My Beautiful Life by Mitsuo Aida

Japanese Poet and Calligrapher, Mitsuo Aida, was born in 1924 and died in 1991. During his lifetime, he wrote poetry that has been cherished by the Japanese people. Some of his works were even translated into other languages to be enjoyed universally. This specific poem speaks to the human heart. It is not pertaining to one specific culture or another, but rather addressing the feelings that every human being has experienced at one time or another. In My Beautiful Life, the speaker seems to have come to some important conclusions regarding his life, and the peace and confidence in which he speaks gives the readers the idea that this speaker knows the secret to a fulfilling life. The tranquil tone of the poem and the smooth way in which it reads also produce the calming effect that the author intended. The title of the poem itself suggests that this author has found the meaning of life. He is not striving any longer. He believes that his life is beautiful, and he offers the secret of his enjoyment with these few, simple words.

 

My Beautiful Life Analysis

Stanza 1

The speaker begins the poem, which can be read in full here, with a reference to nature. At once, the readers feel connected with nature because of the speaker’s description of the “parched grass”. Young and old readers alike can imagine what it will be like when one comes to the end of one’s days. The speaker uses grass to compare to people. The grass “has lived its life intensely” just has many human beings have. Because it has lived so intensely, it is now parched. But though it is old and dry, it “still attracts the gaze of passers-by”. This produces the image of an elderly person who still holds some intrigue for those who pass by. This person, though old, is still full of life and knowledge. Then, the speaker moves into a description of the flowers. Generally, one would think of flowers as beautiful and grass as dull. But here, the speaker refers to grass and flowers that have aged. Their prime is over, and the drying out and wilting has begun. The grass still attracts the attention of passersby, but the flowers are described as “merely flower[s]” and the speaker says that “they do this as well as they can”. Subtly, the speaker implies that to be plain, but to live life intensely will offer a more sustainable existence than to be beautiful and extravagant for a short period of time.

 

Stanza 2

The speaker then turns his attention to “the white lily blooming unseen in the valley”. This immediately gives the reader the idea of one who is beautiful and blooming, but not in the public eye. This lily represents one who has kept a low profile. The speaker defends this beautiful lily by claiming that it “does not need to explain itself to anyone” but that it “lives merely for beauty”. This is a different kind of beauty than the speaker referred to in the first stanzas when he described the flowers. This is a kind of beauty that is enjoyed all on one’s own. This is the kind of beauty that does not demand the acknowledgement or attention of others, but is content to simply enjoy itself. The speaker contrasts this kind of person with the majority of mankind when he says, “Men, however, cannot accept that ‘merely’”. This suggests that the speaker believes that men are always looking for more beauty, and more extravagance, and are not satisfied with the simple beauties and pleasures of life.

 

Stanza 3

With this stanza, the speaker breaks out of his metaphorical tone in order to directly correspond with the reader. He brings himself into his words in the first person, which reveals that he is ready to speak with his hearers directly. He continues to use plants as an example, but in this stanza, he is more direct in his approach to revealing his beliefs about people and society. He makes it quite simple here. He claims that people can often be ridiculous by trying to become something they are not. He sees this as being quite as ridiculous as if a tomato tried to be a melon. This suggests that tomatoes are beautiful in themselves, and should be satisfied to be a tomato. They serve a different purpose than melons. They are perhaps not as big and not nearly as sweet, but they are useful in ways that melons are not. The speaker implies that people, in the same way, are useful and meaningful each in their own way. However, when a person tries to be another person, he only makes himself look ridiculous. This also implies that when a person tries to become like another person, he will also miss out on his own special purposes and unique design.

 

Stanza 4

The poem takes yet another turn with the last stanza. In the previous stanza, the speaker mentions himself in the first person, thereby becoming rather personal with his listeners. In this stanza, the speaker takes it even one step further by addressing his hearers with “you” and not only by addressing them, but by taking the liberty to give them advice. The readers begin to take in these words as if they are spoken by a close friend. The tone is filled with compassion, and the speaker intends to help his hearers let their guards down and become who they really are on the inside. When the speaker says, “you don’t have to pretend to be strong”, it is a permission for the reader to let his guard down and take a moment to find himself. The next two lines are equally powerful.

Some people have put up a strong front for so long, they forget that it is there, and no one is there to let them know that it is okay to be real. The speaker intends to do disarm his readers here. In his compassionate tone, he probes his readers to let their guards down, to stop trying to be strong, to give up trying to prove themselves, and finally, to simply cry. The authority with which the speaker says these words implies that he has found out the secret to living a happy and fulfilled life. And he is not keeping it a secret. Rather, he is proclaiming it for all to see. He wants everyone to be able to embrace himself, let down his guard, and even cry. It is the secret to joy. With the very last line, the speaker says, “because only then will you be able to smile again”. It is as if the speaker knows that his hearers have been faking it for so long that they forgot how to smile. He also knows that true joy will not be experienced until one has let his guard down and cried. The speaker has learned this secret, and that is why the poem is titled “My Beautiful Life”.

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