Poetry (2016)
“Magnificent Garden of My Boyhood”

Essay (2017)
“On James Joyce”

“Magnificent Garden of My Boyhood”

Shuji J. Yanase
Copyright © 2016 Shuji Yanase All Rights Reserved.

In 2013 and 2014 on my return flights to Tokyo from New York or London, I was tempted to write on a magnificent garden of my boyhood in 1940’s after the World War II. The venue was on the hill, created on the slide of mountain, looking over east the Japan Sea and Otaru harbor. The sea was light blue in the summer, while it was gray in the long winter from December to March. In the summer, the garden was covered by green grass and was with some different kinds of trees on its east edge and north side. It was the central area of life of my boyhood.

2013年と2014年に、New York やLondonからの帰りの便の暗い客室の中で、私は第二次世界大戦後の1940年代の少年時代の大きな庭のことを詩に書いてみたくなりました。そこは、山の中腹に切り開かれた丘の上で、日本海と小樽港を東に見晴らす丘でした。海は、12月から3月までの長い冬は灰色でしたが、夏にはライト・ブルーでした。夏に、庭は緑の芝生に覆われ東の縁と北側には、いろいろな樹木がありました。そこは、私が少年の頃を過ごしたところです。

Palm Tree 

The Palm Tree in the middle of the Garden,
Standing with the gigantic trunk which two boys had to embrace with their arms,
Creating its own territory with the shade under its long and thick branches and leaves
Spread out over the green glass to all directions,

In the Spring, cheering us by full bloom of tiny white flowers,
In early Summer, producing a basketful palm every morning,
In hot days in the Summer, making the glass and soil beneath it cool,
In Autumn, being quiet doing nothing, and
In the Winter, being forgotten in the snow.

It stood there in the middle of the large Garden,
Until it was smoked by the fire of the Dormitory surrounding it,
In one afternoon when I was fifteen years old,
And disappeared sometime unknown after the fire,
After having providing comport to College Students nearly hundred years.

The unforgettable tragedy in the memory of the Palm Tree,
It was one night in the winter that a young man hanged himself to death,
Over a strong and cold branch of the Palm Tree.
Nobody knows why, nor the Palm Tree.
All the rest in its memory, it was calm and joyful.

Twin Poplar Trees

Tall twin Poplar Trees on the east edge of the Garden,
Looking over, from the bunk around the edge of the Garden,
Hills and mountains, blue sea and harbor and the milky sky
Beyond the quiet city area under the eyes,
And a few cargo ships with red and black strips on their bodies,
Through the transparent air of the summer of the North Land.

In the comfortable wind and sunny afternoon in the summer,
Laying down under the Twin Poplar Trees and
Looking up toward the top against the sky,
Focusing on tiny green leaves dancing and twinkling gold,
Slowly or quickly, in the air,
The two boys were silent,
Each being overwhelmingly occupied by the World in existence.

Beauty, Comfort, and the unbelievable!
The memory of the moment with the Twin Poplar Trees
Does appear in the mind from time to time
After leaving the town and the boyhood,
To form the underlying music in the changing tune of life.

Cherry Tree and Dry Drain     November 20, 2013

Three boys were on the Cherry Tree eating tiny dark purple cherry,
On the west edge of the Garden with nobody else in the late Spring evening,
Yoh-Chan abruptly fell down three meters from the Cherry Tree branch
Into the Dry Drain beneath the tree,
On his back in the narrow Dry Drain, both side being made of large rocks!

The two other boys on the Cherry Tree withheld their breath,
Beaten by the fear that Yoh-Chan’s head would have hit the rocks.
He fell squarely into the bottom of the drain without any injury!

The two boys came down from the Cherry Tree,
And the three boys felt “fortune”.
But no memory I have as to what we talked then or what next we did.

The moment would have erased the memory of pinkish white flowers
And the joyful and repetitious time on the Cherry Tree,
Leaving in the memory only the moment of his fall,
The Cherry Tree and the hole of the Dry Drain
Only in dark gray color with their shapes,
And with the sculpture of vulnerable boys.

Friend of Goat

Milk of the Goat smells of green of glass on the bunk of the Garden,
The white and skinny goat being the treasure of an Old Man
Who used to teach College Students how to handle guns and weapons in the battle field,
Now being a friend of a Boy, every day giving a bottle of milk to him,
In the time after the War to help him grow in the scarcity of foods and drinks.

The Goat and the Boy do not spend much time together,
But occasionally embracing or being embraced each other,
The Goat being always in the green glass on the slope of the Bunk,
On the edge of the Garden and being bound by a string set by the Old Man and
Allowed to move only within a small circle on the slope,
And the Boy being free to move and having many other things to watch and touch.
The Two, however, being in the distance of seeing each other every day.

Are they good friends of each other?
Without any words exchanged?
The occasional glance exchanged, being in the same Garden,
Sharing the green glass and breathing the same wind,
And being physically infused by the Milk,
Day after day and every day.
They are nothing but good friends, in the unmemorable boyhood.

Chair of Maple Tree Branch

A Maple Tree in some distance beyond the Palm Tree,
Being not so big and not so small,
In a size a boy and girl can climb to the branch making the Chair,
Just in a size he and she can sit together over it,
Face to face and pushing the body to body.
So enchanting, feeling the warmness of arms, chests and inward of legs,
He likes her and she likes him,
Feeling a little bit of shame and thrill.
The leaves of the maple tree being somewhat scares,
The boy and girl are seen by the Garden
With the Boy’s obscure feeling that they are seen.

What an excellent size the Maple Tree is!
What a miracle is the Maple Tree making the Chair!
All for the Boy to make his boyhood memorial,
Before his memories and thoughts accumulated on his life afterwards.

The Pine Tree on High Basin     June 28, 2014

Flat High Basin in the middle of the Garden,
Covered by green grass and
With a matured Pine Tree in the center of the Basin.

Why has the Garden make the High Basin and
Put the Pine Tree on that place?
An order does exist in the Garden
Thanks to the High Basin and the Pine Tree.

A numerous number of tiny red sweet pulp around green seed
make the Pine Tree decorated in Autumn.
Are they really sweet?
No, they are not.
The pretty setting makes them taste sweet
For merrily merrily happy boys picking them up!

Yellow Daffodil and Midori-Chan

A black-and-white photograph of a boy and mother
And a small girl Midori-Chan,
Among daffodils next to the strawberry bush in the Garden.
Daffodils were yellow, with green leaves,
Telling us the winter is over and the spring is coming.

In a small bare field nearby,
It was the Boy’s job to produce fire in the clay-made farness
To roast herrings, coming to the sea around the harbor in the Spring,
For the supper of his family—–brother and sister and mammy.


Heavy rain falling in the Garden and in the mountains around the Boy’s house.
Being alone in the house and
Looking the rainfall through window glass,
and in the quiet house full of sounds of rainfall,
tapping the window glass and trees,
The Boy’s spirit is becoming calm and calm
to make him feel himself a part of the nature.

Strawberry and Small Apple Tree     July 1, 2014

In the edge of the Garden,
A small tree arose one year,
Beside the strawberry bush.

Strawberries were all eaten by children
Before they became red and sweet.
They were however soft and not sober and
Children could not wait them
To become red and sweet.

Now the small tree has apples on the branches.
Taste them now!
Hard and sober tiny apples were not good
Even for children.

The apple tree did not produce
Red and eligible apples for eating
For several years afterword,

And were forgotten by all,
Leaving its shape only in the memory of a Boy

The Eternal and Serene Beauty of Nature
—Did Joyce fail to appreciate it?—

Shuji J. Yanase
Copyright © 2017 Shuji Yanase All Rights Reserved.

1. Question raised by Yeats and Eliot

In the obituary of James Joyce published in The Times in 1941, Yeats mentioned that Joyce had failed to appreciate “the eternal and serene beauty of nature”. T.S. Eliot objected to that mentioning which could, he argued, be disputed by reference to several passages in A Portrait of the Artist, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. (“James Joyce A New Biography” by Gordon Bowker pp.536, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012) )

The author of the biography depicts Joyce in its epilogue and says, having enumerated his many facets and other things, “beyond everything else, he had a gift and a passion for languages, and he turned an abundance of words into forms beyond poetry”. Apparently, Yeats had not seen in Joyce’s works anything which led him to withhold his mentioning, so that he concluded on the state of mind of James Joyce that he failed to appreciate “the eternal and serene beauty of nature.”

Did James Joyce fail to appreciate the eternal and serene beauty of nature? Clearly, the question deals with a state of mind of James Joyce, while both Yeats and Eliot believed that the answer should be found in his literary works. Despite the word “appreciate” they discuss literary works of James Joyce rather than his state of mind towards nature per se.

The comments made by Yeats upon the death of James Joyce and disputed by Eliotccalled my attention to abstract and emotional words which are frequently used in these days, as well as to my continuing question of whether a man with few words not only fails to contribute to society but also does virtually not exist. The continuing question arises from emphasis of presentation and leadership, frequently made in the United States and in Japan as well in these days, in priority to time-consuming and quiet moderation on classical and current issues before us. It asks a further question of whether we should recognize a world existing independently and apart from the one existing by virtue of words.

2. Words and State of mind, and Man and Nature

How could we make any progress so as to form an opinion as to the question of whether or not James Joyce failed to appreciate the eternal and serene beauty of nature.
First I would like to look into words, which may be everything to recognize the world. With respect to the function of words in recognizing “nature” in the context of the question at issue, however, I would like to propose that man’s state of mind is not always expressed by words. This will be accepted by many in light of their own ample experiences. Nevertheless, there arises a question, which may lead us to a conclusion to deny this proposition. In the absence of any words, no state of mind can be objectively recognized so that no state of mind does exist?

Keeping this question in mind, I would like to look into man and nature. While man may appreciate “the eternal and serene beauty of nature”, nature seems to be beyond the ability of man to comprehensively express it in any forms of languages, nor in any forms of painting or music? Man is among nature and makes a part of it? First of all, do we accept that nature does exist without man? Man has found that nature had existed before man appeared in the world. This finding compelled us to agree that nature did exist, and will continue to exist without man, and therefore irrespective of man’s recognition of nature or of whatever state of mind of man toward nature. The interrelation between man and nature may give a significant indication regarding that between words and state of mind of man, but does not give us any logical answer to the foregoing question concerning words and state of mind.

3. Words v. Man’s recognition of nature v. Nature

An individual is a part of nature, like a leaf of a tree or a bird on it. How would an individual possibly wish to describe nature? He or she may or may not wish to describe nature or any part of it. Failure to express nature by an individual by words does not mean that he or she was indifferent to nature. Likewise, failure to express properly eternal and serene beauty of nature does not necessarily prove failure to recognize or appreciate such beauty. Appreciation is one thing and expression is another.

Are words of the God everything which first made this world exist? Had there existed nothing unless and until they were expressed in words? Suppose a Buddhist priest or a Christian monk has not spoken a word to anybody else for years. He or she has not been in existence? Accepting that he or she did exist, he or she, at least, failed to appreciate anything? Obviously, he or she has been in existence and alive and would have had ample experiences in mind. Expression in any forms of words, painting or music has nothing to do with how nature stands.

Do you contend, looking upon nature from man’s eyes, that the world is composed only by man and that only man’s words are to articulate the world, thereby creating existence of the world? Suppose that an individual recognizes, by himself or herself, the existence of nature and express it by words. It could be argued that his or her world remains as he or she describes it, and nothing else, but there remains a doubt that what man’s words describe may not be identical to man’s recognition.

The world does exist among man in such way as expressed by words. Before and until it is stated by man, the world remains as it used to be told by man, even if it is becoming recognized or is recognized somewhat different by man in state of mind. If this proposition is accepted, the world will continue to be expressed by words by man now living and man to come later. I am inclined to accept this proposition because the world looks like to be, and to change, as it is expressed by men. Does nature exist independently and apart from such world? What if those planets which man have not found and therefore have not been spoken about at all? We will categorize them as being outside our recognition and, as such, being not in existence. The world is created by words. The writer of the Old Testament is correct.

The history tells us, however, that although words create the world, the world once created by words of man did later come to be proved to have been false. Did the correct world exist during the period of years when the world expressed by words was different from the former? The logic tells us that the correct world, which was not expressed by words, was in existence. This compels us to believe that the world expressed by words may be false and that such world currently in existence could be changed in the future.
But do we insist that the correct world should not have been in existence at all, as it was not recognized by man at that time? Insofar as we put a living man as the center in which the world is recognized and from which the world is created by way of words, the reply seems to be affirmative. The neuroscience makes us look ourselves objectively and tells us that man is nothing but a part of nature. This will collapse the world which is made exclusively by man’s recognition and words.

4. Malfunction of Abstract or Emotional Words

All abstract, emotional or comfortable words do not present facts, but only describe state of mind of the speaker or writer. These words are among those which necessarily are to bring about the world and nature, which may be understood differently but comfortably by their readers. Being abstract or emotional, they may attract and unite people of different opinions. When they are used, they are capable of uniting people of different tastes and different interests. Nowadays, they are frequently used by politicians and journalists and even by experts invited by them to express their comments and opinions

Man’s expression in any forms of words, painting or music may not necessarily give rise to an identical picture of nature in others’ minds. In expressing a state of mind, man tends to express overly his state of mind and to seek a simple, impressive and comfortable expression to describe it. Accumulated effect is to create a virtual world for others, and may further come to motivate people to take orderly and massive actions in response to it. War among people in conflict of interest arises, before their exchanging opinions with a view to finding common ground and solution based on it. Coming into minds of people in conflict are, in addition to these simple, impressive and comfortable words, among others, self-respect, prejudice, reason of existence, honor, money, and power.

5. Meaning of “The external and serene beauty of nature”

The phrase is understood to show description of nature by reference to, or recognition and expression of, Yeats. This is an expression setting out a state of mind toward nature, by such words as expressing abstract and broad concept, and without any intention to articulate the state of mind. What does the word “eternal”, “serene” or “beauty”, or even “nature” mean? For a better understanding of the meaning of that phrase it would be necessary to examine works or particular parts of works of Yeats, and it would be necessary thereafter to examine words of Joyce so as to answer the question of whether James Joyce failed to appreciate “the eternal and serene beauty of nature”. .

Before trying to formulate my opinion as to whether James Joyce failed to appreciate “the eternal and serene beauty of nature” as set out by Yeats, I would like to note that abstract or emotional words do not facilitate accurate communication and are to be understood differently by readers due to their unclear and multiple meanings. “The eternal and serene beauty of nature” is not an exception.

The story of Leopold Bloom on one day of June 16, as described in detail and articulated in Ulysses, constituted an enchanting part of “nature” , if that term means the one by which the writer’s mind was occupied almost exclusively. Each action and behavior of Bloom and others, and changing flow of mind, feeling, or memories arising in association with them, and collections and bundles of all of them, whether they are good or bad, or moral or immoral, desecrate or not, are all parts of nature. Do they not show “appreciation of the eternal and serene beauty of nature” by James Joyce? The answer would be affirmative if the word “nature” used by Yeats means all of this world, including the life of human being.

6. Conclusion

Now that the world is created by words, much attention should be paid to words, in particular to those words which are abstract, emotional or comfortable as they are incapable of communicating facts but are capable of providing comfort to many without understanding, or with unclear understanding of their meaning. Words should be examined by intellect so as to remove illusion otherwise to be created by abstract, emotional or comfortable words. Such words tend to make us neglect to communicate many or all facts which look contradictory with each other or difficult to resolve and make us uncomfortable and uneasy. They prevent man from recognizing conflict and, as a result, from disputing by way of reasons to find solution. The world expressed by such words present one world which does exist, and is a false world. It is not understood by many as being false, unlike a world created by fantasy.

We should endure those facts which are known to us so far, notwithstanding they make us uncomfortable and uneasy, as well as those issues on which we do not know much or have little or no knowledge. Nature may be neither eternal nor serene. The earth is cooling, like other planets, up to the last moment to change itself into numerous pieces of materials. Nature is full of competition for survival and killing each other. Nevertheless we may call it eternal and serene.

The world is fluctuating and looks impossible to depict, certainly in one language. Joyce spent his life with a view to expressing it by words in light of himself, and his last fifteen years in putting it in languages by use of English and his own language in Finnegans Wake. I propose, with my recognition that human life is a part of nature, James Joyce did appreciate, or recognized clearly with love and sorrow, “the eternal and serene beauty of nature”. Would there be another try by someone by use of other languages?

December 10, 2017
Written in Tokyo, Japan