O mar com fim será grego ou romano: O mar sem fim é português.
The sea without limits is Greek or Roman; the sea without limits is Portuguese.
— Fernando Pessoa
This quote was first brought to my attention by the wonderful history of Portuguese expansion in the 15th and 16th centuries into the Indian Ocean, Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire, which I recently read.
I find it such a powerful sense of showmanship: what is ours, is ours, and it will not be anyone else’s. Yet, this is an incredibly poetic statement at the same time. The original source is a poem (Padrão) which I am keen to read and understand, as it seems to display the penmanship of Pessao to a wonderful degree.
And, indeed, for a while this was very true. The Greeks knew their sea and its shores; the Romans likewise though theirs was immeasurably greater than the Hellenic expanse. Yet, the ways opened up by Diego Cão were nothing less or more than limitless for how the Portugal of the day may have looked at it (even if India was still a step away).
I find that I enjoy listening to a chanting of the Hannya Shingyo. Sometimes as much that I half-consider going through the lines to memorize them — I believe that something in my mind says that chanting that sutra would be a perfect accompaniment to a walk of half an hour where I really do not want to take my player out.
And, yet, there the sutra remains: in that tab I opened a month or two ago. I see it there and think, ‘I should probably say something, post a few words.’ And now I am that far.
On that link in the beginning of this post is also a translation of the Hannya Shingyo. One of the pairs of lines reads “Form is precisely emptiness, Emptiness precisely form.” and despite the meaning moving on from there to its counterposition, I do like those two lines.
And I realize that more important than memorizing it would be to understand it.
I came upon the following event on my scouring of the news and blogs and whatnot. I was rather amused at the brilliance of Mr Wilson.
“Woodrow Wilson was famously fond of reading and writing limericks. When the future president was speaking to a large crowd in Jersey City in 1908, a man heckled him and shouted, “You ain’t no beaut.” Wilson responded with this limerick by Anthony Euwer:
For beauty I am not a star;
There are others handsomer, far;
But my face, I don’t mind it,
For I am behind it;
‘Tis the people in front that I jar.
The incident received so much press that the limerick is often misattributed to Wilson.”
— Source: From E. Harball, Poetry Foundation
I came across this poem when I was writing my essay about the Chinese Three Gorges Project.
I have just drunk the waters of Changsha
And come to eat the fish of Wuchang.
Now I am swimming across the great Yangtze,
Looking afar to the open sky of Chu.
Let the wind blow and waves beat,
Better far than idly strolling in courtyard.
Today I am at ease.
It was by a stream that the Master said
— “Thus do things flow away!”
Sails move with the wind.
Tortoise and Snake are still.
Great plans are afoot:
A bridge will fly to span the north and south,
Turning a deep chasm into a thoroughfare;
Walls of stones will stand upstream to the west
To hold back Wushan’s clouds and rain
Till a smooth lake rises in the narrow gorges.
The mountain goddess if she is still there
Will marvel at a world so changed.
— Mao Zedong
Recently, I’m quite pleased to say that the Finnsburg Fragment has sprung to my mind on several occasions. Or, well, if not the entire fragment, then at least the first few lines which represent many things for me. The first time I saw these lines, I think I might have been some eleven or twelve. They had this fitting image already then… even more so now.
So, ‘The gables are not burning’…
‘the gables are not burning.’
Then the king, a novice in battle, said:
‘This is no dawn from the east, no dragon
flies here, the gables of the hall are not burning,
but men are making an attack. Birds of battle screech,
the grey wolf howls, spears rattle,
shield answers shaft. The wandering moon gleams
under the clouds; evil deeds will now
be done, bringing grief to this people.
But rouse yourself now, my warriors!
Grasp your shields, steel yourselves,
fight at the front and be brave!’
Determination! Strength! Power! No dragon flies here!
Saigyo seems to have been a master of his own genre, a poet with skills unrivalled by others. I do not really have a wish to write much about him — just wanted to post one of his poems.
When facing crises,
what will be gone completely are
thoughts of their perfect beauty —
that of blossoms known intimately
in the sage emperor’s palace.
Quite nice, in my opinion. Also, seems to fit my general tone at this moment… Exactly that thoughts of perfection are gone… completely…
‘And what are they replaced by?
Mountain and river, grass and tree, grow more barren;
for ten miles winds smell of blood in the fresh battlefield.
Conquering horses do not advance nor do men talk;
outside Jinzhou Castle, I stand in the setting sun.
— Nogi Maresuke
This captivated me, today. Quite unsure why… but I can imagine the scene so very perfectly.
The poem somehow advances into greatness, achieving it without trouble.
It seems most fitting for a grand Lieutenant General (Rikugun Chūjō) of the Imperial Japanese Army; for a loyal officer; for a careful and considerate commander…
I don’t think there is much more to add — in any case, the poem quite puts forward what I wished to convey. Perhaps, it cannot be formulated in other words except those already present in the poem…
Most interesting, isn’t it?