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Appeal To A Toad

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 2 Oct 2015, 03:05

Chora wrote a famous and charming haiku: as a gardener addressing a toad he knew, and who probably knew him.

If this sounds improbable, my aunt had a toad who lived for several years at the bottom of her garden. She would feed him (or her) and as a teenager I was taken to see the toad, who lived under some stones and did indeed hop out to greet us, and would consent to be scratched on the head, and tickled on the chin.

Chora's haiku goes something as follows in (very) free translation:

Dear old Toad
PLEASE hop leftward a little
Planting these bamboos is my job.

I thought that, for once, rather than compress a poem, which is my instinct, I would try to expand one, and also add rhyme and meter. Usually haiku in English are without rhyme, and end on a characteristic falling tone, which is very evocative, but not necessarily faithful to the original Japanese tradition. Other languages however have different and now longstanding traditions about the form translated or composed haikus. That's for another post though.

Here is my longer appeal to Mr Toad, in entirely my own idiom. But with falling tone.

Here we are again
Dear friend.
I know it's a pain
But, might you bend
To the left somewhat?

Respectfully I ask
Knowing each other as we do.
My task
Is planting bamboo.
Am I asking a lot?



By an unknown artist, Japan, 1814. Via The British Museum





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Night Cat Haiku

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A cat scuttled between two streetlights.

For one second

An octapud.


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Dark Thought Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 29 Sep 2015, 01:15

As I slept
A dark thought
Jumped on my back
"I am Winter",
It hissed.

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Beating Time

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 28 Sep 2015, 02:04
Hold my hand once


Then there is something time cannot tear from us.

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I ask therefore

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What is thought, what knowledge?

Such a troubling question.

Asked in every season.

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Moon Talk

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Under this moon

How can I disagree?

You're such a good friend Autumn.

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Autumn by Water Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Saturday, 26 Sep 2015, 01:30

I'm heartbroken by

A last dragonfly's symmetry.

At sunset.




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What The Pharaoh Saw

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 25 Sep 2015, 01:51

I've just been reading about star charts from ancient Egypt. Not many of these have been found and much about them is mysterious: for example what they were for. Most of the examples we have were on the inside of coffin lids, so they weren't for the use of the living.

One suggestion is that the ancient Egyptians believed that someone with enough inherited divinity (such as a pharaoh) would after death ascend to become a star (this notion has parallels in many cultures of course). So the start chart on the coffin lid would be there to help your ka know where to go.

This is a poetic idea but more poetic is what I believe is the truth; we shall not become stars—rather, starts have become us.

At first there was only hydrogen but the reactions in the stars that condensed from the primeval hydrogen have produced all the other elements.

When the Solar System was formed it can't have been just from hydrogen, there must have been many other elements swirling around in the mixture.

How did these arrive there? Stars must have come to the end of their lives and exploded. Small stars that just died and fizzled out will simply have shrunk to embers. None of their constituents can have found its way here. No, the rocks on which we stand, and most of the elements necessary for life, must have come from the explosions that are novae or supernovae, and after billions of years come to form part of you: or me; or the pharaohs.



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Shelley and Keats No.1

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 24 Sep 2015, 02:53

Shelley and Keats were talking one day.

"Do you have any holiday plans?" asked Shelley.

"Not exactly a holiday", Keats responded, "More a summer employment, but in a climate very congenial to my health, and well remunerated".

Intrigued, Shelley inquired: "What exactly is the post?"

"It's in the famous Italian city of Pisa", said Keats: "The popularity of the Grand Tour has burgeoned apace, and many visitors to Italy now clamour to ascend La Campanile from which the revered Signor Galileo Galilei is claimed to have carried out his celebrated experiment.

So popular is this to touristi—as they are there described—that crowds of our fellow-countrymen assemble daily at the entrance. The authorities make a small charge for the ascent, for the maintenance of the bell tower, and are also charged with ensuring that no person is put at risk of life or limb: so there is a limit on how many can be up the tower at any one time.

I answered an advertisement in the Times of London, seeking a person: 'Capable of organizing groups of people desirous of ascending our famous tower, and ensuring their convenience and safety in a highly popular destination. Fluent English is required'—and got the job.

So I'm off there for the summer months."

"Congratulations my dear fellow", Shelley exclaimed warmly. "So you'll be minding your Pisan queues."





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Seen In Autumn Haiku

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A thousand rainbow eyes

On one cobweb.

Autumn.

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The Last Mammoth

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 22 Sep 2015, 01:41

Close your eyes and slowly inhale. Hold it to a count of six, then breathe out gradually.

It's often said that each time you do that, you are likely to breathe in a molecule from Julius Caesar's dying breath.

At first sight this is surprising.

But there are an enormous number of molecules in a breath of air. If the molecules in Caesar's last gasp are shared out evenly across the whole of the earth's atmosphere—plausible after 2000 years—then on average the air we inhale with each new breath (about 500 ml) will include one of those molecules.

Julius Caesar could just as well be any person that has ever lived.

Or the last mammoth.

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Autobiographical Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 21 Sep 2015, 00:46

A small crawling thing

On a perilous journey

Not squashed so far.


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Chess and Loss Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 20 Sep 2015, 02:04

Scritch scratch at my window.

A sharp clawed one seeking entry.

I must brush up my endgame first.


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New blog post

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 20 Sep 2015, 01:30

Shit.

I dropped some poems in the lane.

Where I hope someone finds them.

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Chariots of Freya

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 18 Sep 2015, 02:04

Somehow I came upon this fascinating cat-lore.

Norse deity Freya rode in a chariot drawn by two cats: "kõttum tveim" in Old Icelandic. The illustration captures their robust spirit well, I feel.

No necessary

Credit: Ludwig Pietsch, 1865

In the Old Icelandic literature Freya's team are also called "fressa", which probably means "tomcats", who don't piss about. But "fressa" may also mean "bears" though, big guys, and so there was a scholarly debate in the mid 1800s (involving people like Jakob Grimm, of the fairy tales, for example). The modern view supports cats (of course).

I wondered if Freya's cats had names (like Santa's reindeer). One source claimed they were called "Bygul" and "Trejgul" and that may be: I haven't read the Icelandic Eddas. I was doubtful though, because in Latin there are names "Biga" and "Triga": which mean—guess what?—nothing to do with cats. It's the number of wheels on a wagon (i.e. chariot), 2 or 3.

So maybe "Bygul" and "Trejgul" are just a clever joke. I don't know. But then you see the idea that of a Goddess in a chariot pulled by big cats goes back further than the Norse sagas. There are illustrations from Greek and Roman times that show what are plainly leopards and tigers pulling the chariots of the goddesses and gods.

Some of the 19th scholars suggested that Freya's chariot may not have been pulled by north European cats (not even the awesome Norwegian Forest Cats) but by big cats, based on rumors passed on by traders and storytellers who moved between the Mediterranean and northern Europe. It's a long journey but cat power may have made it possible.

Freya's chariot of cats still lives today, as you can see in the clip. This would be a "Quintiga".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lceSo10_d9Q





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Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 16 Sep 2015, 00:15

Renee Descartes

Awoke with a start.

"I need a pee,

Donc je suis!"


READ MORE

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-philosophical-implications-of-the-urge-to-urinate/

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Autumn Wind Haiku

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The wind in my hair

And one group of stars.

Hard to get home this autumn.

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The Ascent of Snail

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 14 Sep 2015, 02:12

Go snail, go!

I've superglued the message to your shell.

"Respectfully, Olympians,

We are not impressed."

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Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 14 Sep 2015, 02:23

Sigmund Freud

Was easily annoyed.

Such a big grouch

When he had you on the couch.

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Hesiod

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Edited by Richard Walker, Saturday, 12 Sep 2015, 00:29

Wanting to write about autumn I thought: that many haiku are written in a simple and forthright way. That reminded me of Hesiod. Of course my grasp of Ancient Greek is very little but I have often read "Works and Days" in translation, and thought I'd try to capture something of the style he uses. This is a rather free version of one of his verses.

Skip that shitwreck

Don't fly off under sail

When autumn is late, dark

Our wine a thin no-hoper.



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Leaf Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 10 Sep 2015, 03:30

When I'm burned

All the winds will fight

over my ashes.


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T.S. Eliot's Cookery Year

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 9 Sep 2015, 02:38


1. THE WASTE LAMB

SOUPTEMBER is the gruellest month, brothing     

Lentils up with the dead lamb, mixing     

Mulligatawnny and dhal, stirring     

Dull stews with autumn grain.


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Blurred

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Reading glasses

Expand your horizons.


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Mad Rainbow Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 7 Sep 2015, 03:43

The rainbow's like

The work of a mad painter.

Who always gets it right.

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Chicken Haiku

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Don't laugh at the chicken

It knows best.

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