Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chainless (Harmony Of Head And Heart By Moe Hein)


Throughout the history of our literature, Myanmar poetry has borne a high tradition, forming a prominent part of it. However, not much of Myanmar poetry has extended beyond the country's frontiers. The reason is obvious. Seldom has a Myanmar poet attempted to render into English his original work in Myanmar. Incidentally, a few Myanmar nationals have done so a compatriot's poem in the native language. Much less has a Myanmar ventured to express his poetic ideas in English, a gateway to the wide world.

Now, a Myanmar national's poem in English has found its way to claiming the attention of the international literary observers. He is none other than Moe Hein, an offspring of Journal Kyaw U Chit Maung and Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay, literary luminaries of their time. He has inherited his father's features, seriousness and equanimity, patriotism and literary bent. Compared to his parents, he is virtually a blossom in the dust.

Moe Hein's poem "Head and Heart" has been published in the Anthology of Poems titled "The Nearness Of Day" by the National Library of Poetry, Maryland, U.S.A,. It is also included in the eleven best poems recorded as "Sound of Poetry" on tape.

The poem "Head and Heart" reminds me of a poem in "Bodhicaryavatara" composed in Sanskrit by an AD-7 Buddhist philosopher and poet Santideva, and also of a passage under "Buddha, His Life and Teachings" by Paul Carus (1852-1929).

The paraphrase of the Sanskrit poem is as follows:

I will be a refuge to the destitute; a caravan to lonely travellers; a ferryboat or a bridge to those wanting to cross the river;
a lamp to those in darkness; bed and board to the homeless; a minion to those needing attendant; thus will I be of service to all beings.

The following is the passge penned by Paul Carus:

There is balm for the wounded, and there is bread for the hungry. There is water for the thirsty, and there is hope for the despairing. There is light for those in darkness, and there is inexhaustible blessing for the upright.

Heal your wounds, you wounded, and eat your fill, you hungry. Rest, you weary, and you who are thirsty quench your thirst. Look up to the light, you who sit in darkness, be full of good cheer, you who are forlorn.

Not unlike the above mentioned two excerpts, Moe Hein's "Head and Heart" (See page -34) is, indeed, a lovely lotus blooming out of the pond-bed of Buddhistic thoughts.

It is ardently hoped that Moe Hein's "Harmony of Head and Heart", a collection of his English poems, will bridge the two realms of poetry -- Myanmar and the rest of the world.




Love me

not in a way that chains you to me

by passion, pity or obligation.

What I am

will not always be as time and age

are chipping me away.

What I have

is not forever mine as I may leave them

or they may leave me under any


What I do

can't always be to your liking

and may even be against your wishes.

So dear

if you wish love me in a way

you would love a young child.

Nothing more nothing less

just a pure love called "Metta"

If so

your heart will not flutter

your head will be at ease.

A love

free from bondage.

(From Poems On Sentiments)

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