The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Sunday


The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter
By Li T'ai Po
Translated by Ezra Pound


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-en, 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.

--------

"For Valentine's Day, consider Ezra Pound's tender rendition of Li T'ai Po's 8th-century poem," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "Pound's famously fouled-up translation galled Chinese scholars. I'm told it contains misreadings akin to finding 'flower' in the word 'flour.' But he freed the poem from antique verse...the repetitions along with the primordial figures (horse, flower) start the poem in a child's crayon garden. But by the end, the paired butterflies echo the fleeting joy of the young couple and the devotion all Valentiners crave."

It was a gorgeous warm sunny Saturday, so since Daniel was at robotics nearly the entire day, we took Adam to a Lunar New Year celebration at a local library, then to nearby Brookside Gardens to see the early spring plantings. The New Year festivities were sponsored by a local Chinese school and were really targeted at younger kids -- one of the performers was someone Adam knew from school, and I couldn't tell whether they were pleased or mortified to see one another -- but I learned a lot! The older students narrated while others performed dances, martial arts, music, a holiday meal and a shadow puppet show. We have missed the performances at Lakeforest Mall the past couple of years, so it was nice to get to see these. And now I know why there is not a cat in the Chinese zodiac!


Students from the Li-Ming Chinese Academy introduce the animals for which the Chinese years are named.


A performer at the start of the lion dance welcomed the Year of the Ox.


I'm not sure we got the full story of why lion dances are performed...


...but I was highly amused that a dancer lulled the lions to sleep with the equivalent of a large cat toy!


A family demonstrated new year traditions including a festival meal.


The shadow puppet show, "The Wedding of Missy Mouse," concluded that mice are stronger than the sun and the wind.


There was a zither demonstration...


...plus a variety of the martial arts incorporated in wu-shu...


...and Chinese yo-yo demonstrations!
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We walked through the nature center and greenhouses at Wheaton Regional Park before we went into the gardens, where the ice was melting in the pond and the Christmas lights were still on some of the trees. Then we picked up Daniel from his school and came home for dinner, after which I folded the last of the many laundries necessitated by the lack of a working dryer for two weeks! (And I discovered that my complete Xena set has two dud discs in the second season, some of my favorite episodes...arrgghh! Have written angry note to the seller!) Then we put on Retro TV, expecting to see the second half of last week's classic Battlestar Galactica, but instead we got the second half of a two-parter I don't remember with the soundtrack nearly two minutes off the visuals...it looked like a pretty mediocre episode, but it was so screamingly funny with the vocals in the wrong place (Cylon voice coming out of Adama's mouth, Baltar's voice coming out of Athena's) that we ended up enjoying it a lot!
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