Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Annabel Lee

Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Edgar Allan Poe

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Anne Sexton - Wanting To Die

Anne Sexton - Wanting To Die

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the most unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don't always die,
but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue! --
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death's a sad bone; bruised, you'd say,

and yet she waits for me, year and year,
to so delicately undo an old would,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of a book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love, whatever it was, an infection.


Locked Doors

by Anne Sexton

For the angels who inhabit this town,
although their shape constantly changes,
each night we leave some cold potatoes
and a bowl of milk on the windowsill.
Usually they inhabit heaven where,
by the way, no tears are allowed.

They push the moon around like
a boiled yam.
The Milky Way is their hen
with her many children.
When it is night the cows lie down
but the moon, that big bull,
stands up.

However, there is a locked room up there
with an iron door that can't be opened.
It has all your bad dreams in it
It is hell.
Some say the devil locks the door
from the inside.
Some say the angels lock it from
the outside.
The people inside have no water
and are never allowed to touch.
They crack like macadam.
They are mute
They do not cry help
except inside
where their hearts are covered with grubs.

I would like to unlock that door,
turn the rusty key
and hold each fallen one in my arms
but I cannot, I cannot.
I can only sit here on earth
at my place at the table.


From the Garden

by Anne Sexton

Come, my beloved,
consider the lilies.
We are of little faith.
We talk too much.
Put your mouthful of words away
and come with me to watch
the lilies open in such a field,
growing there like yachts,
slowly steering their petals
without nurses or clocks.
Let us consider the view:
a house where white clouds
decorate the muddy halls.
Oh, put away your good words
and your bad words. Spit out
your words like stones!
Come here! Come here!
Come eat my pleasant fruits.


Her Kind, Anne Sexton

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.


Some poems from Selected Poems of Anne Sexton
From Live or Die (1966)
Live or die, but don’t poison everything. . .
Well, death's been here
for a long time —
it has a hell of a lot
to do with hell
and suspicion of the eye
and the religious objects
and how I mourned them
when they were made obscene
by my dwarf-heart's doodle.
The chief ingredient
is mutilation.
And mud, day after day,
mud like a ritual,
and the baby on the platter,
cooked but still human,
cooked also with little maggots,
sewn onto it maybe by somebody's mother,
the damn bitch!
Even so,
I kept right on going on,
a sort of human statement,
lugging myself as if
I were a sawed-off body
in the trunk, the steamer trunk.
This became a perjury of the soul.
It became an outright lie
and even though I dressed the body
it was still naked, still killed.
It was caught
in the first place at birth,
like a fish.
But I played it, dressed it up,
dressed it up like somebody's doll.
Is life something you play?
And all the time wanting to get rid of it?
And further, everyone yelling at you
to shut up. And no wonder!
People don't like to be told
that you're sick
and then be forced
to watch
down with the hammer.
Today life opened inside me like an egg
and there inside
after considerable digging
I found the answer.
What a bargain!
There was the sun,
her yolk moving feverishly,
tumbling her prize —
and you realize that she does this daily!
I'd known she was a purifier
but I hadn't thought
she was solid,
hadn't known she was an answer.
God! It's a dream,
lovers sprouting in the yard
like celery stalks
and better,
a husband straight as a redwood,
two daughters, two sea urchins,
picking roses off my hackles.
If I'm on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I'm ice
they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.

From The Jesus Papers (1972)
Jesus Suckles
Mary, your great
white apples make me glad.
I feel your heart work its
machine and I doze like a fly.
I cough like a bird on its worm.
I'm a jelly-baby and you're my wife.
You're a rock and I the fringy algae.
You're a lily and I'm the bee that gets inside.
I close my eyes and suck you in like a fire.
I grow. I grow. I'm fattening out.
I'm a kid in a rowboat and you're the sea,
the salt, you're every fish of importance.
No. No.
All lies.
I am small
and you hold me.
You give me milk
and we are the same
and I am glad.
No. No.
All lies.
I am a truck. I run everything.
I own you.
The Author of the Jesus Papers Speaks
In my dream
I milked a cow,
the terrible udder
like a great rubber lily
sweated in my fingers
and as I yanked,
waiting for the moon juice,
waiting for the white mother, '
blood spurted from it
and covered me with shame.
Then God spoke to me and said:
People say only good things about Christmas.
If they want to say something bad, "•
they whisper.
So I went to the well and drew a baby
out of the hollow water.
Then God spoke to me and said:
Here. Take this gingerbread lady
and put her in your oven.
When the cow gives blood
and the Christ is born
we must all eat sacrifices.
We must all eat beautiful women.

From The Death Notebooks (1974)
from The Death Baby
I was an ice baby.
I turned to sky blue.
My tears became two glass beads.
My mouth stiffened into a dumb howl.
They say it was a dream
but I remember that hardening.
My sister at six
dreamt nightly of my death:
"The baby turned to ice.
Someone put her in the refrigerator
and she turned as hard as a Popsicle."
I remember the stink of the liverwurst.
How I was put on a platter and laid
between the mayonnaise and the bacon.
The rhythm of the refrigerator
had been disturbed.
The milk bottle hissed like a snake.
The tomatoes vomited up their stomachs.
The caviar turned to lava.
The pimentos kissed like cupids.
I moved like a lobster,
slower and slower.
The air was tiny.
The air would not do.
I was at the dogs' party.
I was their bone.
I had been laid out in their kennel
like a fresh turkey.
This was my sister's dream
but I remember that quartering;
I remember the sickbed smell
of the sawdust floor, the pink eyes,
the pink tongues and the teeth, those nails.
I had been carried out like Moses
and hidden by the paws
of ten Boston bull terriers,
ten angry bulls
jumping like enormous roaches.
At first I was lapped,
rough as sandpaper.
I became very clean.
Then my arm was missing.
I was coming apart.
They loved me until
I was gone.

My Dy-dee doll
died twice.
Once when I snapped
her head off
and let it float in the toilet
and once under the sun lamp
trying to get warm
she melted.
She was a gloom,
her face embracing
her little bent arms.
She died in all her rubber wisdom.

From The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975)
When Man Enters Woman
When man
enters woman,
like the surf biting the shore,
again and again,
and the woman opens her mouth in pleasure
and her teeth gleam
like the alphabet,
Logos appears milking a star,
and the man
inside of woman
ties a knot
so that they will
never again be separate
and the woman
climbs into a flower
and swallows its stem
and Logos appears
and unleashes their rivers.
This man,
this woman
with their double hunger,
have tried to reach through
the curtain of God
and briefly they have,
though God
in His perversity
unties the knot.
Epilogue from anne sexton: a self-portrait in letters
Anne's death was not unexpected. All those close to her had known
that one day she would choose to commit suicide. At home in Weston
on Friday, October 4, 1974, she took herself quickly and quietly.
Only the day before she had returned from a successful reading at
Goucher College in Maryland, where the audience had given her an
extended standing ovation. The academic year had just begun at Boston
University and her students welcomed her home at the airport
instead of meeting her in their weekly Thursday class. At Black Oak
Road, housekeeping arrangements looked promising: a new young
couple had moved into the basement apartment.
The weather that Friday was particularly invigorating — the "black"
oaks and swamp maples were turning color. Anne shared lunch with
Maxine Kurnin in Newton, and proofread the galley sheets lor The
Awful Rowing Toward God with her as they had done with her
previous books. She had planned an evening out with one of the men
she was currently seeing. But despite these signs of renewal and
strength, she returned home to her death with no dramatics, no warning,
no telephone calls.
Of all those who unconsciously prepared for her death, perhaps Anne
herself was the most thorough. By July 1974 she had finished putting
her house in order, asking particular friends which of her possessions
they would like as remembrances, and offering to write holographs of
their favorite poems. She had selected a biographer and prepared the
Boston University archive of her manuscripts and letters. After much
thought, she had appointed her literary executor, and drawn up a will
with specific instructions for her funeral. In the last few years she had
repeatedly told family members and friends that she wanted a palindrome
from the side of an Irish barn carved on her gravestone. The
words RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR gave her a peculiar kind of hope.
She was acutely aware of how her death would affect others. In a
letter written in April 1969 to her daughter. Linda, she attempted to
comfort and to hold, anticipating the day when touch would be impossible.

[a few selections from Ariel by Sylvia Plath]

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.
The train leaves a line of breath.
0 slow
Horse the colour of rust,
Hooves, dolorous bells—
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,
A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.
They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.

First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch,
Stitches to show something's missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Stop crying.
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand
To fill it and willing
To bring teacups and roll away headaches
And do whatever you tell it.
Will you marry it?
It is guaranteed
To thumb shut your eyes at the end
And dissolve of sorrow.
We make new stock from the salt.
I notice you are stark naked.
How about this suit—
Black and stiff, but not a bad fit.
Will you marry it?
It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof
Against fire and bombs through the roof.
Believe me, they'll bury you in it.
Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
I have the ticket for that.
Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
Well, what do you think of that?
Naked as paper to start
But in twenty-five years she'll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk.
It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it's a poultice.
You have an eye, it's an image.
My boy, it's your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.
Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.
God's lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow
Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,
Berries cast dark
Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Something else
Hauls me through air—
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.
Godiva, I unpeel—
Dead hands, dead stringencies.
And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child's cry
Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,
The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red
Eye, the cauldron of morning.

Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children.
Cold as snow breath, it tamps the womb
Where the yew trees blow like hydras,
The tree of life and the tree of life
Unloosing their moons, month after month, to no purpose.
The blood flood is the flood of love,
The absolute sacrifice.
It means: no more idols but me,
Me and you.
So, in their sulphur loveliness, in their smiles
These mannequins lean tonight
In Munich, morgue between Paris and Rome,
Naked and bald in their furs,
Orange lollies on silver sticks,
Intolerable, without mind.
The snow drops its pieces of darkness,
Nobody's about. In the hotels
Hands will be opening doors and setting
Down shoes for a polish of carbon
Into which broad toes will go tomorrow.
O the domesticity of these windows,
The baby lace, the green-leaved confectionery,
The thick Germans slumbering in their bottomless Stolz.
And the black phones on hooks
Glittering and digesting
Voicelessness. The snow has no voice.


Sunday, July 27, 2008


As a fond mother, when the day is o’er,

Leads by the hand her little child to bed,

Half willing, half reluctant to be led,

And leave his broken playthings on the floor,

Still gazing at them through the open door,

Nor wholly reassured and comforted

By promises of others in their stead,

Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;

So nature deals with us, and takes away

Our playthings one by one, and by the hand

Leads us to rest so gently, that we go

Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,

Being too full of sleep to understand

How far the unknown transcends the what we know.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Domestic Stones (fragment)



The Domestic Stones (fragment)

The feet of morning the feet of noon and the feet of evening walk ceaselessly round pickled buttocks on the other hand the feet of midnight remain motionless in their echo-woven baskets

consequently the lion is a diamond

on the sofas made of bread
are seated the dressed and the undressed
the undressed hold leaden swallows between their toes
the dressed hold leaden nests between their fingers
at all hours the undressed get dressed again
and the dressed get undressed
and exchange the leaden swallows .for the leaden nests

consequently the tail is an umbrella

a mouth opens within another mouth
and within this mouth another mouth
and within this mouth another mouth
and so on without end
it is a sad perspective
which adds an I-don't-know-what
to another I-don't-know-what

consequently the grasshopper is a column

the pianos with heads and tails
place pianos with heads and tails
on their heads and their tails

consequently the tongue is a chair



Postman Cheval

We are the birds always charmed by you from the top of these belvederes
And that each night form a blossoming branch between your shoulders and the arms of your well beloved wheelbarrow
Which we tear out swifter than sparks at your wrist
We are the sighs of the glass statue that raises itself on its elbow when man sleeps
And shining holes appear in his bed
Holes through which stags with coral antlers can be seen in a glade
And naked women at the bottom of a mine
You remembered then you got up you got out of the train
Without glancing at the locomotive attacked by immense barometric roots
Complaining about its murdered boilers in the virgin forest
Its funnels smoking jacinths and moulting blue snakes
Then we went on, plants subject to metamorphosis
Each night making signs that man may understand
While his house collapses and he stands amazed before the singular packing-cases
Sought after by his bed with the corridor and the staircase
The staircase goes on without end
It leads to a millstone door it enlarges suddenly in a public square
It is made of the backs of swans with a spreading wing for banisters
It turns inside out as though it were going to bite itself
But no, it is content at the sound of our feet to open all its steps like drawers
Drawers of bread drawers of wine drawers of soap drawers of ice drawers of stairs
Drawers of flesh with handsfull of hair
Without turning round you seized the trowel with which breasts are made
We smiled at you you held us round the waist
And we took the positions of your pleasure
Motionless under our lids for ever as woman delights to see man
After having made love.

The Spectral Attitudes

I attach no importance to life
I pin not the least of life's butterflies to importance
I do not matter to life
But the branches of salt the white branches
All the shadow bubbles
And the sea-anemones
Come down and breathe within my thoughts
They come from tears that are not mine
From steps I do not take that are steps twice
And of which the sand remembers the flood-tide
The bars are in the cage
And the birds come down from far above to sing before these bars
A subterranean passage unites all perfumes
A woman pledged herself there one day
This woman became so bright that I could no longer see her
With these eyes which have seen my own self burning
I was then already as old as I am now
And I watched over myself and my thoughts like a night watchman in an immense factory Keeping watch alone
The circus always enchants the same tramlines
The plaster figures have lost nothing of their expression
They who bit the smile's fig
I know of a drapery in a forgotten town
If it pleased me to appear to you wrapped in this drapery
You would think that your end was approaching
Like mine
At last the fountains would understand that you must not say Fountain
The wolves are clothed in mirrors of snow
I have a boat detached from all climates
I am dragged along by an ice-pack with teeth of flame
I cut and cleave the wood of this tree that will always be green
A musician is caught up in the strings of his instrument
The skull and crossbones of the time of any childhood story
Goes on board a ship that is as yet its own ghost only
Perhaps there is a hilt to this sword
But already there is a duel in this hilt
During the duel the combatants are unarmed
Death is the least offence
The future never comes

The curtains that have never been raised
Float to the windows of houses that are to be built
The beds made of lilies
Slide beneath the lamps of dew
There will come an evening
The nuggets of light become still underneath the blue moss
The hands that tie and untie the knots of love and of air
Keep all their transparency for those who have eyes to see
They see the palms of hands
The crowns in eyes
But the brazier of crown and palms
Can scarcely be lit in the deepest part of the forest
There where the stags bend their heads to examine the years
Nothing more than a feeble beating is heard
From which sound a thousand louder or softer sounds proceed
And the beating goes on and on
There are dresses that vibrate
And their vibration is in unison with the beating
When I wish to see the faces of those that wear them
A great fog rises from the ground
At the bottom of the steeples behind the most elegant reservoirs of life and of wealth
In the gorges which hide themselves between two mountains
On the sea at the hour when the sun cools down
Those who make signs to me are separated by stars
And yet the carriage overturned at full speed
Carries as far as my last hesitation
That awaits me down there in the town where the statues of bronze
and of stone have changed places with statues of wax Banyans banyans.



The Art of Picasso

the biological
and dynastic phenomenon
which constitutes the cubism
has been
the first great imaginative cannibalism
surpassing the experimental ambitions
of modern mathematical physics.

* * *

The life of Picasso
will form the polemic basis
as yet misunderstood
according to which
physical psychology
will open up anew
a niche of living flesh
and of darkness
for philosophy.

* * *

For because
of the materialist
and systematic thought
we shall be able to know physically
and without need
of the new psychological 'problematics'
of kantian savour
of the gestaltists
all the misery
localized and comfortable
objects of consciousness
with their lazy atoms
sensations infinite

* * *

For the hyper-materialist thought
of Picasso
that the cannibalism of the race
'the intellectual species'
that the regional wine
already moistens
the family trouser-flap
of the phenomenologist mathematics
the future
that there exist extra-psychological
'strict appearances'
intermediary between
imaginative grease
monetary idealisms
passed-over arithmetics
and sanguinary mathematics
between the 'structural' entity
of an 'obsessing sole'
and the conduct of living things
in contact with the 'obsessing sole'
for the sole in question
totally exterior
to the comprehension
this theory of the strict
and of the structure
does not possess
physical means
or even
the registration
of human behaviour
with structures
and appearances
presenting themselves objectively
physically delirious
there does not exist
in our time
as far as I know
a physics
of psycho-pathology
a physics of paranoia
which can only be considered
the experimental basis
of the coming philosophy
of the coming
philosophy of 'paranoiac-critical' activity
which one day
I shall try to envisage polemically
if I have the time
and the inclination.



The Staircase with a Hundred Steps

The blue eagle and the demon of the steppes
in the last cab in Berlin
Legitimate defence
of lost souls
the red mill at the beggars' school
awaits the poor student
With the housemaid Know huntsmen how to hunt on pay-day
Know huntsmen how to hunt
as papa speculates
with the smile
By the dagger the dagger the dagger
the tiger of the seas dreams of happiness
The vestal virgin of the Ganges cries out Vanity
when the flesh succumbs
Stop look and listen
the famous turkey spends a day of pleasure
turning round in an enchanted circle
with the pluck of a lion
M'sieur the major
My Paris
my uncle from America
my heart and my legs
slaves of beauty
admire the conquests of Nora
while someone asks for a typewriter
for the black pirate
It is not possible
that a woman dressed as the Merry Widow
could become the wind's prey
because the millionairess Madame Sans-Gene
leads a wild existence
in another's skin
Her son was right
Patrol-leader 129 who wears an Italian straw-hat
and is the ace of jockeys
is abandoning a little adventuress
for a woman
It is the April-Moon which chases the buffalo
to Notre-Dame of Paris
Oh what a bore the indomitable man
with clear eyes
wishes to judge him by the law of the desert
but the lovers with children's souls have gone away
Ah what a lovely voyage

Making Feet and Hands

Eye standing up eye lying down eye sitting

Why wander about between two hedges made of stair-rails while the ladders become soft
as new-born babes
as zouaves who lose their homeland with their shoes
Why raise one's arms towards the sky since the sky
has drowned itself without rhyme or reason
to pass the time and make its moustaches grow
Why does my eye sit down before going to bed
because saddles are making donkeys sore
and pencils break in the most unpredictable fashion
the whole time
except on stormy days
when they break into zigzags
and snowy days
when they tear their sweaters to pieces
But the spectacles the old tarnished spectacles
sing songs while gathering grass for cats
The cats follow the procession
carrying flags
flags and ensigns
The fish's tail crossing a beating heart
the throat regularly rising and falling to imitate the sea surrounding it
and the fish revolving about a ventilator
There are also hands
long white hands with nails of fresh greenery
and finger-joints of dew
swaying eyelashes looking at butterflies
saddened because the day made a mistake on the stairs
There are also sexes fresh as running water
which leap up and down in the valley
because they are touched by the sun
They have no beards but they have clear eyes
and they chase dragonflies
without caring what people will say




hasten on your childhood to the hour when white in memory blue borders white in its eyes very white and piece of indigo of silver the glances white cross cobalt the white paper that blue ink tears bluish away ultramarine descends that white may rest troubled blue in dark green wall green that writes its pleasure rain green clear that swims green yellow in the clear oblivion at the edge of its green foot the sand earth song sand of the earth afternoon sand earth in the comer a violet jug the bells the folds of paper a metal sheep life stretching out the paper a rifle shot the paper rings the canaries in the shade white almost pink a river in the -white space in the clear blue shade of colours lilac a hand at the edge of the shade makes of the shade in the hand a very rose-coloured grasshopper a root lifts its head a nail the block of the trees with nothing else a fish a nest the heat in full light looks at a sunshade light the fingers in the light the white of the paper the sun light in the white cuts out a sparkling eyeshade the sun's light the very white sun the intensely white sun


in secret
be quiet say nothing
except the street be full of stars
and the prisoners eat doves
and the doves eat cheese
and the cheese eats words
and the words eat bridges
and the bridges eat looks
and the looks eat cups full of kisses in the orchata
that hides all with its wings
the butterfly the night
in a cafe last summer
in Barcelona



Sliding Trombone

I have a little windmill on my head
Which draws up water to my mouth and eyes
When I am hungry or moved to tears
I have a little horn full of the odour of absinth in my ears
And on my nose a green parakeet that flaps its wings
And cries 'Aux Armes'
When from the sky fall the seeds of the sun
The absence from the heart of steel
At the bottom of the boneless and stagnant realities
Is partial to crazy sea-fish
I am the captain and the alsatian at the cinema
I have in my belly a little agricultural machine
That reaps and binds electric flex
The cocoanuts thrown by the melancholy monkey
Fall like spittle into the water
Where they blossom again as petunias
I have in my stomach an ocarina and I have virginal faith
I feed my poet on the feet of a pianist
Whose teeth are even and uneven
And sad Sunday evenings
I throw my morganatic dreams
To the loving turtle-doves who laugh like hell.



The Manless Society

Morning trickles over the bruised vegetables
like a drop of sweat over the lines of my hand
I crawl over the ground
with stem and wrinkled mouth
the sun swells into the canals of monstrous leaves
which recover cemeteries harbours houses
with the same sticky green zeal
then with disturbing intensity there passes through my mind
the absurdity of human groupings
in these lines of closely packed houses
like the pores of the skin
in the poignant void of terrestrial space
I hear the crying of birds of whom it used to be said
that they sang and implacable resembled stones
I see flocks of houses munching the pith of the air
factories which sing as birds once sang
roads which lose themselves in harvests of salt
pieces of sky which become dry on verdigris moss
a pulley's creaking tells us that a bucket rises in a well
it is full of limpid blood
which evaporates in the sun
nothing else will trouble this circuit on the ground
until evening
which trembles under the form of an immense pinned butterfly
at the entrance of a motionless station.

**Translation :David Gascoyne

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vande Mātaram

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving Mother of might,
Mother free.

Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.

Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands
When the sword flesh out in the seventy million hands
And seventy million voices roar
Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?
With many strengths who art mighty and stored,
To thee I call Mother and Lord!
Though who savest, arise and save!
To her I cry who ever her foeman drove
Back from plain and Sea
And shook herself free.

Thou art wisdom, thou art law,
Thou art heart, our soul, our breath
Though art love divine, the awe
In our hearts that conquers death.
Thine the strength that nervs the arm,
Thine the beauty, thine the charm.
Every image made divine
In our temples is but thine.

Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen,
With her hands that strike and her
swords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
And the Muse a hundred-toned,
Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear,
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleems,
Dark of hue O candid-fair

In thy soul, with jewelled hair
And thy glorious smile divine,
Lovilest of all earthly lands,
Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
Mother, mother mine!
Mother sweet, I bow to thee,
Mother great and free!

*Translation by Shree Aurobindo

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Passage to India. by Walt Whitman

Passage to India. by Walt Whitman
SINGING my days,
Singing the great achievements of the present,
Singing the strong, light works of engineers,
Our modern wonders, (the antique ponderous Seven outvied,)
In the Old World, the east, the Suez canal,
The New by its mighty railroad spann’d,
The seas inlaid with eloquent, gentle wires,
I sound, to commence, the cry, with thee, O soul,
The Past! the Past! the Past!

The Past! the dark, unfathom’d retrospect!
The teeming gulf! the sleepers and the shadows!
The past! the infinite greatness of the past!
For what is the present, after all, but a growth out of the past?
(As a projectile, form’d, impell’d, passing a certain line, still keeps on,
So the present, utterly form’d, impell’d by the past.)

Passage, O soul, to India!
Eclaircise the myths Asiatic—the primitive fables.

Not you alone, proud truths of the world!
Nor you alone, ye facts of modern science!
But myths and fables of eld—Asia’s, Africa’s fables!
The far-darting beams of the spirit!—the unloos’d dreams!
The deep diving bibles and legends;
The daring plots of the poets—the elder religions;
—O you temples fairer than lilies, pour’d over by the rising sun!
O you fables, spurning the known, eluding the hold of the known, mounting to heaven!
You lofty and dazzling towers, pinnacled, red as roses, burnish’d with gold!
Towers of fables immortal, fashion’d from mortal dreams!
You too I welcome, and fully, the same as the rest;
You too with joy I sing.

Passage to India!
Lo, soul! seest thou not God’s purpose from the first?
The earth to be spann’d, connected by net-work,
The people to become brothers and sisters,
The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,
The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,
The lands to be welded together.

(A worship new, I sing;
You captains, voyagers, explorers, yours!
You engineers! you architects, machinists, your!
You, not for trade or transportation only,
But in God’s name, and for thy sake, O soul.)

Passage to India!
Lo, soul, for thee, of tableaus twain,
I see, in one, the Suez canal initiated, open’d,
I see the procession of steamships, the Empress Eugenie’s leading the van;
I mark, from on deck, the strange landscape, the pure sky, the level sand in the distance;

I pass swiftly the picturesque groups, the workmen gather’d,
The gigantic dredging machines.

In one, again, different, (yet thine, all thine, O soul, the same,)
I see over my own continent the Pacific Railroad, surmounting every barrier;
I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte, carrying freight and passengers;
I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill steam-whistle,
I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the world;
I cross the Laramie plains—I note the rocks in grotesque shapes—the buttes;
I see the plentiful larkspur and wild onions—the barren, colorless, sage-deserts;
I see in glimpses afar, or towering immediately above me, the great mountains—I see
Wind River and the Wahsatch mountains;
I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle’s Nest—I pass the Promontory—I
the Nevadas;
I scan the noble Elk mountain, and wind around its base;
I see the Humboldt range—I thread the valley and cross the river,
I see the clear waters of Lake Tahoe—I see forests of majestic pines,
Or, crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I behold enchanting mirages of waters
Marking through these, and after all, in duplicate slender lines,
Bridging the three or four thousand miles of land travel,
Tying the Eastern to the Western sea,
The road between Europe and Asia.

(Ah Genoese, thy dream! thy dream!
Centuries after thou art laid in thy grave,
The shore thou foundest verifies thy dream!)

Passage to India!
Struggles of many a captain—tales of many a sailor dead!
Over my mood, stealing and spreading they come,
Like clouds and cloudlets in the unreach’d sky.

Along all history, down the slopes,
As a rivulet running, sinking now, and now again to the surface rising,
A ceaseless thought, a varied train—Lo, soul! to thee, thy sight, they rise,
The plans, the voyages again, the expeditions:
Again Vasco de Gama sails forth;
Again the knowledge gain’d, the mariner’s compass,
Lands found, and nations born—thou born, America, (a hemisphere unborn,)
For purpose vast, man’s long probation fill’d,
Thou, rondure of the world, at last accomplish’d.

O, vast Rondure, swimming in space!
Cover’d all over with visible power and beauty!
Alternate light and day, and the teeming, spiritual darkness;
Unspeakable, high processions of sun and moon, and countless stars, above;
Below, the manifold grass and waters, animals, mountains, trees;
With inscrutable purpose—some hidden, prophetic intention;
Now, first, it seems, my thought begins to span thee.

Down from the gardens of Asia, descending, radiating,
Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them,
Wandering, yearning, curious—with restless explorations,
With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish—with never-happy hearts,
With that sad, incessant refrain, Wherefore, unsatisfied Soul? and Whither, O

Ah, who shall soothe these feverish children?
Who justify these restless explorations?
Who speak the secret of impassive Earth?
Who bind it to us? What is this separate Nature, so unnatural?
What is this Earth, to our affections? (unloving earth, without a throb to answer ours;
Cold earth, the place of graves.)

Yet, soul, be sure the first intent remains—and shall be carried out;
(Perhaps even now the time has arrived.)

After the seas are all cross’d, (as they seem already cross’d,)
After the great captains and engineers have accomplish’d their work,
After the noble inventors—after the scientists, the chemist, the geologist,
Finally shall come the Poet, worthy that name;
The true Son of God shall come, singing his songs.

Then, not your deeds only, O voyagers, O scientists and inventors, shall be justified,
All these hearts, as of fretted children, shall be sooth’d,
All affection shall be fully responded to—the secret shall be told;
All these separations and gaps shall be taken up, and hook’d and link’d
The whole Earth—this cold, impassive, voiceless Earth, shall be completely justified;

Trinitas divine shall be gloriously accomplish’d and compacted by the the Son of God,
(He shall indeed pass the straits and conquer the mountains,
He shall double the Cape of Good Hope to some purpose;)
Nature and Man shall be disjoin’d and diffused no more,
The true Son of God shall absolutely fuse them.

Year at whose open’d, wide-flung door I sing!
Year of the purpose accomplish’d!
Year of the marriage of continents, climates and oceans!
(No mere Doge of Venice now, wedding the Adriatic;)
I see, O year, in you, the vast terraqueous globe, given, and giving all,
Europe to Asia, Africa join’d, and they to the New World;
The lands, geographies, dancing before you, holding a festival garland,
As brides and bridegrooms hand in hand.

Passage to India!
Cooling airs from Caucasus far, soothing cradle of man,
The river Euphrates flowing, the past lit up again.

Lo, soul, the retrospect, brought forward;
The old, most populous, wealthiest of Earth’s lands,
The streams of the Indus and the Ganges, and their many affluents;
(I, my shores of America walking to-day, behold, resuming all,)
The tale of Alexander, on his warlike marches, suddenly dying,
On one side China, and on the other side Persia and Arabia,
To the south the great seas, and the Bay of Bengal;
The flowing literatures, tremendous epics, religions, castes,
Old occult Brahma, interminably far back—the tender and junior Buddha,
Central and southern empires, and all their belongings, possessors,
The wars of Tamerlane, the reign of Aurungzebe,
The traders, rulers, explorers, Moslems, Venetians, Byzantium, the Arabs, Portuguese,
The first travelers, famous yet, Marco Polo, Batouta the Moor,
Doubts to be solv’d, the map incognita, blanks to be fill’d,
The foot of man unstay’d, the hands never at rest,
Thyself, O soul, that will not brook a challenge.

The medieval navigators rise before me,
The world of 1492, with its awaken’d enterprise;
Something swelling in humanity now like the sap of the earth in spring,
The sunset splendor of chivalry declining.

And who art thou, sad shade?
Gigantic, visionary, thyself a visionary,
With majestic limbs, and pious, beaming eyes,
Spreading around, with every look of thine, a golden world,
Enhuing it with gorgeous hues.

As the chief histrion,
Down to the footlights walks, in some great scena,
Dominating the rest, I see the Admiral himself,
(History’s type of courage, action, faith;)
Behold him sail from Palos, leading his little fleet;
His voyage behold—his return—his great fame,
His misfortunes, calumniators—behold him a prisoner, chain’d,
Behold his dejection, poverty, death.

(Curious, in time, I stand, noting the efforts of heroes;
Is the deferment long? bitter the slander, poverty, death?
Lies the seed unreck’d for centuries in the ground? Lo! to God’s due occasion,
Uprising in the night, it sprouts, blooms,
And fills the earth with use and beauty.)

Passage indeed, O soul, to primal thought!
Not lands and seas alone—thy own clear freshness,
The young maturity of brood and bloom;
To realms of budding bibles.

O soul, repressless, I with thee, and thou with me,
Thy circumnavigation of the world begin;
Of man, the voyage of his mind’s return,
To reason’s early paradise,
Back, back to wisdom’s birth, to innocent intuitions,
Again with fair Creation.

O we can wait no longer!
We too take ship, O soul!
Joyous, we too launch out on trackless seas!
Fearless, for unknown shores, on waves of extasy to sail,
Amid the wafting winds, (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me, O soul,)
Caroling free—singing our song of God,
Chanting our chant of pleasant exploration.

With laugh, and many a kiss,
(Let others deprecate—let others weep for sin, remorse, humiliation;)
O soul, thou pleasest me—I thee.

Ah, more than any priest, O soul, we too believe in God;
But with the mystery of God we dare not dally.

O soul, thou pleasest me—I thee;
Sailing these seas, or on the hills, or waking in the night,
Thoughts, silent thoughts, of Time, and Space, and Death, like waters flowing,
Bear me, indeed, as through the regions infinite,
Whose air I breathe, whose ripples hear—lave me all over;
Bathe me, O God, in thee—mounting to thee,
I and my soul to range in range of thee.

O Thou transcendant!
Nameless—the fibre and the breath!
Light of the light—shedding forth universes—thou centre of them!
Thou mightier centre of the true, the good, the loving!
Thou moral, spiritual fountain! affection’s source! thou reservoir!
(O pensive soul of me! O thirst unsatisfied! waitest not there?
Waitest not haply for us, somewhere there, the Comrade perfect?)
Thou pulse! thou motive of the stars, suns, systems,
That, circling, move in order, safe, harmonious,
Athwart the shapeless vastnesses of space!

How should I think—how breathe a single breath—how speak—if, out of myself,
I could not launch, to those, superior universes?

Swiftly I shrivel at the thought of God,
At Nature and its wonders, Time and Space and Death,
But that I, turning, call to thee, O soul, thou actual Me,
And lo! thou gently masterest the orbs,
Thou matest Time, smilest content at Death,
And fillest, swellest full, the vastnesses of Space.

Greater than stars or suns,
Bounding, O soul, thou journeyest forth;
—What love, than thine and ours could wider amplify?
What aspirations, wishes, outvie thine and ours, O soul?
What dreams of the ideal? what plans of purity, perfection, strength?
What cheerful willingness, for others’ sake, to give up all?
For others’ sake to suffer all?

Reckoning ahead, O soul, when thou, the time achiev’d,
(The seas all cross’d, weather’d the capes, the voyage done,)
Surrounded, copest, frontest God, yieldest, the aim attain’d,
As, fill’d with friendship, love complete, the Elder Brother found,
The Younger melts in fondness in his arms.

Passage to more than India!
Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights?
O Soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like these?
Disportest thou on waters such as these?
Soundest below the Sanscrit and the Vedas?
Then have thy bent unleash’d.

Passage to you, your shores, ye aged fierce enigmas!
Passage to you, to mastership of you, ye strangling problems!
You, strew’d with the wrecks of skeletons, that, living, never reach’d you.

Passage to more than India!
O secret of the earth and sky!
Of you, O waters of the sea! O winding creeks and rivers!
Of you, O woods and fields! Of you, strong mountains of my land!
Of you, O prairies! Of you, gray rocks!
O morning red! O clouds! O rain and snows!
O day and night, passage to you!

O sun and moon, and all you stars! Sirius and Jupiter!
Passage to you!

Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins!
Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Primer of the Daily Round

A peels an apple, while B kneels to God,
C telephones to D, who has a hand
On E's knee, F coughs, G turns up the sod
For H's grave, I do not understand
But J is bringing one clay pigeon down
While K brings down a nightstick on L's head,
And M takes mustard, N drives into town,
O goes to bed with P, and Q drops dead,
R lies to S, but happens to be heard
By T, who tells U not to fire V
For having to give W the word
That X is now deceiving Y with Z,
Who happens just now to remember A
Peeling an apple somewhere far away

--written by Howard Nemerov

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Question (Solved by) Inference

A Question (Solved by) Inference
Translated from the Pali by
I.B. Horner
Then King Milinda approached the Venerable Nagasena, greeted him and sat down at a respectful distance. King Milinda, anxious to know, anxious to hear, anxious to remember, anxious to see the light of knowledge, anxious to break down the lack of knowledge, anxious to find the light of knowledge, anxious to expel the darkness of ignorance, aroused extreme steadfastness and zeal and mindfulness and clear consciousness, and spoke thus to the Venerable Nagasena: "Revered Nagasena, have you ever seen the Buddha?"
"No, sire."
"But have your teachers ever seen the Buddha?"
"No, sire."
"Revered Nagasena, if you have never seen the Buddha, and if your teachers have never seen the Buddha, well then, revered Nagasena, there is no Buddha; the Buddha is not manifested here."
"But, sire, did those former noble warriors exist who were the forerunners of your noble warrior dynasty?"
"Yes, revered sir; what doubt is there?"
"Have you, sire, ever seen the former noble warriors?"
"No, revered sir."
"But have those who have instructed you, sire — priests, generals, judges, chief councilors — have these ever seen the former noble warriors?"
"No, revered sir."
"But if you, sire, have not seen the former noble warriors and if your instructors have not seen the former noble warriors, where are the former noble warriors?"
"Revered Nagasena, articles of use enjoyed by the former noble warriors are to be seen, that is to say, the white sunshade, the turban, the shoes, the yak-tail fan, the treasure of the sword of state, and the couches of great price. By these we can know and can believe that the former noble warriors existed."
"Even so, sire, we may also know and believe in this Blessed One. There is this reason according to which we may know and believe that there was this Blessed One. What is the reason? There are, sire, articles of use enjoyed by that Blessed One who knows and sees, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, that is to say, the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four bases of psychic power, the five spiritual faculties, the five powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, the Noble Eightfold Path.1 By these the world with the devas knows and believes that there was this Blessed One. For this reason, sire, for this cause, because of this method, because of this inference it should be known that there was this Blessed One."
"Revered Nagasena, make a simile."
"As sire, a city-architect, when he wants to build a city, first looks about for a district that is level, not elevated, not low-lying, free from gravel and stone, secure, irreproachable and delightful, and then when he has made level there what was not level and has had it cleared of stumps of trees and thorns, he might build a city there. It would be fine and regular, well planned, the moats and encircling walls dug deep, the city gates, the watch-towers and the ramparts strong, the crossroads, squares, junctions and the places where three or four roads meet numerous, the main-roads clean, level and even, the bazar shops well laid out, the city full of parks, pleasances, lakes, lotus pools and wells, adorned with a wide variety of shrines to devas, the whole free from defects. When that city was fully developed, he might go away to another district. Then after a time that city might become rich and prosperous, well stocked with food, secure, successful, happy, without adversity, without accident, crowded with all kinds of people. When these people had seen the city, new, well laid out, without a defect, irreproachable, delightful, they would know by inference: 'Clever indeed is that city-architect who was the builder of the city.'
"Even so, sire, that Blessed One is without an equal, equal to the unequaled, equal to the matchless ones, unique, incomparable, boundless, immeasurable, of unmeasured special qualities, attained to perfection in special qualities, of infinite steadfastness, infinite incandescence, infinite energy, infinite power, gone to perfection in the powers of a Buddha; having overthrown Mara and his army, burst asunder the net of false views, made ignorance to be cast out and knowledge arise, borne aloft the torch of Dhamma; and having attained omniscience, unvanquished and victorious in the battle, he built the City of Dhamma.
"In the Blessed One's City of Dhamma the encircling walls are morality, the moats are conscience, the ramparts over the city gates are knowledge, the watch-towers are energy, the pillars are faith, the door-keepers are mindfulness, the cross roads are the Suttantas, the places where three or four roads meet is the Abhidhamma, the law-court is the Vinaya, the streetway is the foundations of mindfulness. And in that streetway of the foundations of mindfulness such shops as these are offering goods for sale, that is to say, a flower shop, a perfume shop, a fruit shop, an antidote shop, a medicine shop, a nectar shop, a jewel shop and a general shop."
"Revered Nagasena, what is the flower shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?"
"There are, sire, certain kinds of objective supports for meditation that have been pointed out by that Blessed One who knows and sees, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, that is to say, the perception of impermanence, the perception of non-self, the perception of the foul, the perception of peril, the perception of abandonment, the perception of dispassion, the perception of cessation, the perception of not delighting in anything in the world, the perception of the impermanence of all formations, mindfulness of breathing; the perception of a swollen corpse, the perception of a discolored corpse, the perception of a decomposing corpse, the perception of a fissured corpse, the perception of a corpse gnawed by animals, the perception of a corpse with bones scattered, the perception of a corpse hacked up and scattered, the perception of a corpse still bleeding, the perception of a worm-infested corpse, the perception of a skeleton; the perception of loving-kindness, the perception of compassion, the perception of sympathetic joy, the perception of equanimity; mindfulness of death; mindfulness occupied with the body.2
"Whoever is anxious to get free from old age and death chooses one of these objective supports for meditation and, with this objective support for meditation, he is freed from lust, freed from hatred, freed from delusion, freed from pride, freed from false views; he crosses over samsara, stems the stream of craving, cleanses away the threefold stain; and when he has slain all the defilements and has entered the City of Nibbana that is stainless, dustless, pure, fair, birthless, ageless, deathless, blissful, cooled, and without fear, he sets free his mind in arahantship. This sire, is called the Blessed One's flower shop."
"Revered Nagasena, what is the perfume shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?"
"There are, sire, certain kinds of morality that have been pointed out by that Blessed One. Anointed with the perfume of this morality, the Blessed One's sons make fragrant and pervade the world with the devas with the perfume of morality, and they breathe it forth and fill the quarters and the intermediate points and the following winds and the head-winds with it, and when they have suffused the world, they stand firm. And what, sire, are these various kinds of morality? The morality of going for refuge, the five precepts, the eight precepts and the ten precepts, the morality of restraint by the Patimokkha as included in the five recitations.3 This, sire, is called the Blessed One's perfume shop."
"Revered Nagasena, what is the fruit shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?"
"Fruits, sire, have been pointed out by the Blessed One, that is to say, the fruit of stream-entry, the fruit of once-return, the fruit of non-return, the fruit of arahantship, the attainment of the fruit of emptiness, the attainment of the fruit of the signless, the attainment of the fruit of the undirected.4 Whatever fruit anyone wishes for, he, giving the price of the transaction, buys the fruit he prefers."
"Revered Nagasena, what is the antidote shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?"
"Antidotes, sire, have been pointed out by the Blessed One. By means of these antidotes the Blessed One sets free the world with the devas from the poison of the defilements. And what are these antidotes? These Four Noble Truths have been pointed out by the Blessed One, sire, that is to say, the noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of the arising of suffering, the noble truth of the cessation of suffering, the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering. Those who therein are longing for profound knowledge and hear the Dhamma of the Four Truths, they are set free from birth, aging and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. This sire, is called the Blessed One's antidote shop."
"Revered Nagasena, what is the medicine shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?"
"Medicines, sire, have been pointed out by the Blessed One. By means of these medicines the Blessed One cures devas and humans, that is to say, the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right efforts, the four bases of psychic power, the five spiritual faculties, the five powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the Noble Eightfold Path. By means of these medicines the Blessed One purges people of wrong views, of wrong aspiration, of wrong speech, of wrong action, of wrong mode of livelihood, of wrong endeavor, of wrong mindfulness, and of wrong concentration; he has an emetic given for the vomiting up of lust, hatred, delusion, pride, false view, doubt, agitation, lethargy and drowsiness, shamelessness and lack of fear of wrongdoing; he has an emetic for the vomiting up of all the defilements. This, sire, is called the Blessed One's medicine shop."
"Revered Nagasena, what is the nectar shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?"
"Nectar, sire, has been pointed out by the Blessed One. With this nectar the Blessed One sprinkles the world with the devas; when the devas and the humans have been sprinkled with this nectar, they are set free from birth, aging, disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. What is this nectar? It is mindfulness occupied with the body. And this too, sire, was said by the Blessed One: 'Monks, they partake of nectar (the deathless)5 who partake of mindfulness that is occupied with the body.' This, sire, is called the Blessed One's nectar shop."
"Revered Nagasena, what is the jewel shop of the Buddha, the Blessed One?"
"Jewels have been pointed out by the Blessed One, sire, adorned with which the Blessed One's sons shine forth, they illuminate and irradiate the world, burn and blaze up, and display light above, below, across. What are these jewels? The jewel of morality, the jewel of concentration, the jewel of wisdom, the jewel of emancipation, the jewel of the knowledge and vision of emancipation, the jewel of the analytical knowledges, the jewel of the factors of enlightenment.
"What, sire, is the Blessed One's jewel of morality? It is the morality of restraint by the Patimokkha, the morality of restraint of the sense faculties, the morality of purity of livelihood, the morality of reflection on the requisites of the monk's life, the minor code of morality, the middle code of morality, the major code of morality, the morality of those who are on the paths, the morality of those who have attained the fruits.6 The world with the devas, the creatures with the Maras, with the Brahmas, with recluses and Brahmans, long for and desire the person who is adorned with the jewel of morality. The monk who has bedecked himself with the jewel of morality, sire, shines forth, shines mightily in the quarters, in the intermediate points and above and below and across, surpassing, excelling and overwhelming all the jewels from Avici Hell below to the acme of becoming above, and in between.7 Such, sire, are the Blessed One's jewels of morality that are offered for sale in the Blessed One's jewel shop. This, sire, is called the Blessed One's jewel of morality.
"What, sire, is the Blessed One's jewel of concentration? It is concentration with applied thought and sustained thought, concentration without applied thought but with sustained thought, concentration without applied thought and without sustained thought, concentration on emptiness, concentration on the signless, concentration on the undirected. And when a monk is bedecked with the jewel of concentration, sire, then thoughts of sense pleasures, thoughts of malevolence, thoughts of harming which are based on pride, agitation, false views, doubts and the defilements, and are varieties of wrong thoughts — all these, on coming in contact with concentration, disperse, dissolve and scatter, they do not remain, they do not adhere. It is, sire, as water on a lotus-leaf disperses, dissolves, scatters, does not remain, does not adhere. What is the cause of that? The complete purity of the lotus. Even so, sire, it is with the monk bedecked with concentration; those evil thoughts disperse, dissolve and scatter, they do not remain, they do not adhere. What is the cause of that? The utter purity of concentration. Such are the jewels of concentration, sire, that are offered for sale in the Blessed One's jewel shop.
"What, sire, is the Blessed One's jewel of wisdom? The wisdom by which a noble disciple comprehends as it really is: 'This is wholesome, this is unwholesome, this is blamable, this is blameless, this is to be followed, this is not to be followed, this is low, this is excellent, this is dark, this is bright, this is dark and bright in an even mixture, this is suffering, this is the arising of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.' This, sire, is called the Blessed One's jewel of wisdom.
"What, sire, is the Blessed One's jewel of emancipation? The jewel of emancipation is called arahantship, sire, and the monk who has attained arahantship is called bedecked with the jewel of emancipation. As, sire, a man who is adorned with garlands, perfumes and jewels shines forth, surpassing all other men, even so, sire, he who has attained arahantship, his cankers destroyed, bedecked with the jewel of emancipation, shines forth, surpassing all other monks who are only partly emancipated.8 What is the cause of this? Of all the bedeckings, sire, this is the highest bedecking, that is to say, the bedecking with emancipation. This, sire, is called the Blessed One's jewel of emancipation.
"What, sire, is the Blessed One's jewel of knowledge and vision of emancipation? This is called the knowledge of reviewing, sire, by which knowledge the noble disciple reviews the paths, the fruits, and Nibbana, and the defilements that have been got rid of and the remaining defilements.9
"What, sire, is the Blessed One's jewel of the analytical knowledges? Four, sire, are the analytical knowledges: of meanings, of Dhamma, of language, and of perspicuity in expression and knowledge. Sire, whatever the company a monk approaches who is adorned with these four analytical knowledges, whether it be a company of nobles, a company of brahmans, a company of householders or a company of recluses, he approaches it with confidence, untroubled, without fear, undismayed, without nervousness. As, sire, a warrior, a hero in battle, when he is armed with his five weapons, enters the battle undaunted and thinks: 'If the enemy are far off I shall destroy them with arrows, if they are nearer than that I shall strike them with my sword, if they are nearer than that I shall strike them with my spear, if they come right up I shall hew them in two with my saber, if they come against my body I shall pierce them through and through with my knife' — even so, sire, the monk who is embellished with the jewel of the four analytical knowledges approaches a company fearlessly, thinking: 'Whoever shall ask me a question on the analytical knowledge of meaning, to him I shall speak comparing meaning with meaning, reason with reason, cause with cause, method with method. I shall resolve his doubts, dispel his perplexity, I shall delight him with explanations of his question. Whoever shall ask me a question on the analytical knowledge of Dhamma, to him I shall speak comparing doctrine with doctrine, the deathless with the deathless, the unconditioned with the unconditioned, Nibbana with Nibbana, emptiness with emptiness, the signless with the signless, the undirected with the undirected, the imperturbable with the imperturbable. I shall resolve his doubts, dispel his perplexity, I shall delight him with explanations of his question. Whoever shall ask me a question on the analytical knowledge of language, to him I shall speak comparing word with word, the next following word with the next following word, syllable with syllable, liaison with liaison, consonant with consonant, the next following expression with the next following expression, sound with sound, vowel with vowel, concept with concept, common usage with common usage. I shall resolve his doubts, dispel his perplexity, I shall delight him with explanations of his question. Whoever shall ask me a question on the analytical knowledge of perspicuity, to him I shall speak comparing perspicuity with perspicuity, simile with simile, characteristic mark with characteristic mark, essence with essence. I shall resolve his doubts, dispel his perplexity, I shall delight him with explanations of his question. This, sire, is called the Blessed One's jewel of analytical knowledge.
"What, sire, is the Blessed One's jewel of the factors of enlightenment? These are the seven factors, sire: mindfulness, investigation of states, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration and equanimity. When a monk is adorned with these seven factors, sire, vanquishing all darkness, he illumines and irradiates the world and generates light. This, sire, is called the Blessed One's jewel of the factors of enlightenment."
"Revered Nagasena, what is the Blessed One's general shop?"
"The Blessed One's general shop, sire, is the nine-limbed Word of the Buddha,10 the shrines of his bodily relics and the things he used, and it is the jewel of the Order. And in the Blessed One's general shop, sire, the bliss of high birth is put on sale, the bliss of wealth, of long life, of good health, of beauty, of wisdom, human bliss, deva-like bliss, is put on sale, the bliss of Nibbana is put on sale. Whichever bliss they want, then, having given the price of the transaction, they buy the bliss desired. Some buy through undertaking morality, some buy through observing the formal acts of the Observance,11 and, in respect of this and that, they acquire the blisses from the smallest price of the transaction onwards.
"Such people as these, sire, dwell in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma: those versed in the discourses, those versed in the discipline, those versed in the Abhidhamma, speakers on Dhamma, Jataka-repeaters, Digha-repeaters, Majjhima-repeaters, Samyutta-repeaters, Anguttara-repeaters, Khudaka-repeaters;12 those possessed of morality, those possessed of concentration, those possessed of wisdom; those who delight in the factors of enlightenment, those with insight, those intent on their own goal; forest-dwellers, those living at the roots of trees, in the open air, on a heap of straw, in cemeteries, those who maintain a sitting posture;13 those who are practicing rightly, those enjoying fruition, stream-enterers, once-returners, non-returners, arahants; those with the threefold knowledge, those with the six super-knowledges, those of psychic power, those gone to the perfection of wisdom; those skilled in the foundations of mindfulness, the right efforts, the bases of psychic power, the spiritual faculties, the powers, the factors of enlightenment, the excellent path; meditation, the liberations, form and formlessness, and the attainments that are peaceful and happy. The City of Dhamma is peopled and packed, crowded and teeming with these arahants like a grove of reeds.
"Those monks, sire, who are experts in the unlimited noble knowledge, who are without attachment, whose special qualities are unequaled, whose fame, strength and incandescence are beyond measure, who are turners of the Wheel of Dhamma, gone to the perfection of wisdom — monks such as these, sire, are called Generals of Dhamma in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who are of psychic power, masters of the analytical knowledges, attained to confidence, movers through the sky, difficult to equal, difficult to overcome, movers without a support, able to shake the earth with its seas and mountains, able to touch the moon and the sun, skilled in assuming different forms and making volitional determinations and resolves — monks such as these, sire, are called royal priests in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks who conform to the ascetic practices, who are of few wants, contented, detesters of not seeking alms according to the disciplinary code, who go on uninterrupted rounds for almsfood like bees that, having drunk in successive scents, enter secluded groves, who are reckless of body and life, having attained to arahantship, are proclaimed eminent in a special quality of ascetic practice — monks such as these, sire, are called judges in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who are completely purified, stainless, without defilements and, won to perfection in deva-vision, are skilled in the knowledge of the deceasing here and arising elsewhere of beings — monks such as these, sire, are called lighters of the city in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who have heard much, to whom the tradition has been handed down, experts in Dhamma, experts in the Vinaya, experts in the Summaries,14 skilled in the exact determination of the syllables into those which have mutes and sonants, longs and shorts, and as to their heaviness and lightness, skilled in the nine limbs of the Teaching — monks such as these, sire, are called guardians of the Dhamma in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who are knowledgeable in the Vinaya, learned in the Vinaya, skilled in the provenances of the rules and readings, skilled in what are offenses, what are not offenses, in what can be corrected, what cannot be corrected, in the removal of offenses, the confession of offenses, repudiation of offenses, making amends for offenses, in restoration to the Order, in being sent away from the Order, in acts of protection, who have won perfection in the Vinaya — monks such as these, sire, are called able money-lenders15 in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who have bound on the garland of flowers of noble emancipation, have attained to the noble, distinguished, very valuable and best state, who are desired and longed for by the manyfolk — monks such as these, sire, are called flower-sellers in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who have penetrated to the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, seen the truths, understood the Teaching, who have crossed over perplexity in regard to the four fruits of recluseship and, having obtained the bliss of the fruits, share these fruits with others who are practicing rightly — monks such as these, sire, are called fruit-sellers in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who are anointed with the sweet scent of the noble morality, bearers of many and varied special qualities, dispellers of the evil smell of the stains of the defilements — monks such as these, sire, are called perfume-sellers in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who delight in Dhamma, to whom the utterance of it is dear, who rejoice exceedingly in the Abhidhamma and Vinaya, who are forest-gone and gone to the roots of trees and empty places, who drink the juice of the noble Dhamma and plunge into it in body, speech and thought, who, most powerful in perspicuity, are practicing the quest of Dhamma in various doctrines, and whenever there is talk on wanting little, on contentment, aloofness, ungregariousness, stirring up energy, morality, concentration, wisdom, emancipation, and the knowledge and vision of emancipation, these monks, going there from wherever they may be, drink in the juice of that talk — monks such as these, sire, are called addicted drunkards in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who always pass the days and nights intent on the practice of watchfulness whether they be lying down, standing, or pacing up and down, who are intent on the practice of mental development, who are pursuing their own goal by warding off the defilements — monks such as these, sire, are called city watchmen in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who teach and recite, speak and repeat the nine-limbed Word of the Buddha in its literal senses and developed meanings, with its methods, reasons, causes and examples — monks such as these, sire, are called sellers of Dhamma in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who are wealthy and rich in the wealth and jewels of Dhamma, in the wealth of tradition, the scriptures and what they have heard, who have comprehension of the expressions, vowels and consonants and the characteristics of the speech of the Buddha, who are full of intelligence — monks such as these, sire, are called merchants of Dhamma in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"And those monks, sire, who have penetration of the glorious Teaching, attended by the classifications and exegeses of objective supports for meditation, who have won perfection in the special qualities of the training — monks such as these, sire, are called famous Dhamma-men in the Blessed One's City of Dhamma.
"Thus well planned, sire, is the Blessed One's City of Dhamma, it is well constructed thus, well appointed thus, well filled thus, well guarded thus, well watched thus, and thus difficult for adversaries and enemies to subdue. According to this reason, sire, you may know that there was this Blessed One.
"With a hundred reasons such as these, sire, with a thousand reasons, with a hundred causes, a thousand causes, with a hundred methods, a thousand methods, with a hundred similes, a thousand similes, it is possible to point to the power of the Buddha. As, sire, a clever garland-maker, from a heap of different flowers and by following the instruction of his teachers and as a man acting on his own initiative, may make a heap of variegated clusters of flowers and garlands — even so, sire, that Blessed One, like the heap of variegated flowers, is of infinite special qualities, immeasurable special qualities, and I, at this time, am like a garland-maker in the Conqueror's Dispensation, a stringer of flowers, who by following the way of the teachers of old and by my own power of discernment and with an incalculable number of reasons, could show forth by inference the power of the Buddha. But, as to this, you must generate the desire to hear."
"It is difficult for others, revered Nagasena, to point to the power of the Buddha by inference through reasons such as these. I am satisfied, revered Nagasena, by your extremely variegated exposition of the question."
1. These are the thirty-seven requisites of enlightenment.
2. It is interesting to note that no attempt is made here to drag in the systematized Theravada schematism of the forty meditation subjects (used in the Visuddhimagga and the Commentaries).
3. The five precepts are the basic lay moral code: abstaining from killing any living being, from stealing, from sexual misconduct, from lying, from the use of intoxicants. The eight precepts are observed by lay people on the Uposatha days, the ten precepts by novice monks. The "five recitations" are divisions of the Vinaya rules for monks, based on the Patimokkha, the code of rules.
4. These are elsewhere called the three liberations (vimokkha). See Vism. XXI,70.
5. There is a word-play here: the Pali word amata means both nectar or ambrosia, the drink of the gods, and the Deathless. The quotation is from A.i,45.
6. The requisites of the monk's life — robes, almsfood, lodgings and medicines — are to be used with an understanding of their proper purpose. The minor, middle and major codes of morality are described in the Brahmajala Sutta (D.i,4-11). The four paths and fruits are those of the stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner and arahant.
7. The Avici Hell is the lowest plane and the acme of becoming is the highest mundane plane.
8. "Partly emancipated" refers to those at the three lower stages of sanctity, who have not yet broken all the fetters.
9. These are the five reviewings undertaken by the stream-enterer, once-returner and non-returner. The arahant has four reviewings because he has no remaining defilements to review. See Vism. XXII, 19-21.
10. The nine-limbed Word of the Buddha: an ancient classification of the Buddha's teachings.
11. The Uposatha, on the full-moon and new-moon days, when lay followers take the eight precepts and monks recite the Patimokkha.
12. These are the specialists in memorizing and transmitting the five collections of the Sutta Pitaka.
13. These are ascetic practices (dhutanga): see Vism., chapter II.
14. The Summaries (matika) are tabular enumerations of doctrinal terms.
15. Money-lenders: so called because the monks described here display a "bargaining" aspect of "change" given in respect of offenses committed and removed by confessions, making amends, and so forth.