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Archive for the ‘LITERATURE’ Category


In LITERATURE on November 25, 2012 at 12:30 am

Originally, the haiku was a short section of a longer poem composed by several poets who wrote segments [=parts] in response to one another in a long, cumulative [=adding one after another] poetic exercise or game. Traditionally, the Japanese haiku was an unrhymed* poem consisting of seventeen sounds–or, rather, characters representing seventeen sounds–and distributed over three lines in a five, seven, five pattern–that is, five distinctive sounds in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

*unrhymed = they didn’t rhyme; words that rhyme have the same last sound (‘balloon’ and ‘saloon’).

CHIYOJO (1703–1775)

Whether astringent
I do not know. This is my first
Persimmon picking.

astringent = sour, sharp or bitter in taste
persimmon → see In Season

HASHIN (1864–?)

No sky and no earth
At all. Only the snowflakes
Fall incessantly.

incessantly = without interruption; constantly.

(Translations by Daniel C. Buchanan)

BASHO (1644–1694)

Another year gone—
hat in my hand,
sandals on my feet.

BUSON (1716–1783)

Listening to the moon,
gazing at the croaking of frogs
in a field of ripe rice.

gaze = to look for a long time at someone or something, with all your attention.

ISSA (1763–1827)

The moon and the flowers,
forty-nine years,
walking around, wasting time.

The snail gets up
and goes to bed
with very little fuss.

fuss = when you get excited about something, especially something unimportant.

Insects on a bough,
floating downriver,
still singing.

bough [baʊ] = a large branch of a tree

(Translations by Robert Hass)


The next one is a haiku by BASHO in three different English translations:

Old pond–frogs jumped in–sound of water.
(Lafcadio Hearn, 1898)

pond = small area of water, smaller than a lake (e.g. in a park)

There is the old pond!
Lo, into it jumps a frog:
hark, water’s music!
(John Thomas Bryan, 1929)

lo = (old use) look!
= (old use) listen!

The old pond.
A frog jumps in—
(R. H. Blyth, 1949)


And, finally, this one is mine (but you’re welcome to have the last word):

She’s wearing black
She’s selling brownies
Sunday she’ll get on a plane


[Source: Jerome Beaty & J. Paul Hunter, The Norton Introduction to Literature.]


King Lear

In LITERATURE on November 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm

The BBC have a fantastic podcasts site where you can listen to and download oodles and noodles of programmes on just about anything: world news, business reports, drama, poetry, comedy, music, sports, you name it!

Here’s one from the series My Own Shakespeare, where “public figures from all walks of life talk about the piece of Shakespeare that inspires them most. The pieces are read by well known actors.” They are 2-3 minutes long.

This one is from King Lear, Act 5, Scene 3 (BBC podcast).

King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces and one of the greatest pieces of literature of all times. Harold Bloom, the celebrated American professor and critic, says that “[Hamlet and King Lear] show an apparent infinitude that perhaps transcends the limits of literature … [They] announce the beginning and the end of human nature and destiny”(!) What, still thinking about it? Go get your copy (or look it up on YouTube).

The play is about a King that is driven to madness by the consequences of his own arrogance, but is ultimately saved by coming to terms with human nature and destiny and by the loyalty of those who truly love him. Towards the end of the play (where the passage in the podcast is drawn from) he is captured by his enemies (among whom are two of his three daughters) along with his third daughter, Cordelia, banished by him early in the play but reconciled to him now. As they are taken away together, Lear addresses Cordelia:

No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison.
We two alone will sing like birds i’the cage;
When thou dost ask me blessing I’ll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness; so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too –
Who loses and who wins, who’s in, who’s out –
And take upon’s the mystery of things
As if we were God’s spies; and we’ll wear out,
In a walled prison, packs and sects of great ones
That ebb and flow* by the moon.

And here’s a modern English version, from No Fear Shakespeare

No, no, no, no! Come on, let’s go to prison.
The two of us together will sing like birds in a cage.
When you [thou] ask for my blessing, I’ll get down on my knees
and ask you [thee] to forgive me. That’s how we’ll live—
we’ll pray, we’ll sing, we’ll tell old stories, we’ll laugh
at pretentious courtiers
we’ll listen to nasty court gossip,
we’ll find out who’s losing and who’s winning, who’s in and who’s out.
We’ll think about the mysteries of the universe
as if we were God’s spies. In prison we’ll outlast
hordes of rulers
that will come and go as their fortunes change.

*ebb and flow is an expression to do with tides (the periodic rising and falling of the level of the sea, caused by the attraction of the moon and sun). The ebb is the flow of the sea away from the land (water level falls), when the tide goes out, and we still use this word today. The flow is the opposite movement of the waters (level rises).