mjj (flemmings) wrote,

John Betjamen in Chinese?

Here is the ambassador from one of the female kingdoms- a mountain, not one of the continents. An important mountain- in their own opinion and that of continent dwellers, *very* important- but for purposes of diplomacy not quite the equal of the oceans. And here is one of the ocean kings. The king is being intransigent and unbudgeable on a point of policy. The ambassador must indicate that she understands his position- though in fact she doesn't- and, umm, 'smooth him down' isn't quite the right idea. Say the right things and be agreeable in a way that may persuade the king to reconsider his firm opposition.

The proper question here is, What would Hisui do? Hisui alas would probably sit and be beautiful in the king's face and then accompany him to bed that night, after which the king would doubtless have a different view of the policy in question. I don't think that works with a female ambassador. Not that males and females don't accompany each other for pure pleasure, but not royalty. (Hisui would be at the same disadvantage when dealing with a female ruler, in fact.) Therefore the ambassador must resort to poetry.

I know there's Chinese political poetry. Du Fu occasionally seems to be nothing but. I know there's poetry addressed to kings and dukes and influentual people, aimed at getting oneself a nice position in the bureaucracy. Some of it is doubtless very good in the original. But it loses in translation; oh, does it lose in translation. All a westerner's prejudices say poetry shouldn't *do* that, not *real* poetry: happily ignoring everything from the Aeneid (which *I* say is pants for that reason among many) through the 16th century and Shakespeare even, down to the poet laureates of later years. Yeah, and poet laureates have bad reps too, also for that reason.

Occasional poetry can still be good poetry, but occasional poetry with a private aim... I just feel it can't. Shakespeare's verse apart, because he took the route of pretending, and indeed possibly having, a huge pash for the earl of Southampton. But a feigned passion won't do in pseudo-Chinese poetry, it's all *wrong*, we need wit and wordplay and subtle compliments, yes? and not 'oh what your magnificence does to me I am reduced to raptures in your exquisite presence.' Right? Right?

Or- um, er, waitaminnit.

So possibly this story has to wait until after January 18 when I can see for myself just what the hell Gou Jian thinks he's doing in the Feather Recitation. Or indeed, what he thinks he's doing at all when he's in Wu.
Tags: dragons, verse, woxin, writing
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