Posts Tagged ‘louis macneice’


Zoketsu Norman Fischer

“Why do we like being Irish?” asks the Irish poet Louis MacNeice (1907-1963) in his poem Autumn Journal (1939). In subsequent lines, he answers his own question:

Partly because

      It gives us a hold on the sentimental English

As members of a world that never was,

      Baptized with fairy water;

And partly because Ireland is small enough

     To be still thought of with a family feeling,

And because the waves are rough

     That split her from a more commercial culture;

And because one feels that here at least one can

     Do local work which is not at the world’s mercy

And that on this tiny stage with luck a man

     Might see the end of one particular action.

Because Ireland is a relatively small country, and because in MacNeice’s time families tended to stay put for as long as economic conditions allowed, Irish people could reasonably hope to see the “end”–the consequences as well as the completion–of any particular action. (more…)

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Sakura at Maizuro Park

Although the nights have been cold of late, the peonies in our perennial garden are energetically pushing up. Their crimson stalks are nearly knee-high; their white flowers will soon be in bloom. That is the nature of hardy perennials and the origin of their name: they come back every year. Having watched this happen, year after year, can we still greet the return of spring flowers with the excitement, joy, and awe we felt when we were younger?

That is the question addressed by two poems written in two very different times and places. The first is a waka by the Japanese poet Saigyo (1118-1190), a one-time samurai who became a wandering Buddhist monk:

                        Hana ni somu

                        kokoro no ika de


                        sute hateteki to

                        omou waga mi ni

                        Why should my heart

                        still harbor

                        this passion for cherry flowers,

                        I who thought

                        I had put all that behind me?*

For anyone who has looked closely at cherry blossoms, whether in Kyoto or Washington, D.C., it may be hard to imagine not being moved by the flowers’ evanescent beauty. What astonishes Saigyo, however, is his own response. A mature adult, he had thought his heart was jaded. Instead, he found his passion for natural beauty unabated. (more…)

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