This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Month: May, 2015


This extract from a longer poem is written in the Scots language of around 1500 and so I have included a rough prose translation in today’s English. It’s about an asymmetrical court case to do with debt recovery. It is inspired by Aesop’s fables – the theme evidently relevant to the ancient Greek world as well as the medieval Scottish one, to say nothing of the present.

Esope ane tail puttis in memorie

How that ane doig, because that he was pure,

Callit ane scheip to the consistorie,

Ane certaine breid fra him for to recure.

Ane fraudfull wolff wes juge that tyme, and bure

Auhoritie and jurisdictioun,

And on the sheip send furth ane strait summoun.


The clerk callit the scheip, and he wes their;

The advocatis on this wyse couth propone:

Ane certane breid worth five schilling or mair

Thow aw the doig, off quhilk the terme is gone.’

Off his awin heid, but advocate, alone,

The scheip avysitlie gaif answer in the cace:

‘Here I decline the juge, the tyme, the place.

‘This is my cause, in motive and effect:

The law says it is richt perilous

Till enter in pley befoir ane juge suspect:

And ye, Schir Wolff, hes bene richt odious

To me, for with your tuskis ravenous

Hess lane foll mony kinnesmen off myne:

Thairfoir juge as suspect I yow decline.’

My translation:

Aesop records the story of a poor dog who sued a sheep for the recovery of some bread. A corrupt wolf was judge at the time, bearing authority and jurisdiction in the case, and he ordered the sheep to appear in court.

The clerk called for the sheep and he came forward, enabling the plaintiff’s lawyers to present their case: ‘you owe the dog bread worth five shillings or more and payment is now overdue’. Off his own bat, without representation, and after some reflection, the sheep replied: ‘I refuse to answer to this judge, at this time, in this place.

‘This is my case: the law says that it is unsafe to enter a plea before a suspect judge: and you, Sir Wolf, have been hateful to me, for with your ravenous teeth have killed many of kin. I refuse to acknowledge your jurisdiction, for you are unfit to judge me in this case.’

Robert Henryson was a major Scottish poet of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. For part of his life he was “cheife schoole master” in Dunfermline. His best known poems are The Testament of Cresseid and The Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian, of which The Taill of the Scheip and the Doig are one. I have worked from Robert Henryson Poems: selected and edited with an introduction, notes, and glossary by Charles Elliot Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.


Yang Wan-li’s poem ‘What is Poetry?’ asks the question from the Buddhist and Taoist influenced perspective of Sung Dynasty China (the poet lived in our 12th. century – a little younger than Geoffrey of Monmouth, a little older than Gerald of Wales). It is also timeless.

Now, what is poetry?

If you say it is a matter of words,

I will say a good poet gets rid of words.

If you say it is simply a matter of meaning,

I will say a good poet gets rid of meaning,

“But”, you ask, “without words and without meaning

Where is the poetry?”

To this I reply: “Get rid of words and get rid of meaning,

And there is still poetry.”

From Yang Wan-li Heaven my Blanket: Earth my Pillow: Poems from Sung Dynasty China New York & Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1975 (Translated and introduced by Jonathan Chaves)


Reflections by Crafter Yearly on avoiding “the dualism between the Nature and the human-made world”.

Naturalistic Paganism

(Above: Design and think tank group, Rollerhaus, re-imagines an eco-centric future vision of Chicago.)


Since I was small, I have always loved cities. When I am in them, I feel a kind of expansiveness that is unique to my experience of a city. When I walk down streets surrounded by tall buildings, or when I wait for a train, I feel small in the best possible way. Human activity feels big. Limitless. The impossibility of knowing everyone or everything happening in that moment is humbling and exciting. Like there are possibilities too numerous to even consider. Thousands of lives I could choose for myself, magnified and made more intoxicating because of my close proximity to thousands or millions of others, each with their own set of impossibly diverse opportunities for building a life and a self.

I am an advocate for cities. And given the option, I would choose…

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