Thursday, November 09, 2006

From Washington D.C. to Ancient China and back

My friend Jonathan Chaves will be presenting a reading from his new translation of the poetry of Zhang Ji, Cloud Gate Song at Chapters Bookstore in D.C. this Saturday.  The translation is an experiment which attempts to convey the original Chinese rhyme schemes to the English reader.  I would post a sample, but I have not yet received my copy from Amazon, which swears that it will ship it any day now.  Besides being a scholar and poet, Jonathan is a great reader and I would highly recommend the event to anyone in the area.


Until then, here is a sample from an earlier volume, Pilgrim of the Clouds; Poems and Essays from Ming China.  It seems particularly appropriate with the changes wrought by the recent election.  As each defeated incumbent slinks home, in his wake go dozens of aides, functionaries and officials all now jobless.  This is a story that would have been more than familiar to the scholar bureaucrats of ancient China.  Some elements of politics transcend time, place and culture.  However, I do not know if our own modern functionaries will have quite the same perspective in defeat:


ON RECEIVING News of My Termination

The time has come to devote myself to my hiker's stick;

I must have been a Buddhist monk in a former life!

Sick, I see returning home a kind of pardon.

A stranger here--being fired is like being promoted.

In my cup, thick wine; I get crazy-drunk,

eat my fill, then stagger up the green mountain.

The southern sect, the northern sect, I've tried them all;

this hermit has his own school of Zen philosophy.


Anonymous said...

I'm sort of interested in Chinese and Japanese poetry too, but I'm certainly not a scholar nor a poet. Thanks for posting on this; you're right: it's funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same. I suppose that's consoling or tragic, depending on how you look at it. Again, thanks for posting on this on a rainy Remembrance Day. Take care.

Anonymous said...

great blog - nice photos!

Walter Jeffries said...

Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Sugar Mtn Farm
in Vermont