Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Carpe Diem #1311 Moving Finger


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode of our Haiku Kai were we are exploring Omar Khayyam's "The Rubaiyat" an anthology of quatrains he wrote during his life time. It's incredible that these beauties became known 100 years after his death. Until than no one knew about this artistic background of this great scholar.

Here at CDHK we are gathered all through that same art ... we are all poets, writers, photographers, painters, sculptors and haijin. In the quatrain for today it's all about "writing" and I will try to explain the background of this quatrain together with Bob Forrest, a connoisseur of Omar Khayyam. He wrote a verse to verse essay about "The Rubaiyat", a great source of knowledge which I have used this month. Next to his ideas I also have my own ideas about the meaning of the quatrains.

Let me give you the verse for today:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

© Omar Khayyam (Tr. FitzGerald)

This is my idea about this quatrain's meaning: In this quatrain Omar praises the beauty of writing, but also the "dark side" of writing, because what is written can not be changed and can be explained in several ways. Isn't that what we are seeking for with our haiku? Writing it and hoping it will be great and don't needs revisions?

Goose feather pen

As you know I write my haiku mostly "impromptu", but I also have revised several haiku that I created, not because of tears that washed out the lines, but because I tried to make them better, maybe more complex, maybe to challenge myself to make the haiku more pure, more transparent, more satisfying. Recently I started to create haiku, the experimental way, to paint with a minimum of words. Sometimes I succeeded in that goal, but it isn't easy to "experiment" with haiku.

Let me go back to the idea of revision, as you maybe can remember Basho revised several of his haiku. There are several haiku by Basho known with the same scene in several versions. Maybe you can remember our CDHK month in which we followed in his footsteps ... We walked his "Narrow Road" with joy and the beauty of his haiku. "Narrow Road" however took Basho five years of revision before he was satisfied with it. So ... revising your haiku, tanka or other poem isn't a bad thing. It shows you as the poet who loves to create his / her poems. The poet cherishes the scene he / she loves to share, the poet becomes one with it. Finally the poem is ready ... your poem will whisper that to your heart.

Okay ... back to the background of this quatrain.

Background: (source: bob forrest web)

The meaning is perfectly clear, and powerful in its expression, but why “the Moving Finger” as opposed to the moving Pen? Perhaps the intention is to portray something like a finger tracing out letters in the (shifting) Sands of Time? Or compare the famous Biblical episode of Belshazzar’s Feast in Daniel 5.5, in which “the fingers of a man’s hand” trace out the words MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN (Daniel 5.25) on the wall. At any rate, a Pen does feature in the original Persian verses on which this verse is based. Heron Allen translated one original verse thus:

From the beginning was written what shall be;
Unhaltingly the Pen (writes) and is heedless of good and bad;
On the First Day He appointed everything that must be –
Our grief and our efforts are vain.

A.J.Arberry translated a similar original verse thus:

Nothing becomes different from what the Pen has once written,
and only a broken heart results from nursing grief;
though all your life through you swallow tears of blood
not one drop will be added to the existing score.

This verse is an excellent example of how FitzGerald takes ideas from Omar Khayyam, and then creates something new and powerful from them which at the same time preserves the essence of the original.

This quatrain, incidentally, became the subject of a sermon delivered by a Reverend E.F. Dinsmore, later published in the form of a booklet, The Moving Finger of Omar Khayyam (1909). Rev. Dinsmore approached the verse from a moralistic point of view, arguing that though one could not wash out the errors of the past, by leading a good Christian life one could minimise the errors of the future, and thus to some extent control the Moving Finger.

Dinsmore made a small booklet of his sermon and used the following illustration by Vedder for its cover.

The Moving Finger (by Rev. Dinsmore; cover)
Writing ... is the most beautiful kind of art (in my opinion). I love writing ...

words
flow like a river
pen moves

© Chèvrefeuille (experimental haiku)

Let your inspiration flow like the ink of a pen, like a finger writing in the sand ... be inspired.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 29th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on. For now ... have fun!


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Carpe Diem #1310 Ball Game


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

In an earlier episode I told you about "life as a chess game", but as I was exploring the quatrains I ran into another verse in which life is compared with a game. That verse intrigued me so I just had to share it here with you. By the way there are several other ideas about life and death as a game. There are images of the Devil playing dice or being a street-magician ... all to give an image for life and death. Life and death can not be seen separated, because (as we know from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) death belongs to life, without death there is no life.

An image to show you the idea that death uses a game:

The Devil playing Cricket

Here is the quatrain for your inspiration today:

The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Right or Left as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss'd Thee down into the Field,
He knows about it all – HE knows – HE knows!

© Omar Khayyam (Tr. FitzGerald)

Background:

Life here is likened to a Ball Game, actually the equivalent of our modern game of Polo. Ayes are votes in favor of a proposal; Noes are votes against. The first line means that the Ball (Man) has no choice (no vote) in the Game (of Life), it just goes here and there according to the whim of the Player who hits it. The reference here is surely to Free Will and Destiny – we are given Life (the Ball), but how much Choice (Free Will) do we really have in it? We are seemingly just bounced from here to there. But though it makes little sense to us, God (He that tossed thee, the ball, down into the playing field) – he knows what it is all about, he knows, HE knows, for He is Omniscient – he just isn't telling US…. (Another interpretation is in terms of the Rules of the Game: the Ball doesn't know the rules, it just goes here and there according to which player hits it where; only He (God) who made up the game knows the Rules, he knows, HE knows….)

Life (and Death) viewed as a game has given rise to many interesting images, here is another image to show you that.

The Devil playing dice
life is but a game
nature rolls the dices

seasons change

© Chèvrefeuille

I think there is another wonderful game, a game I love by the way, that can be seen as the ongoing battle between good and bad or life and death ... I created a tanka about it:

cherry stone clam
delicious for it's taste -
playing Go
the sweet memories of clams
once tasted

© Chèvrefeuille (2013)

Well ... life is a game ... so enjoy it, because life is short ... as is a game with a limited time.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7:00 PM (CET) and will remain open until November 28th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our next episode later on.

PS. At "My Haiku Pond Academy" on Facebook you can find a new contest in which you are challenged to create Troiku. You can visit the CONTEST HERE.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Carpe Diem #1309 Earth's First Clay


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Well ... I don't really know if this quatrain for today will inspire you. At least it didn't inspire me, just because of it's difficulties hidden it. This quatrain tells us about the first man, Adam, created from the Earth's first clay, but with this creation he also created the last man ...

Let me give you the quatrain for today:

With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man's knead,
And then of the Last Harvest sowed the Seed:
Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

© Omar Khayyam (Tr. FitzGerald)

modern art: The Creation of Adam

Background: (source: bob forrest web)

This verse can be taken as a pessimistic suspicion that everything is predestined: with the Earth’s first Clay, from which God created (moulded, as a sculpture) the first man, Adam, God also created (“knead” = shape, as in shaping the dough for a loaf of bread) the clay for the Last Man. The second line likens God’s creation of Man to planting a crop: the Harvest at the End of the World is predetermined by the Seed which God planted at the Beginning. The last two lines neatly contrast WRITE at the Creation, with READ at the End (Last Dawn of Reckoning.)

There are similarities in the creation of Adam in several religions, here it's used as in Islam, but also as used in Christianity.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 27th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on. For now ... have fun!


Carpe Diem #1308 A Game of Chess


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I hope you all have had a wonderful inspirational weekend. I had a busy weekend at work, so I hadn't time to publish this regular episode on time. We are going on with our exploration of "The Rubaiyat"  by Omar Khayyam. As I was preparing this episode that I have titled "A Game of Chess" a haiga I created a while ago came in mind. I love to share that haiga here with you, maybe you can remember it.

Haiga "A Game of Chess" (© Chèvrefeuille, 2015)
What has this to do with the inspirational quatrain for today? Well ... in this quatrain Omar Khayyam describes life as a game of chess. Let me give you today's quatrain and than we start "talking" about it.

'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

© Omar Khayyam (Tr. FitzGerald)

Background:

Life is here likened to a game of Chess or Checkers, the black and white squares of the Chess-board being likened to Nights and Days. Destiny is the player who captures (slays) pieces in the course of the game, removing them from the board and putting them back in the storage box (Closet.) It is Destiny too, who finishes the game – “mates” in Line 3 is “Check Mate” – the term for the end of a Game of Chess. The overall idea is that Destiny kills us all off, one by one.

The related image of Death playing Chess with Mortals to decide where and when they will die is probably best known to most people through Ingmar Bergman’s film “The Seventh Seal” of 1957. What is less well known is that Bergman got the idea for this image from a wall-painting in the medieval church of Täby in Stockholm, dating from the latter half of the 14th century!

Death playing Chess (Medieval church Täby in Stockholm)

The idea that human life is a game of the gods is ancient. Thus, as Canter notes in his article “Fortuna in Latin Poetry”, the goddess Fortuna “delights in mockery and in making man the victim of her sport." Thus, Virgil, in The Aeneid talks of Fortuna mocking mankind by knocking them down then picking them up again, as fancy takes; Horace, in his Odes, talks of Fortuna pursuing her wanton sport by deliberately switching her favours from one person to another; and Juvenal in his Satires talks of Fortuna raising men from the gutter to high office just to amuse herself.

The Roman tragedian Pacuvius, who lived in the 2nd century BC, wrote of the goddess Fortuna as follows:

Dame Fortune, some philosophers maintain,
Is witless, sightless, brutish; they declare
That on a rolling ball of stone she stands;
For whither that same stone a hazard tilts,
Thither, they say, falls Fortune; and they state
That she is witless for that she is cruel,
Untrustworthy, unstaid; and, they repeat
Sightless she is because she nothing sees
Whereto she’ll steer herself: and brutish too
Because she cannot tell between the man
That’s worthy and unworthy. But there are
Other philosophers who against all this
Deny that there is any goddess Fortune,
Saying it is Chance Medley rules the world.
That this is more like unto truth and fact
Practice doth teach us by the experience;
Orestes thus, who one time was a king,
Was one time made a beggar.

(The translation is by E.H.Warmington)

In modern times, Bertrand Russell opened his essay “A Free Man’s Worship”, first published in 1903, with an account of God’s creation of Man, as given by the devil Mephistopheles to Dr. Faustus:

“The endless praises of the choirs of angels had begun to grow wearisome; for after all, did he not deserve their praise? Had he not given them endless joy? Would it not be more amusing to obtain undeserved praise, to be worshipped by beings whom he tortured? He smiled inwardly, and resolved the great drama should be performed.”


Death Playing Chess by Israhel von Meckenem

Omar Khayyam was very lyrical about death and it seems to me that he accepted the idea of "death belonging to life", as we also saw in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche, (The theme of our first CDHK Theme-week).

chess
game of life and death
like nature

© Chèvrefeuille

I hope you liked this episode and that it will inspire you. This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 27th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Carpe Diem Weekend-Meditation #7 Tan Renga Challenge "the last colorful leaves"


!! Open for your submissions Sunday November 19th at 7:00 PM (CET) !!!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new weekend-meditation here at Carpe Diem Haiku Kai, the place to be if you like to write and share Japanese poetry.

This weekend I love to challenge you with Tan Renga, that nice tanka-like poem created by two poets. The goal is to write the second stanza towards a given haiku, to create a Tan Renga. This weekend however I have one with a twist for you too.

For the first Tan Renga I will give you the first stanza (the haiku), a haiku by Matsuo Basho:

deep silence
the shrill of cicadas
seeps into rocks

© Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)


But for the second Tan Renga I will give you the second stanza of two lines, to this Tan Renga you have to create the first stanza, the haiku. Here is the 2nd stanza for the second Tan Renga:

soft winter breeze cherishes
the last colorful leaves   

© Chèvrefeuille

So let me give you a brief explanation for this weekend-meditation. The goal is to complete two Tan Renga. One by completing the first stanza with a second stanza and the other Tan Renga you have to complete by putting the first stanza of three (3) lines towards it.



To conclude this episode I have an announcement to make:

Today starts the My Haiku Pond Academy Contest Troiku, I will be the Judge of this contest. You can find this CONTEST HERE.

This weekend-meditation is open for your submissions next Sunday November 19th at 7:00 PM (CET) and will remain open until November 26th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode around 7:00 PM (CET) next Sunday. For now ... have fun!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Carpe Diem #1307 The Vessel


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

It's a little bit sad day today. I failed an exam I had today, but well it's not something to worry about. I will make it again on another day. Now I only have my thoughts at this episode. What can I tell you about this quatrain? It's the sequel of the verse of yesterday. These two verses are connected and I will try to explain that with a little help of bob forrest, who wrote a verse to verse explanation of "The Rubaiyat". It's that explanation I used this month already in all the episodes. Before I had heard about "The Rubaiyat", I really hadn't a clue what a quatrain was or who Omar Khayyam was so I just needed a suitable source of information. It took me some time to find the verse to verse explanation, but I am glad that I found it. "The Rubaiyat" is a wonderful compilation of quatrains with a whole lot of hidden layers, without the verse to verse explanation I couldn't make this month.

Omar Khayyam
Let me give you the quatrain for your inspiration:

I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
Articulation answered, once did live,
And merry-make; and the cold Lip I kiss'd
How many Kisses might it take - and give !

© Omar Khayyam (Tr. FitzGerald)

Background:

“The Vessel” here is the earthen bowl of the previous verse. The lip of the bowl becomes the lip of someone once living, and thus once capable of giving kisses.

The idea that, on death, we return to earth or clay from which can be made a Vessel/ Cup/Bowl is but one idea. Another idea is that our clay may become that of simple building bricks. Thus, for example, Hafiz wrote that “this ruined world is resolved, when we are dead, to make only bricks of our clay!” (from Ode VI in the translation by Cowell).

It's a joy to read again a "note" to an other Persian poet, Hafiz, in this explanation. Hafiz is one of my favorite Persian poets and I even think he is also the most loved Persian poet all around the globe. In the poems by Hafiz we found also several hidden layers.

Hafiz quote
In Christian tradition the phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, is common use in the tradition of a funeral, but it isn’t a phrase in the Holy Scripture it is based on Genesis 3:19, Genesis 18:27, Job 30:19, and Ecclesiastes 3:20. Those passages say that we begin and end as dust.

So is there also a reference to Christian belief in this quatrain by Omar Khayyam? Maybe it is, maybe it is not. I don’t know. However I like the idea that we can find references to Christian belief in a Persian compilation of verses.

smoke rises
from the pyre
to Heaven

© Chèvrefeuille (experimental haiku)

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 23rd at noon (CET). I will publish our new "weekend-meditation" later on. For now ... have fun!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Carpe Diem #1306 The Secret Well of Life


Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode of our Haiku Kai were we are exploring the beauty of Omar Khayyam's "The Rubaiyat" as translated by FitzGerald. "The Rubaiyat" is a compilation of 100 quatrains, but as I told you earlier this month, "The Rubaiyat" is just a small part of Khayyam's quatrains, he created around 2000 quatrains.

Today's episode I have titled "The Secret Well of Life". In my opinion "the secret well of life" is similar with the "Elixer of Life" as was the goal for the Alchemists. They not only were searching for the "Stone" to create gold, but also for the "Elixer of Life". If this is true for this quatrain we will see.

As I was preparing this month I read "The Rubaiyat" and there were several quatrains in which Khayyam uses "earthen bowls" or "pots". In this quatrain that's also a theme.

Earthen Pots (this is one of the first logos I used by the way)
Let me give you the quatrain for today and after that the background (source: bob forrest):

Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn
My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmured - "While you live
Drink ! - for once dead you never shall return.

© Omar Khayyam (Tr. FitzGerald)

Background:

This is the first of many references to earthen bowls or pots, which for Omar Khayyam are both drinking vessels and symbolic of people (via Adam being made from clay or earth; hence earth to earth, ashes to ashes etc.) In some cases, he pictures the Clay from which an Earthen Vessel is made as being that formed from the body of some long-dead person which has turned back into earth again. Here, in drinking from the bowl, the poet’s lip presses on the lip of the bowl. Here again we have Omar’s philosophy, repeated throughout the poem, but here expressed by the earthen wine bowl, “Drink! – for once dead you never shall return!”

The following lines by Hafiz involve not only the image of the cup of mortal clay touching the lips of the living, but also other Omarian images of the transience of Kings and of flowers growing from the dust of the dead or from their spilt blood. The translation is from Gertrude Bell's Poems from the Divan of Hafiz (1897), poem 26:

...Time's revolving sphere
Over a thousand lives like thine has rolled.
That cup within thy fingers, dost not hear
The voices of dead kings speak through the clay?
Kobad, Bahman, Djemshid, their dust is here.
'Gently upon me set thy lips!' they say.

What man can tell where Kaus and Kai have gone?
Who knows where even now the restless wind
Scatters the dust of Djem's imperial throne?
And where the tulip, following close behind
The feet of Spring, her scarlet chalice rears,
There Ferhad for the love of Sherin pined,
Dyeing the desert red with his tears.

© Hafiz

(The forbidden love between the lowly Ferhad and the princess Sherin is an old Persian love story. Ferhad killed himself in the desert when he was tricked into believing that Sherin was dead. Hearing of Ferhad's death, Sherin also killed herself, and subsequently the two were buried together.)


Ferhad and Shirin (a Persian lovestory)

The Persian love-story about Ferhad and Shirin is similar with that tragedy created by Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. It's a forbidden love, because Shirin is a princess and Ferhad is just a low-ranked man. As Ferhad dies, Shirin takes her own life, because she cannot live with Ferhad.

The title of this episode is extracted from the quatrain used and it can also refer to that strong love as mentioned in the story of Ferhad and Shirin. Isn't love the secret well of life?

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 22nd at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode later on. For now ... have fun!