japonisme: carpe diem

30 March 2009

carpe diem

speaking of fish....

Throughout Japan May 5 has a peculiar significance. This is indicated by the strange baglike fish banners seen floating from the flagstaffs, distended to their full size by the wind. The banners proclaim that some time during the preceding 12 months the stork has made a visit and left a small boy, and the friends of the family have greeted him with carp flags instead of flowers.

Judging from the numerous homes displaying these emblems, his storkship must have worked overtime. Various reasons are given why the carp, of which our goldfish is a variety, was chosen for this- purpose. On the occasions of large dinners, as an especial feature, a live carp is served on a board, each guest cutting a piece, which is afterwards eaten raw. The fish is said to endure the carving without a flinch, which makes him an emblem of bravery. His other qualification lies in his ability to swim a stream against the current, even to ascending a waterfall, symbolizing that he overcomes every obstacle. (national geographic 1911)

In Chinese legend, it was said that if a carp were to successfully surmount the Dragon Gate waterfall in the upper reaches of the Yellow River, it would be transformed into a dragon and ascend to heaven. In addition, the carp was always considered a dignified fish and from olden times it was proverbial that “a carp ascends waterfalls.” 2


Age saw two quiet children
Go loving by at twilight,
He knew not whether homeward,
Or outward from the village,
Or (chimes were ringing) churchward,
He waited (they were strangers)
Till they were out of hearing
To bid them both be happy.
"Be happy, happy, happy,
And seize the day of pleasure."

The age-long theme is Age's.
'Twas Age imposed on poems
Their gather-roses burden
To warn against the danger
That overtaken lovers
From being overflooded
With happiness should have it.
And yet not know they have it.
But bid life seize the present?
It lives less in the present
Than in the future always,
And less in both together
Than in the past. The present
Is too much for the senses,
Too crowding, too confusing—
Too present to imagine.

Robert Frost

From The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright © 1923, 1947, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, copyright © 1942, 1951 by Robert Frost, copyright © 1970, 1975 by Lesley Frost Ballantine.

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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