The Japanese Garden
Originally published on January 16, 2006 in Poetry
The Japanese Garden
This is one from the archive. Why? Because I was talking to someone about rhythm in poetry and quoted this poem to them. It was the first one where I really grasped how the underlying rhythm of the stressed syllables could enhance the reading and meaning of the words themselves, harmonising to the benefit of the whole.
For this I have to thank a lovely guy called Rodeinol (on site), who gave his time to teach me enough to make a halfway decent attempt at a traditional poem where the rhythm is used to enhance mood – strong, swift, slow, jerky – all of these.
Hope you will see what I mean.
A Japanese garden uses water to mimic the stages of our lives.
Deep greening water, slow pushing and thrusting,
Wells to the air in a clear rocky bowl,
The fount of our life-force, growing and proving
Completing the form of each new nascent soul.
Out from the birthplace, squalling and thrashing,
Twisting with vigour, it spills into space,
Splashing and falling, sparkling in sunlight,
Then calming to rest with a clear glassy grace.
Cool and translucent, an infant in childhood,
Strong, swift and clear, with no guilt to assuage,
Rapidly flowing, it grows and it gathers,
Increasing in strength for its coming of age.
Suddenly tumbling! Losing composure,
Surprised by the rocks, it first pauses; then splash!
Falls in a foment, turmoil in torrent,
Flying and leaping, now carefree and rash.
Racing fast onward without any respite,
Rushing and pressing, no cause for delay,
Washing through gullies and spinning in whirlpools
Now is the time to press on with life’s play.
Water seduced and divided by islands,
Channels which roil next to those that pour slow.
Funnels and gullies explored by the water,
Each an exemplar of life’s random flow.
Slowing and steady the water slides onwards,
Calming its pace as it broadens and smoothes.
The form of the water, our life’s middle passage
Gaining in wisdom and losing its moods.
Blending and weaving, the streams leave their channels,
Spreading out thin in the pool of late life.
Wide, slow and steady, the sons and the daughters,
Sisters and brothers, are ending their strife.
In the deep pool the cold waters are gathering,
Dark, slow and final, a stillness is here.
Ready to bid a farewell to the garden,
Currents curl soft as our fate becomes clear.
So as our souls are preparing for glory
Each life has travelled its own path alone.
Starting together, we finish together,
Bound in one World where we’ve faced the unknown.
Now as our spirits rise up to the heavens,
Lifting as vapours and wind-winged with grace,
The cycle of life is rejoined by the water,
Borne once again to the start of life’s race.