mjj (flemmings) wrote,

The poem vanishes

This is that black water poem that was for sure no *really* no shit in Poems of the Masters, read by me not once but twice; until I went looking for it in the book and then it wasn't there at all.


  Oh when will autumn moon and spring flowers end?
  How many past events I've known.
  The east wind buffeted my room again last night,
  I cannot bear to remember the bright moon of the old country.
  The marble steps and carved balustrades must still be there,
  The people's rosy cheeks are all that's changed.
  How much sorrow can one man have to bear?
  As much as a river of spring water flowing east.

Alternate translation:

Spring flowers and autumn leaves,
will they never end?
How many things have happened?
In this little tower, last night,
the east wind blew once more.
Can I bear to look back at the old country
in the bright moon?

The carved hand-rails and marble steps
must still be there,
But not my youthful cheeks.
How much sadness can I bear?
As much as an eastward-flowing river filled with
spring water.

From How to Read Chinese Poetry:

Spring flowers, autumn moon-- when will they end?
Past affairs-- who knows how many?
Last night in the small pavilion the east wind came again
I dare not turn my head toward my homeland in the moonlight.

The inlaid balustrade and jade stairs must still be there
-- It's only theyouthful faces that have changed
I ask you, how much sorrow can there be?
Just as much as a river full of spring waters, flowing east

My question being, why does Li Yu *want* the spring flowers and autumn moon to end? Or is that in fact not the sense of the Chinese?

And another of his, come by chance:


Last night the wind and rain together blew,
The wall-curtains rustled in their autumn song.
The candle died, the water-clock was exhausted,
I rose and sat, but could not be at peace.

Man's affairs are like the flow of floodwater,
A life is just like floating in a dream.
I should more often go drunken through the country,
For otherwise I could not bear to live.

Alternate version:

Raining wind soughed all night long
My door screen rustled like an autumn song
Water clock drips kept me from sleep after candlelight died
I got up from bed with a disquiet mind

All things drift gone like water in a perishing stream
Life floats but like a dream
Let’s frequent the road to beautiful drunkland
Nothing else is worth raising a hand.

Which is decent, and rhymes as much as it needs to. I'm still generally against trying to rhyme Chinese poetry in translation, and the renditions of the river flows east poem on that page demonstrate why:

Whence in cycles of spring flowers and autumn moon will time stand still
Of past events how many should remain on my memory wheel
Vernal breeze showed pity again warming my humble chamber last night
Down memory lane I dare not trot reviewing my lost kingdom by moonlight


Spring flowers and autumn moon came and went in a repetitious span;
How much of the past do we really understand;
The breeze of spring has arrived again to my tiny abode where I am an imprisoned wizen;
Under the shining moon, it was a melancholy moment to reminisce my former empire in the south of far horizons.
Tags: chinese, verse

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