“Lord Nyo’s Battle Cry”, from “The Nightingale’s Song”

A Hearty HELLO!!! to the readers in Hungary!!~ “Köszönöm!

Recently I started reading the long poems in “The Nightingale’s Song”, something I hope to publish in the spring of 2013. I came across this piece, unfinished
and certainly in need rewriting, but I thought I would post it here, just for an airing. I also picked up one of my different editions of the Manyoshu, a 8th century collection of poems, and I fell in love with this manuscript all over again. These poems, written by courtesans, aristocrats, warriors, and in the oral tradition of tradesmen and fishermen, were collected and published in Japan in this 8th century. They speak across the centuries to the sentiments of men and women all over the world. Perhaps we haven’t changed that much and suffer the same pangs of longing and love as these poets so long ago.

There are many editions of the Manyoshu to be read, but one of the best I have is “Ten Thousand Leaves: Love Poems from the Manyoshu”, translated from the Japanese by Harold Wright.

The poems from the Manyoshu are in quotations….trying to get them in order has proved impossible this morning.
Lady Nyo

Perhaps a strong man
Should not offer love without
Having love returned
But this grieving ugly warrior
Still finds his love is growing

When the news of Lady Nyo
Birthing a son
Reached Lord Nyo
He was far from home,
To the east,
Over mountains
In dangerous, alien territory.

A general in the service
Of his lord,
The gore of battle,
This issue of ‘dying with honor’
Began at first light,
The air soon filled with sounds of battle-
Dying horses, dying men
Drawing their last gasps of life,
Churned into the mud of immeasurable violence.

Death, not new life
Was before his eyes at dawn,
And death, not life
Pillowed his head at night.

A battle rages around me,
But inside this old warrior
A battle rages inside my heart.
It is heavy with sorrow,
So tired beyond my old bones.

What good have we done
In watering the soil
With blood and offal
of our sons?

He stunk with the blood of battle
As his bow and swords cut a swath
Through men in service to another
And when the battle horns went silent,
With tattered banners like defeated clouds
Hanging limp over the field,
Acrid smoke stained everything
And the piteous cries of the dying
Echoed in his ears.
He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods he didn’t believe in
Were merciful
And his thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors
Towards home and a baby.

Still, he could not leave.
He was caught by status
The prestige of his clan
And could not desert the
Fate set out for him by birth.

Ah! This was fate of a man in servitude
To his Lord Daimyo.
This was the fate
Of a man chained to Honor.

Still, in the darkest hours of the night
The soft and perfumed shape of his wife
Floated down from the fleeting clouds
that covered the eye of the virgin moon,
Came to him through the smoke of battlefield fires,
And he turned on his pallet
To embrace this haunting comfort.

Off in the distance
There I see my loved one’s home
On the horizon.
How I long to be there soon
Get along black steed of mine!

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2012

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14 Responses to ““Lord Nyo’s Battle Cry”, from “The Nightingale’s Song””

  1. Steve E Says:

    Dear Lady Jane!

    Still I am not clear as to who wrote what here, but will assume these are your creations, writings:

    How excellently you present Lord Nyo’s dichotomy-of-conscience, and the following of a vision in the night.

    You’ve given a glimpse of war, fighting, combat, which is so clear as to match the storied memories of my older cousins who fought in WWII

    Then for a “man of (two) honorables), he chose the riskier second road. Above his own fame and glory and his sure-to-have-been receiver of accolades from the king’s realm, he chose the first honor of a man…family, home.

    Whoever wrote these, you Jane, are who sent us/me the messages of life which are universal in all kingdoms, in all ways of life. Prudence–oh! what an ‘ugly’ word–grin! Yes, we should all be so Prude as Lord NYO, in bowing before our creator, and our mission.

    You are (and I’ve said this before) a most impressive writer Jane. Thank you.
    Love and PEACE!
    Steve E

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hello Steve!

    I am so glad you got a chance to read this….the Manyoshu’s poems are in bold type…just put that in the introduction…lol! and the rest are mine woven around these poems.

    These poems of “The Nightingale’s Song” are so highly emotional, and what surprised me most was that readers who are MEN loved them the most! That was a surprise to me, but it shouldn’t be.

    This “Battle Cry” piece is really just a flash of sentiment, and I wrote it so quickly a few months ago…wanting to continue this series, but I didn’t put much into it…just an outline, actually of what I wanted to present. But….perhaps with some work, it is enough.

    That is the thing with poetry….when do you stop? When is it finished?? LOL!

    Yes, the way of all life, seems the best way to describe the mighty Manyoshu’s poems. They speak to our hearts and experience directly…regardless the century or culture. There is something so universal in these poems (Manyoshu) that they transcend all things.

    I love your guote: and it seems to dovetail exactly to what Lord Nyo is feeling. Honor and duty.

    Thank you, Steve, for reading this, and thank you for your insightful comment. You made my day.

    Peace and definitely Love,
    Jane

  3. johnallenrichter Says:

    I so love to read your stories of Lord and Lady Nyo as they unravel….. I don’t know if you attempted here to fashion this poem after the 8th century poets you mentionned, but while reading I idealized this time so eloquently with your descriptions of the time and feelings of Lord Nyo. It’s hard for some people today to realize what it is like to be so vigorously devoted to ideals that the thought of laying down one’s life is only a second thought. And here you mentionned Lord Nyo willing to give his life for his “lord,” which is such an accurate description I think of Japanese warriors through out history, but particularly during the early centuries when feudalism must have been strong. As an ex-warrior myself I can attest that although death surrounds a soldier and thoughts of glory can bring him to do amazing things, there is no doubt that the heaviest thing a soldier carries to battle is his heart. It is what sustains him. And I don’t think that has changed in all the years that the written word has been present…. Beautiful work Lady Nyo……..

  4. ladynyo Says:

    John…I am so moved that you are reading this. A couple of modern-day warriors have been reading this series, and they always write in and speak of their own battle experience. Your words are as eloquent as any of them! But of course, you are a poet after my own heart.

    I came across the Manyoshu when I was well into “The Nightingale’s Song” and decided to refashion the whole series on pieces (tanka) of this weighty document. They spoke to a humanity and honesty that doesn’t diminish over the years.

    Yes, Lord Nyo is willing to give his life for his lord daimyo (Lord Mori, actually) but there was only shame and suicide IF he wavered in his duty. There was no honorable life after if this wasn’t upheld.

    I have been suffering a ‘dissatisfaction of life’ lately, and when I went back to this series, and the Manyoushu just for the pure beauty of this 8th century poetry, I found my own heart and spirits lifting.

    “the heart is the heaviest thing a soldier carries to battle”….John, with your permission, I would like to weave your words here into this poem.

    The bold faced type is the Manyoshu, the rest is mine.

    Thank you so much, John, for reading and your comment. It goes straight to my troubled heart.

    Lady Nyo

  5. RD Says:

    this is what drives the heart onward…no surrender in battle or Love

    powerfully beautiful words

    Peace

  6. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, RD..and a comment like this drives me to write better! Seeing this poem from a different perspective and especially from veterans and men, makes me realize the trauma of war…modern or ancient.

    Thank you so much for reading and your lovely and heart felt comment.

    Peace,

    Lady Nyo

  7. hedgewitch Says:

    A sense of the turmoil of life, the bloodiness of it, of all life being a battleground that strives endlessly to wear us out to our ‘old bones’–and of course, also a very literal and feeling portrait of a Samurai in Lord Nyo. My favorite lines here come in the next to last stanza–for dreams like this, we continue living. Thanks also, Jane, for the info on your edition of the Manyoshu–I really need to read it.

  8. brian miller Says:

    smiles…this is really cool…i like how you have blended in the verse with yours…and knowing the tale i have read before and the lords challenge of writing his own poetry it accentuates that for me….and to see his continued struggle with his heart and duty…

  9. ladynyo Says:

    Thanks, Brian. I am so moved by our modern day vets who have written in…on the blog and privately…and how this strikes a chord in them.

    I think this portrayal of a Samurai makes it more real, because there were men under that armor. And things haven’t really changed much with warriors.

    Peace to you, Brian. You are in my thoughts lately.

    Jane

  10. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Hedge for reading this short poem and liking it. Getting it.

    Oh, Joy….reading the Manyoshu has really changed my life….or the way I think of so many things. To read something 1200 years old…(My math ain’t my strong suit) and to realize that the human heart and life struggle isn’t changed a bit. We are them, and they are us…regardless of class, culture or age.

    yep, that is my favorite stanza, too. Sometimes things just fit what you are trying to express. There is a fatality to all of this, and perhaps life in general, neh? What we can drag out of it, into the light where we can fashion something different and more of comfort..sometimes is rare.

    There are many editions of the Manyoshu, and I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of them. Of course, the problems come with the English translators. Some of them, like the English men who are writing in the post Victorian times…well, they ‘soften’ the text too much. I’ll check and privately send you some others who I think do a really close to the bones translation.

    Thanks again, Hedge.

    Jane

  11. ManicDdaily Says:

    Jane – have not had time to get the Manyoshu but the taste of what it has done for your work is absolutely alluring delicious wonderful – I love the death pillowing head – the simplicity, yet profundity, the acceptance of fate while still doing one’s duty/part stoutly – the undercurrent always of love in all its forms – wonderful. k. Please do post translation you prefer. k.

  12. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Sweetie! I am so glad you read this…I was hoping you would check it out. I am so far behind reading other poet’s work because I had oral surgery Monday and the pain meds, along with all the steriods, and other crap, are kicking in right now….LOL! But I’ll get around today and tomorrow.

    Yes, the Manuyoshu has broadened my vision on poetry in general, it speaks through the ages with an honesty and simplicity that goes straight to my heart. I don’t really like love poetry, or romantic poetry…find it too personal…and some do it well, but I don’t. LOL@

    I will check out my other editions and post what I think are the best translations. I think the romantic period of the turn of the century has problems, and it’s sometimes wide off the mark of what was intended in the original Japanese. Not that my Japanese is that good I can translate from the page, but it’s improving. Japanese is such a complex and simple language in the same breath!

    I am so touched, especially….by our modern ‘old warriors’ who write and comment about their own understanding of honor and duty during war and battle. They make it real for me, because my view of all this is shorted by lack of experience, and probably a too romantic touch. War is hell, in any culture or time.

    A some point I will write something about this great issue of Bushido. It ain’t what we westerners think or believe. It was an Ideal, and not really followed by the masses of samurai. But not much different than any philosophical construct. LOL! This was such a brutal time, and the niceties of philosophy don’t exactly (far from it) get used in a standard way.

    Some of the most honest and touching poetry are the “Death Poems” from samurai who are ordered for various and sundry reasons to kill themselves. They are beautiful in their rawness and expose so much about the personalities. I haven’t yet found a good collection, but I haven’t been looking much. I will because these poems blow the ‘polite’ cover off of so much during those times….

    Thank you again, K, for reading and your comment. We grow with our poetry, but bringing in a different culture for me always makes me more mindful that we are not so different or apart in our lives. Human beings are pretty much the same, and our reactions are no much different in a thousand years, or so. LOL!

    Jane

  13. Ignacio Malikowski Says:

    Interesting ideas, many thanks for sharing them in “Lord Nyo’s Battle Cry”, from “The Nightingale’s Song” Lady Nyo’s Weblog.

  14. Luz Martich Says:

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