Archive for February, 2012

Feb 10 2012

Friedrich Holderlin – All the Fruit

Published by under Poetry

All the Fruit…
by Friedrich Holderlin

English version by Robert Bly

All the fruit is ripe, plunged in fire, cooked,
And they have passed their test on earth, and one law is this:
That everything curls inward, like snakes,
Prophetic, dreaming on
The hills of heaven. And many things
Have to stay on the shoulders like a load
of failure. However the roads
Are bad. For the chained elements,
Like horses, are going off to the side,
And the old
Laws of the earth. And a longing
For disintegration constantly comes. Many things however
Have to stay on the shoulders. Steadiness is essential.
Forwards, however, or backwards we will
Not look. Let us learn to live swaying
As in a rocking boat on the sea.

— from News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, Edited by Robert Bly

/ Photo by nickyfern /

All the fruit is ripe, plunged in fire, cooked…

This is a statement of maturity, completion. When the fruit is ripe, when the food is cooked, there remains nothing more to be done. Ripening, while natural, is often painful, for it is a pathway of growth and change. The young hard fruit only knows its greenness. To expand, to soften, to fill with sweet juice, requires leaving the old self behind. To be cooked, food must first be dropped into the intensity of the alchemical fire before it is made ready.

And they have passed their test on earth…

But I think my favorite lines are–

…everything curls inward, like snakes,
Prophetic, dreaming on
The hills of heaven.

This statement evokes images for me of shamanic cave paintings, of spirals and creatures turning in on themselves. All things turn inward to their center, seeking to know their very nature and, within that knowledge, seeking “the hills of heaven.”

I read this poem as being a meditation on the struggle of the spiritually-oriented individual engaged in worldly life. Holderlin speaks of shouldering loads, of failure, a longing for disintegration (or escape into purely spiritual realms).

While the poet doesn’t seem to resolve the struggle within this poem, he summons the earthy strength to move forward: “Steadiness is essential.”

Those of us with spiritual inclinations tend toward a certain ethereal otherworldiness that can make one uniquely vulnerable. But the road of life is bumpy for everyone, its cookfires are hot. We spiritually-minded must remember that spiritual growth is hard, sometimes painful, sometimes slow. We don’t float to heaven. Like a tree, we sink roots deep into the rocky soil, and so, year-by-year, reach higher into the heavens.

The challenge is to develop the essential steadiness and strength to endure life’s ripening process without ever losing that inward awareness and our prophetic dreaming. Doing so we develop the balance to weather the journey:

Let us learn to live swaying
As in a rocking boat on the sea.

Friedrich Holderlin, Friedrich Holderlin poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Friedrich Holderlin

Germany (1770 – 1843) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Romantic
Christian : Protestant

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8 responses so far

Feb 08 2012

a book and a building

A book and a building are not enough.
The human spirit needs cathedrals of trees,
towering mountains, and fields
of spring wildflowers as places of prayer.

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Feb 08 2012

Yunus Emre – Those who became complete

Published by under Poetry

Those who became complete
by Yunus Emre

English version by Kabir Helminski & Refik Algan

Those who became complete
didn’t live this life in hypocrisy,
didn’t learn the meaning of things
by reading commentaries.

Reality is an ocean; the Law is a ship.
Many have never left the ship,
never jumped into the sea.

They might have come to Worship
but they stopped at rituals.
They never knew or entered the Inside.

Those who think the Four Books
were meant to be talked about,
who heave only read explanations
and never entered meaning,
are really in sin.

Yunus means “true friend”
for one whose journey has begun.
Until we transform our Names,
we haven’t found the Way.

— from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems of Yunus Emre, Translated by Kabir Helminski / Translated by Refik Algan

/ Photo by geezaweezer /

Reality is an ocean; the Law is a ship.
Many have never left the ship,
never jumped into the sea.

I love these feisty mystic poets. They come in all shades of religious sentiment, but they do tend to congregate outside the halls of orthodoxy. Most are profoundly devout and fiercely focused in their spirituality. But for the mystic to truly open to the Divine, one must clearly see the nature of reality and the nature of one’s very self — without blinders or pretense. That’s why mystics don’t write poems in praise of rules, hierarchies, or second hand knowledge. They want the wide ocean, not the creaking ship.

Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Yunus Emre

Turkey (1238 – 1320) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Feb 06 2012


We participate in each other.

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Feb 06 2012

Kobayashi Issa – stillness

Published by under Poetry

by Kobayashi Issa

English version by David G. Lanoue

in the depths of the lake
billowing clouds

– from the website

/ Photo by irargerich /

I keep returning to haiku. Three lines, just a few syllables each, a moment in time — so little said explicitly, yet so much implied. A really great haiku is like peeking through a keyhole, the closer you get to it the wider the world it reveals.

This haiku, for example: We have have a still lake that is reflecting the sky. That’s it. That’s all the poet tells us. But we understand that it is the lake’s stillness that allows it to reflect the sky. The mind, as it constructs this picture for us in the inner eye, expands this relationship between lake and sky, stillness and reflection to something more universal and also more personal. How do we see ourselves in the haiku? In contemplating the haiku, we are watching a scene, we too are receiving and reflecting an image of beauty. The more quiet we become, the more clearly we receive the image. Or perhaps we should see the lake as our own awareness, and sky as the Eternal. When we become supremely still, the heavens our found within our own depths…

Kobayashi Issa, Kobayashi Issa poetry, Buddhist poetry Kobayashi Issa

Japan (1763 – 1828) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan

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4 responses so far

Feb 03 2012


Mental concepts are an attempt to slice reality into
neat parcels, giving an artificial sense of control.
God is that whole reality, undivided.

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Feb 03 2012

Niyazi Misri – I was seeking a cure for my trouble

Published by under Poetry

I was seeking a cure for my trouble;
by Niyazi Misri

English version by Walter Feldman

I was seeking a cure for my trouble;
My trouble became my cure.
I was seeking a proof of my origin;
My origin became my proof.

I was looking to the right and the left
So that I could see the face of the Beloved.
I was searching outside,
But the Soul was within that very soul.

/ Photo by zieak /

I went to sleep last night watching fine flakes of snow descend and then dance in soft gusts before settling to the ground. Woke up to a foot of snow, and snow still falling. A day to stay wrapped up in doors, a cup of tea warming your hands. And work? Well I suppose we must pay our bills, but perhaps a little more slowly today, with long pauses to gaze out the window…

Niyazi Misri

Turkey (1616 – 1694) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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