Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"Binding"             | 3     [gatha]

  The binding   is the way

the pages join  

  into a close-knit folio

O ages!  

  within the realm of thought

this seems a coin  

  of wonderment

the way you join the pages  


Blogger ~River~ said...

These gathas are interesting. How would you define the form? I tried some cursory googling, but it wasn't much help.

Thu Jan 26, 04:59:00 AM PST  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Good question, River.
My encounter with this word gatha (as what I'm deeming a poetic form) is partly from Chinese Buddhism -- where whenever there is a verse, it's typically called a gatha. Those would typically be verses translated from Sanskrit to Chinese, and in my vague imagination (at least), I think of them as being short, 4-line poems.

So based on this admittedly non-scholarly, impressionistic association, I'm calling this sort of 4-line poem of mine (which can be thought of as a "meditation poem") a gatha.

Besides this background, I'm also aware of the word gatha from Hazrat Inayat Khan; at times he wrote in various poetic forms in English, and he would use various Asian-poetry names for some of his poems. Unfortunately I don't have the book on hand to check whether indeed he calls some of his poems gathas (as I'm thinking is so), and if so, whether they're anything like these! So that's a question-mark.

As for the Chinese poems based on Sanskrit poems, -- my recollection of the question of poss. rhyme-scheme is even vaguer than most of the above (and it's made more problematic by phonetic changes in Chinese; though Buddhist scholars familiar with the Sanskrit originals -- these would typically be in Mahayana writings of some sort (whether scriptures, lectures, or commentaries) -- could address the question of rhyming, if any, in the Sanskrit; I'm unsure if there was any). In fact, gatha may be a fairly catch-all term for a verse in Mahayana literature.

so (whew!) in short, essentially by fiat I'm choosing to call 4-line meditational verses with (generally) a simple, A/B/A/B rhyme-scheme, gathas: primarily as a kind of hat-tip to those Buddhist antecedents.

Some 4-line poems are rather famous in the early history of Chan [Zen] in China: for instance, those written respectively by the 5th and 6th Patriarchs of that tradition (the latter one, according to legend, originally penned on the kitchen wall anonymously). I think those had a rubai-style rhyme scheme: i.e. A/A/x/A. This was a common form in old China. In general, if I write in an A/A/x/A form, I'm calling it rubai [from the Persian] -- sometimes (but not always) written with a repeating phrase....

glad you asked ;-)
cheers, d.i.

Thu Jan 26, 06:40:00 AM PST  

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