Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Carpe Diem #1301 River's Lip

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode of our Haiku Kai. This month it's all about "The Rubaiyat" by Omar Khayyam, a compilation of quatrains written by this renown Persian poet and scholar.
Yesterday I shared "The Rose" with you, a beautiful quatrain, but I also promised you a quatrain that makes "The Rose" complete. Yesterday's quatrain was verse 18 of "The Rubaiyat" and today's verse is quatrain 19. This quatrain concludes these two days.

Let me share the 19th verse of "The Rubaiyat" with you first:

And this delightful Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean –
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!

© Omar Khayyam (Tr. FitzGerald)

leaves of green
At first I had some difficulties to understand this quatrain, but than I read that "River's Lip" means the "bank" of the river. I like that phrase, but will it help me to create haiku or tanka inspired on this quatrain?


This quatrain continues the theme of yesterday's verse – in effect it says that in sitting on a River Bank, just think that the Herb on which you sit might mark the spot where some unknown person died.
It is interesting that Walt Whitman, in the opening poem of Leaves of Grass (1855), imagines being asked by a child, “What is the grass ?”, and gives as one possible answer that it is “the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” He goes on:

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and from offspring taken soon out of their mothers' laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.

The last two lines presumably signify that the bodies of dead infants, snatched by death from their mothers’ laps, themselves become ‘mothers’ in the sense that they generate new-born life in the grass that grows upon their graves.

Cover of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"

The joint theme of verses 18 and 19 is echoed in the following lines from Shelley’s Queen Mab:

There’s not one atom of yon earth
But once was living man;
Nor the minutest drop of rain,
That hangeth in its thinnest cloud,
But flowed in human veins.

Voltaire, in his article “Resurrection”, in his Philosophical Dictionary, uses this as an argument against resurrection: for how can the resurrected dead get their bodies back if those bodies have become incorporated into the bodies of those living at the time of the Resurrection?

This background sounds very religious, as are the two quatrains, and again I sense a kind of conflict in Omar Khayyam's mind. Is he a Muslim or a Christian? But on the other hand it could also be a reference to other religions like Hinduism or Buddhism ... the idea of reincarnation? 

on river's lip
hyacinths, grasses and other herbs
kisses of life

© Chèvrefeuille

What a joy it is to dive into the depths of "The Rubaiyat" by Omar Khayyam. I hope you will be inspired.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 15th at noon (CET). I will publish our new episode, an other nice quatrain, later on. Have fun!

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