Christopher Patchel has come down with a case of ‘sehnsucht.’
The German word sehnsucht [zane-zuhkt] has no adequate equivalent in other languages, though the feeling it attempts to name is universal. ‘Longing’ or ‘yearning’ is the closest English translation. An “inconsolable longing” for “we know not what” is one way C.S. Lewis describes it, and another, ” . . . the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Being elusive by definition, sehnsucht can often be taken for wanderlust, homesickness, nostalgia, or other wistful desires. But however indefinite the object, the desire itself can seem more significant than all else, as expressed in the closing lines of Walt Whitman’s Song of the Universal:
Is it a dream?
Nay but the lack of it the dream,
And failing it life’s lore and wealth a dream
And all the world a dream.
Haiku is rooted in sensory perceptions of tangible realities in the here and now. How then does it fare with the indefinable? The 30 poems that make up this sequence suggest or evoke some sense of sehnsucht for me. Perhaps some of them strike a similar pang in you as well.
See if these poems don’t give you a frisson that’s hard to name. Enjoy!