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This week we have two poems from the Hyaku-nin-isshiu, or ‘Single Verses by a Hundred People’, were collected together in A.D. 1235. They are placed in approximate chronological order, and range from about the year 670. Perhaps what strikes one most in connection with the Hyaku-nin-isshiu is the date when the verses were written; most of them were produced before the time of the Norman Conquest (of Britain – AD 1066), and one cannot but be struck with the advanced state of art and culture in Japan at a time when Europe was still in a very elementary stage of civilization.

The Collection consists almost entirely of love-poems and what the editor calls picture-poems, intended to bring before the mind’s eye some well-known scene in nature; and it is marvellous what effect little thumbnail sketches are compressed within thirty-one syllables. Some show the cherry blossoms which are doomed to fall, the dewdrops scattered by the wind, the mournful cry of the wild deer on the mountains, the dying crimson of the fallen maple leaves, the weird sadness of the cuckoo singing in the moonlight, and the loneliness of the recluse in the mountain wilds; while those verses which appear to be of a more cheerful type are rather of the nature of the ‘Japanese smile’, described by Lafcadio Hearn as a mask to hide the real feelings.

From: A Hundred Verses from Old Japan

ISBN: 978-1-907256-19-6

URL: www.AbelaPublishing.com/100Verses.html

Poem 6

6

THE IMPERIAL ADVISER YAKAMOCHI

(CHŪ-NAGON YAKAMOCHI)

  Kasasagi no
Wataseru hashi ni
Oku shimo no
Shiroki wo mireba
Yo zo fuke ni keru.

WHEN on the Magpies’ Bridge I see
The Hoar-frost King has cast
His sparkling mantle, well I know
The night is nearly past,
Daylight approaches fast.

Explanation:

The author of this verse was Governor of the Province of Kōshū, and Viceroy of the more or less uncivilized northern and eastern parts of Japan; he died A.D. 785. There was a bridge or passageway in the Imperial Palace at Kyōto called the Magpies’ Bridge, but there is also an allusion here to the old legend about the Weaver and Herdsman. It is said, that the Weaver (the star Vega) was a maiden, who dwelt on one side of the River of the Milky Way, and who was employed in making clothes for the Gods. But one day the Sun took pity upon her, and gave her in marriage to the Herdboy (the star Aquila), who lived on the other side of the river. But as the result of this was that the supply of clothes fell short, she was only permitted to visit her husband once a year, viz. on the seventh night of the seventh month; and on this night, it is said, the magpies in a dense flock form a bridge for her across the river. The hoar frost forms just before day breaks. The illustration shows the Herdboy crossing on the Bridge of Magpies to his bride.

From: A Hundred Verses from Old Japan

ISBN: 978-1-907256-19-6

URL: www.AbelaPublishing.com/100Verses.html

 Poem 9

9

KOMACHI ONO

(ONO NO KOMACHI)

  Hana no iro wa
Utsuri ni keri na
Itazura ni
Waga mi yo ni furu
Nagame seshi ma ni.

THE blossom’s tint is washed away
By heavy showers of rain;
My charms, which once I prized so much,
Are also on the wane,
Both bloomed, alas! in vain.

Explanation

The writer was a famous poetess, who lived A.D. 834-880. She is remembered for her talent, her beauty, her pride, her love of luxury, her frailty, and her miserable old age. The magic of her art is said to have overcome a severe drought, from which the country suffered in the year 866, when prayers to the Gods had proved useless.

The first and last couplets may mean either ‘the blossom’s tint fades away under the continued downpour of rain in the world’, or ‘the beauty of this flower (i.e. herself) is fading away as I grow older and older in this life’; while the third line dividing the two couplets means, that the flower’s tint and her own beauty are alike only vanity. This verse, with its double meaning running throughout, is an excellent example of the characteristic Japanese play upon words.

From: A Hundred Verses from Old Japan

ISBN: 978-1-907256-19-6

URL: www.AbelaPublishing.com/100Verses.html

Cover A Hundred Verses from Old Japan

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THE YOUNG CRAB AND HIS MOTHER

“Why in the world do you walk sideways like that?” said a Mother Crab to her son. “You should always walk straight forward with your toes turned out.”

“Show me how to walk, mother dear,” answered the little Crab obediently, “I want to learn.”

So the old Crab tried and tried to walk straight forward. But she could walk sideways only, like her son. And when she wanted to turn her toes out she tripped and fell on her nose.

Moral: Do not tell others how to act unless you can set a good example.

 

– – – – – – – –

From the book ÆSOP FOR CHILDREN

To be published during the summer of 2012

The book will raise funds for CECILY’S FUND, a charity educating and supporting Zambian children orphaned by aids.

The Tortoise, you know, carries his house on his back. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot leave home. They say that Jupiter punished him so, because he was such a lazy stay-at-home that he would not go to Jupiter’s wedding, even when especially invited.

After many years, Tortoise began to wish he had gone to that wedding. When he saw how gaily the birds flew about and how the Hare and the Chipmunk and all the other animals ran nimbly by, always eager to see everything there was to be seen, the Tortoise felt very sad and discontented. He wanted to see the world too, and there he was with a house on his back and little short legs that could hardly drag him along.

 

One day he met a pair of Ducks and told them all his trouble.

“We can help you to see the world,” said the Ducks. “Take hold of this stick with your teeth and we will carry you far up in the air where you can see the whole countryside. But keep quiet or you will be sorry.”

The Tortoise was very glad indeed. He seized the stick firmly with his teeth, the two Ducks took hold of it one at each end, and away they sailed up toward the clouds.

Just then a Crow flew by. He was very much astonished at the strange sight and cried:

“This must surely be the King of Tortoises!”

“Why certainly——” began the Tortoise.

But as he opened his mouth to say these foolish words he lost his hold on the stick, and down he fell to the ground, where he was dashed to pieces on a rock.

 

Moral: Foolish curiosity and vanity often lead to misfortune.

The Tortoise and the Ducks from Aesop for Children 

– – – – – – – –

From the book ÆSOP FOR CHILDREN

To be published during the summer of 2012

 

The book will raise funds for CECILY’S FUND, a charity educating and supporting Zambian children orphaned by aids.

Today we take a brief branch away from our usual folkore and fairy tales and have a look at three poems from the book WHEN HEARTS ARE TRUMPS.  The verse in this volume were  selected from works that had appeared in various periodicals, LIFE, TRUTH, TOWN TOPICS, VOGUE, and MUNSEY’S MAGAZINE during the five years 1893-1898 and whose editors kindly gave Tom Hall permission to republish them. So popular was this collection of poetry, that it had at least six editions. Read on and enjoy……….

 

THE OLD-FASHIONED GIRL.

 

There’s an old-fashioned girl in an old fashioned street,

Dressed in old-fashioned clothes from her head to her feet;

And she spends all her time in the old-fashioned way

Of caring for poor people’s children all day.

She never has been to cotillon1 or ball,

And she knows not the styles of the Spring or the Fall;

Two hundred a year will suffice for her needs,

And an old-fashioned Bible is all that she reads.

And she has an old-fashioned heart that is true

To a fellow who died in an old coat of blue,

With its buttons all brass,—who is waiting above

For the woman who loved him with old-fashioned love.

 

1 The Cotillion was a popular 18th and 19th century dance in the French Courts that preceded the Quadrille style of dancing.

 

– – – – – – –

A RHYMING REVERIE.

 

It was a dainty lady’s glove;

A souvenir to rhyme with love.

It was the memory of a kiss,

So called to make it rhyme with bliss.

There was a month at Mt. Desert,

Synonymous and rhymes with flirt.

A pretty girl and lots of style,

Which rhymes with happy for a while.

There came a rival old and bold,

To make him rhyme with gold and sold.

A broken heart there had to be.

Alas, the rhyme just fitted me.

 

– – – – – – –

 

VANITY FAIR.

 

Oh, whence, oh, where

Is Vanity Fair?

I want to be seen with the somebodies there.

I’ve money and beauty and college-bred brains;

Though my ‘scutcheon’s not spotless, who’ll mind a few stains?

To caper I wish in the chorus of style,

And wed an aristocrat after a while

So please tell me truly, and please tell me fair,

Just how many miles it’s from Madison Square.

It’s here, it’s there,

Is Vanity Fair.

It’s not like a labyrinth, not like a lair.

It’s North and it’s South, and it’s East and it’s West;

You can see it, oh, anywhere, quite at its best.

Dame Fashion is queen, Ready Money is king,

You can join it, provided you don’t know a thing.

It’s miles over here, and it’s miles over there;

And it’s not seven inches from Madison Square.

 

– – – – – – –

 

From WHEN HEARTS ARE TRUMPS compiled by Tom Hall

ISBN: 978-1-907256-55-4

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_what.html

Click on the URL for more info, a table of contents and to order in USD or GBP.

 

A percentage of the profits will be donated to The BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION.

 

When Hearts are Trumps a book of love poems

 

 

 

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