.
Abends am Familientisch, nach dem Gebet zum Mahl,
hieß es dann: Du riechst schon wieder nach Kaninchenstall.
Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern,
sing nicht ihre Lieder.
Geh doch in die Oberstadt,
mach´s wie deine Brüder!
Sie trieben ihn in eine Schule in der Oberstadt,
kämmten ihm die Haare und die krause Sprache glatt.
Lernte Rumpf und Wörter beugen.
Und statt Rattenfängerweisen
mußte er das Largo geigen
und vor dürren Tantengreisen
unter roten Rattenwimpern
par cur Kinderszenen klimpern -
und, verklemmt in Viererreihen,
Knochen morsch und morscher schreien -
zwischen Fahnen aufgestellt
brüllen, daß man Freundschaft hält.
Schlich er manchmal abends zum Kaninchenstall davon,
hockten da die Schmuddelkinder, sangen voller Hohn
Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern ...
Aus Rache ist er reich geworden. In der Oberstadt
hat er sich ein Haus gebaut. Nahm jeden Tag ein Bad.
Roch, wie bessre Leuten riechen.
Lachte fett, wenn alle Ratten
ängstlich in die Gullys wichen,
weil sie ihn gerochen hatten.
Und Kaninchenställe riß er
ab. An ihre Stelle ließ er
Gärten für die Kinder bauen.
Liebte hochgestellte Frauen,
schnelle Wagen und Musik,
blond und laut und honigdick.
Kam sein Sohn, der Nägelbeißer, abends spät zum Mahl,
roch er an ihm, schlug ihn, schrie: Stinkst nach Kaninchenstall.
Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern ...
Und eines Tages hat er eine Kurve glatt verfehlt.
Man hat ihn aus einem Ei von Schrott herausgepellt.
Als er später durch die Straßen
hinkte, sah man ihn an Tagen
auf ´nem Haarkamm Lieder blasen,
Rattenfell am Kragen tragen.
Hinkte hüpfend hinter Kindern,
wollte sie am Schulgang hindern
und schlich um Kaninchenställe.
Eines Tags in aller Helle
hat er dann ein Kind betört
und in einen Stall gezerrt.
Seine Leiche fand man, die im Rattenteich rumschwamm.
Drumherum die Schmuddelkinder bliesen auf dem Kamm:
Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern ...

thank you, Papa Franz.  

Thursday, October 06, 2011

schubertiana: allegro

Tomas Tranströmer reads Schubertiana (recital starts at 3:41)

And here is "Allegro":

After a black day, I play Haydn,
and feel a little warmth in my hands.
The keys are ready, kind hammers fall.
The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence.
The sound says that freedom exists
and someone pays no tax to Caesar.
I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like a man who is calm about it all.
I raise my haydnflag.  The signal is:
"We do not surrender.  But want peace."
The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying, rocks are rolling.
The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.

Congratulations Literature Nobel 2011 ...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Li: jade engenders smoke


The ornamented zither, for no reason, has fifty strings.
Each string, each bridge, recalls a youthful year.
Master Chuang was confused by his morning dream of the butterfly;
Emperor Wang's amorous heart in spring is entrusted to the cuckoo.
In the vast sea, under a bright moon, pearls have tears;
On Indigo Mountain, in the warm sun, jade engenders smoke.
This feeling might have become a thing to be remembered,
Only, at the time you were already bewildered and lost.

Li Shang-yin (812-858) The Ornamented Zither
Trans. Eugene Eoyang and Irving Y. Lo
In Wu-chi Liu & Irving Y. Lo (ed.), Sunflower Splendor
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), p. 240

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Li: living on thin air


To fly high hardly fills the belly.
Wasted effort, distressing, your useless crying --
At dawn, intermittent, about to break.
A whole tree stands indifferently green.
A hapless official, flotsam floating about,
My old garden is already level with weeds.
Much obliged I am for your admonition:
I too, with my family, live on thin air.

Li Shang-yin (812-858) The Cicada
Trans. Eugene Eoyang and Irving Y. Lo
In Wu-chi Liu & Irving Y Lo (ed.), Sunflower Splendor
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975), p. 243

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rilke: good, fair, and happening


"Diese Geschichte des alten Lübecker Patriziergeschlechtes Buddenbrook (in Firma Johann Buddenbrook), welche mit dem alten Johann Buddenbrook um 1830 einsetzt, endet mit dem kleinen Hanno, seinem Urenkel, in unseren Tagen. Sie umfaßt Feste und Versammlungen, Taufen und Sterbestunden (besonders schwere und schreckliche Sterbestunden), Verheirathungen und Ehescheidungen, große Geschäftserfolge und die herzlosen unaufhörlichen Schläge des Niederganges, wie das Kaufmannsleben sie mit sich bringt ... Auch der Letzte, der kleine Hanno, geht mit nach innen gekehrtem Blick umher, aufmerksam die innere seelische Welt belauschend, aus der seine Musik hervorströmt. In ihm ist noch einmal die Möglichkeit zu einem Aufstieg (freilich einem anderen als Buddenbrooks erhoffen) gegeben: die unendlich gefährdete Möglichkeit eines großen Künstlerthums, die nicht in Erfüllung geht ... Es ist ein Buch ganz ohne Überhebung des Schriftstellers. Ein Act der Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben, welches gut und gerecht ist, indem es geschieht."

"This tale of the old patrician family Buddenbrook (of the Johann Buddenbrook company) in the city of Lubeck begins with the old Johann Buddenbrook around 1830, and ends with little Hanno, his great-grandson, in our days. This family tale contains feasts and gatherings, baptisms and deathbeds (particularly heavy and awful deathbeds), weddings and divorces, and great corporate triumphs as well as the heartless incessant poundings of decline, just as what happens in business life ... Even the last one, little Hanno, walks around with introverted senses, carefully attuned to the inner world of the soul, from where his music flows. With him, one more time the chance is given to a new rise (granted, a rise of a different kind than wished by the Buddenbrooks): the infinitely imperiled possibility of a great artist; a possibility that fails to lead to fruition ... It is a book completely devoid of auctorial arrogance. It is a rite of reverence of life, which is good and fair through its happening."

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
on Buddenbrooks--Decay of a Family (1901)
by Thomas Mann (1875-1955),
in a review for Bremer Tagblatt und General-Anzeiger 16 April 1902.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Milton: the sheep look up


The hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed,
But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw,
Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread:
Besides what the grim Woolf with privy paw
Daily devours apace, and nothing sed,
But that two-handed engine at the door,
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.

John Milton (1608-1674)
Lycidas (1637)
lines 125-131

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hildegard: power of greening


O nobilissima viriditas
quae radicas in sole,
et quae in candida serenitate
luces in rota,
quam nulla terrena
tu circumdata es
amplexibus divinorum

Tu rubes ut aurora
et ardes ut solis flamma.

O most honored Greening Force,

You who roots in the Sun;
You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence fails to comprehend.

You are enfolded
in the weaving of divine mysteries.

You redden like the dawn
and You burn: flame of the Sun

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)
Mad Hun translation

Read different translation here
Hear it sung (track 2)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Whitman: the learn'd astronomer


When I heard the learn'd astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and
measure them,
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman (1818-1892)
Leaves of Grass (1900; No. 180)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tao Qian: birds returning home


I settled in a place where others dwell.
But I hear no clamor from cart or horse.
Sir, you ask me how this is so?
The distant heart is a remote place.
I pluck blossoms below the eastern hedge.
I gaze lazily at the southern peaks.
The mountain air is lovely at sunset.
Flying birds return home together.
There is a deeper meaning in all of these-
I want to express it, but I cannot find the words.

Tao Qian (365-427)
Drinking Wine

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Big Bill Neidjie: cannot touch


We walk on earth,
we look after,
like rainbow sitting on top,
under the ground.
We don't know.
You don't know.
What do you want to do?
If you touch,
you might get cyclone, heavy rain or flood.
Not just here,
you might kill someone in another place.
Might be kill him in another country.
You cannot touch him.

Big Bill Neidjie (1920-2002)
Gagadju Man
In Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers:
How Man is Changing the Climate
and What it Means for Life on Earth

(New York: Grove, 2006), 69

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thoreau: the outward


I live so much in my habitual thoughts that I forget there is any outside to the globe, and am surprised when I behold it as now--yonder hills and river in the moonlight, the monsters. Yet it is salutary to deal with the surface of things. What are these rivers and hills, these hieroglyphics which my eyes behold? There is something invigorating in this air, which I am peculiarly sensible is a real wind, blowing from over the surface of a planet. I look out at my eyes. I come to my window, and I feel and breathe the fresh air. It is a fact equally glorious with the most inward experience. Why have we ever slandered the outward?

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
From Journal vol. 4 (1852-1853)
In Kim Stanley Robinson, Sixty Days and Counting
(New York: Bantam 2007), 286

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Basho v. Tennyson: 1:0


== Enlightened ==

When I look carefully
I see the nazuna blooming
By the hedge!

Basho (1644-1694)
Translation b. Erich Fromm

== Dumbed-Down ==

Flower in a crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower -- but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Alfred "Gringo Moron" Tennyson (1809-1892)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hölderlin: der ister


Jetzt komme, Feuer!
Begierig sind wir
Zu schauen den Tag,
Und wenn die Prüfung
Ist durch die Knie gegangen,
Mag einer spüren das Waldgeschrei.
Wir singen aber vom Indus her
Fernangekommen und
Vom Alpheus, lange haben
Das Schickliche wir gesucht,
Nicht ohne Schwingen mag
Zum Nächsten einer greifen
Und kommen auf die andere Seite.
Hier aber wollen wir bauen.
Denn Ströme machen urbar
Das Land. Wenn nämlich Kräuter wachsen
Und an denselben gehn
Im Sommer zu trinken die Tiere,
So gehn auch Menschen daran.

Man nennet aber diesen den Ister.
Schön wohnt er.
Es brennet der Säulen Laub,
Und reget sich. Wild stehn
Sie aufgerichtet, untereinander; darob
Ein zweites Mass, springe vor
Von Felsen das Dach. So wundert
Mich nicht, dass er
Den Herkules zu Gaste geladen,
Fernglänzend, am Olympos drunten,
Da der, sich Schatten zu suchen
Vom heissen Isthmos kam,
Denn voll des Mutes waren
Dasselbst sie, es bedarf aber, der Geister wegen,
Der Kühlung auch. Darum zog jener lieber
An die Wasserquellen hieher und gelben Ufer,
Hoch duftend oben, und schwarz
Vom Fichtenwald, wo in den Tiefen
Ein Jäger gern lustwandelt
Mittags, und Wachstum hörbar ist
An harzigen Bäumen des Isters,

Der scheinet aber fast
Rückwärrts zu gehen und
Ich mein, er müsse kommen
Von Osten.
Vieles wäre
Zu sagen davon. Und warum hängt er
An den Bergen gerad?
Der andre
Der Rhein ist seitwärts
Hinweggegangen. Umsonst nicht gehn
Im Trocknen die Ströme. Aber wie? Ein Zeichen braucht es,
Nichts anderes, schlecht und recht, damit es Sonn'
Und Mond trag' im Gemüt', untrennbar,
Und fortgeh, Tag und Nacht auch, und
Die Himmlischen warm sich fühlen aneinander.
Darum sind jene auch
Die Freude des Höchsten. Denn wie käm er
Herunter? Und wie Hertha grün,
Sind sie die Kinder des Himmels. Aber allzugeduldig
Scheint der mir, nicht
Freier, und fast zu spotten. Nämlich wenn

Angehen soll der Tag
In der Jugend, wo er zu wachsen
Anfängt, es treibet ein anderer da
Hoch schon die Pracht, und Füllen gleich
In den Zaum knirscht er, und weithin hören
Das Treiben die Lüfte,
Ist der zufrieden;
Es brauchet aber Stiche der Fels
Und Furchen die Erd',
Unwirtbar wär es, ohne Weile;
Was aber jener tuet, der Strom,
Weiss niemand.

Hölderlin: der ister II


Now come, Fire!
We are eager
To see the Day,
And when the Trial
Ran through the knees
One might hear the woods scream
We, though, sing, coming from
the Indus afar, and from
the Alpheus; long we've
Sought the Rites,
And not without wings may
One reach for the Next
-- like that --
And make it to the Far Side.
Here, though, we want to build.
For Streams make Green
The Land. For wherever Herbs grow
And the animals go there
During Summer, to drink,
Then humans will go there too.


Now they call Him the Ister.
He lives prettily. His pillars' leaves
Are burning and stirring. Wildly
The pillars stand upright, together; above them
A second measure, slinging forth
From the rock, a roof. No surprise,
Then, that He
Invited Hercules to come as a guest,
Shining from afar, down there at the Olymp,
Since he who sought Shadow,
Came all the way from hot Isthmus,
For full Courage
They were there, but for Spirits' sake,
It also takes cooling off. So that one rather moved
To the Well Springs here, and to the Yellow Banks,
Highly fragrant up there, and black with
Spruce and Jackpine, where in the depths
A hunter likes to walk about
At Noon, when growth is audible
At the resinous trees of the Ister,


Who nearly goes
Backwards, and methinks
He must have come
From the East.
A lot would be worth
Saying of this. And why He hangs
So straight along the Mountains? The other,
The Rhine, flew off
Without reason not run
Currents in the Dry. But how? It takes a sign,
Nothing else, ill or well, so that Sun
And Moon can be carried in spirit, indivisible;
That one can go on, Day and Night too, and
That the Celestial Ones can warmly feel one another.
That's why they are also
The Joy of the Highest. For how came He
Down? And like Hertha green,
They are the Children of the Sky. But overly patient
He doesn't seem to me, not
Suitor, and nearly mocking. Namely when


Unfold should the Day
In the Youth, where He begins
To grow, while another one already drives
High into splendor, and like a Colt,
Grinding on the bit, and the Airs
Hear the action from afar,
And He is content;
But the bedrock needs to be stabbed
And the Earth needs to be cleaved,
It would be inhospitable, without stay;
But what He does, the Stream,
No one knows.

(Mad Hun Translation)
(... Here's a better one:)

Now come, fire!
We are impatient
To look upon the Day,
And when the trial
Has passed through the knees
One may perceive the cries in the wood.
But, as for us, we sing from the Indus,
Arrived from afar, and
From the Alpheus, long we
Have sought what is fitting,
Not without wings may one
Reach out for that which is nearest
Like so
And get to the other side.
But here we wish to build.
For rivers make arable
The land. For when herbs are growing
And to the same in summer
The animals go to drink,
There too will human kind go.
This one, however, is called the Ister.
Beautifully he lives. The pillars’ foliage burns,
And stirs. Wildly they stand
Supporting one another; above,
A second measure, juts out
The roof of rocks. No wonder, therefore,
I say, this river
Invited Hercules,
Distantly gleaming, down by Olympus,
When he, to look for shadows,
Came up from the sultry isthmus,
For full of courage they were
In that place, but, because of the spirits,
There’s need of coolness too. That is why that hero
Preferred to come here to the wellsprings and yellow banks,
Highly fragrant on top, and black
With fir woods, in whose depths
A huntsman loves to amble
At noon, and growth is audible
In resinous trees of the Ister,
Yet it seems
To travel backwards and
I think it must come from
The East.
Much could
Be said about this. And why does
It cling to the mountains, straight? The other,
The Rhine, has gone away
Not for nothing rivers flow
Through dry land. But how? A sign is needed,
Nothing else, plain and honest, so that
Sun and Moon it may bear in mind, inseparable,
And go away, day and night no less, and
The Heavenly feel warm one beside the other.
That also is why these are
The joy of the Highest. For how
Would he get down? And like Hertha green
They are the children of Heaven. But all too patient
He seems to me, not
More free, and nearly derisive. For when
Day is due to begin
In youth, where it starts
To grow, another already there
Drives high the splendour, and like foals
He grinds the bit, and far off the breezes
Can hear the commotion,
If he is contented;
But the rock needs incisions
And the earth needs furrows,
Would be desolate else, unabiding;
Yet what that one does, the river,
Nobody knows.

(Michael Hamburger Translation,
With A. Sol Invictus Emendation)

Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843)
"Der Ister" (an anthem)


"Ister" is the old word for the river Danube.
The word is Greek (Istros)
"Istros" derives from the Celtic.
It's also the root of the country "Austria".
Our word "Danube" is Latin.
It derives from the Roman river god (Danubius).
For Austrians and Germans, He is a She: die Donau.
"Donau" is the name of the Ister in German and Chinese.
The Do-Nau was China's border ca. 1280 CE

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shiki: raw fish


A fishing village;
Dancing under the moon,
To the smell of raw fish.

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)
Translated by Dan Simmons
In Simmons, Rise of Endymion, 402

Whitman: myself & mine


Myself and mine gymnastic ever,
To stand the cold or heat, to take good aim with a gun, to sail a
boat, to manage horses, to beget superb children,
To speak readily and clearly, to feel at home among common people,
And to hold our own in terrible positions on land and sea.

Not for an embroiderer,
(There will always be plenty of embroiderers, I welcome them also,)
But for the fibre of things and for inherent men and women.

Not to chisel ornaments,
But to chisel with free stroke the heads and limbs of plenteous
supreme Gods, that the States may realize them walking and talking.

Let me have my own way,
Let others promulge the laws, I will make no account of the laws,
Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace, I hold up agitation
and conflict,
I praise no eminent man, I rebuke to his face the one that was
thought most worthy.

(Who are you? and what are you secretly guilty of all your life?
Will you turn aside all your life? will you grub and chatter all
your life?
And who are you, blabbing by rote, years, pages, languages, reminiscences,
Unwitting to-day that you do not know how to speak properly a single word?)

Let others finish specimens, I never finish specimens,
I start them by exhaustless laws as Nature does, fresh and modern

I give nothing as duties,
What others give as duties I give as living impulses,
(Shall I give the heart's action as a duty?)

Let others dispose of questions, I dispose of nothing, I arouse
unanswerable questions,
Who are they I see and touch, and what about them?
What about these likes of myself that draw me so close by tender
directions and indirections?

I call to the world to distrust the accounts of my friends, but
listen to my enemies, as I myself do,
I charge you forever reject those who would expound me, for I cannot
expound myself,
I charge that there be no theory or school founded out of me,
I charge you to leave all free, as I have left all free.

After me, vista!
O I see life is not short, but immeasurably long,
I henceforth tread the world chaste, temperate, an early riser, a
steady grower,
Every hour the semen of centuries, and still of centuries.

I must follow up these continual lessons of the air, water, earth,
I perceive I have no time to lose.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Published in Leaves of Grass [1856]

Friday, November 02, 2007

Feng: visitors


Hanshan came specially to see me,
Shihte too, a rare visitor.
We spoke unaffectedly and with without reserve of the
How vast and free the Great Emptinesss,
How boundless the universe,
Each thing containing within itself all things.

- Feng
Translated by R. H. Blyth; Zen and Zen Classics, p 131 (1978, Vintage Books)

According to Blyth, Feng was head priest of Kuoch'ing Temple in Tient'ai (Tendia) Mountains.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dederick: prayer in the pentagon



planets, Sir, endlessly circle, Sir,
one yellow star among Sir's galaxies:
Pluto Neptune Venus Jupiter
Saturn Uranus Mercury Mars and this-
this watered and this aired this favored one
where all that crawl and swim and fly and run
that drove and swarm and herd and flock are in
with tooth and leg and lung and claw and fin
created clothed and colored are by Sir


colors (counting white) Sir's rainbow makes
when whiteness on Sir's broken waters breaks
arched over tidal blue and branching gray
and grazing green and foaling brown down and away
with gorsing yellow glow and honeyed hay
and petalled blush and mottled winging whir;
the limpid eyes each of Sir's colors wakes
dark-irised are and cleared and curved by Sir


tossing seas Sir's pent-up lands divide
where silver shoals in aching green-ness glide
turn suddenly and dart and flatly lie
break surface plunge and from each other hide
and stare as though by staring they aver
what sweet surprise had widened each wide eye
that once looked early on creating Sir


senses there were then in us who were
salt-tasting all along the salt-scented shore
who felt crust cool and looked on shrinking sea
and heard gull-cry on draining estuary
and found back of these five a something more
a sense of self and back of self--Sir


fingers though (counting a thumb) were what
we mostly were aware of as we fought
Sir's elements and cleared Sir's forests and sought
creation-wise new metalled ways to go
by spinning wheel and wing off runway. So?


quarters of our world began to grow
too few and of Sir's yellow star we thought
equations scribbled bubbled in retort
distilled its hot explosive secrets. So?


questions pose themselves now as we wait:
did Sir not know how to end what Sir began?
Or could we choose? Or did Sir always plan?


hands of ours to bring us soon or late
bent to destroy what the hands of Sir had wrought


day when we and all our world are brought to


Robert Dederick
A Prayer In The Pentagon
The Quest and Other Poems
Hear also: Dave Matthews Band: Typical Situation

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hölderlin: as when on a holiday


As when on a holiday, to see the field
A countryman goes out, at morning, when
Out of the hot night the cooling lightning flashes had fallen
The whole time and the thunder still sounds in the distance,
The river enters its banks once more,
And the fresh ground becomes green
And with the gladdening rain from heaven
The grapevine drips, and gleaming
In quiet sunlight stands the trees of the grove:

So in favorable weather they stand
Whom no master alone, whome she, wonderfully
All-present, educates in a light embrace,
The powerful, divinely beautiful nature.
So when she seems to be sleeping at times of the year
Up in the heavens or among plants or the peoples,
The poets' faces also are mourning,
They seem to be alone, yet are always divining.
For divining too she herself is resting.

But now day breaks! I awaited and saw it come,
And what I saw, may the holy be my word,
For she, she herself, who is older than the ages
And above the gods of Occident and Orient,
Nature is now awakening with the clang of arms,
And from high Aether down to the abyss,
According to firm law, as once, begotten out of holy Chos,
Inspiration, the all-creative,
Agains feels herself anew.

And as a fire gleams in the eye of the man
Who has concieved a lofty design, so
Once more by the signs, the deeds of the world now
A fire has been kindled in the souls of the poets.
And what came to pass before, though scarcely felt,
Only now is manifest,
And they who smiling tended our feilds for us,
In the form of servants, they are known,
The all-living, the powers of the gods.

Do you ask about them? In the song their spirit blows,
When from the sun of day and warm earth
It awakens, and storms that are in the air, and others
That more prepared in the depths of time
And more full of meaning, and more perceptible to us,
Drift on between heaven and earth and among the peoples.
The thoughts of the communal spirit they are,
Quietly ending in the soul of the poet.

So that quickly struct, for a long time
Known to the infinite, it quakes
With recollection, and kindled by the holy ray,
Its fruit concieved in love, the work of gods and men,
The song, so that it may bear witness to both, succeeds.
So, as poets say, when she desired to see
The god, visible, his lightning flash fell on Semele's house
And ashes mortally struck gave birth to
The fruit of the thunderstorm, to holy Bacchus.

And hence the sons of the earth now drink
Heavenly fire without danger.
Yet us it behooves, you poets, to stand
Bare-headed beneath God's thunderstorms,
To grasp the father's ray, itself, with our own hands,
And to offer to the people
The heavenly gift wrapt in song,
For only if we are pure in heart,
Like children, are our hands innocent.

The father's ray, the pure, does not sear it
And deeply shaken, sharing a god's suffering,
The eternal heart yet remains firm.

Translation by Keith Hoeller
In Martin Heidegger, Elucidations of Hölderlin's Poetry
(New York: Humanity Books, 2000)

Dufu: summer night


With a sun that never seems to set
The heavy heat saps one's life
How would I love
A stiff wind to rise, and
Lift my gown, playing around
My body! A sky still
And clear with the light of
The full moon throwing its beams
Over trees; in midsummer
Nights are too short; I fling
Open doors letting
Cool air come in and moonlight
Brighten empty rooms;
Everywhere insects are flying,
And I ponder on how all
Living creatures have feelings,
All trying to do their best for
Their own well-being; so do I
Go on to think of our soldiers
Standing under arms
Guarding our frontiers; no
Way for them to bathe in cool
Waters; always vigilant, yet ever
Grappling with desert heat;
Beating gongs as sentry
Duties change over throught the
Nights -- a sound familiar now
On all our frontiers;
Bright uniforms never compensating
For life in villages they
Have left; from northern cities
There comes sad border music;
Cranes fly overhead, calling
Each other; so here, I stop my
Worrying, just letting
My mind roam back over thoughts
Of happier days.


"A Summer Night"
Translated by Rewi Alley
From Tu-Fu, Selected Poems, compiled by Feng Chih
Hongkong: Commercial Press, 1977, p. 73-74

Mad Hun's Questions:
1. How can you tell this is a pagan's poem?
2. What are verses that a monotheist would not make?
3. Think in matrix-terms: how many boundaries do you find?
4. What are verses that a warmonger would not make?
5. How does Dufu support troops as a pacifist?
6. What is an insect?
7. Who is sentient?
8. Why wind?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Li Bai: Q & A on the mountain


You ask for what reason I stay on the green mountain,
I smile, but do not answer, my heart is at leisure.
Peach blossom is carried far off by flowing water,
Apart, I have heaven and earth in the human world.

Li Bai (701-762)
Translation by Mark Alexander

Li Bai: clear autumn air


The autumn air is clear.
The autumn moon is bright.
Fallen leaves gather and scatter,
The jackdaw perches and starts anew.
We think of each other -- when will we meet?
This hour, this night, my feelings are hard.

Li Bai (701-762)
Translated by Mark Alexander

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dufu: night by the river


Evening haze creeps up hill paths,
I lie in the pavilion overlooking
The river; light clouds envelop
Cliff sides, and the moon's reflection
Is twisted by the waters;
Cranes and storks rest after
Their flight; wild beasts howl
As they seek their prey; sleep
Does not come to me, for still
I worry about war, knowing I have
No way to set the world aright.


"Night in the Pavilion by the River"
Translated by Rewi Alley
From Tu-Fu, Selected Poems, compiled by Feng Chih
Hongkong: Commercial Press, 1977, p. 145

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Rilke: autumn


O tall tree of sight, who is defoliating:
Now it's time to be grown for the overabundance
Of sky breaking through his branches.
Filled with summer, he seemed deep and dense,
Seemed nearly thinking, a familiar head.
Now his entire insides are turning into a street
Of the sky. And the sky doesn't know us.

An utmost: that we throw ourselves
Like bird-flight through the new gateway
That denies us with the right of space
Which only deals with worlds. The wave-feelings
Of our fringe are seeking reference
And console themselves in the open as a flag
But homesickness means the head of the tree.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
In Werke ed Rilke Archiv (Frankfurt: Insel 1984) vol. II.1 p. 180
Mad Hun translation
Here is the original:

Oh hoher Baum des Schauns, der sich entlaubt:
nun heissts gewachsen sein dem Uebermasse
von Himmel, das durch seine Aeste bricht.
Erfuellt von Sommer, schien er tief und dicht,
uns beinah denkend, ein vertrautes Haupt.
Nun wird sein ganzes Innere zur Strasse
des Himmels. Und der Himmel kennt uns nicht.

Ein Aeusserstes: dass wir wie Vogelflug
uns werfen durch das neue Aufgetane,
das uns verleugnet mit dem Recht des Raums,
der nur mit Welten umgeht. Unsres Saums
Wellen-Gefuehle suchen nach Bezug
und troesten sich im Offenen als Fahne
Aber ein Heimweh meint das Haupt des Baums.