Saturday, April 13, 2013

Perspective, Part Five: "A Handful Of Sand"

My previous post amounted to a rant of sorts about political beings.  Some perspective is in order, both for myself -- for being on a high horse -- and for political beings (left, right, or center) the world over.

               Recording Thoughts

Years ago I retired to rest,
did some modest building in this crinkle of the mountain.
Here in the woods, no noise, no trash;
in front of my eaves, a stream of pure water.
In the past I hoped to profit by opening books;
now I'm used to playing games in the dirt.
What is there that's not a children's pastime?
Confucius, Lao Tzu -- a handful of sand.

Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Kanshi: The Poetry of Ishikawa Jozan and Other Edo-Period Poets (North Point Press 1990).

Richard Eurich, "Boats at Lyme Regis" (1937)

Or, as put differently by Geoffrey Scott:

    All Our Joy Is Enough

All we make is enough
Barely to seem
A bee's din,
A beetle-scheme --
Sleepy stuff
For God to dream:

All our joy is enough
At most to fill
A thimble cup
A little wind puff
Can shake, can spill:
Fill it up;
Be still.

All we know is enough;
Though written wide,
Small spider yet
With tangled stride
Will soon be off
The page's side:

Harold Monro (editor), Twentieth Century Poetry (1933).

Richard Eurich, "Lyme Regis" (1930)


Bovey Belle said...

Ah, dear Lyme Regis . . . Scene of on-line (idle) house hunting this week!

What beautifully gentle poems today. I have not slept well, so they are welcome to my addled mind. "A bee's din" - how apt, when Bumblebees get right into a Foxglove flower they sound like Harley Davidsons!

Two new poets too me (to read), though i have at least heard of Harold Munro!

Stephen Pentz said...

Bovey Belle: as always, it is good to hear from you. I saw my first big bumblebee of the year this week.

I'm pleased that you like the poems. Geoffrey Scott did not write much poetry, and he died at a young age. He is better known as a writer on architecture, and as the editor of the papers of James Boswell that were discovered at Malahide Castle in the 1920s. However, he died just at the start of his editorial efforts. I stumbled on this poem by happenstance.

Thank you very much for your thoughts.

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

Stephen I am in complete accord with Bovey Belle on your choices this week. Now if only politicians
and the shows that holler on about them could learn of a bee's drone!
I wanted to comment a few posts ago about Frost and love. He (Frost) was sort of a beloved VIP in our house, and I remember feeling what I can only describe now as a lovely weight when they were read to me. I've never looked at birches, roads or fences quite the same way since then~

Stephen Pentz said...

Julie: thank you very much for stopping by. It's good to hear from you.

I agree with you. I am going to play games in the garden dirt tomorrow -- if it doesn't rain. I have had enough -- I have always had enough -- of politics.

It seems to me that you had a very fortunate childhood: you have commented more than once on your parents reading poetry to you. And Frost in particular would teach a child to appreciate the world outside.

Thanks again.

John Ashton said...

Mr Pentz, two delightful pieces, both new to me. Today my wife and I went for a walk to some local woods, there is an area which is fenced off from the main woods and to which access is usually denied(it is a consevation area)Ths morning however a gate had been left open and not able to resist temptation, we went through and found a beautiful world of ponds,wetland; and meadow grasses, it was like stepping into a small paradise, or waking to the world on its first morning, and the place was thick with bumble bees. I have never seen soo many in one place. Many were on the ground, bumbling through the very wet grasses, trying to shake the water from their bodies, while others were in the air filling it with that wonderful droning sound. It was one of those magical moments that happen from time to time, rare, but deep in the memory for always.
Today I shall literally be playing in the dirt, as I shall be working on my allotment, digging and prpearing the earth for planting.

WAS said...

I dunno, I really like your ability to descend from the rapturous trees and strike a spike directly through a hedgehog’s infernal burrowing and then go back up again. There’s something…reassuring about that. And the poetry, as the thing one takes to heart, is the thing that can heal, in my humble opinion.

I remember jazz guys in DC many years ago telling younger players “don’t forget the blues” – and you never do, in the sense that you always bring in the Asian poets to remind us of the true futility of all these ambitions. We must never forget that.

It is subtly different, though, as you and I have discussed, than the fatalism I see in the Scott poem: it is a reminder that we have wasted our time, and that other things are far more important, things that there is still, unbelievably enough, time for.

Anonymous said...

I too was lucky enough to have poetry introduced to me as a child -- Frost, of course, but the first poem I remember learning by heart was ET's "Adlestrop".
I love "this crinkle of the mountain". It makes me think of our family place in New Hampshire, in a crinkle of Mount Monadnock.
Susan in NYC

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Ashton: that was a wonderful, and fortunate, encounter, wasn't it? As you say, those sorts of things are never forgotten. And, as you have mentioned in the past, such events often seem to occur when we are not expecting them -- which adds to their memorability.

As always, it is good to hear from you. Thank you for visiting again.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Sigler: thank you very much for the kind words. However, I'm afraid that you credit me with too much forethought and guile: I'm not that clever; I'm simply stumbling from day-to-day and poem-to-poem. (And I would never "strike a spike" anywhere near a hedgehog: I love hedgehogs!)

I agree with you about the healing role of poetry, and also about the important role that the Asian poets play in putting things into perspective and bringing us back down to earth (no pun intended).

You're right: I always come back to them at certain times. As you know, they never fail to wake us up and shake us by the shoulders: "Wise up!" And, as you say, they don't have the fatalism of the Scott poem (or of other Western poems of that sort). It is all very matter-of-fact, gentle, humane, and often humorous. They still remain a lovely mystery to me.

Thank you very much for stopping by again, and for your thoughts, which are always appreciated.

Stephen Pentz said...

Susan: thank you very much for visiting again.

You were as fortunate as Ms Whitmore was. And Edward Thomas as well as Frost! Unfortunately, I didn't encounter "Adlestrop" until I was in my twenties. But, better late than never.

Yes, "crinkle of the mountain" is lovely, isn't it? It caught my eye as well. Burton Watson is a wonderful translator.

It is always nice to hear from you.