A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Morning Mist

Emerson and nature philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) were both Transcendentalists and big mates in Concord, Massachusetts in mid-19th century New England. I've written before about Thoreau here. There's a charming little book I possess, Morning Mist: Thoreau and Basho Through The Seasons, published by Weatherhill of New York, which points out the similarities in outlook between Thoreau and the 17th century Japanese haiku poet, Matsuo Basho. These are some extracts from it. I hope you enjoy.

My solitude shall be my company/ and my poverty, my wealth. Basho
I never found the companion that was as companionable as solitude... Give me the poverty that enjoys true wealth. Thoreau

A good house -/ sparrows delight in the millet/ behind the back door. Basho
Meanwhile also came the chickadees in flocks...to pick a dinner out of my woodpile or the crumbs at my door, with faint flitting notes, like the tinkling of icicles in the grass. Thoreau

At my hut/ all I can offer/ is that the mosquitoes are small. Basho
My dwelling was small, and I could hardly entertain an echo in it... flickering shadows may play at evening about the rafters. These forms are more agreeable to the fancy and imagination than fresco paintings or... the most expensive furniture. Thoreau

The bush warbler -/beyond the willow,/before the grove. Basho
I hear the bluebirds... the blue curls of their warblings thawing the torpid mass of winter - assisting the ice and snow to melt and the streams to flow. Thoreau

I am like a sick man tired of people, or someone weary of the world. What is there to say?... A morning glory/on the fence of my gate,/shut all day. Basho
I want to go soon and live away by the pond, where I shall hear only the wind whispering among the reeds. It will be success if I shall have left myself behind. But my friends ask what will I do when I get there. Will it not be employment enough to watch the progress of the seasons? Thoreau

"Employment enough to watch the progress of the seasons..." I could think of many worse occupations...


am said...

Might be time for me to read Walden Pond again. Thanks for the excerpts from MORNING MIST: THOREAU AND BASHO THROUGH THE SEASONS.

When I was 24, I lived with a boyfriend in a rented room in a house beside a lovely pond which was about 6 miles from the much larger Walden Pond. We lived in Massachusetts for 7 months, September through March. Your photo of the sign at Walden Pond brought me back to that time when I was curious to see a place beyond the home of my birth in Northern California. I always hoped to live in the Northern California again, but that has yet to happen.

During those months in Massachusetts, I made sure that I took a walk in the "green pastures of Harvard University" with Bob Dylan in mind. The first time I saw Bob Dylan in concert was that year, 1974, when he performed with the The Band in Boston.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ah,histories, histories..! am, you have begun several stories here! Only if you want to of course, but you have to fill in more deatils about the alternative Walden.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing the connections between Basho and Thoreau. Now I have to find my little copy of some of Basho's haiku! Inspiration.

am said...

I found this website with pictures of the pond we lived beside from September 1973 through March 1974.



The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this. I have always wanted to live beside water. Like Thoreau at Walden. Like Dylan, Steinbeck and Jeffers on the American West Coast.Like Gavin Maxwell in Scotland. But perhaps not like Scott Fitzgerald on the French Riviera. Now, that would be far too hedonistic!

cbb said...

You've always wanted to "live by the water" - of course. You are a water sign.