On April 15th, the world was stunned with the fire news that toppled the Paris landmark Notre Dame Cathedral spire before the firefighters contained the blaze. I immediately thought of the excellent postwar movie "Is Paris Burning" to tell how and why Paris was saved from Hitler's order for its destruction. In no time President Macron pledged to rebuild it at whatever cost.
The Cathedral was built in medieval days, ground breaking from 1163 to completion of 1345. It was equivalent to the Kamakura Shogunate days in Japan where temples of Zen Buddhism flourished.
Over 850 years, the Cathedral has seen coronations, French kings and Napoleon, trial of Joan of Arc, revolution, occupation, liberation, violent religious upheavals, terrorism, pollution, etc.
The aging decay of the cathedral was intolerable to Victor Hugo. He raged "As much beauty as it may retain in its old age, it is not easy to repress a sigh, to restrain our anger, when we mark the countless defacements and mutilations to which men and time have subjected our venerable monument." His 1833 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame was his great rescue effort.
Found a poem written by Kotaro Takayama (1883-1956) who frequented while staying in Paris. I translated his poem for tonight. This is based on my “gut” translation and is not truly literal.
"Oh Nortre Dame! Notre Dame!
Are you a monolith? A reigning eagle? A crouching lion?
Or a celestial submerged rock?
Whatever you are, you are surely a grandiose Square Pillar of Paris.
Facing eye-blinding fusillades of rain drops
hand-beaten with strong wind
I"m narrowly looking up at soaring Notre Dame de Paris
with my rainy weather eyes
I'm a Japanese visitor
My mind is trembling in awe just looking up at you
Having observed your tragic but brave drama!
My foreigner's heart was shaken with beats and shivering in echo with
the pandemonium uproar!"