mjj (flemmings) wrote,


Is it reasonable, or am I thinking too precisely on the event, when I find myself less than enthralled by Brust's To Reign in Hell because the characters are presented as let-us-say Caucasoid?

I mean, yeah, Judaeo-Christian tradition, what else do you expect? But still. Am finding nothing New and Useful in Brust that justifies the time it takes to read him. Mind keeps saying Studying Chinese is more interesting than this, let's go study some Chinese. And I can't, or can't comfortably, because I had a cortisone shot in each knee this morning and am strictly charged to keep knees up and elevated if possible, on pain of being crippled for the next three days if I don't. Which will probably happen anyway if present twinge-state is anything to go by.

So the alternative is to continue reread of Fifth Elephant, which seems a waste of a lovely afternoon off work. Would still rather reread Fifth Elephant than Brust.

Or I can continue to nuddle over my current writerly problem. Which is: Dragons don't analyze their feelings like we do. Dragons, if they're Gouen, will write poems instead. I'm having trouble with Gouen's poetry for two reasons:

Chinese poetry AFAICS is much more allusive than western. Whatever's bothering us gets stated in the verse itself:
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
Chinese seems to do it differently, even in translation:
There are in these hills many monks
Who group in recital and meditation
Gaze from the city walls into this distance
All that you will see is the white clouds
and even when the context imparts emotion to the verse:
We followed you back for your burial/ on Mount Shihlo
And then through the greens of oaks and pines/ we rode away home
Your bones are there under the white clouds/ until the end of time
And there is only the stream that flows/ down to the world of men
Present love could not efface
Memory of what she once enjoyed
She looked at a flower with eyes tear-filled
And spoke no word to the king of Ch'u.
The other problem is the perennial one. Gouen is an ocean dragon. His natural similes and metaphors will be water ones, and unbounded water at that. There's very little of that in Chinese poetry for me to model my stuff off of. Now, he's exchanging poems with Shanten-oh, a river king, and rivers show up quite often enough in Chinese poetry: but the examples I've found usually have boats and people in them as well. Mountain poetry is the closest I can find to what we call nature poetry here in the west; and though the mountain poems usually have humans in them as well-- distant figures in a landscape, woodsmen and washer women and boatmen-- still, it's the mountains themselves that prevail. But the details are all wrong-- trees, birds, flowers, insects, falling fruit. An ocean king doesn't think like that at all.

Citychild me still goes automatically for the city poems, which doesn't help. Thing being, there's quite enough sea poetry in English, even discounting the ones about shipwrecks, for me to do an adequate sea-based poem in western style; but its voice will be western, not the 'Chinese poetry in translation' thing I try for otherwise. Anyway, they'd all come down to a paraphrase of Leonard Cohen
Do not look for him
In brittle mountain streams:
They are too cold for any god;
And do not examine the angry rivers
For shreds of his soft body
Or turn the shore stones for his blood;
But in the warm salt ocean
He is descending through cliffs
Of slow green water
And the hovering coloured fish
Kiss his snow-bruised body
And build their secret nests
In his fluttering winding-sheet.
Now if the nuns had only taught me to memorize unrhyming verse, I wouldn't have to stash all these on lj in order to have them handy.
Tags: brust, pratchett, reading_08, religion, rl_08, verse

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