"If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty."
Kenkō (1283-1350), Tsurezuregusa (Chapter 7), in Donald Keene (translator), Essays in Idleness: The Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō (Columbia University Press 1967), page 7.
Keene provides this note to "Adashino": "Adashino was the name of a graveyard, apparently situated northwest of Kyoto. The word adashi (impermanent), contained in the place name, accounted for the frequent use of Adashino in poetry as a symbol of impermanence. The dew is also often used with that meaning." Ibid, page 8. With respect to "Toribeyama," Keene notes: "Toribeyama is still the chief graveyard of Kyoto. Mention of smoke suggests that bodies were cremated there." Ibid, page 8.
An ancient Chinese burial song comes to mind:
How swiftly it dries,
The dew on the garlic-leaf,
The dew that dries so fast
To-morrow will fall again.
But he whom we carry to the grave
Will never more return.
Anonymous (translated by Arthur Waley), in Arthur Waley, One Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (Constable 1918), page 38.
Who knows what will come our way? In this year, of all years, I need not remind you of that, dear readers.
The wind has brought
enough fallen leaves
To make a fire.
Ryōkan (1758-1831) (translated by John Stevens), in John Stevens, One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryōkan (Weatherhill 1977), page 67.
Alexander Jamieson (1873-1937)
"Halton Lake, Wendover, Buckinghamshire"
Something about the encounter with the rabbit touched my heart: there was a sudden, sighing catch of breath inside me as I watched it move across the road, pause briefly, glance at the headlights, then go on in its careful, intent way. Why? What had happened? Some may say it was merely a rabbit crossing a road, an everyday occurrence. Others may say I'm a sentimental old fool.
I'm afraid I have to conclude that this is where words end. Think of the handful of luminous moments that remain in your memory. Your life. You know them well. Can you put into words why they are brilliantly clear, unchanged and unchangeable?
"Do not seek to have everything that happens happen as you wish, but wish for everything to happen as it actually does happen, and your life will be serene."
Epictetus, Encheiridion (Section 5), in Epictetus, Discourses, Books III-IV; The Encheiridion (translated by W. A. Oldfather) (Harvard University Press 1928), page 491.
Best to keep silent, wait, and pay attention.
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.
Alexander Jamieson, "The Old Mill, Weston Turville" (1927)
Just a rabbit crossing a road on a night in late autumn. Fragile, precious, tenuous, irreplaceable, hung by a gossamer thread. Fare thee well, dear friend. Be safe, and live a long rabbit life.
Now the long wave unfolded falls from the West,
The sandbirds run upon twittering, twinkling feet:
Life is perilous, poised on the lip of a wave,
And the weed that lay yesterday here is clean gone.
O visitor, fugitive creature, thing of a tide,
Make music, my heart, before the long silence.
L. A. G. Strong, Northern Light (Victor Gollancz 1930).
Alexander Jamieson, "Doldowlod on the Wye" (1935)