The Birth of China Seen Through Poetry

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Such characteristics are used consciously by the poet; but less important elements also play their part, often only in a negative way. Thus the Japanese actually avoid rhyme; [9] the Greeks did not exploit it, but seem to have tolerated it when it occurred accidentally. The expedients consciously used by the Chinese before the sixth century were rhyme and length of line.

A third element, inherent in the language, was not exploited before that date, but must always have been a factor in instinctive considerations of euphony. In the second, it 1 rises, 2 sinks, 3 is abruptly arrested. These varieties make up the Four Tones of Classical Chinese. They are also, in an even more remote way, analogous to the long vowels of Latin prosody. It was natural that this change should be reflected in Chinese prosody.

This is certainly the case; I have found the same poem classified differently in different native books. But it is possible to enumerate certain characteristics which distinguish the two kinds of verse. I will attempt to do so; but not till I have discussed rhyme , the other main element in Chinese prosody. It would be equally difficult to define accurately the difference between the couplets of Pope and those of William Morris. But it would not be impossible, by pointing out certain qualities of each, to enable a reader to distinguish between the two styles.

The Chinese rhyme was in reality a vowel assonance. Words in different consonants rhymed so long as the vowel-sound was exactly the same. It is possible that from very early times final consonants were lightly pronounced. To be counted as a [11] rhyme, two words must have exactly the same vowel-sound. Some of the distinctions then made are no longer audible to-day; the sub-divisions therefore seem arbitrary.

Absolute homophony is also counted as rhyme, as in French. It is as though we should make made rhyme with maid. They were, indeed, assonances of the roughest kind.

Classical Chinese Poetry Show Opens in China’s ‘City of Poetry’

The tones were disregarded. Rhymes in the flat tone are preferred. In a quatrain the lines which do not rhyme must end on the opposite tone to that of the rhyme. The Odes. Many of them are eulogies of good rulers or criticisms of bad ones. Out of the three hundred and five still extant only about thirty are likely to interest the modern reader. Of these half deal with war and half with love.

Many translations exist, the best being those of Legge in English and of Couvreur in French.


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There is still room for an English translation displaying more sensitivity to word-rhythm than that of Legge. It should not, I think, include more than fifty poems. But the Odes are essentially lyric poetry, and their beauty lies in effects which cannot be reproduced in English. For that reason I have excluded them from this book; nor shall I discuss them further here, for full information will be found in the works of Legge or Couvreur.

It deals, under a love-allegory, with the relation between the writer and his king. He affords a striking example of the way in which abnormal mentality imposes itself. A literal version will be found on p. The Han Dynasty. Many of them are from the official song-book of the dynasty and are known as Yo Fu or Music Bureau poems, as distinct from shih , which were recited. The Han dynasty is rich in Fu descriptions , but none of them could be adequately translated. They are written in an elaborate and florid style which recalls Apuleius or Lyly. The popular songs referred to the Wu Soochow district and attributed to the [14] fourth century may many of them have been current at a much earlier date.

They are slight in content and deal with only one topic. Those to whom this duty was repulsive found support in Taoism, a system which denied this obligation. The third and fourth centuries A. It occurred to the intellectuals of China that they would be happier growing vegetables in their gardens than place-hunting at Nanking. They reduced to the simplest standard their houses, apparel, and food; and discarded the load of book-learning which Confucianism imposed on its adherents. He was not an original thinker, but a great poet who reflects in an interesting way the outlook of his time.

Liang and Minor Dynasties. Little poetry was produced in the conquered provinces; the Tartar emperors, though they patronized Buddhist art, were incapable of promoting literature. But at Nanking a series of emperors ruled, most of whom distinguished themselves either in painting or poetry. A specimen of his sentimental poetry will be found on p. Form was at this [16] time valued far above content. The extent to which this is true can of course only be realized by one thoroughly familiar with the earlier poetry.

If a battle-poem be written, it deals with the campaigns of the Han dynasty, not with contemporary events. The details are ingeniously varied, but the sentiments are in each case identical. Another feature is the excessive use of historical allusions. This is usually not apparent in rhymed translations, which evade such references by the substitution of generalities. The great Li Po is no exception to this rule. It is for his versification that he is admired, and with justice. He represents a reaction against the formal prosody of his immediate predecessors. It was in the irregular song-metres of his ku-shih that he excelled.

A civil war followed, in which China lost thirty million men. The dynasty was permanently enfeebled and the Empire greatly curtailed by foreign incursions. Their whole energy was devoted towards inventing formal restrictions. Very few have been translated; and it is obvious that they are unsuitable for translation, since their whole merit lies in metrical dexterity. It is for the musical qualities of his verse that he is valued by his countrymen. A word must be said of the Fu descriptive prose-poems of this time.

The subsequent periods need not much concern us. This introduction is intended for the general reader. I have therefore stated my views simply and categorically, and without entering into controversies which are of interest only to a few specialists. As an account of the development of Chinese poetry these notes are necessarily incomplete, but it is hoped that they answer some of those questions which a reader would be most likely to ask. It is commonly asserted that poetry, when literally translated, ceases to be poetry. This is often true, and I have for that reason not attempted to translate many poems which in the original have pleased me quite as much as those I have selected.

But I present the ones I have chosen in the belief that they still retain the essential characteristics of poetry. I have aimed at literal translation, not paraphrase. It may be perfectly legitimate for a poet to borrow foreign themes or material, but this should not be called translation. Above all, considering imagery to be the soul of poetry, I have avoided either adding images of my own or suppressing those of the original. Any literal translation of Chinese poetry is bound to be to some extent rhythmical, for the rhythm of the original obtrudes itself.

Translating literally, without thinking about the metre of the version, one finds that about two lines out of three have a very definite swing similar to that of the Chinese lines. The remaining lines are just too short or too long, a circumstance very irritating to the reader, whose ear expects the rhythm to continue.

I have therefore tried to produce regular rhythmic effects similar to those of the original. Each character in the Chinese is represented by a stress in the English; but between the stresses unstressed syllables are of course interposed. In a few instances where the English insisted on being shorter than [20] the Chinese, I have preferred to vary the metre of my version, rather than pad out the line with unnecessary verbiage.

I have not used rhyme because it is impossible to produce in English rhyme-effects at all similar to those of the original, where the same rhyme sometimes runs through a whole poem. I do not, at any rate, know of any example to the contrary. Combines rhyme and literalness with wonderful dexterity. Hervey St. This book, the work of a great scholar, is reliable—except in its information about Chinese prosody. It has been difficult to compare these renderings with the original, for proper names are throughout distorted or interchanged.

Nevertheless, the book is far more readable than that of St. Denys, and shows a wider acquaintance with Chinese poetry on the part of whoever chose the poems. But the credit for the beauty of these often erroneous renderings must go to Mademoiselle Gautier herself. Seminar f. All valuable, though not free from mistakes. Chinese text with Latin translation. V deals with poetry. The Latin is seldom intelligible without reference to the Chinese.

Translators have obviously used Zottoli as a text. A prose rendering with Chinese text of about forty poems, not very well selected. The translations, though inaccurate, are a great advance on Pfizmaier. Re-translation of two poems previously mistranslated by Pfizmaier. The modern Dragon Boat Festival is supposed to be in his honour. The common people cannot share it. It comes wide spread and does not choose between noble and base or between high and low. But the wind-spirit that comes to different things is not the same.

It pours into the river-valleys and rages at the mouth of the pass. In gusty bouts it whirls. It rushes in fiery anger.

A Brief History of Chinese Poetry: Classical to Contemporary

It rumbles low with a noise like thunder, tearing down rocks and trees, smiting forests and grasses. And so growing gentler and clearer, it changes and is dispersed and dies. It bends the flowers and leaves with its breath. It wanders among the osmanthus and pepper-trees. It lingers over the fretted face of the pond, to steal the soul of the hibiscus. It touches the willow leaves and scatters the fragrant herbs. Then it pauses in the courtyard and turning to the North goes up to the Jade Hall, shakes the hanging curtains and lightly passes into the inner room.

Rushing to empty spaces it attacks the gateway, scatters the dust-heap, sends the cinders flying, pokes among foul and rotting things, till at last it enters [26] the tiled windows and reaches the rooms of the cottage. It brings fever to his body, ulcers to his lips and dimness to his eyes. It shakes him with coughing; it kills him before his time. Moreover, his character is licentious. Subtlety of speech I learnt from my teachers. As for my character, I deny that it is licentious. If you cannot, you must leave the Court.

And in my village there are none that can be compared with the girl next door. Another grain of powder would make her too pale; another touch of rouge would make her too red. Her eyebrows are like the plumage of the kingfisher, her flesh is like snow. Her waist is like a roll of new silk, her teeth are like little shells.

His wife has a wooly head and misshapen ears; projecting teeth irregularly set; a crook in her back and a halt in her gait. Moreover, she has running sores in front and behind. This passage describes the havoc of war. The harvest has not been gathered: therefore corn-offerings cannot be made to the spirits of the dead.

Han poetry

A poor man determines to go out into the world and make his fortune. His wife tries to detain him. The following seventeen poems are from a series known as the Nineteen Pieces of Old Poetry. They are manifestly not all by the same hand nor of the same date. Internal evidence shows that No. I have omitted two because of their marked inferiority. The Herd-boy, who is only figuratively speaking a herd-boy, is like the friend who is no real friend. By Wu-ti B. He came to the throne when he was only sixteen. In this poem he regrets that he is obliged to go on an official journey, leaving his mistress behind in the capital.

He is seated in his state barge surrounded by his ministers. Unable to bear his grief, he sent for wizards from all parts of China, hoping that they would be able to put him into communication with her spirit. At last one of them managed to project her shape on to a curtain. The emperor cried:. She eloped with him that night, and they set up a wine-shop together. After a time Hsiang-ju became famous as a poet, but his character was marred by love of money.

He sold love-poems, which the ladies of the palace sent to the emperor in order to win his favour. Li Ling and Su Wu were both prisoners in the land of the Huns. After nineteen years Su Wu was released. Li Ling would not go back with him. When invited to do so, he got up and danced, singing:.

About the year B. When she got there, she found her husband old and decrepit. He only saw her once or twice a year, when they drank a cup of wine together. They could not converse, as they had no language in common. He was therefore unable to say goodbye to her, and sent her three poems instead.

This is the last of the three. She sees the fruit trees in blossom and, forgetting about her silkworms, begins to pluck the branches. He was a great favourite with his father till he made a mistake in a campaign. In this poem he returns to look at the ruins of Lo-yang, where he used to live. It had been sacked by Tung Cho. The above poem vaguely recalls a famous Anglo-Saxon fragment which I will make intelligible by semi-translation:. The emperor was furious at the lightness of the punishment. By Miu Hsi died A. Therefore I have to the uttermost exposed the bitterness both of Substance and Shadow, and have made Spirit show how, by following Nature, we may dissolve this bitterness.

The general was so stupid that she finally deserted him. When he does not come, she bitterly suggests that he is as afraid of the little stream as though it were the Yellow River, the largest river in China. Altun A. Kao Huan fell ill of sadness and Pi, to taunt him, sent out a proclamation, which said:.

All the nobles were summoned to his room, and Altun was asked to sing them a song about Tchirek, his native land. He sang:. After the suicide of the last Ming emperor, he offered his services to the Ming princes who were still opposing the Manchus. In he headed a conspiracy to place the Ming prince Lu on the throne. His plans were discovered and he was arrested by Manchu troops.

Escaping their vigilance for a moment, he leapt into a river and was drowned. The following song describes the flight of a husband and wife from a town menaced by the advancing Manchus. They find the whole country-side deserted. Most of his childhood was spent at Jung-yang in Honan. His father was a second-class Assistant Department Magistrate. He tells us that his family was poor and often in difficulties. This town, lying near the north-west frontier, was the political capital of the Empire.

In its situation it somewhat resembled Madrid. Lo-yang, the Eastern city, owing to its milder climate and more accessible position, became, like Seville in Spain, a kind of social capital. But all three died soon after he got to know them. He did not do so and a scuffle ensued. Liu followed with a whip and struck him across the face. In a series of poems he had satirized the rapacity of minor officials and called attention to the intolerable sufferings of the masses. His enemies soon found an opportunity of silencing him.

Po, in a memorial to the Throne, pointed out the urgency of remedying the prevailing discontent. He should not have criticized the Prime Minister for being murdered! His opponents also raked up another charge. His mother had met her death by falling into a well while looking at flowers. In the winter of he was recalled to the capital and became a second-class Assistant Secretary. In the Emperor Mou Tsung came to the throne.

His arbitrary mis-government soon caused a fresh rising in the north-west. In his Governorship expired and he lived with the nominal rank of Imperial Tutor at the village of Li-tao-li, near Lo-yang. In he became Governor of Soochow. Here at the age of fifty-three he enjoyed a kind of second youth, much more sociable than that of thirty years before; we find him endlessly picnicking and feasting.

But after two years illness obliged him to retire. He next held various posts at the capital, but again fell ill, and in settled at Lo-yang as Governor of the Province of Honan. Henceforth, though for thirteen years he continued to hold nominal posts, he lived a life of retirement. In the winter of he was attacked by paralysis and lost the use of his left leg. After many months in bed he was again able to visit his garden, carried by Ju-man, a favourite monk.

He desired that a posthumous title should not be awarded. There is a story that he was in the habit of reading his poems to an old peasant woman and altering any expression which she could not understand.

Participating poets

The poems of his contemporaries were mere elegant diversions which enabled the scholar to display his erudition, or the literary juggler his dexterity. Like Confucius, he regarded art solely as a method of conveying instruction. He is not the only great artist who has advanced this untenable theory. He accordingly valued his didactic poems far above his other work; but it is obvious that much of his best poetry conveys no moral whatever.

We must regard them simply as moral tales in verse. In the conventional lyric poetry of his predecessors he finds little to admire. Content, in short, he valued far above form: and it was part of his theory, though certainly not of his practice, that this content ought to be definitely moral. He aimed at raising poetry from the triviality into which it had sunk and restoring it to its proper intellectual level. These are all in the old style. No poet in the world can ever have enjoyed greater contemporary popularity than Po.

Of contemporaries you alone have understood my satires and reflective poems. A hundred, a thousand years hence perhaps some one will come who will understand them as you have done. The popularity of his lighter poems lasted till the Ming dynasty, when a wave of pedantry swept over China. At that period his poetry was considered vulgar, because it was not erudite; and prosaic, because it was not rhetorical.

Although they valued form far above content, not even the Ming critics can accuse him of slovenly writing. Caring, indeed, more for matter than for manner, he used with facility and precision the technical instruments which were at his disposal. Many of the later anthologies omit his name altogether, but he has always had isolated admirers. Even during his lifetime his reputation had reached Japan, and great writers like Michizane were not ashamed to borrow from him.

It is significant that the only copy of his works in the British Museum is a seventeenth-century Japanese edition.

A Brief History of Chinese Poetry: Classical to Contemporary

But I hold myself absolved from such a task; for the sixty poems which follow will enable the reader to perform it for himself. When I awoke, I found that a letter from him had just arrived and, enclosed in it, a poem on the paulovnia flower. When the officials come to receive his grain-tribute, he remembers that he is only giving back what he had taken during his years of office. Salaries were paid partly in kind. Hers was the only grave in this desolate district on which grass would grow.

This poem is an attack on the Emperor Hsien-tsung, A. Giles, His first winter at Kiukiang. While on the road to his new province, Hang-chow, in , he sends a silver spoon to his niece A-kuei, whom he had been obliged to leave behind with her nurse, old Mrs. Congratulating himself on the comforts of his life after his retirement from office. Written circa The poem is quite frivolous, as is shown by his claim to Bodhisattva-hood.

Principal Chinese Dynasties Han, B. Wei, Chin, Northern Wei, ruled over the North of China, Liang, Sui, Sung, Ming, El candil se esta apagando, La alcuza no tiene aceite— No te digo que te vayas, No te digo que te quedes. The brazier is going out, The lamp has no more oil— I do not tell you to go, I do not tell you to stay. On two sides of river, wedding made: Time comes; no boat.

Lusting heart loses hope Not seeing what-it-desires. The axles of our chariots touch: our short swords meet. Standards obscure the sun: the foe roll up like clouds. Arrows fall thick: the warriors press forward. They menace our ranks: they break our line.

The left-hand trace-horse is dead: the one on the right is smitten. The fallen horses block our wheels: they impede the yoke-horses! They grasp their jade drum-sticks: they beat the sounding drums. Heaven decrees their fall: the dread Powers are angry. The warriors are all dead: they lie on the moor-field. They issued but shall not enter: they went but shall not return.

Their swords lie beside them: their black bows, in their hand. Though their limbs were torn, their hearts could not be repressed. Their bodies were stricken, but their souls have taken Immortality— Captains among the ghosts, heroes among the dead. To be an orphan, To be fated to be an orphan. How bitter is this lot! When my father and mother were alive I used to ride in a carriage [28] With four fine horses. But when they both died, My brother and sister-in-law Sent me out to be a merchant. At the end of the year when I came home I dared not tell them what I had suffered— Of the lice and vermin in my head, Of the dust in my face and eyes.

My brother told me to get ready the dinner. My sister-in-law told me to see after the horses. I was always going up into the hall And running down again to the parlour. My tears fell like rain. My hands were all sore And I had no shoes. I walked the cold earth Treading on thorns and brambles. As I stopped to pull out the thorns, How bitter my heart was! My tears fell and fell And I went on sobbing and sobbing. In winter I have no great-coat; Nor in summer, thin clothes. It is no pleasure to be alive. I had rather quickly leave the earth [29] And go beneath the Yellow Springs.

In the third month—silkworms and mulberries, In the sixth month—the melon-harvest. I went out with the melon-cart And just as I was coming home The melon-cart turned over. The people who came to help me were few, But the people who ate the melons were many, All they left me was the stalks— To take home as fast as I could. My brother and sister-in-law were harsh, They asked me all sorts of awful questions. Why does everyone in the village hate me? She had been ill for years and years; She sent for me to say something. When you take out the baby, rock it in your arms.

I shut the doors and barred the windows And left the motherless children. When I got to the market and met my friends, I wept. I sat down and could not go with them. I asked them to buy some cakes for my children. In the presence of my friends I sobbed and cried. I tried not to grieve, but sorrow would not cease.

I felt in my pocket and gave my friends some money. I walked up and down in the empty room This way and that a long while. In the eastern quarter dawn breaks, the stars flicker pale. The morning cock at Ju-nan mounts the wall and crows. The songs are over, the clock [5] run down, but still the feast is set. At a thousand gates and ten thousand doors the fish-shaped keys turn; Round the Palace and up by the Castle, the crows and magpies are flying.

We go to the Golden Palace: We set out the jade cups. We summon the honoured guests To enter at the Golden Gate.

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In the Eastern Kitchen the meat is sliced and ready— Roast beef and boiled pork and mutton. The Master of the Feast hands round the wine. The harp-players sound their clear chords. The cups are pushed aside and we face each other at chess: The rival pawns are marshalled rank against rank. The fire glows and the smoke puffs and curls; From the incense-burner rises a delicate fragrance.

The clear wine has made our cheeks red; Round the table joy and peace prevail. At fifteen I went with the army, At fourscore I came home. On the way I met a man from the village, I asked him who there was at home. In the courtyard was growing some wild grain; And by the well, some wild mallows. Soup and porridge are both cooked, But there is no one to eat them with. I went out and looked towards the east, While tears fell and wetted my clothes. In a narrow road where there was not room to pass My carriage met the carriage of a young man.

And while his axle was touching my axle In the narrow road I asked him where he lived. The gates of my house are built of yellow gold, [33] The hall of my house is paved with white jade, On the hall table flagons of wine are set, I have summoned to serve me dancers of Han-tan. They fought south of the Castle, They died north of the wall. They died in the moors and were not buried. Their flesh was the food of crows. Crows, how can our bodies escape you? The riders fought and were slain: Their horses wander neighing.

By the bridge there was a house. The harvest was never gathered. How can we give you your offerings? You served your Prince faithfully, [34] Though all in vain. I think of you, faithful soldiers; Your service shall not be forgotten. For in the morning you went out to battle And at night you did not return. I went out at the eastern gate: I never thought to return. But I came back to the gate with my heart full of sorrow.

There was not a peck of rice in the bin: There was not a coat hanging on the pegs. So I took my sword and went towards the gate. Above, we have the blue waves of the sky: Below, the yellow face of this little child. Soon it will be too late. When one is growing old One cannot put things off. She went up the mountain to pluck wild herbs; She came down the mountain and met her former husband. In beauty of face there is not much to choose. But in usefulness they are not at all alike. My new wife comes in from the road to meet me; My old wife always came down from her tower.

My new wife is clever at embroidering silk; My old wife was good at plain sewing. Of silk embroidery one can do an inch a day; Of plain sewing, more than five feet. Putting her silks by the side of your sewing, I see that the new will not compare with the old. My love is living To the south of the Great Sea. What shall I send to greet him? They tell me he is not true: They tell me he dashed my box to the ground, Dashed it to the ground and burnt it And scattered its ashes to the wind.

From this day to the ends of time I must never think of him, Never again think of him. The cocks are crowing, And the dogs are barking— My brother and his wife will soon know. In a moment the sun will rise in the east And then it too will know. I am a prisoner in the hands of the enemy, Enduring the shame of captivity.

My bones stick out and my strength is gone Through not getting enough to eat. My brother is a Mandarin And his horses are fed on maize. Shang Ya! I want to be your friend For ever and ever without break or decay. When the hills are all flat And the rivers are all dry, When it lightens and thunders in winter, When it rains and snows in summer, When Heaven and Earth mingle— Not till then will I part from you. How swiftly it dries, The dew on the garlic-leaf, The dew that dries so fast To-morrow will fall again.

But he whom we carry to the grave Will never more return. It is the crowded home of ghosts,— Wise and foolish shoulder to shoulder. On and on, always on and on Away from you, parted by a life-parting. The way between is difficult and long, Face to face how shall we meet again? Since we parted the time is already long, Daily my clothes hang looser round my waist. Floating clouds obscure the white sun, The wandering one has quite forgotten home.

Thinking of you has made me suddenly old, The months and years swiftly draw to their close. Green, green, The grass by the river-bank. Thick, thick, The willow trees in the garden. Sad, sad, The lady in the tower. White, white, Sitting at the casement window. Fair, fair, Her red-powdered face.

Small, small, She puts out her pale hand. Once she was a dancing-house girl. The wandering man went, but did not return. It is hard alone to keep an empty bed. Green, green, The cypress on the mound. Firm, firm, The boulder in the stream. A cup of wine together will make us glad, And a little friendship is no little matter. Yoking my chariot I urge my stubborn horses. I wander about in the streets of Wan and Lo. The great boulevards are intersected by lanes, Wherein are the town-houses of Royal Dukes. The two palaces stare at each other from afar, The twin gates rise a hundred feet.

By prolonging the feast let us keep our hearts gay, And leave no room for sadness to creep in. Plucking the lute they sent forth lingering sounds, The new melodies in beauty reached the divine. Skilful singers intoned the high words, Those who knew the tune heard the trueness of their singing. Then let us hurry out with high steps And be the first to reach the highways and fords: Rather than stay at home wretched and poor For long years plunged in sordid grief.

In the north-west there is a high house, Its top level with the floating clouds. Embroidered curtains thinly screen its windows, [42] Its storied tower is built on three steps. From above there comes a noise of playing and singing, The tune sounding, oh! Who can it be, playing so sad a tune? To each note, two or three sobs, Her high will conquered by overwhelming grief. She does not regret that she is left so sad, But minds that so few can understand her song.

She wants to become those two wild geese That with beating wings rise high aloft. Crossing the river I pluck hibiscus-flowers: In the orchid-swamps are many fragrant herbs. I gather them, but who shall I send them to? My love is living in lands far away. I turn and look towards my own country: The long road stretches on for ever. The same heart, yet a different dwelling: Always fretting, till we are grown old!


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  • A bright moon illumines the night-prospect: The house-cricket chirrups on the eastern wall. The Handle of the Pole-star points to the Beginning of Winter. The white dew wets the moor-grasses,— With sudden swiftness the times and seasons change. The autumn cicada sings among the trees, The swallows, alas, whither are they gone? Once I had a same-house friend, He took flight and rose high away. He did not remember how once we went hand in hand, But left me like footsteps behind one in the dust.

    In the South is the Winnowing-fan and the Pole-star in the North, And a Herd-boy [15] whose ox has never borne the yoke. A friend who is not firm as a great rock Is of no profit and idly bears the name. In the courtyard there grows a strange tree, Its green leaves ooze with a fragrant moisture. Holding the branch I cut a flower from the tree, Meaning to send it away to the person I love.

    Its sweet smell fills my sleeves and lap. The road is long, how shall I get it there? Such a thing is not fine enough to send: But it may remind him of the time that has past since he left. Slender, slender she plies her white fingers. Click, click go the wheels of her spinning-loom. At the end of the day she has not finished her task; Her bitter tears fall like streaming rain. The Han River runs shallow and clear; Set between them, how short a space!

    But the river water will not let them pass, Gazing at each other but never able to speak. Turning my chariot I yoke my horses and go. On and on down the long roads The autumn winds shake the hundred grasses. On every side, how desolate and bare! The things I meet are all new things, Their strangeness hastens the coming of old age.

    Prosperity and decay each have their season. Success is bitter when it is slow in coming. Suddenly he follows in the way of things that change. Fame is the only treasure that endures. The Eastern Castle stands tall and high; Far and wide stretch the towers that guard it. The whirling wind uprises and shakes the earth; [45] The autumn grasses grow thick and green.

    The Bird of the Morning Wind is stricken with sorrow; The frail cicada suffers and is hard pressed. Free and clear, let us loosen the bonds of our hearts. Why should we go on always restraining and binding? In Yen and Chao are many fair ladies, Beautiful people with faces like jade. Their clothes are made all of silk gauze. They stand at the door practising tranquil lays. The echo of their singing, how sad it sounds! By the pitch of the song one knows the stops have been tightened. To ease their minds they arrange their shawls and belts; Lowering their song, a little while they pause.

    The white aspens how they murmur, murmur; Pines and cypresses flank the broad paths. Beneath lie men who died long ago; Black, black is the long night that holds them. Deep down beneath the Yellow Springs, Thousands of years they lie without waking. In infinite succession light and darkness shift, And years vanish like the morning dew. For ever it has been that mourners in their turn were mourned, Saint and Sage,—all alike are trapped. Seeking by food to obtain Immortality Many have been the dupe of strange drugs.

    Better far to drink good wine And clothe our bodies in robes of satin and silk. The dead are gone and with them we cannot converse. The living are here and ought to have our love. Leaving the city-gate I look ahead And see before me only mounds and tombs. The old graves are ploughed up into fields, The pines and cypresses are hewn for timber. In the white aspens sad winds sing; Their long murmuring kills my heart with grief. I want to go home, to ride to my village gate.

    The years of a lifetime do not reach a hundred. When days are short and the dull nights long, Why not take a lamp and wander forth? If you want to be happy you must do it now, There is no waiting till an after-time. It is true that Master Wang became immortal, But how can we hope to share his lot? Cold, cold the year draws to its end, The crickets and grasshoppers make a doleful chirping. The chill wind increases its violence. My wandering love has no coat to cover him. He gave his embroidered furs to the Lady of Lo, But from me his bedfellow he is quite estranged.

    Sleeping alone in the depth of the long night In a dream I thought I saw the light of his face. My dear one thought of our old joys together, He came in his chariot and gave me the front reins. I wanted so to prolong our play and laughter, To hold his hand and go back with him in his coach. But, when he had come he would not stay long Nor stop to go with me to the Inner Chamber.

    I go and lean at the gate and think of my grief, My falling tears wet the double gates. At the beginning of winter a cold spirit comes, The North Wind blows—chill, chill. My sorrows being many, I know the length of the nights, Raising my head I look at the stars in their places. How with an undivided heart I loved you I fear that you will never know or guess. The bright moon, oh, how white it shines, Shines down on the gauze curtains of my bed. Racked by sorrow I toss and cannot sleep.

    Picking up my clothes, I wander up and down. My absent love says that he is happy, But I would rather he said he was coming back. Out in the courtyard I stand hesitating, alone. To whom can I tell the sad thoughts I think? Staring before me I enter my room again; Falling tears wet my mantle and robe. Autumn wind rises: white clouds fly.

    Grass and trees wither: geese go south. Orchids all in bloom: chrysanthemums smell sweet. Age how sure! The sound of her silk skirt has stopped. On the marble pavement dust grows. Her empty room is cold and still. Fallen leaves are piled against the doors. Longing for that lovely lady How can I bring my aching heart to rest? I stand and look. The swish, swish of a silk skirt. How slow she comes! Alas and alas, And again alas. By General Su Wu circa B. Since our hair was plaited and we became man and wife The love between us was never broken by doubt.

    So let us be merry this night together, Feasting and playing while the good time lasts. I suddenly remember the distance that I must travel; I spring from bed and look out to see the time. The stars and planets are all grown dim in the sky; Long, long is the road; I cannot stay.

    I am going on service, away to the battle-ground, And I do not know when I shall come back. I hold your hand with only a deep sigh; Afterwards, tears—in the days when we are parted. With all your might enjoy the spring flowers, But do not forget the time of our love and pride. Know that if I live, I will come back again, And if I die, we will go on thinking of each other.

    The good time will never come back again: In a moment,—our parting will be over. Anxiously—we halt at the road-side, Hesitating—we embrace where the fields begin. The clouds above are floating across the sky: Swiftly, swiftly passing: or blending together. The waves in the wind lose their fixed place And are rolled away each to a corner of Heaven.

    From now onwards—long must be our parting. So let us stop again for a little while. I came ten thousand leagues Across sandy deserts In the service of my Prince, To break the Hun tribes. My way was blocked and barred, My arrows and sword broken. My armies had faded away, My reputation had gone.

    My old mother is long dead. Although I want to requite my Prince How can I return? My people have married me In a far corner of Earth: Sent me away to a strange land, To the king of the Wu-sun. Always thinking of my own country, My heart sad within. Would I were a yellow stork And could fly to my old home! Join Yu Yoyo, one of the most important young voices in contemporary Chinese poetry, for an evening of bilingual readings in Chinese and English, alongside Liverpool poet Jennifer Lee Tsai and translator Dave Haysom. This workshop is part of a new initiative at the PTC to invite our touring poets and translators to introduce us to new writers from their culture that have inspired them.

    Jul 11th Poets Yu Yoyo and her translators A. Jul 12th Presented by Manchester Metropolitan University in partnership with the Poetry Translation Centre, spend an evening hearing one of the most important young voices in contemporary Chinese poetry. Jul 13th Learn more about Chinese poetry and language at this workshop with Chinese poet Yu Yoyo, a young voice in contemporary Chinese poetry, and translator Dave Haysom. No experience necessary! Jul 15th



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