Wednesday, June 29, 2016


The recent Brexit referendum and the ongoing presidential election campaign in the United States have got me to thinking about the politicization of daily life, a subject that I have considered here in the past. But let me be clear at the outset:  this is a non-political blog, and you will not hear any opinions from me on either Brexit or the presidential election. I am not a citizen of the United Kingdom, so Brexit is none of my business. As for the presidential election:  I intend to sit it out.

What concerns me is how the politicization of culture and of individual consciousness encourages people to adopt stereotypical, patronizing, and dehumanizing views of those who are on the other side of a political issue. This has been glaringly apparent in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, and it has been an ongoing feature of the presidential campaign.

Who among us is in a position to adopt such views?  Do those who hold these views realize that they are in fact dehumanizing themselves in the process?  They have become exactly what the politicians, political "activists," and media oversimplifiers and crisis-mongers want them to be:  political animals.

   Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be --
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

Robert Frost, A Further Range (Henry Holt 1936.)

Be careful before you make any quick judgments on what the poem "means."  Depending upon how you read the poem, you may be a misanthrope or you may be a lover of humanity.  Or both.  Or neither.  In his fine study of Frost's poetry, Tim Kendall says this of the poem:  "This is what I can see happening, the poet tells his reader.  Make of it what you will."  Tim Kendall, The Art of Robert Frost (Yale University Press 2012), page 356.  But this much is certain:  you are standing there on the sand, dear reader, as are we all.

Osmund Caine, "Wedding at Twickenham Parish Church" (1948)

Being politicized leads to evaluating and judging the world and other human beings in terms of classes, categories, and clichés.  Never underestimate the allure of a priori conclusions.  For the politicized, everything appears to be simple and subject to explanation.  Us and them. The enlightened versus the benighted.

All of this has nothing whatsoever to do with the individual human being or with the individual human soul.


Because I see the world poisoned
by cant and brutal self-seeking,
must I be silent about
the useless waterlily, the dunnock's nest
in the hedgeback?

Because I am fifty-six years old
must I love, if I love at all,
only ideas -- not people, but only
the idea of people?

Because there is work to do, to steady
a world jarred off balance,
must a man meet only a fellow-worker
and never a man?

There are more meanings than those
in text books of economics
and a part of the worst slum
is the moon rising over it
and eyes weeping and
mouths laughing.

Norman MacCaig, in Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009).

Gilbert Spencer
"The School on Peggy Hill, Ambleside" (1952)

Each of us has a far better opinion of ourself than we ought to.  That is a given.  A part of human nature.  But, when you add politics to the mix, the opportunities for superciliousness expand exponentially.  Vast territories of grandiosity, oversimplification, and unexamined assumptions lie open for exploration.  And you can be sure that the politicized -- left, right, and center -- will undertake the expedition.


To believe you are magnificent.  And gradually to discover that you are not magnificent.  Enough labor  for one human life.

Czeslaw Milosz, Road-side Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1998).

W. B. Yeats could be as supercilious as they come.  But every once in a while he experienced a moment of clarity.


Indignant at the fumbling wits, the obscure spite
Of our old Paudeen in his shop, I stumbled blind
Among the stones and thorn-trees, under morning light;
Until a curlew cried and in the luminous wind
A curlew answered; and suddenly thereupon I thought
That on the lonely height where all are in God's eye,
There cannot be, confusion of our sound forgot,
A single soul that lacks a sweet crystalline cry.

W. B. Yeats, Responsibilities and Other Poems (Macmillan 1916).

"A single soul," yes.  Yet something else comes to mind as well.

                           Aboard a Boat, Listening to Insects

As though delighting, as though grieving, each with its own song --
an idler, listening, finds his ears washed completely clean.
As the boat draws away from grassy banks, they grow more distant,
till the many varied voices become one single voice.

Ōkubo Shibutsu (1767-1837) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Kanshi: The Poetry of Ishikawa Jōzan and Other Edo-Period Poets (North Point Press 1990).

George Charlton, "Welsh Chapel" (1950)

I am well aware that there may be those among you who find this disquisition (diatribe?) to be supercilious in its own right.  Apathy and quietism as the world goes up in flames.  I see your point.  Ah, well, we are all in "the vale of Soul-making."  We each choose our own path.


You say a thousand things,
And with strange passion hotly I agree,
And praise your zest,
And then
A blackbird sings
On April lilac, or fieldfaring men,
Ghostlike, with loaded wain,
Come down the twilit lane
To rest,
And what is all your argument to me?

Oh yes -- I know, I know,
It must be so --
You must devise
Your myriad policies,
For we are little wise,
And must be led and marshalled, lest we keep
Too fast a sleep
Far from the central world's realities.
Yes, we must heed --
For surely you reveal
Life's very heart; surely with flaming zeal
You search our folly and our secret need;
And surely it is wrong
To count my blackbird's song,
My cones of lilac, and my wagon team,
More than a world of dream.

But still
A voice calls from the hill --
I must away --
I cannot hear your argument to-day.

John Drinkwater, Tides (Sidgwick and Jackson 1917).

But life is more than a matter of blackbirds singing and lilacs blooming, isn't it?  Thus, please forgive me as I return once again to some of the best advice that I have come across during my time on earth:

               . . . we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Philip Larkin, "The Mower," Collected Poems (Faber and Faber 1988).

James McIntosh Patrick, "A City Garden" (1940)

Thursday, June 23, 2016


As I have noted here in the past, a few times each year I feel the urge to visit the misty, twilit (at  all hours of the day) world of the poets of the 1890s. There is no telling when this urge will arrive.  It is purely a matter of emotion.  Thus, as summer begins, I find myself immersed in the dreamy, death-haunted, yellow-turning-to-grey world of the fin de siècle.  On this occasion, however, my return is not prompted by free-floating emotion, but by coming across this poem:

               To a Minor Poet of 1899

To leave a verse concerning the sad hour
That awaits us at the limit of the day,
To bind your name to its sorrowful date
Of gold and of vague shade.  That's what you wanted.
With what passion as the day drew to its close
You labored on and on at the strange verse
That, until the universe disperses,
Would confirm the hour of the strange blue!
I do not know if ever you succeeded
Nor, vague elder brother, if you existed,
But I am alone and want oblivion
To restore your fleeting shade to the days
In the supreme already worn-out effort
Of words wherein the evening may yet be.

Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Charles Tomlinson), in Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Poems (edited by Alexander Coleman) (Viking 1999).

I suppose that, from the standpoint of "literary criticism" (whatever that is), all of the poets of the Nineties (with the exception of W. B. Yeats) are "minor poets."  But the whole concept of "major" and "minor" poets is useless.  As you have heard me say before, dear readers, it is the poem that is important, not the poet.

Perhaps this is what Borges is trying to tell us, at least in part.  What matters is "the supreme already worn-out effort/Of words wherein the evening may yet be."  Are all of the poems written by "major poets" good? Of course not.  Are all of the poems written by "minor poets" bad?  Of course not.  And so-called "minor poets" have written poems that are as good as the best poems ever written by "major poets."  Using these sorts of labels encourages laziness and discourages expeditions of discovery.

George Reid, "Evening" (1873)

I suspect that some assiduous scholar has tracked down which "minor poet of 1899" Borges had in mind.  The poet may be Argentinian, not English.  I have not looked into that.  Moreover, knowing Borges, it is entirely possible that the "minor poet" is an imaginary poet.

In the absence of a name, I would like to share two poems published in 1899 by my favorite poets of the Nineties:  Arthur Symons and Ernest Dowson.  I believe that the poems capture the twilit atmosphere evoked by Borges in his poem:  "the sad hour/That awaits us at the limit of the day," the "sorrowful date/Of gold and of vague shade" and "the hour of the strange blue."  Symons and Dowson knew them well.

          On Inishmaan
           (Isles of Aran)

In the twilight of the year,
Here, about these twilight ways,
When the grey moth night drew near,
Fluttering on a faint flying,
I would linger out the day's
Delicate and moth-grey dying.

Grey, and faint with sleep, the sea
Should enfold me, and release
Some old peace to dwell with me.
I would quiet the long crying
Of my heart with mournful peace,
The grey sea's, in its low sighing.

Arthur Symons, Images of Good and Evil (Heinemann 1899).

"The grey moth night" has stayed with me since I first read the poem years ago.  When I come across four words such as these, I am reminded why I love poetry.  Beauty may be just around the corner.  And it will accompany you for the rest of your life.

Charles Napier Hemy, "Evening Grey" (1868)

In the following poem, Derek Mahon evokes the preoccupation (or is it infatuation?) with death that is so prevalent in the poetry of the 1890s. Mahon's tone may seem a bit dismissive, but, overall, I think he feels an affinity with the poets.  This is more apparent in his later poem "Remembering the '90s," which appears in The Yellow Book (The Gallery Press 1997), a collection that borrows its name from the iconic quarterly magazine of the fin de siècle.

             The Poets of the Nineties

Slowly, with the important carelessness
Of your kind, each spirit-sculptured face
Appears before me, eyes
Bleak from discoveries.

I had almost forgotten you had been,
So jealous was I of my skin
And the world with me.  How
Goes it with you now?

Did death and its transitions disappoint you,
And the worms you so looked forward to?
Perhaps you found that you had to queue
For a ticket into hell,
Despite your sprays of laurel.

You were all children in your helpless wisdom,
Retiring loud-mouths who would not be dumb --
Frustrated rural clergymen
Nobody would ordain.

Then ask no favour of reincarnation,
No yearning after the booze and whores --
For you, if anyone,
Have played your part
In holding nature up to art . . .

Be content to sprawl in your upland meadows,
Hair and boy-mouths stuck with flowers --
And rest assured, the day
Will be all sunlight, and the night
A dutiful spectrum of stars.

Derek Mahon, Poems 1962-1978 (Oxford University Press 1979).

When the poem was first published in Mahon's Night-Crossing (Oxford University Press 1968), it was titled "Dowson and Company."  The lines "Be content to sprawl in your upland meadows,/Hair and boy-mouths stuck with flowers" bring to mind Dowson's "Breton Afternoon," which begins with this stanza:

Here, where the breath of the scented-gorse floats through the sun-stained
On a steep hill-side, on a grassy ledge, I have lain hours long and heard
Only the faint breeze pass in a whisper like a prayer,
And the river ripple by and the distant call of a bird.

The fascination with "death and its transitions" noted by Mahon is reminiscent of the third stanza of "Breton Afternoon":

Out of the tumult of angry tongues, in a land alone, apart,
In a perfumed dream-land set betwixt the bounds of life and death,
Here will I lie while the clouds fly by and delve an hole where my heart
May sleep deep down with the gorse above and red, red earth beneath.

(A side-note:  Mahon writes of his own visit to Breton in a lovely four-poem sequence titled "Breton Walks," which may be found in Poems 1962-1978.)

Herbert Hughes-Stanton, "The Mill in the Valley" (1892)

Ernest Dowson's final volume of verse was published in 1899.  He died the following year at the age of 32.  The volume closes with this poem:

                            A Last Word

Let us go hence:  the night is now at hand;
     The day is overworn, the birds all flown;
     And we have reaped the crops the gods have sown;
Despair and death; deep darkness o'er the land,
Broods like an owl; we cannot understand
     Laughter or tears, for we have only known
     Surpassing vanity:  vain things alone
Have driven our perverse and aimless band.

Let us go hence, somewhither strange and cold,
     To Hollow Lands where just men and unjust
     Find end of labour, where's rest for the old,
Freedom to all from love and fear and lust.
Twine our torn hands!  O pray the earth enfold
Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust.

Ernest Dowson, Decorations: In Verse and Prose (Leonard Smithers 1899).

Dowson wrote what is perhaps the quintessential poem of the Nineties: "Vitae summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam," which has appeared here on more than one occasion.  The poem ends with these lines:

     Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
     Within a dream.

It has always been thus.  The poets of the Nineties have said these things as well as they have ever been said.  There is nothing new under the sun, but we need poets to tell us these things in their own fashion, whatever their time and wherever their place.  To return to Borges:  "the supreme already worn-out effort/Of words wherein the evening may yet be."  "Worn-out?"  I wonder.  Restated, perhaps.  And timeless.

That man's life is but a dream --
is what we now come to know.

Its house abandoned,
the garden has become home
     to butterflies.

Sōgi (1421-1502) (translated by Steven Carter), in Steven Carter, Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology (Stanford University Press 1991).

Allan Gwynne-Jones, "Spring Evening, Froxfield" (1922)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How To Live, Part Twenty-Six: Dwelling

We live in a noisy world.  The noise comes both from outside and from inside.  All we need is a little peace and quiet.  A universal sentiment, don't you think?

Fortunately, we have it in our power to shut out the noise.  Right at this moment.  To cite but one example:  pay no attention to the News of the World.  It is easily done.  Turning off the internal noise is much more difficult.  Often, at the start of my daily walk, I say to myself:  "No thinking."  I inevitably fail.

T'ao Yüan-ming (whose nom de plume was "T'ao Ch'ien," meaning, roughly, "the Recluse") left his position in government to live in the countryside.  His was not a life of comfortable retreat:  he worked as a farmer and had a large family.  His poetry reflects a sense of contentment and tranquility, with occasional bumps in the road (the inevitable consequence of making one's living as a farmer).

I built my hut in a place where people live,
and yet there's no clatter of carriage or horse.
You ask me how that could be?
With a mind remote, the region too grows distant.
I pick chrysanthemums by the eastern hedge,
see the southern mountain, calm and still.
The mountain air is beautiful at close of day,
birds on the wing coming home together.
In all this there's some principle of truth,
but try to define it and you forget the words.

T'ao Ch'ien (365-427) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (Columbia University Press 1984).  The poem is untitled.

The truths that one finds in poetry are not limited to a particular place or time.  A conversation between T'ao Ch'ien, a Chinese poet of the 4th and 5th centuries, and Walter de la Mare, an English poet of the 20th century, may, I hope, demonstrate the universality of poetic truth.  Think of de la Mare's poems in this post as both a counterpoint to, and an echo of, T'ao Ch'ien's poem.

                         Days and Moments

The drowsy earth, craving the quiet of night,
Turns her green shoulder from the sun's last ray;
Less than a moment in her solar flight
Now seems, alas! thou fleeting one, life's happiest day.

Walter de la Mare, Inward Companion and Other Poems (Faber and Faber 1950).

Robin Tanner, "The Gamekeeper's Cottage" (1928)

T'ao Ch'ien possessed deep knowledge of Taoism.  Hence, it is not surprising that the final two lines of his poem are reminiscent of Lao Tzu's well-known statement from the Tao te Ching (as translated by Arthur Waley):  "Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know." Here is another translation of T'ao Ch'ien's poem:

I have built my cottage amid the realm of men
But I hear no din of horses or carriages.
You might ask, "How is this possible?"
A remote heart creates its own hermitage!
Picking chrysanthemums by the eastern hedge,
I perceive the Southern Mountain in the distance.
Marvelous is the mountain air at sunset!
The flitting birds return home in pairs,
In these things is the essence of truth --
I wish to explain but have lost the words.

T'ao Ch'ien (translated by Angela Jung Palandri), in Angela Jung Palandri, "The Taoist Vision: A Study of T'ao Yüan-ming's Nature Poetry," Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Volume 15 (1988).

Some truths cannot be put into words.  These truths are usually the most important truths.  "Forget[ting] the words" or "los[ing] the words" is not necessarily a bad thing:  it may be a sign that you have learned something important.  An observation by Ludwig Wittgenstein (which has appeared here on more than one occasion) complements Lao Tzu and T'ao Ch'ien quite well:  "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." Ludwig Wittgenstein (translated by David Pears and Brian McGuinness), Proposition 7, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922).


     Space beyond space:  stars needling into night:
     Through rack, above, I gaze from Earth below --
Spinning in unintelligible quiet beneath
     A moonlit drift of cloudlets, still as snow.

Walter de la Mare, Inward Companion and Other Poems (Faber and Faber 1950).

Robin Tanner, "June" (1946)

The fourth line of T'ao Ch'ien's poem contains the Chinese character xin. The same character is known as kokoro in Japanese.  The character is a wonderful one:  in both Chinese and Japanese it can mean "heart," but it can also mean "mind."  It can also carry connotations of "spirit," "soul," or "core," which seems appropriate:  heart-mind; mind-heart.  That evanescent and ungraspable thing.  Animula vagula blandula.

Burton Watson elects to translate xin as "mind," as does David Hinton in the following translation of the poem.  Palandri, on the other hand, translates xin as "heart."  Arthur Waley, who produced the first translation of this poem into English (which appears at the end of this post), also elects to use "heart."  This division of opinion suggests that we have no word in English to match the beauty, implication, and subtlety of xin (or kokoro).

I live here in a village house without
all that racket horses and carts stir up,

and you wonder how that could ever be.
Wherever the mind dwells apart is itself

a distant place.  Picking chrysanthemums
at my east fence, I see South Mountain

far off:  air lovely at dusk, birds in flight
returning home.  All this means something,

something absolute:  whenever I start
to explain it, I forget words altogether.

T'ao Ch'ien (translated by David Hinton), in David Hinton, Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China (Counterpoint 2002).


Darkness had fallen.  I opened the door:
And lo, a stranger in the empty room --
A marvel of moonlight upon wall and floor . . .
The quiet of mercy?  Or the hush of doom?

Walter de la Mare, Memory and Other Poems (Constable 1938).

Robin Tanner, "Martin's Hovel" (1927)

"Admirable is a person who has nothing that hampers his mind."  Bashō (translated by Makoto Ueda), in Makoto Ueda, Matsuo Bashō (Twayne 1970), page 118.  And why not this as well, given our consideration of xin and kokoro:  "Admirable is a person who has nothing that hampers his heart."  Perhaps this is what T'ao Ch'ien is getting at in line 4:  "a mind remote" (Watson); "a remote heart" (Palandri); "the mind dwells apart" (Hinton).  And, from Arthur Waley in the translation below:  "a heart that is distant."

I built my hut in a zone of human habitation,
Yet near me there sounds no noise of horse or coach.
Would you know how that is possible?
A heart that is distant creates a wilderness round it.
I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
Then gaze long at the distant summer hills.
The mountain air is fresh at the dusk of day;
The flying birds two by two return.
In these things there lies a deep meaning;
Yet when we would express it, words suddenly fail us.

T'ao Ch'ien (translated by Arthur Waley), in Arthur Waley, One Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (Constable 1918).

This remoteness or distance of heart or mind is not a matter of coldness, indifference, or self-absorption.  It is a matter of the mind or the heart not being hampered or stifled by the noise of the World, and by the noise that comes from within our ever-buzzing brain.  "Words exist because of meaning; once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?" Chuang Tzu (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (Columbia University Press 1964), page 140.


That shining moon -- watched by that one faint star:
Sure now am I, beyond the fear of change,
The lovely in life is the familiar,
And only the lovelier for continuing strange.

Walter de la Mare, Memory and Other Poems (Constable 1938).

Robin Tanner, "The Wicket Gate" (1977)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Other Worlds

Apart from my first eleven years, I have spent my life along salt-water shores:  the Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound (an appendage of the Pacific), and the Andaman Sea (for two years).  Hence, I have gotten used to having a body of water at my shoulder.  Mind you, I am not suggesting that this is a superior way to live.  For me, it is simply a matter of happenstance, and something that I have grown accustomed to.

Still, one cannot underestimate the calming effect of having an expanse of water to look out on, whether it be bright blue and glittering, iron grey, or any of the infinite variations in between.  The sight has lightened my soul on innumerable occasions.  "Given my heart/A change of mood/And saved some part/Of a day I had rued," as Robert Frost wrote of a different landscape.

"The sea is a mirror, not only to the clouds, the sun, the moon, and the stars, but to all one's dreams, to all one's speculations. . . . The sea tells us that everything is changing and that nothing ever changes, that tides go out and return, that all existence is a rhythm; neither calm nor storm breaks the rhythm, only hastens or holds it back for a moment."

Arthur Symons, "In a Northern Bay," Cities and Sea-Coasts and Islands (1918), page 296.

Yet there is, withal, an abiding otherness to the sea.

          The Tuft of Kelp

All dripping in tangles green,
     Cast up by a lonely sea
If purer for that, O Weed,
     Bitterer, too, are ye?

Herman Melville, John Marr and Other Sailors (1888).

I have often encountered tufts of kelp along the strand, high and dry amid the flotsam and jetsam, and they do have a strange and otherworldly aspect to them.  They emanate a sense of loneliness that goes beyond being out of their element.

John Brett, "The British Channel Seen from the Dorsetshire Cliffs" (1871)

The sea's impassive face may induce serenity and reverie, but that impassivity is a mask:  upon it and below it lie strangeness and mystery. Arthur Symons speaks of the sea as a mirror of the sky, but I think of the sea and the sky as parallel and complementary unfathomable worlds whose depths we can never plumb.  We mustn't be seduced or misled by Science, which is always willing to provide us with "explanations" that tell us nothing.  Scientists possess no knowledge that can touch the secrets of the sea and the sky.

                        By the Sea

Why does the sea moan evermore?
     Shut out from heaven it makes its moan,
It frets against the boundary shore;
     All earth's full rivers cannot fill
     The sea, that drinking thirsteth still.

Sheer miracles of loveliness
     Lie hid in its unlooked-on bed:
Anemones, salt, passionless,
     Blow flower-like; just enough alive
     To blow and multiply and thrive.

Shells quaint with curve, or spot, or spike,
     Encrusted live things argus-eyed,
All fair alike, yet all unlike,
     Are born without a pang, and die
     Without a pang, and so pass by.

Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress and Other Poems (1875).  Rossetti uses the word "blow" (lines 9 and 10) in its common pre-20th century sense:  "to blossom."

John Brett, "Southern Coast of Guernsey" (1875)

When I went out for a walk this past Wednesday afternoon, the sky was a dull grey-white.  I found myself wishing for a brilliant blue sky.  I then realized how misguided I was.  The world is always just what it is, and is perfect just as it is.  Who am I to cavil if it fails to meet my expectations?  I felt ungrateful.

As I walked, I noticed how lovely the deepening green boughs of the trees looked swaying against the grey sky.  The swallows paid the dull sky no mind:  they curved and dived above the tall wild grasses in the meadows, taking their evening meal.  "Sheer miracles of loveliness" indeed surround us on all sides and at all times.

                               The World Below the Brine

The world below the brine,
Forests at the bottom of the sea, the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds, the thick tangle,
          openings, and pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold, the play of
          light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks, coral, gluten, grass, rushes, and
          the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there suspended, or slowly crawling close to
          the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface blowing air and spray, or disporting with
          his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard, and
          the sting-ray,
Passions there, wars, pursuits, tribes, sight in those ocean-depths,
          breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do,
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by
          beings like us who walk this sphere,
The change onward from ours to that of beings who walk other spheres.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1860).

Whitman and Rossetti lived in the 19th century, a time that lacked our access to the technology that now enables us to see in vivid detail the heretofore "unlooked-on bed" of "the world below the brine."  But mere seeing is not the end of the story, is it?  The wonder expressed by Whitman and Rossetti remains, for that wonder is a product of the recognition of the other mysterious beings with whom we share the world.

John Brett, "Britannia's Realm" (1880)

Today, I was given a sunny day, although I had not asked for it.  Beside the path down which I walked, I saw white field daisies, pink-purple sweet peas, and the white blossoms of blackberry bushes.  Puget Sound and the sky were blue on top of blue, merging in the distance.  Which was mirroring which?

"[A]s ecstasy is only possible to one who is conscious of the possibility of despair, so the sea, as it detaches us from the world and our safeguards and our happy forgetfulnesses, and sets us by ourselves, as momentary as the turn of a wave, and mattering hardly more to the universe, gives us, if we will take them, moments of almost elemental joy."

Arthur Symons, "In a Northern Bay," Cities and Sea-Coasts and Islands, page 297.

I would respectfully disagree with Symons to this extent:  it is not solely the sea that has the capacity to provide us with "elemental joy."  Nor would I qualify "elemental joy" with "almost."

The message of all these worlds -- earth, water, and sky -- is the same: Never take anything for granted.

     On the sandy beach,
     Long is the spring day.

Masaoka Shiki (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 2: Spring (Hokuseido Press 1950), page 48.

John Brett, "The Norman Archipelago (Channel Islands)" (1885)