The Dreamer of a Thousand Names for Starlight (cloudtrader) wrote,
The Dreamer of a Thousand Names for Starlight

Poetry hour #5

A few years ago I ran across this really cool book at a library book sale.

The Lost Flute
And Other Chinese Lyrics
Being a Translation from the French
of the Book of Franz Toussaint entitled
"La Flute de Jade: Poesies Chinoise"

New York City

I thought, okay, here's a book translated into English from French from Chinese. Interesting. I bought it for like, a dollar (mine is copy #1496 of 1950). Since then, I've rationed myself to one or two poems for whenever I'm feeling contemplative or depressed or quirky. These are some of my favorites.

by Chang-Wou-Kien (1879-?)

Our boat glides down the tranquil river. Beyond the orchard which borders the bank, I can see the blue mountains and the white clouds.

My friend sleeps, her hand in the water. A butterfly settles on her shoulder, beats its wings ands is gone. A long time I follow it with my eyes. It goes towards the mountain Tchang-Nan.

Was it a butterfly, or was it the dream which my friend has just been dreaming?

by Thu-Sin-Yu (671-715)

Upon the terrace two young women are standing arm in arm. The park is deserted. All the doors of the palace are closed. The heavy perfumes from the flowers below envelop the tender young friends.

One of them would like very much to confide to the other the great secret which is enchanting and perplexing her life. The stillness is favourable. The perfumes are most disconcerting. She is about to speak.

But she catches a glimpse of a parrot with round and angry eyes sitting in a tree.

She looks at it, sighs, and speaks of something else.

by Wang-Tchang-Ling (8th Century)

Her lute in her hand, she carelessly pushed aside the curtain of pearls, so that the breath of spring might flow into her room; but she saw the moon, and it was sorrow that entered in.

Her face hidden in her folded arms she remembers a garden, all blue in the moonlight, where once she listened to words of love.

At the Source of Spring
by Wang-Po (550-618)

With girdles undone, and robes open to the fresh winds, we climbed the rocky path that leads to the Source of Spring.

Reclining on the mats which the servants had spread near the Source, we listened to the sound of the pine trees. The wine, which flowed abundantly, was fragrant with the ferfume of lilies.

When the shadows lengthened and the evening mists began to float among the trees, our conversation was stilled, for the flutes of the shepherds were answering each other upon the mountain side.

by Wan-Tsi (314?)

On my flute of ebony I have played for you the most passionate air that I know, but you have looked at the peonies, and have not listeneds to me.

I have written you a poem in which I celebrated your beauty, but you tore it up and threw the pieces into the lake, because, you said, the lake had no water lilies.

I would like to give you a wonderful sapphire, limpid and cold as a winter's night, but I keep it so that I may remember your heart.

by Wang-Tchang-Ling (8th Century)

Among the flowers, in a tiny grove, sit the young girls of days gone by.

They say: "We blieve that we are old, that our hair is white, that our eyes have no longer the clearness of the new moon, but it is not true! Only our mirror, bewitched by the winter, is guilty! It is the mirror that puts the snow in our hair, it is the mirror that deforms our features! But the spiteful winter reigns only in our mirror."

by The Emperor Hi-Tsong (1620-1657)

The sun is sinking low...around him, already in soft repose, lie all his favourites in robes of violet and of green.

by Tou-Fou (715-774)

The torrent leaps and scolds, the wind howls in the pines, the rats scamper away at my approach and hide themselves under the old tiles. What monarch built this palace, of which only the ruins remain on the side of this steep mountain?

Bluish flames run along the ground: one is conscious of groans and of the death rattle. The ten thousand voices of nature form a wild concert which deepens the autumnal tragedy.

The master of this palace had beautiful dancing girls, who, to-day, are but cold dust. He had chariots and warriors. Of all that pomp, of all that glory, what remains? A horse carved from marble, which has found a resting-place among the grass.

I should like to pour out my great sadness into a lasting poem, but I weep and my pencil is not steady.

by Li-Tai-Po (702-763)

What do I want? A boat of cha-tang, oars of mou-tan, pretty musicians with flutes of jade, a cup filled with wine, and the rocking of the dancing waves.

While I float along, surrounded by the gulls, perhaps the Immortals, caressing their yellow storks, are waiting for me; but what does it matter, since perfect poems are the only monuments which defy the centuries! There remains no vestige of the palace of the king of Tsou, for which these hills once formed the pedestal.

When I abandon myself to the inspiration which intoxicates, my pencil moves unceasingly and my songs disturb the Five sacred mountains. I am happy, I scorn all that men seek: glory, riches, love -- what futilities!

When I shall have changed my mind about this you will see our river flowing back to its source.

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