Notes to Poem: Paris Opera

Peter Y. Chou,

Preface: While compiling Notes to the poem "Hymn to the Sun" (Feb. 17-March 3, 2009), and looking up references on Sun Symbolism, I read Harold Bayley's Lost Language of Symbolism. In his Chapter XII "The Eye of the Universe", he wrote about Perun, the Sun God worshipped by the Slavs. That Perun may be interpreted in French as père un— One Father stirred up a host of imagery. The Sun as Father germinating life on earth through its light rays and warmth and also the Sun as One, whose major constituent Hydrogen with atomic number 1, is the building block of all the elements of the universe. Per is found in Peru (children of the Sun) and Persia (founded by Persica meaning Sun). The Peruvian Solar hero Pirhua Manca is translated as "Son of the Sun" and "revealer of pir, light". Par is the foundation of our word parent. Pur is French for pure and is the root of prime, primal, primitive. Per meaning through or thorough, is the foundation of adjectives perfect, permanent, permeating, persevering, pervasive, perennial, present. In 2007, Robert Pinsky told the class to study the etymology of words in the Oxford English Dictionary and use a word with different connotations in our poems. In my poem "Maguari Stork", the words back, black, acrobatic, Bacchus and their variants were used 16 times in the poem, and none of the students noticed. After finding per in the midst of opera, I began compiling a list of words that had per not just at the beginning but in the middle and end of words (superior, experience, sperm, deeper, sleeper, supper). I also included words with par, pir, por, pur as they related to the sun. Then I searched for these words in the poems of Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Dante, Frank O'Hara, Saint-John Perse, among others. I consulted with Virgil, the beekeeper to be my guide in this adventurous journey, not knowing how this poem will end. These notes are a document of that adventure. When I showed my first draft of this poem to Mark Doty (March 11), he perceived at once that my prose poem was too dense to read, and suggested breaking it up into stanzas. I thank him for the insight of chipping that huge chunk of ice so it's more palatable to drink.

Commentary on poem "Paris Opera"

Paris Opera
Opera is "a sung drama" whose 1644 etymology is from the Italian opera meaning "work" akin to Latin oper-, opus. Then I realized that the word opera contains Op, Per, Ra— the Sun God worshipped by the Greeks, Slavs, and Egyptians. Apollo may be seen as Ap ol lo, the 'orb of the Lord Everlasting'. Ap is the root of the Greek apo, meaning "far away", equated with our up and upwards, both meaning towards the orb: it is also the foundation of optimus, the best, optimism or faith in the highest. Op is also the root of hope and happy and the foundation of optics, optical relating to the eye. And Europe means "the splendour of morning". Per means "through" and "thorough" and Perun, "Fire of the Sun or the One Fire", is worshipped by the Slavs as the Sun God of lightning. Per is the foundation of perfect, permanent, permeating, persevering, pervasive, perennial, and present. Ra is the Egyptian Sun God and chief deity, linked to words such as ray, radiant, rational. [Harold Bayley's The Lost Language of Symbolism (1912)]. Since Paris is "the city of lights", I chose "Paris Opera" as the title of this poem, hoping to illumine myself while discovering so many words linked to the sun.

Persistence prompts the gatekeeper to let me in
"yet because of his persistence, he will rise and give him as much as he wants. Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you."
Gospel of Luke XI.8-9

the Perfume Garden
The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight (circa 1410) by Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nafzawi is a sex manual and work of erotic literature. But the Perfume Garden referred to here is the spiritual Paradise which Dante ascended to with Beatrice. Persian Garden: In Old Persian paridaida- is a walled garden, transliterated into Greek paradeisoi, into the Latin paradisus, and from there entered into European languages, e.g., French paradis, German Paradies, and English paradise.

perennials bloom
Perennials (Latin: per through, annus, year) is a plant that lives for more than two years. Perennials, especially small flowering plants, grow and bloom over the spring and summer and then die back every autumn and winter, then return in the spring from their root-stock rather than seeding themselves as an annual plant does.

beneath a pepper tree the beekeeper
When I found "beekeeper" and "pepper" containing "per" ("sun"), I was delighted to incorporate them into this poem. Not knowing how this poem using "per" words will lead me, I needed help. Then I realized that Dante had Virgil as his guide in his spiritual quest, so the beekeeper Virgil could be my guide too. Virgil on bees:
"Just as the bees in early summer, busy
beneath the sunlight through the flowered meadows,
when some lead on their full grown young and others
press out the flowing honey, pack the cells
with sweet nectar, or gather in the burdens
of those returning; some, in columns drive
the drones, a lazy herd, out of the hives;
the work is fervent, and the fragrant honey
is sweet with thyme."

— Virgil (70 BC-19 BC), The Aeneid, I.611-619:
    translated by Allen Mandelbaum, University of California Press, 1971, p. 16
References to bees are also found in Virgil's Eclogue:
"The sally hedge, with bees of Hybla sipping its blossom,
Shall often hum you gently to sleep."
"The bees are swarming around the sacred oak" (VII.13)
"Goats never have enough of leafage, nor bees of clover," (X.29)
— translated by C. Day Lewis, The Ecolgues and Georgics of Virgil
    Anchor Books, New York, 1964, pp. 11, 51, 73 (Online Text)
An entire book devoted to bees is in Virgil's Georgics:
"Let me sweeten my poem with honey for its theme...
First you must settle on a place to put the hives—
Look for a sheltered spot, not used for grazing.
Wind prevents bees from carrying home their food;...
Have a surface where bees can settle, spread their wings
to the sun when a showery gust has slowed their flight"
(IV.1, 8-10, 27-28)
"To make a proper job of it, a beekeeper
Must be a gardener too. He must collect wild thyme,
Pine seedlings from the hills, and flowering shrubs,
And plant them with his own hands and keep them watered."
"Some say that bees, as they drink the air,
Draw in with it a trace of an Essence Divine,
That a spirit fills earth and sky and sea;
And when the body fails, life leaps lightly away to
The depth of heaven, a brightness pointing the stars."
— translated by Robert Wells, The Georgics
     Carcanet New Press, Manchester, 1982, pp. 79, 82, 85 (Online Text)

Saint-John Perse's Birds The original text of Perse's Oiseaux (1962) was written to accompany a series of bird lithographs by Georges Braque. Robert Fitzgerald's version of Birds (Bollingen Series, 1963) was the first translation from French to English. Working closely with Perse, Fitzgerald was scrupulous and literal. Mahon's version (2002) tries to find a more idiomatic mode without sacrificing the often incantatory tone characteristic of Perse. His is a poetry of constantly renewed expectation. Birds is about birds, but also about the artistic vocation itself. Yeats's "lonely impulse of delight". (Derek Mahon's Translator's Note of Birds, p. 9)

Braque's paintings
Back in 2000, I composed a web page on Braque's lithograph Bird in the Foliage (1961) that I've forgotten until searching for images in Google today. Braque did this lithograph at the age of 79, reminiscent of his papiers collés (collage composition consisting only of pasted paper) rendered almost fifty years earlier. The bird's shape is suggestive of a guitar and heart— the miracle of the artist's brush bringing forth a birdsong from his heart. Despite the bird's planar form, lacking volume or depth, it seems to hover at an amazingly high altitude. This is achieved by the collage of newspaper columns resembling an aerial view of rows of streets and houses. The green dabs of paint look like clouds or vegetation beneath the solitary bird that's soaring in flight. Globe Gallery has a wonderful "Collage of Birds" by Braque.

supernatural glory in dream-light of pearls and sparkling sperms
"Braque's birds remain for him charged with history...
without excluding him from the supernatural glory."
they swam there once in advance of our own dream through
the sparkling sperm, the lunar lactation and mother-of-pearl
dream-light of polar pearls. Their response? 'Go farther!...'
— Saint-John Perse, Oiseaux (Birds) (1962)
     A version by Derek Mahon, Gallery Books, Loughcrew, Ireland (2002)

Mu Chi's Persimmons
Six Persimmons (1270) by Mu Ch'i (1200-1274) is in Ryoko-in, Daitoku-ji, Kyoto. I've compared this painting to Gary Snyder's poem "Persimmons" as well as the Mind of Mu Ch'i in a web page on "Art Gallery: Sacred Paintings" (3-21-1996).

Dali's Hypercubus
Salvador Dali (1904-1989):
Corpus Hypercubus (1954)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Dali's Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) portrays Christ's crucifixion on a hypercube. Dali's wife Gala is the figure at bottom left contemplating on the crucified Jesus. The scene is depicted in front of the bay of Port Lligat, a small village on the Mediterranean Sea, near Catalonia, Spain. If one moves the cube one unit length into the fourth dimension, it generates a 4-dimensional unit hypercube (a unit tesseract). Hence, the hypercube represents the fourth dimension beyond our 3-D world. Dali's portrayal of the crucified Christ levitating shows transcendance beyond the earth. This Dali painting is in Jeff Brittin's Ayn Rand book with the picture caption: "Salvador Dali, Corpus Hypercubus, oil on canvas, 29" by 23", 1954. Rand's favorite painting— she spent hours contemplating it at the Metropolitan Musuem of art. She even felt a kinship between her personal view of John Galt's defiance over his torture in Atlas Shrugged and Dali's depiction of the suffering of Jesus."

perspectives in Leonardo's Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper (1498) is a fresco at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. The Last Supper portrays the reaction given by each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him. The painting also utilizes the art of perspective employing geometrical principles of the vanishing point. An example is discussed by Tomás Garda-Salgado in Leonardo, Vol. 41, No. 2, April 2008 (Enlarged Image)

life's winged purposes—
"I believe in those winged purposes"
— Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855), line 231

the universe perpetually flowing
"To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,"
— Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855), line 404

deeper into our soul
"The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul"
— Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855), line 653

pervading hush
"I lie in the night air in my red shirt...
the pervading hush is for my sake"

— Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855), line 847

pure perfection performed on us from the unknown
"The pure perfection... performed upon thee... whose coming is unknown"
— James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939), 26.1, 26.19, 26.20-21

persuasions of lovers
"I hear the persuasions of lovers"
— Walt Whitman, "Poem of Salutation" (1856), line 26

purity, he says simply unwavering perception of God
"purity: unwavering perception of God"
— Saint Diadochos of Photiki (c. 400-480), Philokalia
     "On Spiritual Knowledge" (p. 252)
"Man flows at once to God when the channel of purity is open."
— Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden (1854),
     Chapter 11 "Higher Laws"

Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed
Guide for the Perplexed (1190) by Maimonides (1135-1204). It was written in the 12th Century in the form of a three-volume letter to his student, Rabbi Joseph ben Judah of Ceuta. According to Maimonides, he wrote the Guide "to promote the true understanding of the real spirit of the Law, to guide those religious persons who, adhering to the Torah, have studied philosophy and are embarrassed by the contradictions between the teachings of philosophy and the literal sense of the Torah." When Maimonides talked about all the angels have a specific function, it dawned upon me (circa 1968) that the enzymes within us are microscopic angels, since each enzyme has a specific function doing a task that it alone can perform in the metabolic processes of our body.

Rousseau's Peregrination of a Solitary Dreamer
On Sept. 1, 1979, I watched a most beautiful sunset with Paul Brunton by the lakeside of Vevey. PB told me that Rousseau sat at the same spot marvelling at the grandeur of nature. "But over 200 years ago, this place was all wilderness," said PB "so it was ideal for meditation." When I asked how did he know, PB replied "It's all in Rousseau's Peregrination of a Solitary Dreamer." I learned a new word— to peregrinate means to take a stroll, and upon returning to Boston, I found Peter France's translation of Rousseau's Reveries of the Solitary Walker just published by Penguin in 1979. The book is composed of ten meditations written in the two years before Rousseau's death in 1778 at age 64. Rousseau experienced tranquillity in his meditations, talking about Delphi's "Know Thyself" and inner enlightenment— "My meditations are never more delighful than when I can forget myself. I feel transports of joy and inexpressible raptures in becoming fused as it were with the great system of beings and identifying myself with the whole of nature."

Perceval's Grail Quest
Perceval, the Story of the Grail was written between 1181 and 1191 by Chrétien de Troyes. It breaks off after only 9,000 lines. Later authors added 54,000 more lines in what are known collectively as the Four Continuations. Perceval is the earliest recorded account of the Quest for the Holy Grail. Another important author of the Grail story was the German writer, named Wolfram von Eschenbach (1170-1220). Wolfram wrote a large volume, called Parzival. In these stories, Percival learns about courage in his battles with knights and eventually finds the Grail of Wisdom.

Sir Gawain's Perilous Bed
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative romance outlining an adventure of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table. On his way to the Green Chapel to meet the Green Knight, Gawain meets Bertilak de Hautdesert, the lord of the castle, and his beautiful wife. Before going hunting the next day, Bertilak proposes a bargain to Gawain: he will give Gawain whatever he catches, on condition that Gawain give him whatever he might gain during the day. Gawain accepts. After Bertilak leaves, the lady of the castle, Lady Bertilak, visits Gawain's bedroom to seduce him. Despite her best efforts, however, he yields nothing but a single kiss. When Bertilak returns and gives Gawain the deer he has killed, his guest responds by returning the lady's kiss to Bertilak, without divulging its source. The next day, the lady comes again, Gawain dodges her advances, and there is a similar exchange of a hunted boar for two kisses. She comes once more on the third morning, and Gawain accepts from her a green silk girdle, which the lady promises will keep him from all physical harm. They exchange three kisses. That evening, Bertilak returns with a fox, which he exchanges with Gawain for the three kisses. Gawain keeps the girdle, however. The next day, Gawain leaves for the Green Chapel with the girdle. He finds the Green Knight at the chapel sharpening an axe, and, as arranged, bends over to receive his blow. The Green Knight swings to behead Gawain, but holds back twice, only striking softly on the third swing, causing a small scar on his neck. The Green Knight then reveals himself to be the lord of the castle, Bertilak de Hautdesert. Joseph Campbell loves to tell this tale, as a reminder of the knight's honor surrounded by temptations.

Perhaps the period that ends
"it is perhaps the period that ends
the problem as a proposition of days and days"

— Frank O'Hara, "For the Chinese New Year & For Bill Berksom" (1961), p. 64

this Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is one of the four stages of development that the world goes through as part of the cycle of Yugas, as described in Indian scriptures, the others being Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga. Most interpretations of Hindu scriptures believe that we are now in the Kali Yuga, a period where civilization degenerates spiritually and people lose their connections to God. When this period of darkness and wickedness ends, a new Satya Yuga or Golden Age begins. The ending of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012 has generated much doomsday predictions of cataclysmic events. However others see this as a spiritual transformation rather than apocalypse on earth.

the enlightened to perceive New Periods—
"It has no Future— but itself—
Its Infinite contain
It's Past— enlightened to perceive
New Periods— of Pain."

— Emily Dickinson, "Poem 650" (1862)

Perhaps you're going too!
"Perhaps you're going too! / Who knows?"
— Emily Dickinson, "Poem 79" "Going to Heaven" (1859)

But Hope, that feathered spirit perching in the soul
"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without words—
And never stops— at all—

— Emily Dickinson, "Poem 254" (1861)

only hums of temperance
"In the deeps there is a little bird
and it only hums, it hums of fortitude
and temperance, it is managing a foundry"

— Frank O'Hara, Lunch Poems, "Three Airs" (1958), p. 22
     Pietro Perugino, Fortitude and Temperance with Six Antique Heroes (1500)

Perhaps tiny crystals would persevere
"Perhaps the tiny crystals would last forever."
— Brenda Hillman, Bright Existence, "Old Ice" (1993), p. 5

like warm pearls, ripened fruit of experience
from the pure seed source of spring

"Experience is an intact fruit...
like pearls, everything warm with setting out...
in good time, into the source of spring."

— Mark Doty, Source, "Source" (2001), pp. 73-76

"Am I dust particles in sunlight or the round sun?"
"I am dust particles in the sunlight.
I am the round sun."

— Rumi, "Say I Am You",
    The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks (1995), p. 275

he whispers a song
"while she whispered a song along the keyboard"
— Frank O'Hara, Lunch Poems, "The Day Lady Died" (1959), p. 27

"By experience I know them"
"By experience I know them"
— Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855), line 1112

Let us pray for the perfection of beauty—
"Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined."
Psalms 50.2

my love, my dove, my perfect one
"Open to me my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one:
for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night."

Book of Solomon V.2

the perceived grace given unto us
"And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars,
perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me
and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship"

Galatians II.9

the perfume delight of the heart
"Ointment and perfume delight the heart: so doth
the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel."

Proverbs XXVII.9

childhood dreams of Persian grass
"A strange den or music room
children dream of Persian grass configured distilled"

— Frank O'Hara, Lunch Poems, "Galanta" (1962), p. 71

Peruvian plains
Peruvian Plains is a CD album by Anthony Phillips. However, I was thinking of the Nazca Lines in the Peruvian desert plains that stretches more than 80 km (50 miles) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana in Peru. These geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, these are largely believed to have been created by the Nazca culture between 200 BC and 700 AD. There are hundreds of individual figures, ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks or orcas, llamas, and lizards.

Porta Sole of Perugia
"from there Perugia feels both heat and cold
at Porta Sole, while behind it sorrow
Nocera and Gualdo under their hard yoke."

— Dante (1265-1321), Paradiso, XI.46-48
Mandelbaum's commentary: "Perugia, across the valley, receives its most intense summer heat and bitterest winter cold on the side of the city where the gate known as Porta Sole (Sun Gate) was situated. (p. 350)

Perugino taught Raphael to paint adorable angels
Perugino was born in Perugia and Raphael's teacher. The serene faces of his angels in The Virgin and Child Surrounded by Two Angels, St. Rose, and St. Catherine (Louvre, Paris) can be found in Raphael's paintings such as those charming cherubs in Sistine Madonna (1514, Dresden).

"Perhaps I might tell more if you keep it a secret"
"Perhaps I might tell more... Outlines! I plead for
        my brothers and sisters"

— Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855), line 1306

prepared parchment of emperors
"Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
replete with titles, with imposing names."

— C.P. Cavafy, "Waiting for the Barbarians"
    translated by Edmund Keeley (Princeton University Press, 1975)
    Avi Sharon translated "scroll as "parchment" (2008)
    in C.P. Cavafy, Selected Poems, Penguin Books, p. 15
I thank Mark Doty's Stanford Poetry Colloquium on "Cavafy's Poetry & Space"
(March 10, 2009) for introducing me to this insightful Greek poet.

papers yellowed with age
"So should my papers, yellow'd with their age,
Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:"

— William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Sonnet XVII

Perish your thoughts— the first step of yoga
"Yoga is the stopping of mental flow of thoughts."
Patanjali (2nd century B.C.), Yoga Sutra, I.2

Let peerless Pure Consciousness permeate your mind
"It is the Lord of gods, who is the sovereign of all, who is Supreme Knowledge,
And who is the consort of Uma, in a state of joyous dance who proclaims:
All the appearance of the moving and the unmoving is one undivided essence,
And that peerless, pure Absolute, filled with Consciousness-Bliss, is ourselves."

Song of Ribhu, IV.43

ascend the Upper Waters to Purusha
The Upper Waters is Heaven that was separated from the Lower Waters,
Earth when God "divided the waters from the waters" (Genesis, I.6-7).
In Hindu philosophy, Purusha is the Cosmic Self or Pure Consciousness
as contrasted with Prakriti, the material world or ego consciousness.
"Beyond the Spirit in man is the Spirit of the universe,
and beyond is Purusha, the Spirit Supreme. Nothing is beyond
Purusha: He is the End of the path."

Katha Upanishad, I.3.11 (circa 500 B.C.)
    translated by Juan Mascaró The Upanishads,
    Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1965, p. 61

Supreme Ultimate
The Ultimate of Non-being and also the Great Ultimate (T'ai-Chi)! The Great Ultimate through movement generates yang. When its activity reaches its limit, it becomes tranquil. Through tranquillity the Great Ultimate generates yin. When tranquillity reaches its limit, activity begins again."
— Chou Tun-yi (1017-1073), "An Explanation of the Diagram of the Great Ultimate"
    translated by Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy,
    Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1963, p. 463

Perun is the Sun God worshipped by the Slavs, Persica means Sun,
started the Persian Empire, Peru is the land of "Children of the Sun"

See Harold Bayley's The Lost Language of Symbolism (1912), p. 310

Parisii founded Paris, the City of Lights
Parisii were a Celtic Iron Age people that lived on the banks of the river Seine in Gaul from the middle of the third century BC until the Roman era. The name Paris derives from that of its inhabitants, the Gaulish tribe known as the Parisii. The city was called Lutetia, during the 1st-6th-century Roman occupation, but during the reign of Julian the Apostate (360-363 AD) the city was renamed Paris. Paris has many nicknames, but its most famous is "La Ville-Lumière" ("The City of Lights"). See Harold Bayley's The Lost Language of Symbolism (1912), p. 312

Who is this worshipper of Nature
"We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal"

— William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey (1798), lines 151-154

this beekeeper telling me
I've asked the beekeeper Virgil for guidance at the beginning of this poem. Was Mohammed also a beekeeper? He wrote Chapter 16 "The Bee" in Koran XVI.68: "And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build". Here's a web site with more famous beekeepers: Aristeaus, Aristotle, Democritus, Karl von Frisch, Sir Edmund Hillary, Thomas Jefferson, Krishna, Maurice Maeterlinck, Gregor Mendel, Pythagoras, Leo Tolstoy, and John Greenleaf Whittier. "Beekeeper" may also be construed as "Be-Keeper"— a sage who keeps the knowledge of Being always in mind and impart wisdom to students. Here's a Hindu sage writing about Atman, the Soul, the Inner Being: "The Atman is supreme, eternal, indivisible, pure consciousness, one without a second. It is the witness of the mind, intellect and other faculties. It is distinct from the gross and the subtle. It is the real I. It is the Inner Being, the uttermost, everlasting joy."
Shankara (686-718), Vivekachudamani, Verse #351
    Shankara's Crest Jewel of Discrimination
    translated by Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Isherwood,
    Mentor Books, New York, 1970, p. 85

about Perseid showers from the constellation of Perseus
Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus. Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a meteor stream. The Perseid meteor shower has been observed for about 2000 years, with the first known observation in China (36 A.D.) "more than 100 meteors flew thither in the morning." In early medieval Europe, the Perseids came to be known as the "tears of St. Lawrence". The shower is visible from mid-July each year, with the greatest activity between August 8 and 14, peaking about August 12. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour.

finding the Pole Star from the Big Dipper
The Big Dipper (Ursa Major: Latin for "Big Bear") has seven bright stars, forming a small pot with a long handle. The Pole Star, Polaris, or North Star is found by connecting the two stars at the front of the Big Dipper, continue it on the side where the Dipper is open to a distance five times that between the two stars, and you will arrive at the Pole Star in the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor or "Little Bear"). Because of their role in finding Polaris, these two stars are called "the guides". The winning Alaska flag design in 1927, was that of Benny Benson, age 13, depicting the Big Dipper and Polaris. The Big Dipper may be seen in Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone (1888), a painting of Arles at night. Dante cites the Big & Little Dippers to guide him to heaven in Paradiso II.7-9:
"The waves I take were never sailed before;
Minerva breathes, Apollo pilots me,
and the nine Muses show to me the Bears."

Apples of Hesperides
Hesperides— a symbol of the buddhic emotions which guard, as it were, the "treasure in heaven", "the golden apples which Ge (Earth) gave to Hera at her marriage with Zeus", signifying that when Wisdom and Love are united after the struggle of the Self rising from below, the treasure, which matter, or the lower nature (earth), has been the means of securing, is presented to Wisdom as the consciousness rises to the buddhic plane. — Gaskell's Dictionary of All Scriptures and Myths (1960), p. 358
Garden of the Hesperides (1892) by Frederic Leighton

Hyperion was father of Helios the Sun God
Hyperion is one of the twelve Titan gods of Ancient Greece, later supplanted by the Olympians. He was the son of Gaia (Mother Earth) and Uranus (Father Sky), and called Helios Hyperion, "Sun High-one". Hyperion is always distinguished from Helios— the former was "God of Watchfulness and Wisdom", while the latter became physical incarnation of the Sun. According to Gaskell's Dictionary of All Scriptures and Myths (1960), "Hyperion is a symbol of the Higher Self, or Consciousness, proceeding from Spirit and Matter— Divine Love." (p. 379)

Hesperus the Morning Star heralds the dawn
Hesperus (Greek Hesperos) is the personification of the "evening star", the planet Venus in the evening. His name is sometimes conflated with the names for his brother, personification of the planet as the "morning star" Eosphorus.

Persephone is supreme as Queen of deep sleep
Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld— The meaning of Ais, Aides, or Hades is most probably "the invisible" or "the invisibility-giving", in contrast with Helios, the visible and visible-making. It also expresses a still stronger contrast than the contrast between Hades and the heavenly king Zeus, whose name once meant "brightness of day". Hades was the ruler of the Underworld who corresponds and is equal to the Zeus of the world of above... Zeus married Demeter who bore him Persephone. Hades ravished his niece Persephone bringing her to rule as his Queen in the Underworld. Persephone was also called Kore, "the Maiden", and her name is connected with Perse, Perseis, Perses, Perseus, and Persaios— names of Hekate and her associates— and was probably used from pre-Greek times as a name of the queen of the Underworld. She acquired the name "the Maiden" when, as first and only daughter of her mother (a characteristic which she again shared with Kekate, but also with Pandora and Protogeneis), she fell victim to the god of death. (pp. 230-232)
— C. Kerényi, The Gods of the Greeks, Thames & Hudson, London, 1951
    The image of Persephone shows her with the Fleur-de-lys-tipped sceptre of Light and is crowned with the tower of Truth [The Lost Language of Symbolism (1912), p. 312]. She appears content because the Underworld is not Death, but the realm of the invisible or deep sleep. In Hindu metaphysics, that which is more subtle is closer to reality than what is gross. That's why sleep is considered more real than the waking state because it is more subtle, undifferentiated, and invisble.

seven cave sleepers of Ephesus
Roman Martyrology mentions Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. A legend about them tells of the falling asleep of seven young men in a cave, who wake up after a great deal of time has passed. The best-known version of the story appears in Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend (1260). Their story also appears in the Koran (Surah 18, Verse 9-26), which also includes a dog among the seven. Painting: The Holy Seven Sleepers (19th century, South Germany, Clemens-Sels-Museum, Neuss)

Bach's Cantata: Sleepers Awake
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the cantata Sleepers Awake (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140) in 1731. It is scored for horn, 2 oboes, taille (an instrument often substituted today with an English horn), violino piccolo, violin, viola, basso continuo, and choir with soprano, tenor, and bass soloists. This Lutheran hymn remains popular today both in its original German and in a variety of English translations. Chorus: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme ("Wake up, the voice calls to us"). The text on which it is based is the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. The five foolish virgins are too engrossed in the material world with five outer senses, that when the Bridegroom cometh, they're unprepared without oil, their candle wicks unlit. Meditation prepares us for the angelic calling, when we tune into our five inner senses— "Eye of the eye, Ear of the ear, Voice of the voice, Mind of the mind, Life of the life" (Kena Upanishads). When our attention is focused on the Subtle & Causal Bodies, then our mind and heart are ready like the five wise virgins— ready to be enlightened, to experience Cosmic Consciousness. (YouTube: Bach's Sleepers AwakeDavid Russell; Tomohiro Nishimura)

Wake up!
This exhortation of "Wake up!" is not waking up from sleep to our ordinary daytime activities. It is waking up to Buddha (The Awakened One) or Cosmic Consciousness. Mandukya Upanishad (circa 500 B.C.) delineates the four states of consciousness: waking, dream, sleep, turiya. This "fourth state" turiya or Pure Consciousness is the essence or substratum of the waking, dream, and deep sleep states. It is unchanging and timeless. Beethoven who was familiar with The Upanishads may had this in mind when he composed the opening of his Fifth Symphony with the distinctive four-note "short-short-short-long" motif: "dun-dun-dun-DUN!". I believe the last long and louder note represents the fourth state of consciousness— Beethoven is telling us to "WAKE UP!" to Enlightenment!

O dear soul remember
"May life go to immortal life, and the body go to ashes,
OM. O my soul, remember past strivings, remember!
O my soul, remember past strivings, remember!"

Invocation to the Isa Upanishad (circa 600 B.C.)
    (The Upanishads, translated from the Sanskrit
    by Juan Mascaró, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1965, pp. 50-51)

the thunder of perfect mind
The Thunder: Perfect Mind! is a Gnostic text (circa 150 A.D.):
"I prepare the bread and my mind within.
I am the knowledge of my name.
I am the one who cries out,
      and I listen."

— translated by George W. MacRae (VI.2.20)
    Nag Hammadi Library, Edited by James M. Robinson,
    HarperSanFrancisco, 1988, p. 302

the perfected vision where desires ripen in paradise
"you need not wonder; I am so because
of my perfected vision— as I grasp
the good, so I approach the good in act"

— Dante (1265-1321), Paradiso, V.4-6
"There, each desire is perfect, ripe, intact;
and only there, within that final sphere,
is every part where it has always been."

— Dante (1265-1321), Paradiso, XXII.64-66

Paris Opera Metro
The National Science Foundation and Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire awarded me a travel grant and complete living expenses for six weeks in Paris (July 16-August 30, 1979), where I did research at the "Protein Folding Workshop" at the University of Paris, Orsay. I lived right next to the Sorbonne University at Hotel Sorbonne on Rue Victor Cousin. Dad did his graduate studies at the Sorbonne (1929-31) and wrote his thesis on "The Irish Rebellion: April 26, 1916" under Professor Pierre Renouvin. Dad visited me from August 16-30, and we had a two lovely weeks together. When we visited the Paris Opera House, a Frenchman who emerged from the Opera Metro Station offered to snap a photo of us together. Dad told him that he had studied here 50 years ago at the Sorbonne. He said, "I hope the picture comes out well." It did— it's the only photo of Dad and me together during that wonderful two weeks in Paris.

Joyce's "Ecce Puer"
Of the dark past
A child was born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

Ecce Puer (Latin: Behold the Boy)

quilt of a hundred suns
Dad died on December 13, 2000 at the age of 98. On Sept. 2, 2002, I wrote a poem "Pearl of Pearls: Meditations on 100" for Dad's 100th birthday. I began this poem "Paris Opera" using as many "sun" words with per, par, pir, por, pur as possible from lines of my favorite poets. When I remembered that 1979 photo of Dad and me at the Paris Opera House, I decided that this poem will be dedicated to him— this quilt of a hundred suns.

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (3-19-2009)