Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ono No Komachi, a poem

I sometimes read something--an aphorism, a part of a novel, someone's comment, or a poem-- that causes me to stop and reread it again, and sometimes several times. Frequently I don't know why that particular utterance intrigues me, and sometimes I'm not even sure what it means. But, it happens, and this poem is one that caused me to halt when I read it yesterday. And, I'm not even sure of what it means. Perhaps it's an illustration of the last lines of Archibald MacLeish's "Ars Poetica"

A poem should not mean
But be.

Perhaps. But here is the poem, a short one:

A thing which fades
With no outward sign--
Is the flower
Of the heart of man
In this world!

-- Ono No Komachi --
from The World's Best Poems
Mark van Doran and Garibaldi M. Lapolla, eds.

Is the poet sad here, or resigned?


  1. Fred,

    Now I'm going to be thinking about this poem for the rest of the day, lol. I see what you mean. I read it and automatically agree with it, but the idea itself is hard to put into words. The best way I can express it is that it's hard for people to know the inner life of others. Even if something major is going on inside that deeply affects that person, you may not see it expressed outwardly, especially if it happens a little at a time ( "fades").

  2. Cheryl,

    Yes, it's a gradual fading. I wonder if it's just being in the world that diminishes us. We bit by bit lose the enthusiasm and energy and spirit of youth as we age.