The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Sunday, September 22, 2013

The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems, #50, ON HEARING DONG PLAY THE FLAGEOLET A POEM TO PALACE-ATTENDANT FANG

The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in ancient China. Especially esteemed were poems. 


Some of the best poems of that period have been collected into an anthology known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. A online version of the anthology may be found here.


Li Qi

ON HEARING DONG PLAY THE FLAGEOLET
A POEM TO PALACE-ATTENDANT FANG

When this melody for the flageolet was made by Lady Cai,
When long ago one by one she sang its eighteen stanzas,
Even the Tartars were shedding tears into the border grasses,
And the envoy of China was heart-broken, turning back home with his escort.
...Cold fires now of old battles are grey on ancient forts,
And the wilderness is shadowed with white new-flying snow.
...When the player first brushes the Shang string and the Jue and then the Yu,
Autumn-leaves in all four quarters are shaken with a murmur.
Dong, the master,
Must have been taught in heaven.
Demons come from the deep pine-wood and stealthily listen
To music slow, then quick, following his hand,
Now far away, now near again, according to his heart.
A hundred birds from an empty mountain scatter and return;
Three thousand miles of floating clouds darken and lighten;
A wildgoose fledgling, left behind, cries for its flock,
And a Tartar child for the mother he loves.
Then river waves are calmed
And birds are mute that were singing,
And Wuzu tribes are homesick for their distant land,
And out of the dust of Siberian steppes rises a plaintive sorrow.
...Suddenly the low sound leaps to a freer tune,
Like a long wind swaying a forest, a downpour breaking tiles,
A cascade through the air, flying over tree-tops.
...A wild deer calls to his fellows. He is running among the mansions
In the corner of the capital by the Eastern Palace wall....
Phoenix Lake lies opposite the Gate of Green Jade;
But how can fame and profit concern a man of genius?
Day and night I long for him to bring his lute again.
 

2 comments:

Grinling E Gibbons said...

Many years ago, a Chinese friend and I would spend hours pouring over the Tang 300. she had bought me a Chinese version written in traditional characters. we would translate a poem together from Chinese to English then argue about the translation. We never finished translating all the poems, we never even came close but that was not the intent. We were trying to get closer to the heart of these poems by sliding the words from one language to another. After arguing and discussing each and every character and word I felt that I had internalized each poem in the same way that I would internalize a martial art form.

Rick said...

That sounds like a very pleasant way to pass the time.