Rihaku flourished in the eighth century of our era. The Anglo-Saxon Seafarer is of about this period. The other poems from the Chinese are earlier. Song of the Bowmen of Shu Here we are, picking the first fern-shoots And saying: When shall we get back to our country? Here we are because we have the Ken-nin for our foemen, We have no comfort because of these Mongols. We grub the soft fern-shoots, When anyone says "Return," the others are full of sorrow.
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Rihaku flourished in the eighth century of our era. The Anglo-Saxon Seafarer is of about this period. The other poems from the Chinese are earlier. Song of the Bowmen of Shu Here we are, picking the first fern-shoots And saying: When shall we get back to our country? Here we are because we have the Ken-nin for our foemen, We have no comfort because of these Mongols. We grub the soft fern-shoots, When anyone says "Return," the others are full of sorrow. Sorrowful minds, sorrow is strong, we are hungry and thirsty.
Our defence is not yet made sure, no one can let his friend return. We grub the old fern-stalks. We say: Will we be let to go back in October? There is no ease in royal affairs, we have no comfort. Our sorrow is bitter, but we would not return to our country. What flower has come into blossom? Whose chariot? The General's. Horses, his horses even, are tired. They were strong. We have no rest, three battles a month. By heaven, his horses are tired.
The generals are on them, the soldiers are by them The horses are well trained, the generals have ivory arrows and quivers ornamented with fish-skin. The enemy is swift, we must be careful. When we set out, the willows were drooping with spring, We come back in the snow, We go slowly, we are hungry and thirsty, Our mind is full of sorrow, who will know of our grief? The Beautiful Toilet Blue, blue is the grass about the river And the willows have overfilled the close garden.
And within, the mistress, in the midmost of her youth, White, white of face, hesitates, passing the door.
Slender, she puts forth a slender hand, And she was a courtezan in the old days, And she has married a sot, Who now goes drunkenly out And leaves her too much alone. The River Song This boat is of shato-wood, and its gunwales are cut magnolia, Musicians with jewelled flutes and with pipes of gold Fill full the sides in rows, and our wine Is rich for a thousand cups.
We carry singing girls, drift with the drifting water, Yet Sennin needs A yellow stork for a charger, and all our seamen Would follow the white gulls or ride them. Kutsu's prose song Hangs with the sun and moon. King So's terraced palace is now but a barren hill, But I draw pen on this barge Causing the five peaks to tremble, And I have joy in these words like the joy of blue islands. If glory could last forever Then the waters of Han would flow northward.
And I have moped in the Emperor's garden, awaiting an order-to-write! I looked at the dragon-pond, with its willow-coloured water Just reflecting the sky's tinge, And heard the five-score nightingales aimlessly singing. The eastern wind brings the green colour into the island grasses at Yei-shu, The purple house and the crimson are full of Spring softness.
South of the pond the willow-tips are half-blue and bluer, Their cords tangle in mist, against the brocade-like palace. Vine-strings a hundred feet long hang down from carved railings, And high over the willows, the fine birds sing to each other, and listen, Crying—"Kwan, Kuan," for the early wind, and the feel of it. The wind bundles itself into a bluish cloud and wanders off. Five clouds hang aloft, bright on the purple sky, The imperial guards come forth from the golden house with their armour a-gleaming.
The emperor in his jewelled car goes out to inspect his flowers, He goes out to Hori, to look at the wing-flapping storks, He returns by way of Sei rock, to hear the new nightingales, For the gardens at Jo-run are full of new nightingales, Their sound is mixed in this flute, Their voice is in the twelve pipes here.
The River-Merchant's Wife: a Letter While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead I played about the front gate, pulling flowers. You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse, You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums. And we went on living in the village of Chokan: Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you. I never laughed, being bashful. Lowering my head, I looked at the wall. Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back. At fifteen I stopped scowling, I desired my dust to be mingled with yours Forever and forever, and forever. Why should I climb the look out?
At sixteen you departed, You went into far Ku-to-Yen, by the river of swirling eddies, And you have been gone five months. The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead. You dragged your feet when you went out. By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses, Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind. The paired butterflies are already yellow with August Over the grass in the West garden, They hurt me, I grow older, If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang, Please let me know beforehand, And I will come out to meet you, As far as Cho-fu-Sa. The Jewel Stairs' Grievance The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew, It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings, And I let down the crystal curtain And watch the moon through the clear autumn.
Grievance, therefore there is something to complain, of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he has no excuse on account of weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely whitened the stairs, but has soaked her stockings.
The poem is especially prized because she utters no direct reproach. Poem by the Bridge at Ten-Shin March has come to the bridge head, Peach boughs and apricot boughs hang over a thousand gates, At morning there are flowers to cut the heart, And evening drives them on the eastward-flowing waters.
Petals are on the gone waters and on the going, And on the back-swirling eddies, But to-days men are not the men of the old days, Though they hang in the same way over the bridge-rail. The sea's colour moves at the dawn And the princes still stand in rows, about the throne, And the moon falls over the portals of Sei-go-yo, And clings to the walls and the gate-top.
With head-gear glittering against the cloud and sun, The lords go forth from the court, and into far borders. They ride upon dragon-like horses, Upon horses with head-trappings of yellow-metal, And the streets make way for their passage. Haughty their passing, Haughty their steps as they go into great banquets, To high halls and curious food, To the perfumed air and girls dancing, To clear flutes and clear singing; To the dance of the seventy couples; To the mad chase through the gardens.
Night and day are given over to pleasure And they think it will last a thousand autumns, Unwearying autumns. For them the yellow dogs howl portents in vain, And what are they compared to the lady Riokushu, That was cause of hate! Who among them is a man like Han-rei Who departed alone with his mistress, With her hair unbound, and he his own skiffs-man! Lament of the Frontier Guard By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand, Lonely from the beginning of time until now! Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers to watch out the barbarous land: Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert. There is no wall left to this village. Bones white with a thousand frosts, High heaps, covered with trees and grass; Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger? Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums? Barbarous kings.
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn, A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom, Three hundred and sixty thousand, And sorrow, sorrow like rain. Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning, Desolate, desolate fields, And no children of warfare upon them, No longer the men for offence and defence. Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate, With Rihoku's name forgotten, And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.
Now I remember that you built me a special tavern By the south side of the bridge at Ten-Shin. Intelligent men came drifting in from the sea and from the west border, And with them, and with you especially There was nothing at cross purpose, And they made nothing of sea-crossing or of mountain crossing, If only they could be of that fellowship, And we all spoke out our hearts and minds, and without regret.
And then I was sent off to South Wei, smothered in laurel groves, And you to the north of Raku-hoku, Till we had nothing but thoughts and memories in common. And then, when separation had come to its worst, We met, and travelled into Sen-Go, Through all the thirty-six folds of the turning and twisting waters, Into a valley of the thousand bright flowers, That was the first valley; And into ten thousand valleys full of voices and pine-winds.
And with silver harness and reins of gold, Out come the East of Kan foreman and his company. And there came also the "True man" of Shi-yo to meet me, Playing on a jewelled mouth-organ. In the storied houses of San-Ko they gave us more Sennin music, Many instruments, like the sound of young phoenix broods. The foreman of Kan Chu, drunk, danced because his long sleeves wouldn't keep still With that music-playing. And I, wrapped in brocade, went to sleep with my head on his lap, And my spirit so high it was all over the heavens, And before the end of the day we were scattered like stars, or rain.
I had to be off to So, far away over the waters, You back to your river-bridge. And your father, who was brave as a leopard, Was governor in Hei Shu, and put down the barbarian rabble. And one May he had you send for me, despite the long distance. And what with broken wheels and so on, I won't say it wasn't hard going, Over roads twisted like sheeps' guts.
And I was still going, late in the year, in the cutting wind from the North, And thinking how little you cared for the cost, and you caring enough to pay it. And what a reception: Red jade cups, food well set on a blue jewelled table, And I was drunk, and had no thought of returning. And you would walk out with me to the western corner of the castle, To the dynastic temple, with water about it clear as blue jade, With boats floating, and the sound of mouth-organs and drums, With ripples like dragon-scales, going grass green on the water, Pleasure lasting, with courtezans, going and coming without hindrance, With the willow flakes falling like snow, And the vermilioned girls getting drunk about sunset, And the water a hundred feet deep reflecting green eyebrows —Eyebrows painted green are a fine sight in young moonlight, Gracefully painted— And the girls singing back at each other, Dancing in transparent brocade, And the wind lifting the song, and interrupting it, Tossing it up under the clouds.
And all this comes to an end. And is not again to be met with. I went up to the court for examination, Tried Layu's luck, offered the Choyo song, And got no promotion, and went back to the East Mountains white-headed. And once again, later, we met at the South bridge-head.
Pound’s China/Pound’s “Cathay”
Pound was not himself proficient in Chinese. Thus Pound often changes details of images or omits pieces of the text altogether. Many critics argue that Cathay should not overshadow the poetic testimony of men who actually experienced the horrors of war. In a phonological tour de force, Pound adapts the Old English pattern of alliterative lines of verse in order to make ordinary, contemporary language suddenly seem unfamiliar. Drawing on an Anglo-Saxon-derived lexicon that excludes almost all Latinate words, Pound crafts a poem that feels strange in the mouth and sounds foreign to the ear:. Coldly afflicted, My feet were by frost benumbed. The poems in Cathay might be more profitably considered translations of certain states of mind or modes of existence than of specific words on a page.
Cathay: Ezra Pound's re-imagination of Chinese Poetry
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