Wednesday, January 20, 2016
flower & leaf each conform to heaven’s will;
Yangzi & creek both share one rock foundation
dawn’s red clouds conform to their own reflections;
cold water currents consent to the channel’s scar
it’s easy to weep like Yang Zhu lost at a crossroads;
it’s hard to summon back Qu Yuan’s drifting soul
come evening, wind & big waves—unsettled too,
I ship oars to make for night’s lodging; but where?
Based on Du Fu: 秋清
Yang Zhu: A philosopher from the Warring States period who lived 440-360 BCE. Yang’s philosophy centers on the good of the self, & was an alternative view to Confucianism & Mohism, which subordinated the good of the self to the universal good. A famous anecdote about Yang Zhu is that he wept at a crossroads because he realized the proliferation of choices implied by following one fork in a road & not another.
Qu Yuan: A poet from the Warring States period who lived during the late 4th & early 3rd centuries BCE. Many poems from the Cuci, or Songs of Chu anthology are ascribed to him, though there is controversy about how many he actually wrote. However, he is generally accepted as author of the “Li Sao”, or “Encountering Sorrow” (see illustration).
Qu Yuan was exiled during a period of turmoil, & finally committed ritual suicide by throwing himself into the Miluo River in Hunan province. It was said that certain shamanistic poems were originally incantations to summon Qu Yuan’s soul back from the dead; it’s relevant to Du Fu’s situation that these incantations were calling the soul back from “the south.”
Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
‘Two pages from "Li sao" from a 1645 illustrated copy of the Chuci, showing the poem "Li Sao", with its name being enhanced by the addition of the character 經 (jing), which is usually only so used in the case of referring to one of the Chinese Classics’: photo & cropping by Wiki user White whirlwind (link to his user page is dead), who makes it available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.