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A penning, a poem by a friend recently, triggered off a volley of thoughts in my mind about the paradoxical relation and mystical symbolism between water and fire. I decided to explore it like a poet again, and not like another critical language analyst. This is the poem :

~~~~~~~~watery fires~~~~~~~~

By : Siddharth Kaul

waters waters, waters in my life,
the life’s boat takes an extra stride
as the clock ticks another stroke,
Glides, sometimes rocks my boat…

waters waters waters standing still,
of peace, contentment the perfect still…
waters of joy so many within to sprinkle…
a few on the eyes salty that twinkle….

waters waters, fiery pains which quell
currents whose,take away from hell…
waters waters, those why me betray??
waters, O waters! tell me I pray ..

why the darkness engulfs me underneath the light….
why do the waters themselves burn tonight ???
waters waters, that spread joys to places vast
today carry pains across so very fast…

fires fires you have your hells…
why then these heavenly waters you try to quell ??
waters waters soiling this piece…
waters from my eyes, now stop please…

the salt from you is what burns,
every ounce of salt such agony churns…
waters waters dont let those ashes dry
for to burn the salt again shall fires try ..

The poem is fantastic in its imagery and rich, consistent symbolism, and instantly reminded me of Coleridge’s ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’.

Water, water, everywhere,

Water, water, everywhere,

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.”

[~ Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner]

..I would highlight the fact, that it isn’t easy for a writer to achieve this kind of symbolism with unfailing continuity.

How paradoxically apt it is, that what feeds is the one that starves, what calms, does quell, and what pacifies , aggravates and then pacifies ultimately. When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water for in a dry throat that thirsts for water , fire burns itself with vengeance. This is a story of circular infinity, of a planet burning, raining, birthing itself. This is the paradox itself.

Water and Fire are not merely contradictions of each-other, but also synonymous. They compliment each other naturally. See this ~

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue, and white.  ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798)

The poet has very aptly requested the waters to not let the ashes dry for “to burn the salt again, shall fires try..” It is best to let the salt remain dissolved in water, where their effect is mitigated and mellowed and not allowed to intensify their severe elemental nature than be deposited at the shores, for when they settle there, they burn.. though, maybe, once they deposit on the shores of eyes, they might be expelled forever too. Like Isak Dinesen has said, ” The cure for anything is salt water sweat, tears, or the sea.” and until one sails on the seas (high seas of life), one does not become a sailor in the real sense of the word. 🙂
By the river, that is why I stand, to let it all go, tears and water, hand in hand. (~ Purvi, for ‘By The River Piedra I sat Down and Wept’)

He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before — this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All as a-shake and a-shiver — glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea. –


But does a fire not do the same??

Never play

with water and fire,

they say,

for when the

elements are

in their elements,

they are just

ferocious killers. (: WATER AND FIRE a poem by v.s.gopalakrishnan)

Fire , like Water

is a vicious element

that catches its prey

at an unguarded moment

and leaves it without a trace. 

Sun itself is a ball of fire, water signifies thirst, a symbol of fire on the palate (& palette).

There was this tiny boy

whose joy knew no bounds

when the sky broke

after a scorching summer.

He collected his friends,

was all over the puddles,

taking in the falling torrents too,

dancing wildly like a dervesh.

The boy’s wild rain dance

continued for days

till there was a lull and a break

when the sun

tentatively peeped in.

And soon hell

broke loose

for the tiny boy,

suddenly so sick,

burning with fever,

as if from cool waters

he had moved on to fire.

The tiny boy

with burning fever

was being devoured

by his body-heat.

At times the natural world seems to be a character itself,
based on the way it interacts with us or let us say, the Ancient Mariner.
When they come, it’s always field days for the elements.
We can sure join them in their  boisterous fun but only at our peril.
From the moment the Ancient Mariner offends the spirit of the “rime,”
retribution comes in the form of natural phenomena.
The wind dies, the sun intensifies, and it will not rain.
The ocean becomes revolting, “rotting” and thrashing with “slimy” creatures and sizzling with strange fires.
It rains, but the storm is unusually awesome, with a thick stream of fire pouring from one huge cloud.
The ocean, sun, and lack of wind and rain punish the Ancient Mariner and his shipmates.
The thirst burns their throats. The Ancient Mariner’s prayers do have an effect,
as when he blesses the watersnakes and is relieved of his thirst.
The above poems and contexts, as well as “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
typifies the Romantic fascination with liminal spaces.
A liminal space is defined as a place on the edge of a realm or between two realms,
whether a forest and a field, sea and a beach, or a thresh-hold of earth and sky or water and fire or reason and imagination.
A liminal space often signifies a liminal state of mind,
such as the threshold of the imagination’s wonders.

In the Ancient Mariner’s story, liminal spaces are bewildering and cause pain.
The first liminal space the sailors encounter is the equator,
which is in a sense about as liminal a location as exists;
after all, it is the threshold between the Earth’s hemispheres.
No sooner has the ship crossed the equator than a terrible storm ensues
and drives it into the poem’s ultimate symbolic liminal space, the icy world of the “rime.”
It is liminal by its very physical makeup; there, water exists not in one a single, definitive state,
but in all three forms: liquid (water), solid (ice), and gas (mist).
They are still most definitely in the ocean,
but surrounding them are mountainous icebergs reminiscent of the land.
The “rime” fits the archetype of the Romantic liminal space in that it is simultaneously terrifying and beautiful,
and in that the sailors do not navigate there purposely, but are rather transported there by some other force.
Whereas the open ocean is a wild territory representing the mysteries of the mind and the sublime,
the “rime” exists just on its edge. As a liminal space it holds great power,
and indeed a powerful spirit inhabits the “rime.”

Water and Fire have long been considered each others restrictions, they try to control and win over the other. They are often termed as arch- enemies, as contradictions of each other. However, such a relationship can exist only between equals, elements that have potential to balance out each other. Arch-enemies or potential partners, it is for the one who sees them in their different lights can only understand. What restricts, can also generate, what destroys, might also produce. And hence the fascinating relation of tussle to rule over, and also the anomaly of co-existence. Like they say, The real conflict of the beach is not between sea and shore (tears and the eye), for theirs is only a lover’s quarrel, but between man and nature. On the beach, nature has achieved a dynamic equilibrium that is alien to man and his static sense of equilibrium.
“Once a line has been established, whether it be a shoreline or a property line, man unreasonably expects it to stay put.” – G. Soucie, Smithsonian 1973 

We can say the same in the contextual light of fire and water.

Let us see how ~

These two elements, of fire, & water, like the rest three are not isolated; rather they work closely together and have their own internal orders and patterns.

Like I read in a poem Water and Fire (Diamante) ~


Deep, shallow,

Reflecting, showering, running, 

Wet, fluid, hot, smoky,

Burning, charring, glowing,

Flames, infernal,


~ Thus, they are interchangeable !

Reverse restriction (insufficient original restriction)

If the enemy is too strong, the controlling element itself becomes controlled in a reverse manner (i.e. the original restriction is insufficient). When wood is too strong and its controlling metal axe is too blunt, the axe cannot cut the wood and may even break as a result of the rebound force if an attempt is made to chop it. This illustrates reverse restriction because the wood is able to restrict metal, which is not usually the case. In our body, if the spleen functions excessively, its controlling liver will also be restricted in a reverse manner. The excessive spleen function will produce heat and dampness, which doesn’t have a sufficient release in the body. The constrained damp heat will heat up the liver and the gall bladder. When this occurs, the gall bladder can no longer properly regulate bile secretion, and disease occurs.  A famous TCM physician Zhang JingYue (1563-1640 AD) said, “The mechanism of creation cannot do without promotion. Neither can it do without control. If there is no promotion, there will be no development and growth. If there is no control, the unbalanced excitement will be harmful. It is necessary to have control inside promotion and to have promotion inside control, so that everything can operate continuously, in both a complementary and opposite manner.”

Water is the driver of Nature. Water is its mater and matrix, mother and medium. Life is water dancing to the tune of solids.  Water, the Hub of Life. And if there wouldn’t be fire, there wouldn’t be food (for thought?) ?

D. H. Lawrence once said,

Water is H20, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water and nobody knows what that is.. but fire. How? Think like this ~well, its nothing  ”
{Water is} the one substance from which the earth can conceal nothing; it sucks out its innermost secrets and brings them to our very lips. Water, thou hast no taste, no color, no odor; canst not be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself, thou fillest us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.” But is it not hidden, this taste in fire too? Why? Well, when the well’s dry, we know the worth of water for in a dry throat that thirsts for water , fire burns itself with vengeance. This is a story of circular infinity, of a planet burning, raining, birthing itself. This is the paradox itself.”Many a time have I merely closed my eyes at the end of yet another troublesome day and soaked my bruised psyche in wild water, rivers remembered and rivers imagined. Rivers course through my dreams, rivers cold and fast, rivers well-known and rivers nameless, rivers that seem like ribbons of blue water twisting through wide valleys, narrow rivers folded in layers of darkening shadows, rivers that have eroded down deep into a mountain’s belly, sculpted the land. Peeled back the planet’s history exposing the texture of time itself.” –  Harry MiddletonFires have similarly romped on earth.Water and Fire are not merely contradictions of each-other, but also synonymous. They compliment each other naturally. When you put your hand in a flowing stream or a blazing inferno, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come. It (water or fire) has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet or flare is an exact replica of a great river or flame. The best similarity can be traced here ~ Rivers are magnets for the imagination, for conscious pondering and subconscious dreams, thrills and fears. People stare into the moving water, captivated, as they are when gazing into a fire. What is it that draws and holds us? The rivers’ reflections ofour lives and experiences are endless. The water calls up our own ambitions of flowing with ease, of navigating the unknown. Streams represent constant rebirth. The waters flow in, forever new, yet forever the same; they complete a journey from beginning to end, and then they embark on the journey again.” –  Tim Palmer – From LifelinesNow why am I doing this? What am I trying to conclude? Sensemaking is a deliberate effort to understand reality. It is about connecting the dots and generating inferences, but it also involves identifying what constitutes a dot and how to go about seeking out new dots. Sensemaking is only possible when we put hindsight and foresight together to create knowledge that can be used for present decision making.Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”The many-voiced song of the river echoed softly. Siddhartha looked into the river and saw many pictures in the flowing water. The river’s voice was sorrowful. It sang with yearning and sadness, flowing towardsits goal.. Siddhartha…was now listening intently…to this song of a thousand voices…then the great song of a thousand voices consisted of one word: Om — perfection… From that hour Siddhartha ceased to fight against his destiny.” Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, 1951

So now last but not the least, do you think Fire Signs and Water Signs are often drawn to each other because…

…They both are fueled with passion?

Meaning, Fire Signs are passionate in the actions and Water Signs are passionate in their emotions. They both have a “dangerous” quality to them as well, and can be quite destructive if their moods become out of control.

Think about it:  Fire and Water, both when untamed can be uncontrollable. Together, they make steam 🙂

As Valerie Nieman has aptly stated in the poem “Adam and Eve as Fire And Water”

Water covers fire.

Fire makes water flee.

They were stones whirled at the end

of a cord, flying apart, falling together.

re-formed at his feet, a mirror pool,

raised herself into a wave, enveloped him.

For a moment he guttered,

pulling down around his hot centre,

then he found the oxygen in her simple form,

broke the bonds, fed.


The above award was awarded to me by the Jingle group
as part of my participation , nomination and winning of
“The Celebrate Poet of Summer Awards”.
Thanks Jingle and fellow Bloggers. 🙂