The Narrow Road (5) – Haiku and Tanka – December 8, 2015

an artist’s touch
these bright rainbow laces
for her sneakers


with sadness and horror
abandoned bunkers

silent echoes
the battles waged by men
now long gone
where now the bright ideals
of right and might and country

rows and rows
tombstones in white marble
where no one comes
Florence, Anzio, Cassino
allied war cemeteries

© G.s.k. ‘15

Carpe Diem #875 the journey continues: iris leaves; summer grass

Today’s episode on “The Narrow Road” had many facets and was very long (it would be well worth your while to click on the link above and visit the post)  but below are just a few extracts that stimulated memories from my world – the first haiku is about a young artist I once knew … she embroidered her sneakers and laced them in bright colours — the second extracts inspired the above set of haiku and tanka as they caused me to remember the blood bathes of the first and second World Wars ( estimated deaths by Encyclopaedia Britannica gives the following:

WW One: 8,529,000

WW Two (military) 19,402,000
WW Two (civilian) 17,391,000)

  … though in Europe eons passed when there was nothing but wars and skirmishes – for Lord, God or simply plunder – I think that it is a sort of miracle that Western Europe has known peace for nearly 70 years :

When the time came for us to say good-bye, this painter gave me his own drawings of Matsushima and Shiogama and two pairs of straw sandals with laces dyed in the deep blue of the iris. In this last appears most clearly perhaps the true artistic nature of this man.

Iris leaves
I tie them to my feet
as sandal cords

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Stopping briefly at the River Noda no Tamagawa and the so-called Rock in the Offing, I came to the pine woods called Sue no Matsuyama, where I found a temple called Masshozan and a great number of tombstones scattered among the trees. It was a depressing sight indeed, for young or old, loved or loving, we must all go to such a place at the end of our lives. ….

I left for Hiraizumi on the twelfth and arrived at there after wandering some twenty miles in two days.

It was here that the glory of three generations of the Fujiwara family passed away like a snatch of empty dream. The ruins of the main gate greeted my eyes a mile before I came upon Lord Hidehira’s mansion, which had been utterly reduced to rice-paddies. Mount Kinkei alone retained its original shape. As I climbed one of the foothills called Takadate, where Lord Yoshitsune met his death, I saw the River Kitakami running through the plains of Nambu in its full force, and its tributary, Koromogawa, winding along the site of the Izumigashiro castle and pouring into the big river directly below my eyes. The ruined house of Lord Yasuhira was located to the north of the barrier-gate of Koromogaseki, thus blocking the entrance from the Nambu area and forming a protection against barbarous intruders from the north. Indeed, many a feat of chivalrous valor was repeated here during the short span of the three generations, but both the actors and the deeds have long been dead and passed into oblivion. When a country is defeated, there remain only mountains and rivers, and on a ruined castle in spring only grasses thrive. I sat down on my hat and wept bitterly till I almost forgot time.

summer grass
the only remains of soldiers’

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Haibun – May 28, 2014 – Nationalism


Once banners were flown and made literally to fly in order to celebrate a family or a quarter of a city, like in Siena, a province or religion.  Then, there were the rich potent reigning families like the Tudors or the Hapsburgs.  Each having their own special family stem symbolising their power and might.  Then one day, the idea of nations became a part of our collective memory.  We suddenly became a “people” no longer just loyal to our family or our province and king but a mythological “people”.

Before that age, conquests were made in the name of a person, not a people.  The “people”, when the last line was drawn were the property of some Vizier, Emporer or King or maybe a religion.

In the 18th century, nationalism was born.  First among nations was England, here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

With the emergence of a national public sphere and an integrated, country-wide economy in 18th century England, people began to identify with the country at large, rather than the smaller unit of their family, town or province. The early emergence of a popular patriotic nationalism took place in the mid-18th century, and was actively promoted by the government and by the writers and intellectuals of the time. National symbols, anthems, myths, flags and narratives were assiduously constructed and adopted. The Union Flag was adopted as a national one, the patriotic songRule, Britannia! was composed by Thomas Arne in 1740, and the cartoonist John Arbuthnot created the character of John Bull as the personification of the national spirit.


The term nationalism was first used by Johann Gottfried Herder the prophet of this new creed. Herder gave Germans new pride in their origins, and proclaimed a national message within the sphere of language, which he believed determines national thought and culture. He attached exceptional importance to the concept of nationality and of patriotism – “he that has lost his patriotic spirit has lost himself and the whole worlds about himself”, whilst teaching that “in a certain sense every human perfection is national”.

The political development of nationalism and the push for popular sovereignty culminated with the ethnic/national revolutions of Europe, for instance the Greek War of Independence. Since that time, nationalism has become one of the most significant political and social forces in history, perhaps most notably as a major influence or postulate of World War I and especially World War II. Benedict Anderson argued that, “Print language is what invents nationalism, not a particular language per se”.


From then onwards we’ve seen the price of rising of nationalism, even today from  the Basque country to Chechnya, the Tuaregs in Mali to the Eritreans … and so many more besides. Nationalism has been used to bond people even more than a religion or a single ruler ever could have done.  Basically, nationalism bonds totally through the creation of the myth of a pre-existing “people”;  united by language, culture, religion and race even when that unity never actually existed, as par example Italy before the Risorgimento, Franco’s Spain or Nazi Germany, just to name a few.

a flag, a song, a language
dividing  people

Written for Ligo Haibun – May 26, 2014