For instance, Japanese poets have been writing about Existence for centuries, and they share Symons's view that we enter this world from a mist and depart into a mist. But, the way they go about it, what sounds like a catalogue of horrors in an English sonnet sounds like a lovely walk in the park in a Japanese poem (filtered through Buddhism, with Taoism in the background).
Gilbert Spencer, "The Cottage Window"
Shall I compare the world?
It is like the wake
Vanishing behind a boat
that has rowed away at dawn.
Sami Manzei (8th century) (translated by Edward Cranston), A Waka Anthology, Volume 1: The Gem-Glistening Cup (Stanford University Press 1993).
Like dew that vanishes,
like a phantom that disappears,
or the light cast
by a flash of lightning --
so should one think of oneself.
Ikkyu (1394-1481) (translated by Steven Carter), Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology (Stanford University Press 1991).
A temporary lodging
on this side of the road all
must go, in the end.
To recover the time he rested,
The traveller hastens on.
Shinkei (1406-1475) (translated by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen), Heart's Flower: The Life and Poetry of Shinkei (Stanford University Press 1994).
Bertha Ridley Bell
"Interior of a Cottage at Brockhampton" (c. 1950)
"Like the wake vanishing behind a boat that has rowed away at dawn." "Like dew that vanishes . . . or the light cast by a flash of lightning." "The traveller hastens on." A far cry from a soul that "staggers out into eternity," isn't it?
For the Japanese poets, this is simply the way that it is, and there is no need to bemoan that fact. Thus, even as they describe the evanescence and the transience of our life, they do so in words that show their acute awareness of, and appreciation for, the beauty that surrounds us. I recently quoted this line from Wallace Stevens, and it once again seems apt: "Death is the mother of beauty, mystical."
"Through a Cottage Window, Shipley, Sussex"