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Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics
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About the Author
R.H. Blyth was born in London in 1898 and studied English literature at London University. He traveled extensively in the East before moving first to Korea and then Japan and teaching English at several universities. Blyth eventually became the English tutor to the Crown Prince of Japan. He also studied Zen Buddhism under Kayama Taigi Roshi. Blyth was interned during the war years, and it was during this time that he wrote his first book, Zen in English Literature. He went on to write numerous other books on Zen, haiku, senryu, and humor. Blyth was a man whose sensibility took root in two disparate cultures and found a harmony that he beautifully and effectively communicated in his writing. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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As this copy was published in 1942 the contents pre-date that. The poetry and prose is classical-references are to the Bible,Shakespeare,Keats,Milton,Dante,Blake et. al.
This is one of them.
Can't say authoritatively if it has anything to do with 'real Zen ' since I'm not, to my chagrin, the living Buddha, and apparently not one Zen master in a hundred claims to be 'enlightened' these days, at least not among the second generation bumper crop of American and European Zen masters-- A source of relief if you've ever read their vapid and banal pronouncements on life, death and the meaning of the universe.
Guess they just don't make 'em like they used to in ancient China.
Nevertheless, Zen appealed to the young Western intelligensia via the writings of Suzuki, Watts and company. It's almost a religion tailor made for dashing bookworms (Is this a koan?)
Here, R.H. Blyth gives the reader a, as Jung would say, 'mythological Zen' that perhaps never was, but should have been, and he does so in an amazing book on English Lit.
So what's your attitude to life? The heroic as exemplified by Henley's great poem "Invictus"? Or does the poetry of Tennyson hit closer to home?
" But what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry. "
Good points! But it's in the analysis of Hamlet as the archetypal 'zen-less' Western man that R.H really springs to life.
There are about as many critical interpretations of Shakespeare's prince as there are of Jesus, but R.H. has come up with one of the most outstanding.
Hamlet, THE greatest figure in tragedy since Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripedes put ink to papyrus, suffers from 'Words, Words, Words'--for R.H. the clue to his (and our own ) malaise, as contrasted with the 'Zen-filled man ', the one and only Don Quixote de La Mancha !
R.H's study of Quixote--and Cervantes--is brilliant, though he modestly begs the reader's pardon for including the greatest of knights in a work of English, rather than Spanish literature.