I heard my love was going to Yang-chow
And went with him as far as Ch'u Hill.
For a moment, when you held me fast in your outstretched arms
I thought the river stood still and did not flow.
Anonymous (translated by Arthur Waley), in Arthur Waley, Chinese Poems (George Allen and Unwin 1946).
Long-time readers of this blog may recall my two essential poetic principles (i. e., truisms that no doubt try your patience by now). The first: It is the individual poem that matters, not the poet. And, begging your forbearance, the second: Explanation and explication are the death of poetry.
A poem such as this is timeless and eternal. It comes from China and from the universe. Of its Beauty and Truth, nothing more need be said.
Thomas Hennell (1903-1945)
"The Guest House, Cerne Abbas" (1940)
Nothing more need be said. But, if we are lucky, those four lines may cause us to catch our breath: Ah, yes, I know, I know, I know.
While You Slept
You never knew what I saw while you slept.
We drove up a wide green stone-filled valley.
Around us were empty heather mountains.
A white river curved quickly beside us.
I thought to wake you when I saw the cairn --
A granite pillar of that country's past --
But I let you sleep without that history.
You did, however, travel through that place:
I can tell you that your eyes were at rest
As the momentous world moved beyond you,
And that you breathed in peace that quarter hour.
We seldom know what is irreplaceable.
You sang old songs for me, then fell asleep.
I worried about what you were missing.
But you missed nothing. And I was the one who slept.
sip (Glen Coe, Scotland, c. 1986).
Thomas Hennell, "The Beech Avenue, Lasham" (1941)