Matsuo Basho 松尾 芭蕉 (1644-1694) was a Japanese Zen poet, whose name we would know well, if we were Japanese. He sensitizes us to the neglected beauty and interest of everyday life, and thereby reconciles us with our own circumstances.
Wabi-Sabi (侘寂) means satisfaction with the simple, appreciation of the imperfect. It all started with tea.
Mirror room, designed by Yayoi Kusama, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
I passed into a lucent still abode
And saw as in a mirror crystalline
An ancient Force ascending serpentine
The unhasting spirals of the aeonic road.
Earth was a cradle for the arriving god
And man but a half-dark half-luminous sign
Of the transition of the veiled Divine
From Matter’s sleep and the tormented load
Of ignorant life and death to the Spirit’s light.
Mind liberated swam Light’s ocean vast,
And life escaped from its grey tortured line;
I saw Matter illumining its parent Night.
The soul could feel into infinity cast
Timeless God-bliss the heart incarnadine.
John Ireland was born 140 years ago today.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
— John Masefield
The lake is my adopted place of birth
Where easily can I renew naïve
Sensation, relishing what I perceive,
Appreciating living nature’s worth.
My pace is slow, but freer than on earth.
Viscosity and buoancy relieve
Enough of effort that I can believe
In joy that lasts, a self-sustaining mirth.
No need for any difference, no dearth,
No care for what I have or will receive;
I let my thoughts devolve on what I weave,
And drift from lake to river, thence to firth…
I’m confident the pow’r of my devotion
Transports me ever closer to the ocean.
— Josh Mitteldorf
#58 from the I Ching Sonnet Project
He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder-broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter-love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff’s talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush—and that was all.
by Robert Frost
In placid hours well-pleased we dream
Of many a brave unbodied scheme.
But form to lend, pulsed life create,
What unlike things must meet and mate:
A flame to melt—a wind to freeze;
Sad patience-—joyous energies;
Humility—yet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity—reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel—Art.
— Herman Melville turned 200 this week