Criticism

Here is Criticism, discussions of particular poems, or just of poetry in general, which I think are important (it is my blog). If you want a topic addressed, please leave a comment.

The pages apparently only take one post each, so I need to put a sub phge for each lengthy post.

Here is the first one, and just shows the chinese and English versions of a particular poem.

A student, discussing the Chinese Poetry of love, brought up Li Bai, and “A Song of Chang’an”. We discussed the ideas and ideals of love in poetry and song in English culture, and then we looked over the 2 poems, the Chinese Version by Li Bai, and the English Version by Ezra Pound. Pound’s version is a translation of a Japanese Translation, but it is amazingly faithful to the original, not only in meaning, but in beauty, and in its cultural expression of time and circumstance, and love.

This poem has been translated by many different writers, and some of the translations are very unwieldy, some are just plain bad poetry, and at least one is a rewrite of the poem into a modern, somewhat “zen” attitude. But the Chinese all say that the original is beautiful, inspiring, romantic, a classic of love poetry. One of my students has called it the finest love poem she ever read. Because of this depth of feeling on the part of the Chinese, I feel that the Ezra Pound translation is the only one faithful to those ideals of humanity, romance, and love.

Li Bai (李白), wrote of a relationship in the poem called 長干行 A Song of Chang’an, and Ezra Pound translated it into a sweet song of discovery. In Chinese, it reads like a story of growing into duty and discovering love, and in English it reads like a story of romance discovering shared purpose (a subtle difference), and both are correct, and are part of any true romance.

For everyone’s enjoyment, here are the two versions:

李白

長干行

妾髮初覆額, 折花門前劇;
郎騎竹馬來, 遶床弄青梅。
同居長干里, 兩小無嫌猜。
十四為君婦, 羞顏未嘗開;
低頭向暗壁, 千喚不一回,
十五始展眉, 願同塵與灰;
常存抱柱信, 豈上望夫臺?
十六君遠行, 瞿塘灩澦堆;
五月不可觸, 猿鳴天上哀。
門前遲行跡, 一一生綠苔;
苔深不能掃, 落葉秋風早。
八月蝴蝶來, 雙飛西園草。
感此傷妾心, 坐愁紅顏老。
早晚下三巴, 預將書報家;
相迎不道遠, 直至長風沙。

Li Bai

The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played at 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 lookout?

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.

Translated by Ezra Pound

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4 Responses to Criticism

  1. clartedubois says:

    Maybe, being a woman makes me feel it differently.
    To me it goes
    From indifference in innocence
    Tames, plays
    To duty
    From duty to blending love…
    Then comes
    The pain of the absence…
    the biggest part of the poem.
    The longing…

  2. clartedubois says:

    Is being a woman making a difference?
    For me:

    Two young lifes begin:
    Innocence born in indifference,
    From games and plays.

    Then came Duty.
    Dissolving to the blending of love…

    Follow the setting out.
    Then comes the pain of the absence
    Absence, Absence, Absence…
    So long
    And the longing.

    The thought of running at the meeting
    Is the living Hope.

    The first text was gone before finished, hence part 2

  3. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  4. A very good and heart touching romantic poem

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