Sunday, October 9, 2016

partridge sky

partridge sky

this winter sun—dreary so dreary—climbs past my locked window:
parasol trees must hate frosty nights returning—
wine’s all gone, better savor bitter tea instead;
& my dream’s cut short: borneol’s insistent, aromatic—
autumn’s already used up
but the days remain long:
like Zong Xuan’s homesick heart, but colder, more bitter—
it’s not as if happiness follows the intoxicating cup: don’t
forget yellow chrysanthemums budding by the eastern hedge

Jack Hayes
© 2016
based on Li Qingzhaho:
zhègū tiān

Partridge Sky: This ci poem is set to an existing tune, which is "Partridge Sky".
Borneol: "Borneol is easily oxidized to the ketone (camphor). One historical name for borneol is Borneo camphor which explains the name.... Borneol is used in traditional Chinese medicine as moxa." 
Zong Xuan: Also known as Wang Can, a Han Dynasty poet, who composed 七哀诗 qī āi shī, usually translated as "The Song of Seven Sorrows". In addition, the final line alludes to some famous lines by Six Dynasties poet, Tao Yuanming, here in Arthur Waley's translation:

I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
Then gaze long at the distant summer hills.
The mountain air is fresh at the dusk of day:
The flying birds two by two return.
In these things there lies a deep meaning;
Yet when we would express it, words suddenly fail us.

The poem is posted today to mark the 重陽節 Chóng yáng jié or Double Ninth Festival; this falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar, & is also known as the 菊節 Jú jié or Chrysanthemum Festival.

Thanks as always to my partner Sheila Graham-Smith for her invaluable research & editorial work.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Chrysanthemums: Xue Wu, 17th century, ink and gold on paper, Honolulu Museum of Art, accession 2312.1
Public domain

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