The Ley

A prize is offered to anyone who can explain this very obscure poem by the ancient Irish haiku poet, Tito O’Tit. Your theories via the comments key, please.


..... Hillside monolith -
..... From here, I shall walk the ley
..... Of the Leap Day sun.

12 Responses to “The Ley”

  1. I wonder now, Sor, would udder Oirish hoyku poets be excluded from dis here contest?

    • I realize your comment was tongue-in-cheek, but, begorrah, no one is excluded. All are most welcome.

  2. Hillside monolith –
    From here, I shall walk the ley
    Of the Leap Day sun.

    Totally beautiful!
    The best haiku need no explanation – that’s my explanation!
    Thank you! Colin

    • yes, but then what would we have to talk about ?

      • I suppose one could say that the best haiku speak for themselves. One could point out that ‘ley of the Leap Day sun’ with its dancing alliteration works a treat. Then ‘ley’ or ‘lay’ neatly divides the mind in two directions. And I love the notion that Tito O’Tit is poised ready to go.

        The only obscurity of Tito O’Tit was his strange use of symbols. The rest is …

  3. Dear Tito,

    I do not understant why this poem is so obsure to you. The only problem I find in this poem is the word ‘ley’. I think it means ‘a line of prehistoric track in a straight line’ (OED). Here, it means more or less ‘the straight track of the sun’. I think the poem is very beautiful. Please tell me what you are up to, Tito. Best wishes,

    Sosui (Nobuyuki Yuasa)

  4. ー O’Tit doesn’t know which way the ley-line goes from the monolith, so he walks the shadow-line cast by the monolith ..

  5. The image for me is of a menhir – a large ,upright standing-stone,
    functions of which are debated, but may have had to do with solar movement and hence acting as some type of astrological calendar, like at Stonehenge. Another idea is that it was for Druidic ritual.

    To “walk the ley’ I understand as walking along a ley line – a power line, part of an energy grid of the earth ( which incidentally wax and wane with the fullness of the moon.)

    The poet seems to be walking on Leap Day, Feb 29 ( sunrise? during the day?) along a ley line towards (or away from) the menhir. Perhaps this is a personal ritual, perhaps a recreation of an older ritual ( although I could find no information of such.)

    I am interested to read other interpretations.

  6. Thinking that we ought to know a bit about the author, Tito O’tit, in order to more fully understand his oeuvre, I looked up his name in some old leather-bound books laying around the house and found this dusty information. O’tit was born in Ireland and, according to one source, about 775 and passed on around 850. Another source testified to the dates 1114 to 1166. Still another reference preferred 1191 to 1238. O’tit seems to have lost his parents while still a child and was raised by his devoted older sister, Miss Tou Tit, (later Dame Tit). He became an apprentice to a church builder and followed that profession for only a few years, perhaps 15 at most, when there was some kind of altercation between him and the boss. An early haiku-like poem reads:

    Me think, therefore me do;
    me stink, therefore me poo;
    me love, therefore…

    This is thought to refer to a possible cause for leaving the profession. He traveled thru England to the continent. Travel in the early European centuries was hazardous at best. There were no countries as we know now, but each city was a state unto itself, with its own language and currency. Highwaymen were in greater number than any other profession, and our O’tit seems to have become one of them.

    I love the road,
    to greet the guests
    as they give me their gold;
    am I such a pest?

    Once 0’tit reached Italy, with his building skills, he found employment with the Pope’s architects. But, alas, this, too, didn’t last long and he returned to Ireland. There, he became a Catholic monk specializing in necromancy. His speciality was telling the stars. This suggests his interest in astronomy. The haiku quoted above, which our Ursula rightly refers to as a menhir, was written close to the end of O’tit’s life. His friends had all left him; he lived alone and wrote volumes, most of which were destroyed after his death by the church.
    In this haiku, O’tit was triangulating three monoliths (the meaning of LEY), and finding difficulty because of the topography. He wrote at the same moment:

    dropping rocks to mark the path
    yet feet fail to climb;
    too many stones falling on them.

    Another, possibly written earlier:

    the day is long
    Tou Tit’s gone;
    sun in eyes
    I must ley

    The relationship between sister and brother is suggested here, but further research is necessary. Nevertheless, O’tit seems to have devoted his final years to measuring the distances between menhirs in order to overcome greaf for the loss of his sister, who was conceivably his benefactor. They were together almost constantly when O’tit lived in Ireland.

    this dog knows love;
    as the grass grows up the stone
    so my twetoc leaps towards sun

    Twetoc is untranslatable. Dog could refer to O’tit himself; but here, again, further debate is needed.
    I hope this advances the discussion on the haiku along the correct road to understanding. A nice haiku; can’t imagine who translated it.

  7. Thank you to all for your attempts at explanation and your kind comments.

    By rights, the prize should go to to Ursula for her almost spot-on explanation of what a leyline is and O’Tit’s probable relation to it. Yes, the line is said to pass right through a massive hillside rock and proceed through the fields below in an almost straight line towards the setting Leap Day sun. O’Tit must have set off walking along it by first descending the hill from the rock, then going westwards with the dying sun of this special day in his sights.

    However, remaining true to the perversion of the original post, as the challenge poser I have decided, by a short head, that Richard’s potted History of O’Tit shall receive the award as he told us so very much about the hitherto obscure author in his enlightening response.

    As Richard says, it is indeed a great shame that most of O’Tit’s poetry was posthumously destroyed.

    • Well, I mean, really, so, gosh and all, and how can I express my surprise and gratitude to the Prize Committee, the Sponsors, the Judges who must have suffered Great Anguish thru the nite, wrestling over the submissions, for awarding me the Award, whatever it may be. I assume it’s a round-trip to Olde Eire and the chance to tread O’tit’s path thru the glades and dells. I am humbled by this Prize, and promise all to send Reports back almost daily of what I find along the Way to the Ley. Oh, what will I find?
      As O’tit penned when younger,

      my path, where’s it?,
      how’s it laid?,
      thru Church or glen,
      down sloop or gully?

      I, too, will search out the line to the sun, and must thank Ursula for mentioning the menhirs meant to be encountered.
      Again, as O’tit brushed,

      the stone shadowed before me, I wait;
      the shadow knows
      what lurks in the hearts of men, unseen by sun
      but touched by fear

      It is thot this was written just before leaving for the Continent. Tou Tit’s name is found on the reverse of this skin, tho not in O’tit’s hand.
      The mystery deepens.

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