Monday, December 11, 2017

Old Chinese Poetry

Man is the same everywhere.
Old Chinese poetry illustrates the fact.
Don't we have similar poems in our languages too?

What is written in Chinese in the image has no connection to the article here 

The Odes represents those of peasants—perspectives not seen in Zhou inscriptions. In addition to the view seen from the top, the Odes also includes songs showing ordinary people at work: the men clearing weeds from the fields, plowing, planting, and harvesting; the girls and women
gathering mulberry leaves for the silkworms, making thread, and carrying food
hampers out to the fields for their men to have lunch. There is much about millet—
both the eating variety and that used for brewing wine for use in rites. There
are joyful references to granaries full of grain and to the men gathering thatch for
their roofs in the off-season. Mention is made of lords’ fields and private fields, and
a bailiff is referred to, but the details of the system are not provided. There are also,
more strikingly, odes of political protest. One compares tax collectors to big rats:

Big rat, big rat,
Do not gobble our millet!
Three years we have slaved for you,
Yet you take no notice of us.
At last we are going to leave you
And go to that happy land;
Happy land, happy land,
Where we shall have our place.

Another tells of the hardships of military service: men constantly on the march,
living in the wilds like rhinoceroses and tigers, day and night without rest. Sometimes
a soldier survives the hardships and dangers of war and returns home only to find
that his wife has given him up for dead and remarried. Consider the following:
We plucked the bracken, plucked the bracken;

While the shoots were soft
Oh, to go back, go back!
Our hearts are sad,
Our sad hearts burn,
We are hungry and thirsty,
But our campaign is not over,
Nor is any of us sent home with news.

Still other odes give us glimpses of the day-to-day hardships of Zhou peasants,
who lived at the mercy of what was becoming an increasingly inhospitable

The drought is long and deep,
Parched and barren in the landscape.
The drought demon is vicious
Like a burn, like a blaze.
Our hearts are tormented by the heat,
Our grieved hearts as if aflame.
The former ministers and their lords,
Even they do not hear our plea.
Mighty Heaven,
God on High
Why do you force us to flee?

In addition to royal and peasant perspectives, the Odes is also famous for its
love poetry, which often reveals a feminine perspective:
In the wilds, a dead doe.

White reeds to wrap it.
A girl, spring-touched:
A fine man to seduce her.
In the woods bushes.
In the wilds, a dead deer
White reeds in bundles
A girl like jade
Slowly. Take it easy.
Don’t feel my sash!
Don’t make the dog bark!

The feminine perspective in ancient China could be quite erotic or even ribald,
as this ode reveals:

That the mere glimpse of a plain cap
Could harry me with such longing,
Cause pain so dire!
That the mere glimpse of a plain coat
Could stab my heart with grief!
Enough! Take me with you to your home.
That a mere glimpse of plain leggings
Could tie my heart in tangles!
Enough! Let us two be one.

To be sure, with these odes, as with all poetry, much depends on the vision of
the translator and interpreter. For Liu Wu-chi, the ode tells of “the tragedy of
love.” In the mind of another contemporary scholar, Wai-lim Yip, the first ode
cited in the last paragraph is an “animated pastiche of a lovely rural
inducement song.

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