Arthur Davison Ficke

from Seven Japanese Paintings (1916-1917)

I. The Pine Branch

A Painting by Kenzan

A Pine-branch stretches out
Across the silence. . . .

. . . Grey silence, untroubled
Until this living thing
Smote it into music. . . .

The wind is restless now.
Silence shall be no more.
Greyness shall be no more,
Nor any peace.
For a singing curve and color
Have entered the vast dwelling—
A life, singing
Of the suns and the snows.
Now the old gods tremble
In their timeless halls;
Now the far halls beyond Orion
Are shaken with music.
For this chord, living,
This soul that knows not peace,
This dream-dust—stretches out
Across the silence.

VI. Dream of a Chinese Rock-Promontory

A Screen by Sesshu

Across quiet waters, far off
Faint misty mountains unfold in limitless ranges,
Guarding some dream world,—
Some dim tranquil world of golden pagodas,
Lawns and pools, terraces and deep groves,
Vermilion palaces, and peacock-haunted gardens.

That is afar:
And the quiet waters lie between.

But here,
Immediate, insistent,
Rises out of the quiet water
Stormily, ridge by ridge,
Buttress by buttress,
Cliff beyond cliff beyond cliff,
The jagged headland.

Gigantic, primeval,
Juts the grey promontory.
It is bleaker than death, though temples deck it;
Starker than ice, though pines bestrew it;
Inhuman, though the village at its base
Humanly nestles.

With writhing turrets,
With dizzy gulfs,
With winding abysses
And cloven brinks,
The rock rises
In ripples, in waves, in spires—
It rises fiercely, with an appalling passion,—
An apparition of dark monstrous life,—
And foaming up at last to its highest crest
Stands frozen
To freeze the blood of generations.




Four of Ficke’s ‘Japanese Paintings’, including ‘The Pine Branch’, appeared in Poetry in November 1916 (BG8), and the sequence of seven appeared the following year in An April Elegy (BG9).

For an overview of Ficke’s Japanese interests see Arthur Davison Ficke and Japan in the Bibliography, and for a note about Ficke’s work in print see At Ise.

























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