Morning light;
Melting frost
Drips from the trees.


Lumine matinal;
Gelo disgelante
Ab le arbores gutta.

How quickly time passes!  Already more than half of January is gone, and in less than two weeks we shall be at Candlemas — Imbolc — again.  In the Old Calendar that is the traditional beginning of spring, in spite of cold, of frost or snow.

This morning everything was white with frost — bare trees, grass, roads.  And then came the light of morning, revealing the transience that lies behind everything in our lives.





Per Jōsō:

Lupos ululante
Omnes insimul;
Le vespere nivee.

By Jōsō:

Wolves howling
All together;
The snowy evening.

In hokku habemus harmonia de similaritate, ma anque harmonia de contrasto.  Iste verso per Jōsō nobis mostra le harmonia de contrasto.  Como?

In hokku we have harmony of similarity, but also harmony of constrast.  This verse by Jōsō shows us harmony of contrast.  How?

Prime, iste es un hokku del hiberno; le hiberno es Yin.
Secunde, le vespere es un Yin tempore del die.
Tertie, le nive es anque Yin.

First, this is a hokku of winter; the winter is Yin.
Second, evening is a Yin time of day.
Third, the snow is also Yin.

Ma in medio de tote de iste Yin, videmus le lupos, qui son multe Yang.  E le lupos ululanten, e le sono de lor critos es anque Yang.

But amid all this Yin, we see the wolves, who are very Yang.  And the wolves howl, and the sound of their cries is also Yang.

Quando usamus harmonio de similaritate, nos accentuamos le character Yin del hiberno.  Le vespere e le nive — siente ambes Yin — nobis mostran similaritate.  Ma quando usamus harmonio de contrasto, nos exprimemus como le Yang accentua le Yin, e simultaneemente, le Yang accentua le Yin.  

When we use harmony of similarity, we accentuate the Yin character of winter.  The evening and the snow — both being Yin — show us similarity.  But when we use harmony of contrast, we express how Yang accentuates Yin, and simultaneously, Yang accentuates Yin.

In le frigor nivee e le obscuritate crescente del vespere, le Yang ululante de le lupos es, in consequentia, plus impressionante.

In the snowy cold and growing darkness of the evening, the Yang howling of the wolves is, in consequence, more striking.



Un de le hokku hibernales le plus bones es iste, de Chiyo-ni:

In campo e montesmornpd
Nihil mova;
Le matino nivee.

Iste verso nobis mostra le character Yin del hiberno (movimento es Yang, immobilitate es Yin). Videmus anque le Yin de hiberno in le nive que copera le campos e montes (le nive frigide es anque Yin).

In iste hokku trovamus le silentio e frigor que si ben exprimen le natura del hiberno.

(Iste es un experimento.  Si tu eres un parlator de un lingua romance, potes leger lo?)


One of the best winter hokku is this, by Chiyo-ni:

In field and mountain
Nothing moves;
The snowy morning.

This verse shows us the Yin character of winter (movement is Yang, stillness is Yin).  We see also the Yin of winter in the snow that covers the fields and mountains (the cold snow is also Yin).

In this hokku we find the silence and cold that so well express the nature of winter.


(As you can see, I am still experimenting with an auxiliary language that might enable more people to read this site.  I began some time ago with Interlingua, and have adopted some modifications to it from David Stark’s “Latino Moderne,” which seems to loosen it up a bit and give it greater poetic possibilities.  Of course I am a novice at this, so bear with me.

NO WORST, THERE IS NONE: World-anguish in Gerard Manley Hopkins

In an earlier posting, I briefly discussed the “cliffs of fall” part of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and have felt ever since the incompleteness of not having included the first part of the poem as well.  So with this posting I hope to fill that gap.

The poem is generally known by its first line, No Worst, There is None.  It is one of the “dark night of the soul” poems written by Hopkins in his fits of depression.

I will discuss it part by part:

No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

There is nothing worse than this, Hopkins laments.

This pain is “pitched past pitch of grief,” meaning it is considerably beyond the point of grief.  To “pitch” means to fix or place something on a scale of degree, like the “pitch” of a note in music.  It also means to “throw” so we have an undertone in this of an emotional scale that casts one into a painful intensity far beyond that of ordinary grief.

Further, the waves of emotional pain, having been “schooled at forepangs,” that is, seemingly having learned from lesser pains that preceded them, will consequently be even more painful, will “wilder wring.”  “Wring” here has the sense of a tight, painful squeezing or twisting, in the old sense of “wringing” someone’s neck, like wringing water from a wet cloth.  So in this beginning Hopkins is complaining that the anguish of his mental pain is far beyond that of ordinary grief, that each new wave of pain is worse than what preceded it, and it has reached the point of mental anguish where it could not be worse.

He cries out in the terms of his adopted Catholic religion.  “Comforter,” he asks, using an old term for the Holy Spirit,” “where is your comforting?”  And to Mary, a significant figure in Catholicism to whom much prayer was made, he says, “Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?”  He bemoans the fact that the Comforter does not comfort, that Mary gives no relief.  His prayers for easing of his sorrow seem to achieve nothing, because the pain just continues even worse than before.

My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.’

His cries of pain heave, meaning they rise up like waves on  the sea, and they do so “herds-long,” that is, like a multitude of cries that stretch out far in time, as though the cries were in “herds” like countless cattle.  But they “huddle in a main, a chief woe,” that is, they focus in one main pain, one major sorrow.  What is it?

Hopkins tells us that the chief focus of his anguish is “world-sorrow,” the same pain that is called in German Weltschmerz, that is, “the pain of the world,” the sorrow of simply existing in a world of suffering and transience.  If you read the earlier posting here on his poem Spring and Fall (“Margaret, are you grieving…”), then you will know that to Hopkins this “world-sorrow” is inherent in the human condition, that we live in a universe where nothing lasts, and no joy is secure or permanent.

He tells us that his cries of sorrow

…on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief.’

That is, his laments come from the anguish of being “on an age-old anvil,” of being hammered repeatedly like iron on an anvil, and that anvil is, again, the human condition and its accompanying sorrows of birth, illness, death, and impermanence, as old as humanity itself.  Hammered by these blows of life, Hopkins jerks back from the repeated pains, crying out — wincing and “singing,” though we must not take this singing as anything pleasant, more a crying out like the ring of iron struck by a hammer on an anvil in a blacksmith’s shop.

Hopkins adds that this pain nonetheless will “Lull, then leave off.”  it will reach its peak of pain, then it will quiet, will stop (“leave off”), at least for a time.  It is as though in its fury, the pain cannot hesitate, (“no lingering,”) but must be “fell” (piercing and intensely painful), because “force” (short for “perforce” here, meaning “of necessity”) it must be brief.  So we see that these fits of depression, as intensely painful as they are, come and go.  But when they come, Hopkins is indeed in abyssal anguish over them, lamenting and crying out for relief.

Then he tells us that this pain comes, in reality, from within the individual, from within the human mind:

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who never hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

He is telling us that the mind has dark abysses that terrify the sensitive soul, that those who have not experienced these depths of depression really have no idea what it is like. He tells us our small “durance,” the small period in which we last and live, or we can say our “endurance,” cannot cope with such depths of dismalness. A wretched being so afflicted is served only by a kind of cold comfort amid a whirlwind of negativity, and that poor comfort — the “lull” of which he speaks — is that life ends in death, and each day ends in sleep. Not a great encouragement, and Hopkins, who suffered from terrible depression, obviously found little cheer in it.