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To the Fates

Grant me just one summer, powerful ones, 
And just one autumn for ripe songs, 
That my heart, filled with that sweet 
Music, may more willingly die within me.

The soul, denied its divine heritage in life, 
Won’t find rest down in Hades either. 
But if what is holy to me, the poem 
That rests in my heart, succeeds —

Then welcome, silent world of shadows! 
I’ll be content, even though it’s not my own lyre 
That leads me downwards.  Once I’ll have 
Lived like the gods, and more isn’t necessary.

- Friedrich Hölderlin 1770 - 1843

The Panther

Here, a deep sombre piece, which brings to mind a huge complaint/constraint; how to read great works in a foreign tongue? Take your pick or speak forth your Deutsche…

The Panther
Translated by Daniel K. Statnekov

His gaze, blunted

by the unnumbered procession 
of iron bars, uncounted 
as his softly padded steps.

Smooth motion of blood and sinew 
turning in its own, small circle 
prescribed by bars and walls 
…and skin, confined.

Suddenly, without warning, 
a flash of light and image 
pierces the caged brain, 
and passing through its beating heart 
to stillness finds its way.

The Panther 
Translated by D.C. Barranco, echt mench

From seeing only bars, his seeing is exhausted. 
It holds nothing, nothing more.

To him, the world is bars, 
100,000 bars, and behind the bars, nothing.

The lithe swinging of his rhythmic, easy stride 
circles an inner hub – a dance of energy, 
‘round a central point.

Inside, a gigantic Will stands stunned and numb.

Only, at times, the curtains rise.

Silently, a vision enters, 
slips though the focused silence of his shoulders, 
reaches his heart, 
and dies.

The Panther 
Translated by Ronnie Pontiac

His sight, passing by the bars, 
exhausted, sees nothing else. 
For him there are a thousand bars, 
a thousand bars, and beyond them no world.

His limber lope and powerful pace 
ever turning in the smallest circle 
dance strength around a center 
where a great will stands numb.

Sometimes the veil of his pupil parts 
silently an image goes in 
past the tense poise of still limbs 
only to die in his heart.

The Panther 
Translated by Doug Sutton

His glance has become so weary from pacing 
Along the bars that it can hold no more. 
It seems like a thousand bars encasing 
Him, and beyond the thousand bars, no world.

The soft tread of steps strong and supple 
Does in the tiniest of circles revolve, 
It is like of dance of force around a middle, 
In which, benumbed, there stands a great resolve.

Only sometimes like a curtain does the pupil 
Silently slide open - then an image gains entry, 
passes through members tensely still - 
and in the heart, ceases to be.

The Panther 
Translated by Leonard Cottrell

The weary passage of these bars 
has made his gaze an empty stare: 
as if the bars were all there are 
and that behind them nothing’s there.

Strong and supple strides around 
and back to their beginning come. 
A swirling play of power surrounds 
a noble will that stands there numb.

Just at times the curtain parts 
quietly inside his eyes. 
Along a nerve, awareness darts - 
arriving in his heart, it dies.

The Panther 
Translated by J.B. Leishman

His gaze those bars keep passing is so misted 
with tiredness, it can take in nothing more. 
He feels as though a thousand bars existed, 
and no more world beyond them than before.

Those supply-powerful paddings, turning there 
in the tiniest of circles, well might be 
the dance of forces round a center where 
some mighty will stands paralyticly.

Just now and then the pupil’s noiseless shutter 
is lifted — then an image will indart, 
down through the limbs’ intensive stillness flutter 
and end its being in the heart.

The Panther 
Translated by Gerald Duffy

The pacing past the bars, the steady stare 
A tiredness grown so nothing holds him here 
Of a thousand iron bars he seems aware 
A thousand bars, no world beyond this sphere.

With supple strength, with soft and gentle mode 
He turns in smallest circles about his flank 
It’s like a dance of power around a node 
His great volition standing stunned and blank.

Sometimes his eyelids rise so he can sense 
A picture enter in the moment’s part 
Descend through limbs of sinew, silent, tense 
And thinning, fading, cease within his heart.

September 15, 2006

The Panther 
Translated by Maren Mudaly

His gaze is from the passing of the bars 
grown so tired that nothing it can hold 
to him it’s as if there’s bars like stars 
and behind the bars no life to mold

His soft stride, smooth strong paws lie 
placed in smallest circles as if bond by chains 
is like a dance of strength around a bull’s eye 
where tranquilized a grand will remains

Only sometimes lifts the veil over the eye’s lens 
silently out of way – Then an image passes through 
rushes through the nerves alerted waiting sense 
dies in the heart for there’s nothing possible to do

Translation by Winslow Shea

His gaze, so worn with passing through the bars, 
holds nothing now, not even its own stare. 
There is, it seems to him, a thousand bars, 
and past the thousand bars, no world out there.

The soft padding of his strong paws on the floor, 
Revolving in the smallest ring of all, 
is like a dance of power round a core 
in which a mighty will stands stunned, in stall.

Sometimes the shutter of his pupil parts 
without a sound — and then an image will 
slip through the silent tension of the limbs 
until, stopped in the heart, it’s still.

The Panther 
Translation by A. S. Kline, copyright 2004

His gaze is so wearied from the bars 
Passing by, that it can hold no more. 
It’s as if a thousand bars were given him: 
And behind the thousand bars, no world.

The soft pace of his powerful, supple stride, 
That draws him round in tightened circles, 
Is like the dance of force about a centre, 
In which a greater will stands paralysed.

Only, at times, the curtain of his pupils 
Silently rises – Then an image enters, 
Rushes through his tense, arrested limbs, 
And echoing, inside his heart, is gone.

Translated by Klaus J. Peter

Its gaze grown tired from passing
of the bars can’t hold a thing.
It feels as if there were a thousand bars
and behind these bars no world.

The soft stride of smooth strong steps
rotates in smallest circles
is like a dance of power around a mid
in which benumbed a great will rests.

Only sometimes the curtain of the pupil
raises silently and lets an image enter
passes through the silence of his tense limbs
and in his heart it seizes to exist.

Translated by Edward Snow

His gaze has from the pasing of the bars
grown so tired, that it holds nothing anymore.
It seems to him there are a thousand bars
and behind a thousand bars no world.

The supple pace of powerful soft strides,
turning in the very smallest circle,
is like a dance of strength around a center
in which a great will stands numbed.

Only sometimes the curtain of the pupils
soundlessly slides up —. Then an image enters,
glides through the limbs’ taut stillness,
dives into the heart and dies.

Translated by Robert Spielman

His gaze, from the constantly passing bars,
Has grown so weary that it can hold no more.
To him it is as if there are a thousand bars,
And beyond those thousand bars, no world.

The gentle slink of his powerful, supple stride,
Turning in on itself in ever-smaller circles,
Is as a ritual dance of strength around a center
In which a great will stands paralyzed.

Occasionally the curtain of his pupils
Will silently rise, admitting an image.
Passing through the tense stillness of his limbs,
It plunges into his heart and is no more.

Translated by A.L. Breitling

His concept is overwhelmed by bars
of so much constancy that ennui embraces emptiness.
For him there are a thousand bars,
and beyond the thousand bars, oblivion.

His gait belies a crueler walk of prisoned spirit,
pacing in a gyre the cross of sacrifice;
it is a dance which finds it axis at the center
of a greater loss of will, not recalcitrance.

Only incidentally does the nictitation fail;
and in that moment, with victim seen,
he goes again to cunning stillness;
then from his being - to heart - to gone.

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

His tired gaze—from passing endless bars—
has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
and out beyond these bars exists no world.

His supple gait, the smoothness of strong strides
that gently turn in ever smaller circles
perform a dance of strength, centered deep within
a will, stunned, but untamed, indomitable.

But sometimes the curtains of his eyelids part,
the pupils of his eyes dilate as images
of past encounters enter while through his limbs
a tension strains in silence
only to cease to be, to die within his heart.

Translation by Peter J. Seng

His Vision from the Passing by of bars
Has grown so tired that it holds nothing more.
It seems to him there are a thousand bars,
And out beyond those thousand bars no world.

His supple lope and flexibly strong strides,
That always in the smallest circle turn,
Are like a dance of strength around a middle
In which, benumbed, a great will stands.

Just sometimes, does the veil upon his eye
Silently rise; then goes an image in,
Goes through the nervous poise of his still limbs,
And ceases, in his heart, to be.

The following translation is by Guntram Deichsel:

The Panther

His eyes became from passing bars
so weary, that they hold no sight.
He feels there were a thousand bars,
behind the thousand bars no light.

The soft gait of the lithe strong pace
in cramped circles on a narrow spot
is like a dance of force around a place
in which a dazed great will does moan its lot.

At times, the curtain of his vision
Silently slides aside -. An image enters then,
goes through the members’ quiet tension,
ceasing existence deep in his heart’s den.

English ©: Guntram Deichsel, Biberach on the Riss, Germany
Nov1997 / re-done Mar 1999

Guntram is a mathematician and physicsist by education with a Ph.D. in informatics. He had been lecturing biomathematics in the academic setting until he became a biometrician in the pharmaceutical industry where he is involved in the clinical development of new drugs, presently in cancer research. Guntram translates poems as a way to hone his skills in writing technical reports in English. You can find his translation of Rilke’s Autumn Day HERE. You can also find a poem that Guntram wrote himself HERE.

The following translation is by Bart Odom:

From going through the bars, his gaze has become so exhausted 
that it holds nothing anymore. 
To him it is as if there are a thousand bars, 
and beyond the thousand bars, no world.

The easy swinging of that lithe, potent stride, 
which turns in on itself in ever-smaller circles, 
is like a dance of power around a center 
in which a great will stands benumbed.

Only at times the curtain of the pupils 
rises silently—then an image goes in, 
goes though the tightened stillness of the limbs, 
enters the heart and is no more.

The following translation is by Stephen Mitchell:

The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold anything else. 
It seems to him there are a thousand bars;
and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides 
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils lifts, quietly—. 
An image enters in, 
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

The following translation is by Tatyana Dali:

The Panther

A thousand bars surround and charm him there,
Flash on, obscure, and hide the world beyond.
His gaze grown worn to just a bare stare,
So weary, it no longer holds a bond.

Soft paws, strong stride, his muscles svelte and supple,
the circles tighten, taut steps like a drill.
At center cage - a dance of strength. Uncoupled,
as in a trance, there stands a mighty will.

Sometimes, eye curtain lifts, the eye is willing,
the pupil dilates and an image rushes in.
It travels throughout the taunted body’s stillness
to thrill the heart and die within.

The following translation is by Walter Arndt:

The Panther

His gaze has been so worn by the procession
Of bars that it no longer makes a bond.
Around, a thousand bars seem to be flashing,
And in their flashing show no world beyond.

The lissom steps which round out and re-enter
That tightest circuit of their turning drill
Are like a dance of strength about a center
Wherein there stands benumbed a mighty will.

Only from time to time the pupil’s shutter
Will draw apart: an image enters then,
To travel through the tautened body’s utter
Stillness—and in the heart to end.

The following translation is by C.F. MacIntyre:

The Panther

His sight from ever gazing through the bars
has grown so blunt that it sees nothing more.
It seems to him that thousands of bars are
before him, and behind them nothing merely.

The easy motion of his supple stride,
which turns about the very smallest circle,
is like a dance of strength about a center
in which a mighty will stands stupefied.

Only sometimes when the pupil’s film
soundlessly opens ….then one image fills
and glides through the quiet tension of the limbs
into the heart and ceases and is still.

Herbsttag ~ Autumn Day

Rainer Maria Rilke: Autumn Day

Lord: Now’s the time. Let sumptuous summer end.
Set all your turning shadows on the sun-dials
And spread the meadows open to the wind.

Command the final fruits to load the vine,
allow them two more days of southern heat,
thrust them to their perfection and secrete
the final sweetness into bodied wine.

Whoever has no house yet must make do,
Whoever is alone will long be so,
Will write long letters, stay up, read and go
Wandering up and down each avenue
In vague unease when leaves are out below.

The Original: 


Herr: Es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Aleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben

…in the far outstrip

Look quickly… across the horizon
a flash of blue, a howl of wicked ponies
a blur, a snarl… and then it passed.
Yet no Bell helmet could contain the dazzling smile
countless insects had met their fate against this splendid grid.
Then, far in the distance we heard it
subtly first… then cresting like a wave
reverberations of the fabled laugh.
The Rudy HaHa, arcing wheelies in the far outstrip
taming yet another august steed.

Kanso & Wabi-sabi

I have experienced Wabi-sabi of late thanks to my talented friend and food mentor Marc Matsumoto of No Recipes fame. Marc brings a unique and almost childlike freshness to his cooking and when I take an inspiration from him it’s always very rewarding. One of the things I most enjoy is his sense of simplicity. I believe Japanese culture offers much to us in this regard.

Wabi and sabi refers to a mindful approach to everyday life. In Zen philosophy there are 7 aesthetic principles for achieving Wabi-Sabi.

Fukinsei: asymmetry, irregularity

Kanso: simplicity

Koko: basic, weathered

Shizen: without pretense, natural

Yugen: subtly profound grace, not obvious

Datsuzoku: unbounded by convention, free

Seijaku: tranquility

While I am certainly far from a Zen master, I find peace in it and I want to focus on the second principle, Kanso, and more specifically it’s relationship to dining.

Perusing Marc’s site the other day I came across his riff on an old favorite, Bavette Cacio & Pepe. I have enjoyed this as one of my favorite foods since I was a small lad. Marc added 1 simple ingredient, lemon zest which took what I believe to be a truly great dish up to the level of sublime.

Japanese culture (and Italian) seems to grok that really great, simple ingredients, carefully prepared, produce the most extraordinary results. Last night the crew had requested  Miso Soup. I also wanted to use some of the fresh Shiitake and Shimeji mushrooms I had on hand. I used these as a riff on Marc’s Soboro Don, replacing the chicken with tofu and mushrooms. Served with a side of Tatsoi and carrot stir fry, it provided wonderful Kanso and Seijaku.

The Net of Gems

Also known as Indra’s Net of Gems, this metaphor describes how each of us is a gem with many facets each reflecting and redirecting facets of each other.

Stephen Mitchell in his book The Enlightened Mind describes it well:

"The Net of Indra" is a profound and subtle metaphor for the structure of reality. Imagine a vast net; at each crossing point there is a jewel; each jewel is perfectly clear and reflects all the other jewels in the net, the way two mirrors placed opposite each other will reflect an image ad infinitum. The jewel in this metaphor stands for an individual being, or an individual consciousness, or a cell or an atom. Every jewel is intimately connected with all other jewels in the universe, and a change in one jewel means a change, however slight, in every other jewel."

I was brought back to this point of reference by an old friend living in Europe that I have been communicating with again via Facebook. I certainly think that Facebook and other social networking interfaces are modern incarnations of this net. As my friend Christopher said of social networking: “it’s as good as we make it”. If we choose brilliance and clarity the ‘gems’ will reflect that, if we choose darkeness and obfuscation that too will be redirected.

I also suspect that Hermann Hesse was alluding to this in his Magnum Opus “Das Glasperlenspiel”. A book, a challenge, an opportunity that has waited patiently in the background, biding it’s time.

Thus, it is redirected — any takers?

Lentils - the Ancient Delight

Lentils - one of the earliest domesticated crops - are a nutritional powerhouse; they contain more protein than any other plant source besides soybeans and hemp. And they are amazingly delicious and very versatile.

Christopher got my lentil mojo fired up for this season when he mentioned a soup he made a couple of nights back; Lentil and Butternut Squash soup. This seems a wicked good flavor combo to me and I plan to explore it soon

Last night, wanting a lentil soup fix but wanting something quick and easy, I riffed on a recipe I had seen at 101 Cookbooks (great food blog btw). I used a base of tiny orange lentils (dals from my local Indo/Paki Market) which cook into a creamy pulp very quickly. To this I added French Green Lentils (which are the opposite - they hold their shape and texture well) along with some brown Basmati rice. I made a base with shallots, white onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, Spanish mild paprika along with just a hint of whole cumin seed all sautéed in a peppery California olive oil. Chicken broth added, brought to a boil and then added the rice and lentils. It was very good and really a quick soup.

Next time I plan to incorporate the squash, but cooked separately to attain carmelization then added at the end. Here is my take for the next soup:

French Green Lentil with Brown Rice & Kale Soup.

I plan to add some diced carrots, they really harmonize kale with lentils. A bit heavier on the crushed red pepper and more garlic. I will pan sauté the cubed Butternut in brown butter adding some cubed bread towards the end for crouton crisp fresh sage in the butter. Then add them all together as a topping on the soup which could even be further enhanced with a dollop of Crème fraîche.

There are moments when one feels free from one’s own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. At such moments one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable; life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only Being.

- Albert Einstein


OK this post is not in the morning. It’s Sunday — so sue me.

I’ve discovered a wonderful spice - Sumac. It comes from a big genus, (Rhus) with about 250 species, best known for Poison Oak and Poison Ivy. The Mediterranean variety, Rhus Coriaria bears small purple drupes that are ground into a lovely spice. Fairly interchangeable with lemon juice; it has a nice acidic twang, with a very light fruitiness that is less sharp than citrus. The Romans used it in many dishes and it’s still popular today in Middle Eastern cookery as spice rub, garnish to salads and sauces as well as sprinkled on rice - especially loved by the Persians.

Give it a try, I have a HUGE jar of it and am happy to send out samples to any who request.

Rhus coriaria

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