Monthly Archives: March 2015

Nature Notes: The Bee and the Guava Blossom

guava treeA
Depending on where you are in the world, the Guava reigns supreme for eight months of the year, but particularly during the March to September months when the trees (Psidium guajava) ripen. They are adaptable, drought tolerant, and – depending on the variety – will produce fruit two to three years running.

In India, it flourishes up to an altitude of at least 3, 000 feet. In the American tropics, as elsewhere, Guava is enjoyed as a jelly or juice, or, simply as a fresh fruit. Indeed, there are some who at breakfast cannot do without Guava jelly on bread or toast for its beguiling sweetness.

In the Indian subcontinent the Guava is called amrood and its chief pollinator is the honeybee (Apis mellifera.) That inimitable combination inspired me to write the poem below:

Behold the bee                               Behold the guava blossom
so busy                                             welcome to her bosom
she                                                    all comely lissom
you’ll agree                                                   her boon, winsome
yet free and easy                                  money-spinning besom
her honey-spooning spree.              worth a Queen’s ransom.

And she resplendent in pristine white
her dew-decked tiara refracting the sunlight
through fleet, sweet-scented clouds of flight

and fancy
which her tale-wagging buzzer, the pastural bee,
indulges       with       nectarine   intimacy.

 Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

A Spring Song

robin

On the verge of a new April, I want to offer this poem, written almost fifty years ago to celebrate the advent of spring and the fact of my being at that time in the United States together with my family for just over two years. It was inspired by a piece in the New York Times in 1977.

I
Now the morning
Is April-bright with bird song:
It is a different sound,
One with wind and spated brooks
And rustling trees
Just beginning to bud.

II
They sing,
The birds of meadows and hillside:
When do they come?
How do they know where to go?
They come quietly
Just drifting in and ————–

III
Here they are,
One day, fully at home:
A flight of robins arrive,
And scatter over a park slope
Or a suburban village green
Full of strut and eager satisfaction.

IV
Suddenly
The migrants are back
And making this a busier world
For they must mate,
They must build nests and lay eggs,
And raise their hatchlings.

V
From an egg
The size of the end of your thumb
Comes flight and color and song,
The whole birdness of this world:
You know that the supersonic jets
Do not yet command the air.

Robin's_Nest
Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Homage to Coleridge

coleridge

Wikipedia Image
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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [1798], st. 9

water   water   water   water   water   water   water   water
water   water   water   water   water   water   water   water
water   water   every   water   water   water   water   water
water   water   water   where  water   water   water   water
water   water   water   water   nor  a   water   water   water
water   water   water   water   water   ny  dr   water   water
water   water   water   water   water   water   op  to   water
water   water   water   water   water   water   water   drink

River Nile Cruise
View of a misty River Nile – at its widest!
Taken  2/2/2010 by Azim
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 Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

World Poetry Day – March 21, 2015

Transcreating Virgil’s Latin verse (at bottom in Italics) I offer, as an amateur poet, his Eclogues, IX, 33 in English to portray today’s special significance to bards of all stripes around the globe:

I too have songs up my sleeve;
I too have been called a poet
By herdsmen I do not believe.
For I feel I cannot compare yet
With Cinna or Varius,
But cackle like a goose
‘Mong swans melodious.

Sunt et mihi carmina,
   me quoque dicunt
Vatem pastores; sed non
   ergo cedulus illis.
Nam neque adhuc Vario
   videor nec dicere Cinna
Digna, sed argutos inter
   strepere anser olores.

 Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

The Blight of Spring

010

014

Top. A “dusting” of the white stuff on Friday morning,
when spring 2015 was supposed to have sprung
Bottom. Daren’t step out for my evening walk –
because of the heavy snow!

I’d no idea a short while back when I transcreated Basho’s haiku welcoming spring (Haru nare ya) as “Spring, all hail!” (no double-entendre intended at the time) that it would instead be heralding the return of winter – if not hail precisely, certainly an inch, two, three or more of the white stuff!

I’m reminded of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring that portrays abstractly a ritual of pagan Russia – the adoration of Nature by primitive man. It opens with a tonal painting of the spring season. Sorry folks! The analogy ends right there, because I’ve recorded using modern technology a completely different scenario that brings to mind a nursery – rather than a Nature – rhyme, which I’m sure you’ll all recall from your infancy:

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then,
Poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn,
To keep himself warm,
And hide his head under the wing,
Poor thing!

Poor thing indeed – including me!

 Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

Man Comes to Wisdom by Degrees

eagle

The Greek Lyricist, Pindar, knew it all! Indeed, no Greek poet says so much as Pindar about his art. That said, he might have delved unknowingly into an ancient Sanskrit aphorism that reads (swipe the blank below with your mouse for the Devanagari and Roman script:)

वति विक्षतम: क्र्मश: जन:
Bhavati Vikshatama: Kramasha: Jana:

Man comes to wisdom by degrees.

Consider, for a moment, his poem, the opening of which I’ve transcreated as “The Crows and the Eagle.” Below is my English version – a transliterated version of the original Greek follows in italics:

Wise is he who knows by Nature mainly;
The pair of them, mere learners, loudly babble,
And like crows do chitter-chatter vainly
Against the Bird of Zeus – the holy Eagle.

Sophos ho polla eidos phya
Mathontes de labroi
Panglossia korakes hos akrante garyeton
Dios pros ornicha theion.

Copyright © Azim Lewis Mayadas 2015

“Pi a la Mode” Day

Pi

This mosaic is outside the mathematics building
at the Technische Universität Berlin.

No – that’s not a misspelling of your favorite dessert! It so happens that many of us had barely overcome ‘friggatriskaidekaphobia’ yesterday (that’s the geek’s Greek for ‘fear of Friday the Thirteenth’) when we were confronted by the math squad’s squeal of delight to announce that today – in the American version of March 14 (that is, 3/14/15) – would not come around until the elapse of 100 years.

My son-on-law, who lives in Boston, is a numbers nut, so I emailed him this morning in the hopes of reaching him before the magic time of 9:26:53, forgetting of course that Saturday morns usually find him out with his son on the soccer field – and he (the dad) doesn’t believe in cellphones!

Anyhow, all’s well that ends well – and without further ado I can now divulge to you that the value (to ten digits) of the Greek letter pi [π ] equals 3.141592653. As you can see, the first five digits are today’s date, while the remaining five digits are (were!) the ‘witching’ time, which flew by in a matter of a mere second earlier this morning.

So relax until the Ides of March 2115, assuming they come around at their appointed hour. ‘Til then, ye all, stay well and be well – au revoir!

Copyright © Azim Lewis Mayadas 2015

Of Man and God

Mirza Ziauddin Akmal (1875-1965)

akmal

A distinguished linguist, Ziauddin Akmal – my grandfather – is seen above as a young man at the Oriental College in London when he wrote articles on Hindu legends, as well as on the origin of the Hungarian nation that were translated from English into Hungarian and published in the Budapest Naplo from time to time.  On his return to India, after spending several years in Europe and South Africa, he settled with his family in Lahore, his ancestral home, and among his many literary activities he wrote a slim volume of Urdu poetry, whence I have chosen this gem, “Of Man and God,” on the 140th anniversary of his birth. My English versification – followed by the Urdu and Roman Urdu versions – is, I hope, the beginning of my writing more about him in some other publishing medium as a multitasking world traveler, India-based industrialist and, in my opinion, a *Renaissance man.

Of Man and God there are Tales of old
That Signs of Mankind’s Ascent unfold:
As Light from the Lamp of Knowledge grows
So Man the Truth of his Being knows.

اِنسان اَور خُدا کی پُرآنی  کہانیاں
ہَیں اِرتقاےُ نوعِ بشرکی نِشانیاں
جُوں جُوں چِراغِ عِلم کی بَڑهتی ہَے روشنی
پَہچانتا ہَے اپنی حَقِیقَت کو آدمی

Insan aur xuda ki purani kahaniyan
Hain irtaqae nav’i basharki nishaniyan
Jun jun chiragh-i-ilm ki barhti hai roshni
pahchanta hai apni haqiqat ko admi.

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*Excerpt from the 1938 Edition of Who’s Who In India
MIRZA ZIAUDDIN AKMAL
From the age of 17 to 39, a globe trotter with a love for adventure. Lived in London during the Sinn Fein outrages, visited Turkey during the Turco-Greek war of 1897; Hungary during students’ riots; Cuba during the rebellion of 1899; and South Africa during the Boer War and the Zulu rebellion. For many years a cigarette manufacturer, abroad and in India. (At the time of this article), he was General Manager and Technology Expert of the Hyderabad Deccan Cigarette Factory. A believer in the militarization of the British Empire as the only safe-guard of world peace, and a writer of pamphlets and books on the subject.
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Copyright © Azim Lewis Mayadas 2015

Springtide

Teika

                                                 Wikipedia Illustration of Fujiwara Teika

As the days grow longer, and nights shorter, the thoughts of poets everywhere wax euphoric on the advent of spring, or so I felt when I first came across the Tanka verses of Fujiwara Teika (1182-1241) – they are passionate, light-hearted and elaborate to boot.

Among his poems, the one below is a picturesque gem, which you may judge for yourself in scanning my transcreation of the original Japanese:

Brief night of springtide,
On which floats my bridge of dreams
Breaking off anon;
And into the sky a cloud
Takes leave of the mountainside.

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Copyright © Azim Lewis Mayadas 2015

 

The Ultimate Tax

Let’s admit it: there are those of us who postpone, postpone and postpone……But, hey, a time comes when putting off can prove to be calamitous to your wellbeing and future financial prospects!

Consider that we’re now heading inexorably toward a deadline next month when – I know you’ve already guessed it! – further procrastination on your part will not sit well with a certain essential branch of government.

It was a man of literature, the great Urdu poet, Hali (1837-1914) who chose to use humor when he wrote his famous poem, “Tax”, to great effect – and to spur his wayward countrymen in South Asia to responsible action! The Roman Urdu version in italics of Hali’s timeless verses follows my own transcreation, a note on which will be found at the bottom of the page; also, you will find there the Urdu script version.

“Menfolk,” said the Prof,
“Are prone to putting off,
But the time of death
They can’t – not by a breath!”

Then spoke up a Shroff*
(Discreetly with a cough:)
“Likewise too, kind Sir,
Tax-time one can’t defer!”

1. Va‘iz ne kaha kih vaqt sab jate hain tal,
Ik vaqt se apne to nahin talti to ajal.
2. Ki ‘arz par ik seth ne uth kar kih Huzur,
Hai taiks ka vaqt bhi isi tarah atal!

ا واعِظ نے کَہا کِہ وَقت سَب جاتے هَیں ٹَلہَے
اِک وَقت سے اَپنے تو نَہیں ٹَلتی تو اَجَل
۲ کی عَرض پَر اِک سیٹه نے اُٹه کَر کِہ حُضُور
ہَے ٹَیکس کا  وَقت بهی اِسی طَرح اَٹَل
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*In the East, a shroff is a banker, a money-lender, or money-changer.

Note: I find the above quatrain to be almost an epigram, and so conceived its metapoeia form as a cross between the gay, tripping measure of a shortened, modified trochaic meter rhyming in pairs, and E. C. Bentley’s humorous clerihew. The result is two stanzas of catalectic verse against Hali’s one.

Copyright © Azim Lewis Mayadas 2015