Monday, November 6, 2017

Carpe Diem #1299 Snow On The Desert

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

What a joy to create another episode of our wonderful Haiku Kai, the place to be if you like to write and share Japanese poetry. This month it's all about the beauty of quatrains created by Omar Khayyam, a 12th century poet and scholar from Persia (nowadays Iran). I remember that we had a whole month full of beautiful Persian poetry and it was really a joy to create that month. I hope (of course) that this month about another great Persian poet will be as succesful.

"The Rubaiyat" is a compilation of about 100 quatrains, but Khayyam wrote around 2000 of those quatrains, but this month we will look only at "The Rubaiyat". I will try to give you some background (with the use of several sources) on the quatrains we will read and I hope I can inspire you.

Snow On The Desert
Todays episode I have titled "Snow On The Desert", and as every title this month, it's extracted from the quatrain I use. "Snow On The Desert", seems extraordinary, because it will not occur very often I think, but as I sought for images to use I ran into several images with "snow on the desert", so it seems that this is more often the case than I thought.

Okay ... time for a new quatrain to work with ... and I hope I have made the right choice for your inspiration.

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes – or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two – is gone

© Omar Khayyam (Tr. FitzGerald)


The aims of Worldly Hope are fleeting, no matter whether that hope ends in failure (burnt to Ashes) or success (for even success is like Snow, it melts and is gone all too soon.) Everything is transient.

The insignificance of human “Worldly Hope” was famously captured by Keats in his poem “When I have fears that I may cease to be” (1818), in the closing lines:

....then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Longfellow was one of few poets who had a slightly more optimistic approach. In “A Psalm of Life” (1838) he wrote:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Omar Khayyam (image found on Pinterest)

There are two views of Fame. Fame in its posthumous aspect is seen by some as one of the few ways of living on in this world after physical death, the most famous example of this view being Petrarch’s poem “The Triumph of Fame over Death”. The Roman poet Martial was not so sure of such a view. Posthumous fame is all very well, he felt, but you have to be dead to get it! In the Christian tradition, of course, “all is vanity”, so the quest for posthumous fame becomes a sin. Not only that, but in the long term even posthumous fame must fade and die with time, and so in this sense Death must ultimately triumph over Fame,

Omar Khayyam was a famous mathematician in his time for his outstanding contributions in algebra, but he wasn't renown as a poet in his time. Almost 100 years after his dead his poetry became renown, so in a way his fame for his poems was posthumous fame as described above, in the background of this quatrain.

Fame ... isn't that something we all strive for? As I started writing haiku I couldn't have dreamed that my haiku would be renown around the globe and that I would have a daily haiku meme, or better said, a daily meme on Japanese poetry. Does that mean that I have found what I was striving for? I don't know. Of course I am proud and happy that my haiku became famous, but fame? I am just a humble guy and I love to be your host and I love that my haiku became famous, but that will never change me as a person.

new life sprouts

Being famous is awesome, but it all will fade away some day and that's maybe my (new / other) goal to strive for ...

conquest of death
as snow melts away in the early spring
new life sprouts

© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until November 13th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, another beautiful quatrain by Khayyam, later on. For now ... have fun!

(Source: wikipedia; bob forrest web)

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