Created half to rise, and half to fall
DEAD MY OLD FINE HOPES
AND DRY MY DREAMING
IRIS, BLUE EACH SPRING
from ESSAY ON MAN, Epistle II
I. Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
must one choose? can one choose?
waga io ya hana no chiisai kakitsubata
AT MY HUT
AN IRIS WITH THE TINIEST
To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.
And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
tsuji dangi chinpunkan mo nodoka kana
A CROSSROADS SERMON
Issa regards the crossroads sermon as a lot of "gibberish"--long-winded and fundamentally meaningless. However, his attitude is not one of disdain, but rather of quiet, peaceful acceptance, for the sermon, too, is part of the lovely spring day. The final words, nodoka kana, translate literally as, "peacefulness!" but in the shorthand of haiku nodoka specifically connotes the tranquility of springtime. Hence the monk, his listeners, Issa, and the crossroads are all seen as part of a greater picture--the spring day itself: green fields, blue sky, and the peace evoked without and within. The poet is not condemning the sermon or the monk; his calling the sermon gibberish, in the whole context of the poem, sounds almost like a loving tribute, for the outdoor sermon is as much a sound of spring as the warble of birds. However, its content is evidently not to be taken seriously. Modern Haiku 16. No. 3 (1985): 20-31 2