With those platitudinous truisms out of the way, let us consider, for instance, this:
A Song for a Parting
Flora will pass from firth to firth;
Duty must draw, and vows must bind.
Flora will sail half round the earth,
Yet will she leave some grace behind.
Waft her, on Faith, from friend to friend,
Make her a saint in some far isle;
Yet will we keep, till memories end,
Something that once was Flora's smile.
William Cory (1823-1892), Ionica (Third Edition; edited by A. C. Benson) (George Allen 1905). The poem originally appeared in the 1891 edition of Ionica.
William Cory is best known for his translation of a poem by Callimachus (c. 310 - c. 240 BC). Callimachus's poem is found in The Greek Anthology. Cory's translation, which has appeared here in the past, begins: "They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,/They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed." It concludes: "Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;/For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take." "Thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales" refers to Heraclitus's poems.
Who, or what, is "Flora"? The Roman goddess of flowers and of spring? Or is she a real person whose identity is cloaked in an evocative alias? Or neither? I have no idea. Yet the poem still beguiles me, for it is a beautiful thing. Flora is Flora. Nothing more need be said.
James Torrington Bell (1898-1970), "Landscape"
As lovely and welcome as the arrival of spring is, I have lately found myself regretting the coming disappearance of the bare branches of the trees as the leaves emerge. As one ages, it seems that life and the World take on a more elegiac cast. I say this without a trace of melancholy, complaint, or foreboding. The beautiful particulars of the World seem more beautiful to me with each passing year, with a beauty that continually unfolds, without end. This no doubt has something to do with a quickening awareness of the evanescence of all things. There is no getting around it: time is short. Yet an elegy need not be a lament.
And so I never tire of looking up at the breathtaking intricacy of interlacing empty branches against the sky, in any weather. But particularly when, beyond the branches, white castles of cloud travel across the blue. Nor will the shadows of those same branches spread out at my feet on a sunny day ever cease to be a source of wonder.
"A Song for a Parting." Exactly.
Do not also the petals flutter down,
Just like that?
Issa (1763-1828) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 2: Spring (Hokuseido Press 1950), page 363.
James Torrington Bell, "Braes of Downie" (1938)