Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

June 30, 2006

"Museum Pieces"

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 2:56 am

Jeffery Alan Triggs’s essay Museum Pieces: Poems About Art can be found either at that link, or within his online book in pdf format here: Mirrors for Mankind: Readings in Art, Film, and Literature. Both those links are on the Global Language Resources site under Jeffery Triggs.

His essay is about what the title says, poems about art. We will be following along with most of the poems he looks at.

For each poem, we begin with a quote from Triggs’s essay. This is followed by a photo of the artwork the poem is about. Then comes the full poem, which is followed by another quote from his essay.


Triggs: The urn, of course, frozen in time and timeless at once, cannot speak for itself, and so Keats takes up one image after another, imaginatively recreating the time of the urn and then contemplating the urn as an object outside time: “Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought/As doth eternity.” Indeed, this teasing out of thought, carefully limited by the images of the urn itself, provides the imaginative body of the poem.

by John Keats

Ode on a Grecian Urn

Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loath?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit dities of no tone.
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal–yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss
Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unweari-ed,
Forever piping songs forever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
Forever warm and still to be enjoyed,
Forever panting, and forever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty”–that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.



Triggs: The urn, though “a friend to man,” is still a “Cold Pastoral,” whose speech, as imagined by Keats from the silence of its images, is self-referential, a tautology of its plastic form: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’–that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” It is not, of course, all that a human being needs to know, who knows in time.


Triggs: The torso is not easily read, however. The “Augenäpfel” of the “unerhörtes Haupt,” which we might expect could be easily picked, read, and made our own, are not available to us, and so we must seek something more strange, the torso’s Schauen, its deep gaze, within, which we can only imagine from the remaining suggestion of it.

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Archaïscher Torso Apollos

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,
darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber
sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,
in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,
sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug
der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen
der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen
zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz
unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz
und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle

und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern
aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,
die dich nicht sieht. Du mußt dein Leben ändern.



translated by C. F. MacIntyre

Torso of an Archaic Apollo

Never will we know his fabulous head
where the eyes’ apples slowly ripened. Yet
his torso glows: a candelabrum set
before his gaze which is pushed back and hid,
restrained and shining. Else the curving breast
could not thus blind you, nor through the soft turn
of the loins could this smile easily have passed
into the bright groins where the genitals burned.

Else stood this stone a fragment and defaced,
with lucent body from the shoulders falling,
too short, not gleaming like a lion’s fell;

nor would this star have shaken the shackles off,
bursting with light, until there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.



Triggs: But the torso has this power only on the subjunctive possibility that we see it with Rilke’s imaginative intensity. Then, and paradoxically, it sees us without eyes, speaks to us, and unlike Keats’s urn, changes us irremediably. “Du mußt dein Leben ändern,” unlike “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” is not self-referential, but aimed at the viewer in the full force of its meaning.


Triggs: Auden begins his contemplation of the painting with a quite ordinary and prosy transition: “In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance.” The painting is not locked in a mystery of timelessness, nor does it challenge our own existence with its intensity of being; it is an artifact, to which we may point, and from which we may draw a lesson before continuing on our way.

by W.H. Auden

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.



Triggs: Brueghel mitigated the intensity of his subject in a busy painting that shifts the focus from the impulsively romantic Icarus to the common people. Following Brueghel in this, Auden controls the powerful myth with filtering layers (such as his off-hand tone and indirect approach, the device of presenting the museum before the painting) which surround his experience.


Triggs: As usual, Williams is busy breaking the back of the pentameter line, though here the “off balance” verses with their extreme enjambments echo, or reflect, the off balance positions of the dancers in the painting.

by William Carlos Williams

The Dance

In Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and
around, the squeal and the blare and the
tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles
tipping their bellies (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them. Kicking and rolling about
the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Breughel’s great picture, The Kermass.



Triggs: The tone of the poem is one of festive intoxication with the human condition. Beyond the notation that the events described take place in a “picture,” no distinction is made between the world of art and the world of human life. Simply by not recognizing a barrier dividing these worlds, Williams mediates effortlessly between them.


Triggs: The Yeux Glauques section of “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” deals in considerable detail with Burne-Jones’s “King Cophetua,” a huge painting that dominates one room of the Tate Gallery in London. Pound’s concern, however, is primarily the ironic relation of life to art, specifically the tragically ironic relation of the model Elizabeth Siddal to the characters she portrayed in so many Pre-Raphaelite works.

Foetid Buchanan lifted up his voice
When that faun’s head of hers
Became a pastime for
Painters and adulterers.

The Burne-Jones cartons
Have preserved her eyes;
Still, at the Tate, they teach
Cophetua to rhapsodize;

Thin like brook water,
With a vacant gaze.

by Ezra Pound

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley

E. P. Ode pour L’Election de son Sépulchre


For three years, out of key with his time
He strove to resuscitate the dead art
Of poetry; to maintain “The sublime”
In the old sense. Wrong from the start–

No hardly, but, seeing he had been born
In a half-savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait;

. . . . . . . .
Caught in the unstopped ear;
Giving the rocks small lee-way
The chopped seas held him, therefore, that year.

His true Penelope was Flaubert,
He fished by obstinate isles;
Observed the elegance of Circe’s hair
Rather than the mottoes on sun-dials.

Unaffected by “the march of events,”
He passed from men’s memory in l’an trentiesme
De son eage; the case presents
No adjunct to the Muses’ diadem.


The age demanded an image
Of its accelerated grimace,
Something for the modern stage,
Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
Of the inward gaze;
better mendacities
Than the classics in paraphrase!

The “age demanded” chiefly a mould in plaster,
Made with no loss of time,
A prose kinema, not, assuredly, alabaster
Or the “sculpture” of rhyme.


The tea-rose tea-gown, etc.
Supplants the mousseline of Cos,
The pianola “replaces”
Sappho’s barbitos.

Christ follows Dionysus,
Phallic and ambrosial
Made way for macerations;
Caliban casts out Ariel.

All things are a flowing,
Sage Heracleitus says:
But a tawdry cheapness
Shall outlast our days.

Even the Christian beauty
Defects–after Samothrace;
We see . . .
Decreed in the market place.

Faun’s flesh is not to us,
Nor the saint’s vision.
We have the press for wafer,
Franchise for circumcision.

All men, in law, are equals.
Free of Peisistratus,
We choose a knave or an eunuch
To rule over us.

O bright Apollo,
. . . . . . . .
What god, man, or hero
Shall I place a tin wreath upon!


These fought, in any case,
and some believing, pro domo, in any case . . .

Some quick to arm,
some for adventure,
some from fear of weakness,
some from fear of censure,
some for love of slaughter, in imagination,
learning later . . .

some in fear, learning love of slaughter;
Died some, pro patria,
non “dulce” non “et decor” . . .

walked eye-deep in hell
believing in old men’s lies,then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;

usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

fortitude as never before

frankness as never before,
disillusions as never told in the old days
hysterias, trench confessions
laughter out of dead bellies.


There died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization,

Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
quick eyes gone under earth’s lid,

For two gross of broken statues,
For a few thousand battered books.

Yeux glauques

Gladstone was still respected,
When John Ruskin produced
“Kings Treasuries”; Swinburne
And Rossetti still abused.

Foetid Buchanan lifted up his voice
When that faun’s head of hers
Became a pastime for
Painters and adulterers.

The Burne-Jones cartons
Have preserved her eyes;
Still, at the Tate, they teach
Cophetua to rhapsodize;

Thin like brook-water,
With a vacant gaze.
The English Rubaiyat was still-born
In those days.

The thin, clear gaze, the same
Still darts out faun-like from the half-ruin’d face
Questing and passive. . . .
“Ah, poor Jenny’s case” . . .

Bewildered that a world
Shows no surprise
At her last maquero’s

“Siena Mi Fe’; Disfecemi Maremma”

Among the pickled foetuses and bottled bones,
Engaged in perfecting the catalogue,
I found the last scion of the
Senatorial families of Strasbourg, Monsieur Verog.

For two hours he talked of Gallifet;
Of Dowson; of the Rhymers’ Club;
Told me how Johnson (Lionel) died
By falling from a high stool in a pub

But showed no trace of alcohol
At the autopsy, privately performed–
Tissue preserved–the pure mind
Arose toward Newman as the whiskey warmed.

Dowson found harlots cheaper than hotels;
Headlam for uplift; Image impartially imbued
With raptures for Bacchus, Terpsichore and the Church.
So spoke the author of “The Dorian Mood,”

M. Verog, out of step with the decade,
Detached from his contemporaries,
Neglected by the young,
Because of these reveries.


The sky-like limpid eyes,
The circular infant’s face,
The stiffness from spats to collar
Never relaxing into grace;

The heavy memories of Horeb, Sinai and the forty years,
Showed only when the daylight fell
Level across the face
Of Brennbaum “The Impeccable.”

Mr. Nixon

In the cream gilded cabin of his steam yacht
Mr. Nixon advised me kindly, to advance with fewer
Dangers of delay. “Consider
“Carefully the reviewer.
“I was as poor as you are;
“When I began I got, of course,
“Advance on royalties, fifty at first,” said Mr. Nixon,
“Follow me, and take a column,
“Even if you have to work free.

“Butter reviewers. From fifty to three hundred
“I rose in eighteen months;
“The hardest nut I had to crack
“Was Dr. Dundas.

“I never mentioned a man but with the view
“Of selling my own works.
“The tip’s a good one, as for literature
“It gives no man a sinecure.

“And no one knows, at sight, a masterpiece.
“And give up verse, my boy,
“There’s nothing in it.”

Likewise a friend of Bloughram’s once advised me:
Don’t kick against the pricks
Accept opinion. The “Nineties” tried your game
And died, there’s nothing in it.


Beneath the sagging roof
The stylist has taken shelter,
Unpaid, uncelebrated,
At last from the world’s welter

Nature receives him;
With a placid and uneducated mistress
He exercises his talents
And the soil meets his distress.

The haven from sophistications and contentions
Leaks through its thatch;
He offers succulent cooking;
The door has a creaking latch.


“Conservatrix of Milésien”
Habits of mind and feeling,
Possibly. But in Ealing
With the most bank-clerkly of Englishmen?

No, “Milésien” is an exaggeration.
No instinct has survived in her
Older than those her grandmother
Told her would fit her station.


“Daphne with her thighs in bark
Stretches toward me her leafy hands,”–
Subjectively. In the stuffed-satin drawing-room
I await The Lady Valentine’s commands,

Knowing my coat has never been
Of precisely the fashion
To stimulate, in her,
A durable passion;

Doubtful, somewhat, of the value
Of well-gowned approbation
Of literary effort,
But never of The Lady Valentine’s vocation:

Poetry, her border of ideas,
The edge, uncertain, but a means of blending
With other strata
Where the lower and higher have ending;

A hook to catch the Lady Jane’s attention,
A modulation toward the theatre,
Also, in the case of revolution,
A possible friend and comforter.
Conduct, on the other hand, the soul
“Which the highest cultures have nourished”
To Fleet St. where
Dr. Johnson flourished;

Beside this thoroughfare
The sale of half-hose has
Long since superseded the cultivation
Of Pierian roses.


Go, dumb-born book,
Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes:
Hadst thou but song
As thou hadst subjects known.
Then were there cause in thee that should condone
Even my faults that heavy upon me lie,
And build her glories their longevity.

Tell her that sheds
Such treasure in the air,
Recking naught else but that her graces give
Life to the moment,
I would bid them live
As roses might, in magic amber laid,
Red overwrought with orange and all made
One substance and one colour
Braving time.

Tell her that goes
With song upon her lips
But sings not out of the song, nor knows
The maker of it, some other mouth,
May be as fair as her,
Might, in new ages, gain her worshippers,
When our two dusts with Waller’s shall be laid,
Siftings on siftings in oblivion,
Till change hath broken down
All things save Beauty alone.



Triggs: The poem thus imagines and articulates three distinct times: the time of the viewer, the time of the painting, and the time of the painting’s model, as it were the mimetic object. Pound’s lines are thus suffused with the human mystery of art, the magic by which the living human gesture is taken up, congealed into artistic form, and then released into living human perception.


Triggs Summarizes: In their differing styles, all poems about art confront this fact of the deathly impenetrability of time. The imaginations of the poets range against it and assault it in different ways–passionate, ironic, innocent–and, indeed, this imaginative stir is the stuff of their poetry, but ultimately they are left with their own timefulness in the presence of images that last longer. Poetry about art constitutes, therefore, a tragic genre, a genre of human limitations from which most poets eventually turn away.


June 28, 2006

Two Writers, Two Poets, & Spouse to One

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 7:16 pm

In this picture, are 2 poets, 2 writers, and a spouse to one of them.

How many of them can you name?

Answers here: Breaking News.

Hint: Two of them are world famous.

catherine of gulu

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 2:15 am

The fifth photo of Marcus Bleasdale’s First Place, 8-photo story,
Faith and Fear–Gulu, Northern Uganda” at

caught one night with her parents at bay
hot oil poured from her back to her breast
catherine in the ugandan day
gulu girl one not taken away.

no not one whom at kony’s behest
caught one night with her parents at bay
sought escape from the boys forced astray
sudan bound to be raped with the rest.

catherine in the ugandan day
shows her back to a woman’s dismay
bares her breast for the babe coddled lest
caught one night with her parents at bay.

shadows hide what the world would betray
she comes forward her writhing confessed
catherine in the ugandan day
gulu girl one not taken away.

africa with our sins unaddressed
caught one night with her parents at bay
catherine in the ugandan day.


June 27, 2006

Vangisa, the Venerable Master of Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 1:01 am

As the Therigatha (posted yesterday) translates to “Verses of the Elder Nuns,” Theragatha means “Verses of the Elder Monks.” For this post, I will focus on the last chapter, or Thag XXI, which has the title “Vangisa,” which is the name of its author, and which means “Master of Words” or “Lord of Speech.”

Here is a quote from Vangisa: An Early Buddhist Poet:

The author of these poems, the Venerable Va”ngiisa, was designated by the Buddha as the foremost of his disciples with respect to spontaneity of speech (pa.tibhaanavantaana.m, A I 24). This gift is evidently a reference to the Parosahassa Sutta (S I 192-93) where, after reciting a poem (No. VIII of the translation), the Buddha asked Va”ngiisa whether it had been devised by him beforehand or had occurred to him “on the spot” (.thaanaso va ta.m pa.tibhanti). When Va”ngiisa affirmed the latter, the Buddha invited him to compose some more verses, and the result was the next poem (No. IX).

Apart from what we can glean from the poems themselves and the suttas of the Va”ngiisa-sa.myutta, we know very little about the Venerable Va”ngiisa himself. The commentary (ThagA III 180-81) says he was a brahmin by birth and that, prior to meeting the Buddha, he made a living by tapping the skulls of deceased people and telling thereby where the owners had been reborn.

The following rendition of Vangisa’s verse is taken from this page: Thag 21: Vangisa. Differently from how John D. Ireland chose to cast the verses, they are formatted below with line breaks and indentations. The small width of page here, seemed to me to necessitate this. I mainly stuck to simple clause breaks natural to Ireland’s English sentences, with minor and simple formatting ornamentation, as I did not want to make it an exercise in bucking the spirit of Ireland’s choice not to.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

by Vangisa, the Venerable Master of Words

translated from the Pali by John D. Ireland

from Theragatha
(Verses of the Elder Monks)

Thag XXI
(Chapter 21)



Departed (Nikkhantam)

Alas! Now that I have departed from home
            to the homeless state,
            these reckless thoughts
from the Dark One come upon me.

Mighty warriors, great archers,
            trained, steady bowmen,
            one thousand fearless men,
might surround me on all sides.

Even if more women than these will come,
            they will not cause me to waver,
            for I am firmly established
in the teaching.

In his presence I heard from the Awakened One,
            the Kinsman of the Sun,
            of this path leading to nibbana;
it is there that my mind is attached.

Evil One, while I am living thus,
            if you assail me,
            so shall I act, O Death,
that you will not see my path.

~ ~ ~


Disliking (Aratim)

Entirely giving up disliking and liking,
            and the thinking associated
            with the life of a householder,
one should not have craving for anything.
            He indeed is a monk
            who is wholly without craving.

Whatever there is here of form,
            inhabiting the earth and the sky,
            immersed in the world,
all is impermanent and decaying.
            So understanding,
            the wise live their lives.

Regarding objects of attachment,
            people are greedy for what is to be seen and heard
            and touched and otherwise experienced.
Being unmoved, dispel desire for them,
            for they call him a sage
            who does not cling to them.

Then, caught in the sixty, full of (speculative) thoughts,
            because of being outsiders,
            they are established in wrong teaching.
But one who is a monk
            would not take up a sectarian viewpoint,
            much less seize upon what is bad.

Intelligent, for a long time composed (of mind),
            not deceitful, wise, not envious,
            the sage has experienced the peaceful state,
depending on which,
            attained to quenching,
            he awaits his time.

~ ~ ~


Despising the Well-Behaved (Pesala-Atimaññana)

            Abandon conceit, Gotama,
get rid of the way of conceit completely.
Because of being infatuated by the way of conceit,
            for a long time you have been remorseful.

            Soiled by contempt (for others),
destroyed by conceit, people fall into hell.
Persons destroyed by conceit grieve for a long time
            upon being reborn in hell.

            A monk never grieves who is a knower of the path,
one who has practiced it properly.
He experiences fame and happiness;
            truthfully they call him “a seer of Dhamma.”

            Therefore be without barrenness here (in this world),
energetic, purified by abandoning the hindrances.
Having completely abandoned conceit, be an ender (of suffering) through knowledge
            and become one who dwells at peace.

~ ~ ~




“I burn with sensual desire,
            my mind is enflamed (with passion).
            Out of pity please tell me, Gotama,
the effective extinguishing of it.”


“Your mind is enflamed
            because of distorted perception.
            Shun the aspect of beauty
associated with passion.

“See constructions as other,
            as painful, not as self,
            (and thus) extinguish strong passion;
do not burn again and again.

“Devote the mind, one-pointed and well-composed,
            to the contemplation of foulness.
            Let mindfulness be directed
towards the body and be full of disenchantment for it.

“Contemplate the signless and cast out
            the underlying tendency to conceit.
            Then by the penetration of conceit
you will go about at peace.”

~ ~ ~


Well-spoken (Subhasita)

One should speak only that word
            by which one would not torment
            oneself nor harm others.
That word is indeed
            well spoken.

One should speak only pleasant words,
            words which are acceptable (to others).
What one speaks
            without bringing evils to others
            is pleasant.

Truth is indeed the undying word;
            this is an ancient verity.
Upon truth, the good say,
            the goal and the teaching are founded.

The sure word the Awakened One
            speaks for the attainment of nibbana,
for making an end of suffering,
            is truly the best of words.

~ ~ ~



Of profound wisdom, intelligent, skilled in knowledge
            of the right and wrong path,
Sariputta of great wisdom teaches
            Dhamma to the monks.

He teaches in brief, he speaks with detailed explanation,
            his voice is (pleasing) like that of the mynah bird;
he demonstrates readiness of speech.

Listening to his sweet utterance while he is teaching
            with a voice that is captivating,
            pleasing, and lovely,
the monks give ear,
            with minds elated and joyful.

~ ~ ~


The Invitation Ceremony (Pavarana)

Today on the fifteenth (of the fortnight) five hundred monks
have gathered for the ceremony of purification,
            cutters of fetters and bonds, untroubled,
            seers finished with renewed existence.

As a wheel-turning monarch, surrounded by his ministers,
            tours all around this ocean-girt earth,
so do the disciples with the threefold knowledge,
who have left death behind,
            attend upon the victor in battle,
            the unsurpassed caravan leader.

All are the Fortunate One’s sons;
            there is no chaff found here.
I pay homage to the destroyer of the dart of craving,
            the Kinsman of the Sun.

~ ~ ~


More than a Thousand (Parosahassam)

More than a thousand monks attend
            upon the Happy One
as he is teaching the stainless Dhamma concerning nibbana,
            where no fear can come from any quarter.

They hear the taintless Dhamma
            taught by the Fully Awakened One.
The Awakened One is truly resplendent
            as he is revered by the community of monks.

You are called a naga, Fortunate One;
            of seers, you are the best of seers.
Like a great rain-cloud,
            you rain down upon the disciples.

Leaving his daytime abode,
            wishing to see the Teacher,
your disciple Vangisa pays homage
            at your feet, Great Hero.

~ ~ ~


Overcoming (Abhibhuyya)

Overcoming the devious ways and range of Mara,
                        he walks (free),
            having broken up the things that make for barrenness of mind.
See him producing release from bonds,
            separating (the Teaching) into its constituent parts.

He has shown the path in a variety of ways
                        with the aim
            of guiding us across the flood.
Since the undying has been shown (to them),
                        the Dhamma-seers
            (are those who) stand immovable.

The light-maker,
                        having penetrated (the Dhamma),
            saw the overcoming of all standpoints.
Having understood and experienced it,
                        he taught the topmost
            (Dhamma-teaching) to the five.

When the Dhamma has been thus well taught,
            what indolence could there be
                        in those who know the Dhamma?
Therefore, vigilant and ever revering,
            one should follow the training
                        in the Fortunate One’s dispensation.

~ ~ ~



            The Elder Kondañña, strong in energy,
who was enlightened after the Awakened One,
is repeatedly the obtainer
            of pleasurable abidings and seclusions.

            Whatever is to be attained by a disciple
who does the instruction of the Teacher,
all that has been attained by him,
            vigilant and disciplined.

            Having great power and the threefold knowledge,
skilled in knowing the thoughts of others,
Kondañña, the Awakened One’s heir,
            pays homage at the Teacher’s feet.

~ ~ ~



            possessors of the threefold knowledge
                        who have left death behind,
attend upon the sage
            seated on the mountain side,
                        who has gone to the far shore beyond suffering.

            of great supernormal powers,
                        encompasses (their minds) with his mind,
seeking their minds,
            completely freed,
                        without attachments.

Thus do they attend
            upon Gotama
                        endowed with so many virtuous qualities,
the sage possessed of all the attributes
            and gone to the far shore
                        beyond suffering.

~ ~ ~



As the moon shines in the sky free from clouds,
                        as also the spotless sun, even so,
            Resplendent One, Great Sage,
do you outshine the whole world with your fame.

~ ~ ~


Vangisa (1)

Intoxicated with skill in the poetic art,
formerly we wandered
            from village to village, from town to town.
Then we saw the Awakened One
gone to the far shore beyond
            all (worldly conditioned) phenomena.

The sage gone
to the far shore beyond suffering
            taught me the Dhamma.
On hearing the Dhamma
we gained confidence in him;
            faith arose in us.

Having heard his word
and learnt
            of the aggregates, bases, and elements,
I went forth
            into homelessness.

Indeed Tathagatas appear
for the good
            of the many men and women
            who practice their teaching.

Indeed the sage attained enlightenment
for the good
            of those monks and nuns
            who see the course to be undergone.

Well taught are the Four Noble Truths
            by the Seeing One,
            the Awakened One,
            the Kinsman of the Sun,
                        out of compassion for living beings.

Suffering, the origin of suffering, the overcoming of suffering,
            and the noble eightfold path
            leading to the allaying of suffering.

            Thus these things, thus spoken of,
            have been seen by me as they really are.
The true goal has been reached by me;
            the Awakened One’s instruction has been done.

            It was good indeed for me,
my coming into the presence of the Awakened One.
            Among things shared out
            I obtained the best.

I have attained the perfection of the direct knowledges,
I have purified the element of hearing,
I have the threefold knowledge and obtained supernormal powers
and am skilled in knowing the minds of others.

~ ~ ~


The shorter version of the previous poem

Vangisa (2)

            Intoxicated with skill in the poetic art,
formerly we wandered from village to village,
from town to town.
            Then we saw the Awakened One
            and faith arose in us.

He taught me the Dhamma concerning
            the aggregates, bases, and elements.
            Having heard his Dhamma,
I went forth into homelessness.

Indeed the sage attained enlightenment for the good
            of the many monks and nuns
                        who see the course to be undergone.

            It was good indeed for me,
my coming into the presence of the Awakened One.
            The three knowledges have been attained;
                        the Awakened One’s instruction has been done.

            I know my former abodes,
            (I possess) the purified divine eye,
            I have the threefold knowledge
            and obtained supernormal powers
and am skilled in knowing the minds of others.

~ ~ ~



“I ask the teacher of superior wisdom,
one who in this very life
                        is the cutter-off of doubts:
                        The monk, well known and famous,
            who has died at Agga.lava,
was he completely quenched in mind?

“Nigrodhakappa was the name given to
            that brahmin by you, Fortunate One.
Looking for release, strenuously energetic,
            he went about revering you,
                        O seer of the secure state (i.e., nibbana).

            “Sakka, All-seeing One,
we all wish to know concerning that disciple.
Our ears are ready to hear.
            You are the teacher, you are unsurpassed.

                        “Sever our doubt.
                        Tell me this, you
of extensive wisdom, that he experienced quenching.
                        Speak in our very midst,
                        All-seeing One,
like the thousand-eyed Sakka in the midst of the gods.

“Whatever bonds exist here (in the world),
                        ways of delusion,
on the side of ignorance,
                        bases for doubt,
they no longer exist on reaching the Tathagata,
            for that vision of his is supreme among men.

“If no man were ever to disperse the defilements
            as the wind disperses a mass of clouds,
            the whole world, enveloped,
would surely be darkness,
and even illustrious men would not shine forth.

“But the wise are light-makers.
            O Wise One, I think you are just such a one.
            We have come upon him who knows and is gifted with insight.
Make evident to us, within the companies (of disciples), the fate of Kappa.

“Quickly enunciate your beautiful utterance, O beautiful one!
            Like a goose stretching forth (its neck),
                        honk gently with
                        your melodious and well-modulated voice;
we are all listening to you attentively.

“Pressing the one who has completely abandoned birth and death,
I shall urge the purified one to speak Dhamma.
For among outsiders there is no acting as they wish,
            but among Tathagatas there is acting with discretion.

            “This full explanation of yours,
(coming from) one with upright wisdom, is well learnt.
This last salutation is proferred.
You of superior wisdom, knowing (Kappa’s fate),
            do not keep us in ignorance.

“Having known the noble Dhamma in its full extent,
            you of superior energy, knowing (Kappa’s fate),
            do not keep us in ignorance.
I long for your word
            as one overcome by heat in the hot season longs for water.
                        Rain down on our ears.

“Surely the purpose for which Kappayana practiced
            the holy life was not in vain.
Was he quenched or had he a residue remaining?
            Let us hear in what way he was released.”

“He cut off craving here for mind-and-materiality”, said the Fortunate One,
            “the stream of craving
                        which for a long time had lain latent within him.
He has crossed beyond birth and death completely.”
            So spoke the Fortunate One, the foremost of the five.

“On hearing your word, O best of seers, I believe.
            My question was truly not in vain;
            the brahmin did not deceive me.

            “As he spoke, so he acted.
He was a disciple of the Awakened One.
He cut through the strong, spread-out net
            of Death the deceiver.

“Kappiya saw the starting point of grasping, O Fortunate One.
            Kappayana has certainly gone beyond the realm of Death,
                        so difficult to cross.

“I pay homage to you, the god of gods,
            and to your son, O best of bipeds,
            to the great hero born in your tracks,
                        a naga, a true son of the naga.”

~ ~ ~

June 26, 2006

Therigatha: Verses of the Elder Nuns

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 1:49 am

Below are the excerpts I could find on the web from the Therigatha, the ninth book of the Khuddaka Nikaya, and translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. There are 73 verses altogether, in 16 chapters, written somewhere around 200 BCE. For introduction and commentary, you may click into Susan Elbaum Jootla’s page here: Inspiration from Enlightened Nuns.

Only some of the verses are below, representing only some of the chapters. Before each excerpt is a Roman numeral, a period for punctuation, and an integer, indicating chapter and verse.

Still in this world, it seems important to mention that it is possible for a woman to be as spiritually advanced as any man. As we can apprehend from the Therigatha, a woman may be as far along the road in Buddhism as a man may. If we cross cultures and take a different application, into the mysticism of, say, most Native American cultures, but not limited to them; a woman may have the spiritual gifts (or innateness) of the shaman as much as any man. A woman, therefore, not only may be further along her spiritual road, but no matter where she is on her road, she may be more prone to powerful and culturally informing mystical experiences as any man may. It should not need to be pointed out that, furthermore, a woman may be as good a poet for her culture in time as any man, vis a vis, what follows.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


An Anonymous Bhikkhuni

Sleep, little theri, sleep comfortably,
wrapped in the robe that you’ve made,
for your passion is stilled–
                like a pot of pickled greens
                                boiled dry.

~ ~ ~



Punna, grow full with good qualities
like the moon on the fifteenth day.
With discernment at total fullness, burst
                the mass
                of darkness.

~ ~ ~



So freed! So thoroughly freed am I!–
from three crooked things set free:
                from mortar, pestle,
                & crooked old husband.
Having uprooted the craving
that leads to becoming,
I’m set free from aging & death.

~ ~ ~



Wandering for alms–
weak, leaning on a staff,
with trembling limbs–
I fell down right there on the ground.
Seeing the drawbacks of the body,
my mind was then
                                               set free.

~ ~ ~


Sumangala’s Mother

So freed! So freed!
So thoroughly freed am I–
                from my pestle,
                my shameless husband
                & his sun-shade making,
                my moldy old pot
                with its water-snake smell.
Aversion & passion
I cut with a chop.
Having come to the foot of a tree,
I meditate, absorbed in the bliss:
                “What bliss!”

~ ~ ~



Four times, five, I ran amok from my dwelling,
                having gained no peace of awareness,
                my thoughts out of control.
So I went to a trustworthy nun.
She taught me the Dhamma:
                aggregates, sense spheres, & elements.
Hearing the Dhamma,
                I did as she said.
For seven days I sat in one spot,
absorbed in rapture & bliss.
On the eighth, I stretched out my legs,
                having burst the mass
                of darkness.

~ ~ ~


Dantika & the Elephant

Coming out from my day’s abiding
on Vulture Peak Mountain,
I saw on the bank of a river
                an elephant
emerged from its plunge.
A man holding a hook requested:
                                “Give me your foot.”
The elephant
                extended its foot.
The man
                got up on the elephant.

Seeing what was untrained now tamed
brought under human control,
with that I centered my mind–
                why I’d gone to the woods
                                in the first place.

~ ~ ~



“‘Jiva, my daughter,’
you cry in the woods.
Come to your senses, Ubbiri.
                all named Jiva
have been burned in that charnel ground.
For which of them do you grieve?”
Pulling out
               –completely out–
the arrow so hard to see,
embedded in my heart,
he expelled from me
               –overcome with grief–
the grief
over my daughter.

Today–with arrow removed,
                without hunger, entirely
to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha I go,
                for refuge to
                the Sage.

~ ~ ~


Vimala, the Former Courtesan

Intoxicated with my complexion
figure, beauty, & fame;
haughty with youth,
                I despised other women.
Adorning this body
embellished to delude foolish men,
I stood at the door to the brothel:
                a hunter with snare laid out.
I showed off my ornaments,
and revealed many a private part.
I worked my manifold magic,
laughing out loud at the crowd.
Today, wrapped in a double cloak,
                my head shaven,
                having wandered for alms,
I sit at the foot of a tree
and attain the state of no-thought.
All ties–human & divine–have been cut.
Having cast off all effluents,
cooled am I,                                unbound.

~ ~ ~


Nanda’s Vision

“Sick, putrid, unclean:
look, Nanda, at this physical heap.
Through contemplation of the foul,
develop your mind,
make it one, well-centered.
                As this (your body), so that.
                As that, so this.
It gives off a foul stench,
the delight of fools.”

Considering it thus,
untiring, both day & night,
I, with my own discernment
                dissecting it,

And as I, heedful,
                examined it aptly,
this body–as it actually is–
was seen inside & out.

Then was I disenchanted with the body
                & dispassionate within:
Heedful, detached,
                calmed was I.


~ ~ ~



Going forth through conviction
from home into homelessness,
I wandered this place & that,
greedy for tribute & gains.
Missing out on the foremost goal,
I pursued a lowly one.
Under the sway of defilements
I surrendered the goal
of the contemplative life.
Then, sitting in my dwelling,
I suddenly came to my senses:

I’m following a miserable path.
I’m under the sway of
                Next to nothing, my life–
                by aging & illness.
                Before the body breaks apart,
                I have no time
                                for heedlessness.
After watching, as it actually was,
the rising & falling of aggregates,
I stood up with mind released,
the Awakened One’s bidding

~ ~ ~


Sona, Mother of Ten

Ten children I bore
from this physical heap.
Then weak from that, aged,
I went to a nun.
She taught me the Dhamma:
                aggregates, sense spheres, & elements.
Hearing her Dhamma,
I cut off my hair & ordained.
Having purified the divine eye
while still a probationer,
I know my previous lives,
where I lived in the past.
I develop the theme-less meditation,
well-focused oneness.
I gain the liberation of immediacy–
from lack of clinging, unbound.
The five aggregates, comprehended,
stand like a tree with its root cut through.
                I spit on old age.
There is now no further becoming.

~ ~ ~



(I thought:)

“Plowing the field with plows,
sowing the ground with seed,
supporting their wives & children,
young men gather up wealth.
So why is it that I,
                consummate in virtue,
                a doer of the teacher’s bidding,
don’t gain Unbinding?
I’m not lazy or proud.”

Washing my feet, I noticed

And in watching it flow from high
                my heart was composed
                like a fine thoroughbred steed.

Then taking a lamp, I entered the hut,
                checked the bedding,
                sat down on the bed.

And taking a pin, I pulled out the wick:
                Like the flame’s unbinding
                was the liberation
                                of awareness.

~ ~ ~


Patacara’s Thirty Students

(Patacara taught:)

“Taking the pestle,
young men grind the corn.
Supporting their wives & children,
they gather up wealth.
Do the Awakened One’s bidding,
                which, having done,
                you’ll have no regret.
Intent on tranquillity of awareness,
do the Awakened One’s bidding.
                Having washed your feet,
                go sit to one side.”
Hearing these words,
Patacara’s bidding,
they washed their feet
and retired to one side.
Intent on tranquillity of awareness,
they did the Awakened One’s bidding.
In the first watch of the night,
                they recollected their previous lives.
In the middle watch,
                purified the divine eye.
In the last,
                burst the mass of darkness.
Getting up, they bowed down to her feet.

“We have done your bidding.
Like the thirty devas honoring Indra,
unvanquished in battle,
we–endowed with the three knowledges,
will continue honoring you.”

~ ~ ~


Canda, the Beggar

Before, I had fallen on evil times:
                no husband, no children,
                no relatives, friends,
                no way to obtain clothing & food.
So, taking a staff & bowl in hand,
begging for alms from house to house,
feverish from the cold & heat,
I wandered for seven full years.
Then seeing a nun
obtaining food & drink,
I approached her & said:
                “Let me go forth into homelessness.”
She, Patacara, from sympathy,
let me go forth;
then, exhorting me,
urged me on to the highest goal.
Hearing her words,
I did her bidding.
Her exhortation was not in vain.
                Endowed with the three knowledges,
                I’m effluent-free.

~ ~ ~


Pañcasata Patacara

“You don’t know
                the path
of his coming or going,
that being who has come
                from                                where?–
the one you lament as ‘my son.’
But when you know
                the path
of his coming or going,
you don’t grieve after him,
for that is the nature
                of beings.
he came from there.
Without permission,
he went from here–
coming from                where?
having stayed a few days.
And coming one way from here,
he goes yet another
                from there.
Dying in the human form,
he will go wandering on.
As he came, so he has gone–
                so what is there
                to lament?”

Pulling out
               –completely out–
the arrow so hard to see,
embedded in my heart,
he expelled from me
               –overcome with grief–
the grief
over my son.

Today–with arrow removed,
                without hunger, entirely
to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha I go,
                for refuge to
                the Sage.

~ ~ ~


Vasitthi the Madwoman

Overwhelmed with grief for my son–
                naked, demented,
                my hair dishevelled
                my mind deranged–
I went about here & there,
living along the side of the road,
in cemeteries & heaps of trash,
                for three full years,
afflicted with hunger & thirst.
Then I saw
the One Well-gone,
gone to the city of Mithila:
                tamer of those untamed,
                with nothing to fear
                from anything, anywhere.

Regaining my mind,
paying him homage,
                I sat myself down.
He, Gotama, from sympathy
taught me the Dhamma.
Hearing his Dhamma,
I went forth into homelessness.
Applying myself to the Teacher’s words,
I realized the state of auspicious bliss.

All griefs have been cut off,
                                brought to this end,
for I’ve comprehended
the grounds from which griefs
come into play.

~ ~ ~


Anopama, the Millionaire’s Daughter

Born in a high-ranking family
with much property, great wealth,
consummate in complexion & figure,
I was the daughter of Majjha, the treasurer.
Sons of kings sought for me,
sons of rich merchants
                longed for me.
One of them sent my father a messenger,
saying, “Give me Anopama.
I will give in return
                eight times her weight
                in jewels & gold.”
But I, having seen
                the One Self-awakened,
                unsurpassed, excelling the world,
paid homage to his feet,
sat down to one side.
He, Gotama, from sympathy,
taught me the Dhamma.
And as I sat in that very seat,
                I attained the third fruit
                (of non-return.)
Then I cut off my hair,
and went forth into homelessness.
Today is the seventh day
since I made craving
                wither away.

~ ~ ~


Punnika & the Brahman


I’m a water-carrier, cold,
always going down to the water
from fear of my mistresses’ beatings,
harrassed by their anger & words.
But you, Brahman,
                what do you fear
that you’re always going down to the water
with shivering limbs, feeling great cold?

(The Brahman:)

Punnika, surely you know.
You’re asking one doing skillful kamma
& warding off evil.
Whoever, young or old, does evil kamma
is, through water ablution,
from evil kamma set free.


Who taught you this
— the ignorant to the ignorant–
‘One, through water ablution,
is from evil kamma set free?’
In that case, they’d all go to heaven:
                all the frogs, turtles,
                serpents, crocodiles,
                & anything else that lives in the water.
Sheep-butchers, pork-butchers,
fishermen, trappers,
thieves, executioners,
& any other evil doers,
would, through water ablution,
be from evil kamma set free.
If these rivers could carry off
the evil kamma you’ve done in the past,
they’d carry off your merit as well,
and then you’d be
                completely left out.
Whatever it is that you fear,
that you’re always going down to the water,
                don’t do it.
Don’t let the cold hurt your skin.”

(The Brahman:)

I’ve been following the miserable path, good lady,
and now you’ve brought me
                back to the noble.
I give you this robe for water-ablution.


Let the robe be yours. I don’t need it.
If you’re afraid of pain,
if you dislike pain,
then don’t do any evil kamma,
in open, in secret.
But if you do or will do
any evil kamma,
you’ll gain no freedom from pain,
even if you fly up & hurry away.
If you’re afraid of pain,
if you dislike pain,
go to the Awakened One for refuge,
go to the Dhamma & Sangha.
Take on the precepts:
                That will lead to your liberation.

(The Brahman:)

I go to the Awakened One for refuge;
I go to the Dhamma & Sangha.
I take on the precepts:
                That will lead to my liberation.
Before, I was a kinsman to Brahma;
now, truly a brahman.
I’m a three-knowledge man.
consummate in knowledge,
                safe & washed clean.

~ ~ ~



Black was my hair
–the color of bees–
& curled at the tips;
                with age, it looked like coarse hemp.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.
Fragrant, like a perfumed basket
filled with flowers: my coiffure.
                With age it smelled musty,
                like animal fur.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Thick & lush, like a well-tended grove,
made splendid, the tips elaborate
with comb & pin.
                With age, it grew thin
                & bare here & there.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Adorned with gold & delicate pins,
it was splendid, ornamented with braids.
                Now, with age,
                that head has gone bald.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Curved, as if well-drawn by an artist,
my brows were once splendid.
                With age, they droop down in folds.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Radiant, brilliant like jewels,
my eyes: elongated, black–deep black.
                With age, they’re no longer splendid.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Like a delicate peak, my nose
was splendid in the prime of my youth.
                With age, it’s like a long pepper.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Like bracelets–well-fashioned, well-finished–
my ears were once splendid.
                With age, they droop down in folds.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Like plaintain buds in their color,
my teeth were once splendid.
                With age, they’re broken & yellowed.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Like that of a cuckoo in the dense jungle,
flitting through deep forest thickets:
sweet was the tone of my voice.
                With age, it cracks here & there.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Smooth–like a conch shell well-polished–
my neck was once splendid.
                With age, it’s broken down, bent.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Like rounded door-bars–both of them–
my arms were once splendid.
                With age, they’re like dried up patali trees.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Adorned with gold & delicate rings,
my hands were once splendid.
                With age, they’re like onions & tubers.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Swelling, round, firm, & high,
both my breasts were once splendid.
                In the drought of old age, they dangle
                like empty old water bags.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Like a sheet of gold, well-burnished,
my body was splendid.
                Now it’s covered with very fine wrinkles.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Smooth in their lines, like an elephant’s trunk,
both my thighs were once splendid.
                With age, they’re like knotted bamboo.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Adorned with gold & delicate anklets,
my calves were once splendid.
                With age, they’re like sesame sticks.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

As if they were stuffed with soft cotton,
both my feet were once splendid.
                With age, they’re shriveled & cracked.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

Such was this physical heap,
now: decrepit, the home of pains, many pains.
                A house with its plaster all fallen off.
The truth of the Truth-speaker’s words
                                doesn’t change.

~ ~ ~



(Rohini’s father:)

You go to sleep saying,
You wake up,
You praise only
No doubt you will be
                a contemplative.
Abundant food & drink
you give to contemplatives.
Now, Rohini, I ask you:
                Why do you hold
                contemplatives dear?

They don’t like to work,
                they’re lazy,
living off what’s given by others,
full of hankerings,
wanting delicious things:
                Why do you hold
                contemplatives dear?


For a long time, father,
you’ve quizzed me
about contemplatives.
I’ll praise to you
their                discernment,
They do like to work,
                they’re not lazy.
They do the best work:
                                They abandon
                                passion & anger.
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

They rid themselves
of the three evil roots,
doing pure actions.
                                All their evil’s
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

Clean                                their bodily action,
so is                                their verbal action.
Clean                                their mental action:
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

Spotless, like mother of pearl,
pure within & without,
perfect in clear qualities:
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

Learned,                maintaining the Dhamma,
noble, living the Dhamma,
they teach the goal
                                & the Dhamma:
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

Learned,                maintaining the Dhamma,
noble, living the Dhamma,
with unified minds
                                & mindful:
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

Traveling far, mindful,
giving counsel unruffled,
they discern the end
                                of suffering:
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

When they leave any village
they don’t turn to look back
                                at anything.
How free from concern
they go!
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

They don’t store in a granary,
                                or basket.
They hunt (only)
for what’s already cooked:
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

They take neither silver,
                nor gold,
                nor money.
They live off whatever is present:
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

Having gone forth
from different families
& from different countries,
                                still they hold
                                one another dear:
                That’s why I hold
                contemplatives dear.

(Rohini’s father:)

Rohini, truly for our well-being
were you born in our family.
You have conviction
in the Buddha & Dhamma,
and strong respect
for the Sangha.
You truly discern
this field of merit
These contemplatives will receive
our offering, too,
for here we’ll set up
our abundant sacrifice.


If you’re afraid of pain,
if you dislike pain,
go to the Buddha for refuge,
go to the Dhamma & Sangha.
Take on the precepts:
                That will lead
                to your well-being.
(Rohini’s father:)

I go to the Buddha for refuge;
I go to the Dhamma & Sangha.
I take on the precepts:
                That will lead
                to my well-being.
Before, I was a kinsman to Brahma;
now, truly a brahman.
I’m a three-knowledge man & safe,
consummate in knowledge,
                washed clean.

~ ~ ~


Subha & the Libertine

As Subha the nun was going through Jivaka’s delightful mango grove, a libertine (a goldsmith’s son) blocked her path, so she said to him:
‘What wrong have I done you
that you stand in my way?
It’s not proper, my friend,
that a man should touch
a woman gone forth.
I respect the Master’s message,
the training pointed out by the one well-gone.
I am pure, without blemish:
                Why do you stand in my way?
You–your mind agitated, impassioned;
I–unagitated, unimpassioned,
with a mind entirely freed:
                Why do you stand in my way?’
‘You are young & not bad-looking,
what need do you have for going forth?
Throw off your ochre robe–
                Come, let’s delight in the flowering grove.
A sweetness they exude everywhere,
the towering trees with their pollen.
The beginning of spring is a pleasant season–
                Come, let’s delight in the flowering grove.
The trees with their blossoming tips
moan, as it were, in the breeze:
What delight will you have
if you plunge into the grove alone?
Frequented by herds of wild beasts,
disturbed by elephants rutting & aroused:
you want to go
into the great, lonely, frightening grove?
Like a doll made of gold, you will go about,
like a goddess in the gardens of heaven.
With delicate, smooth Kasi fabrics,
you will shine, O beauty without compare.
I would gladly do your every bidding
if we were to dwell in the glade.
For there is no creature dearer to me
                than you, O nymph with the languid regard.
If you do as I ask, happy, come live in my house.
Dwelling in the calm of a palace,
                have women wait on you,
                wear delicate Kasi fabrics,
                adorn yourself with garlands & creams.
I will make you many & varied ornaments
                of gold, jewels, & pearls.
Climb onto a costly bed,
scented with sandalwood carvings,
with a well-washed coverlet, beautiful,
spread with a woolen quilt, brand new.
Like a blue lotus rising from the water
where no human beings dwell,
you will go to old age with your limbs unseen,
if you stay as you are in the holy life.’

‘What do you assume of any essence,
here in this cemetery grower, filled with corpses,
this body destined to break up?
What do you see when you look at me,
                you who are out of your mind?’

‘Your eyes are like those of a fawn,
like those of a sprite in the mountains.
Seeing your eyes, my sensual delight
                grows all the more.
Like tips they are, of blue lotuses,
in your golden face
Seeing your eyes, my sensual delight
                grows all the more.
Even if you should go far away,
I will think only of your pure,
                long-lashed gaze,
for there is nothing dearer to me
                than your eyes, O nymph with the languid regard.’

‘You want to stray from the road,
you want the moon as a plaything,
you want to jump over Mount Sineru,
you who have designs on one born of the Buddha.
For there is nothing anywhere at all
in the cosmos with its gods,
that would be an object of passion for me.
                I don’t even know what that passion would be,
                for it’s been killed, root & all, by the path.
Like embers from a pit–scattered,
like a bowl of poison–evaporated,
                I don’t even see what that passion would be,
                for it’s been killed, root & all, by the path.
Try to seduce one who hasn’t reflected on this,
or who has not followed the Master’s teaching.
But try it with this one who knows
                and you suffer.
For in the midst of praise & blame,
                pleasure & pain,
my mindfulness stands firm.
Knowing the unattractiveness
                of things compounded,
my mind cleaves to nothing at all.
I am a follower of the one well-gone,
riding the vehicle of the eightfold way:
My arrow removed, effluent-free,
I delight, having gone to an empty dwelling.
For I have seen well-painted puppets,
hitched up with sticks & strings,
made to dance in various ways.
When the sticks & strings are removed,
thrown away, scattered, shredded,
smashed into pieces, not to be found,
                in what will the mind there make its home?
This body of mine, which is just like that,
when devoid of dhammas doesn’t function.
When, devoid of dhammas, it doesn’t function,
                in what will the mind there make its home?
Like a mural you’ve seen, painted on a wall,
smeared with yellow orpiment,
there your vision has been distorted,
meaningless your human perception.
Like an evaporated mirage,
like a tree of gold in a dream,
like a magic show in the midst of a crowd–
                you run blind after what is unreal.
Resembling a ball of sealing wax,
set in a hollow,
with a bubble in the middle
and bathed with tears,
eye secretions are born there too:
The parts of the eye
are rolled all together
in various ways.’

Plucking out her lovely eye,
with mind unattached
she felt no regret.

‘Here, take this eye. It’s yours.’

Straightaway she gave it to him.
Straightaway his passion faded right there,
and he begged her forgiveness.

‘Be well, follower of the holy life.
                This sort of thing
                won’t happen again.
Harming a person like you
is like embracing a blazing fire,
It is as if I have seized a poisonous snake.
So may you be well. Forgive me.’

And released from there, the nun
went to the excellent Buddha’s presence.
When she saw the mark of his excellent merit,
                her eye became
                as it was before.

~ ~ ~

June 25, 2006

Angel Island Poetry

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 4:05 am

~ ~

America has power, but not justice.
In prison, we were victimized as if we were guilty.
Given no opportunity to explain, it was really brutal.
I bow my head in reflection but there is
nothing I can do.

~ ~

Because my house had bare walls, I began
rushing all about.
The waves are happy, laughing “Ha-ha!”
When I arrived on Island, I heard I was
forbidden to land.
I could do nothing but frown and feel angry at heaven.

~ ~

Clouds and hills all around, a single fresh color
Time slips away and cannot be recaptured
Although the feeling of spring is everywhere
How can we fulfill our heartfelt wish?

~ ~


Detained in this wooden house for several tens of days,
It is all because of the Mexican exclusion law which implicates me,
It’s a pity heroes have no way of exercising their prowess.
I can only await the word so that I can snap Zu’s whip.

From now on, I am departing far from this building.
All of my fellow villagers are rejoicing with me.
Don’t say that everything within is Western styled.
Even if it is built of jade, it has turned into a cage.

~ ~

Dwelling in the wooden building, I give vent to despair
Searching for a living while perching on a mountain–it’s hard to earn glory
Letters do not arrive, my thoughts in vain
In bitterness and sadness, I watch for my early release

~ ~


Being idle in the wooden building, I opened a window.
The morning breeze and bright moon lingered together.
I reminisce the native village far away, cut off by clouds and mountains.
On the little island the wailing of cold, wild geese can be faintly heard.

The hero who has lost his way can talk meaninglessly of the sword.
The poet at the end of the road can only ascend a tower.
One should know that when the country is weak, the people’s spirit dies.
Why else do we come to this place to be imprisoned?

~ ~

I am distressed that we Chinese are
in this wooden building
It is actually racial barriers which cause
difficulties on Yingtai Island.
Even while they are tyrannical they still
claim to be humanitarian.
I should regret my taking the risks of
coming in the first place.

~ ~

I came to the United States because I was poor
How was I to know fate would be so perverse as to imprison me
News and letters do not reach me and I can only fantasize.
I hear no news so who sympathizes with me?

~ ~


I hastened here for the sake of my stomach
And landed promptly in jail.
Imprisoned I am melancholy; even when I
eat, my heart is troubled.
They treat us Chinese badly, and feed us
yellowed greens.
My weak physique cannot take it; I am truly

~ ~

I have been in the wooden building for more than ten days
My eyes have seen people being deported back
Witnessing that scene makes one sad
Spending more than five thousand golden coins
I drifted alone to this place
If I am unlucky enough to be deported, my parents will be grieved.
The interest piles one on top of another
I do not know yet when it will be completely repaid to the creditor.

~ ~

I left my native village and drifted to the American continent
The moon has waned and waxed in turn several times
My family anxiously waits for me to mail them news
It is difficult to meet the wild geese and my sorrow is unending

~ ~

I remember since boarding a ship to America
Till now, the moon has waned twice
I want to send a letter of comfort but regret that there is little time
The family is expectant but their hopes are in vain

~ ~

I thoroughly hate the barbarians because they
do not respect justice.
They continually promulgate harsh laws to
show off their prowess.
They oppress the overseas Chinese and also
violate treaties.
They examine for hookworms and practice
hundreds of despotic acts.

~ ~


In January I started to leave for Mexico.
Passage reservations delayed me until mid-autumn.
I had whole-heartedly counted on a quick landing at the city,
But the year’s almost ending and I am still here in this building.

~ ~

In the quiet of night, I heard, faintly, the whistling of wind.
The forms and shadows saddened me; upon
seeing the landscape, I composed a poem.
The floating clouds, the fog, darken the sky.
The moon shines faintly as the insects chirp.
Grief and bitterness entwined are heaven sent.
The sad person sits alone, leaning by a window.

~ ~


The insects chirp outside the four walls.
The inmates often sigh.
Thinking of affairs back home,
Unconscious tears wet my lapel.

~ ~

It’s been a long time since I left my home village
Who could know I’d end up imprisoned in a wooden building?
I’m heartsick when I see my reflection, my handkerchief is soaked in tears
I ask you, what crime did I commit to deserve this?

— Li Hai of Nancun, Taishan

~ ~


The low building with three beams merely
shelters the body.
It is unbearable to relate the stories
accumulated on the Island slopes.
Wait till the day I become successful and
fulfill my wish!
I will not speak of love when I level
the immigration station.

~ ~

My belly is so full of discontent it is really difficult to relax.
I can only worry silently to myself.
At times I gaze at the cloud- and fog-enshrouded mountain-front.
It only deepens my sadness.

~ ~

The night is cool as I lie stiff on the steel bunk.
Before the window the moon lady shines on me.
Bored, I get up and stand beneath the cold window.
Sadly, I count the time that’s elapsed.
It is already mid-autumn,
We should all honor and enjoy her.
But I have not prepared even the most trifling gift and I feel embarrassed.

~ ~


Originally, I had intended to come to America last year.
Lack of money delayed me until early autumn.
It was on the day that the Weaver Maiden met the Cowherd
That I took passage on the President Lincoln.
I ate wind and tasted waves for more than twenty days.
Fortunately, I arrived safely on the American continent.
I thought I could land in a few days.
How was I to know I would become a prisoner suffering in the wooden building?
The barbarians’ abuse is really difficult to take.
When my family’s circumstances stir my emotions, a double stream of tears flow.
I only wish I can land in San Francisco soon.
Thus sparing me the additional sorrow here.

~ ~


Instead of remaining a citizen of China, I willingly became an ox.
I intended to come to America to earn a living.
The western styled building are lofty; but I have not the luck to live in them.
How was anyone to know that my dwelling place would be a prison.

~ ~


Leaving behind my writing brush and removing my sword, I came to America.
Who was to know two streams of tears would flow upon arriving here?
If there comes a day when I will have attained my ambition and become successful,
I will certainly behead the barbarians and spare not a single blade of grass.

~ ~

The sea-scape resembles lichen twisting
and turning for a thousand li.’
There is no shore to land and it is
difficult to walk.
With a gentle breeze I arrived at the city
thinking all would be so.
At ease, how was one to know he was to
live in a wooden building?

~ ~

There are tens of thousands of poems on these walls
They are all cries of suffering and sadness
The day I am rid of this prison and become successful
I must remember that this chapter once existed
I must be frugal in my dailyneeds
Needless extravagance usually leads to ruin
All my compatriots should remember China
Once you have made some small gains,
you should return home early.

Written by one from Heungshan

~ ~

This is a message to those who live here not
to worry excessively.
Instead, you must cast your idle worries to
the flowing stream.
Experiencing a little ordeal is not hardship.
Napoleon was once a prisoner on an island.

~ ~

The wooden hut imprisonment produces nothing but boredom and sadness,
Here I often try to recall how many full moons my home village has had.
While folks at home wait anxiously by the door for my letters day by day,
who could I ask to pass the words of my being alive here to them?

All of us in the wood prison feel the same boredom and sadness,
Here I recall how much hardship we had to endure to come thus far.
Nobody could tell us when we are allowed to get through this pass,
Months and years are wasted in great emptiness and helplessness.

~ ~

June 24, 2006

Gods of Poetry (part three): Nuada

Filed under: Uncategorized — Clattery MacHinery @ 1:59 am

In Nuada Airgetlam, or Nuada of the Silver Arm, we encounter a political god of poetry: one that when ruling, poetry is thriving. He is an Irish god, related to the Leanan Sidhe, touched on in Part One. Their abodes are hidden in such a way that no mortal can see them, and no one knows if they came to Ireland by wind, sea, or land.

Nuada was the king of Ireland and leader of these Tuatha Dé Danann, “people of the Goddess Danu.” His was a good rule in which poetry and the economy thrived. But, he lost an arm in battle, disqualifying him from being king. His brother Bres took over, and ruled oppressively. Taxes and tributes soared far into tyrannical levels. Power was given over to outsiders. Poets as well as members of the ruling house, were set to menial tasks.

Nuada’s brother Dian Cecht made, or magically developed, a silver arm, with a hand that had each finger working dexterously. A bid to return Nuada to the throne won out, and he was reseated as king. Nuada’s Welch cognate is Lludd Llaw Eraint, “Lludd of the Silver Hand.”

Let’s back up into an aside, and look at the fabled source of poetry for the Tuatha Dé Danann. Here is a quote from Gods and Fighting Men: Part I Book I: Fight with the Firbolgs.

And the three things they put above all others were the plough and the sun and the hazel-tree, so that it was said in the time to come that Ireland was divided between those three, Coil the hazel, and Cecht the plough, and Grian the sun.

And they had a well below the sea where the nine hazels of wisdom were growing; that is, the hazels of inspiration and of the knowledge of poetry. And their leaves and their blossoms would break out in the same hour, and would fall on the well in a shower that raised a purple wave. And then the five salmon that were waiting there would eat the nuts, and their colour would come out in the red spots of their skin, and any person that would eat one of those salmon would know all wisdom and all poetry. And there were seven streams of wisdom that sprang from that well and turned back to it again; and the people of many arts have all drank from that well.

That well with the salmon of poetry, is not lost on the Irish to this day, vis a vis Salmon Publishing. And the idea travels. As a further aside, here is a link to a poem at

Salmon by Jorie Graham

As the Norse poet drinks mead that fell from the up high gods, the Irish poet eats salmon from down deep magic. The Irish gods, alongside the folklore of faeries and elves, are beings more powerful than mere mortals; but, like people, are very much of the earth. The stories hint that these gods cames from the perceptions of a less powerful indigenous people, as more powerful outsiders came in to rule the territory with superior weaponry and more powerful economy. The new ruling group did not wipe out the indigenous people, but possibly kept the natives away from where they lived. Such ways of the new rulers–sometimes favorable, sometimes harsh–kept them mysterious, as if they were superior, beings who could hide their abodes from mortal eyes. And just as Londoners made up a werewolf to explain some grisley murders, the powerful folklore that sprang from the ruled versus the rulers, got filled with magic.

Encyclopedia Mythica characterizes Nuada as being similar to Neptune in what he is a god over, the sea, for instance, but sorcery and magic as well. One significant difference is that Neptune is not generally thought of as a god of poetry, not that he is somehow disqualified from inspiring a given poet, but he is not so characterized as Nuada is.

Two significant aspects of Nuada’s spring out to differentiate him: his magic silver hand or arm, and that poetry thrived under his rule. Nuada is our god who politically frees poets to write. It is okay for a poet to express him- or herself. Alternatively, Bres is the god who “inspires” governments to tyrannize poets. Nuada, through his economic planning and his dealings with other tribes and nations, supplies poets with the space and setting necessary for writing, indeed welcomes us.

A metaphor springs from the idea that his right arm was severed. This was the arm that wielded his invisible sword, with which he would cut foes in two. This arm becomes replaced with the silver arm while he is becoming the god of poetry, through differentiation with his brother Bres. Here we have the remarkable function that much great poetry has, of splitting the reader in a killing of sorts. And obviously, powerful poetry not only springs from good government, but is at the right hand of it, replacing the weaponry of war.


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