This poem, by Du Fu, China’s greatest poet, continues to haunt RT. The version below isn’t his first attempt at bringing the poem over into English, and certainly the poem’s reputation (its opening lines are generally considered to be the greatest ever written in Chinese poetry) has something to do with his interest. Or it may simply be that the poem is being given to RT slowly, line by line. An improvement over his previous attempt? RT will let his readers judge …
The Great Palace lies in ruins;
mountains reflect, rivers pass on.
In cities, weeds like silk pile up,
and rain slaps the flower’s cheek.
But enough of this!
Birdsong astonishes my heart.
Three months have passed
and still the beacon fires burn.
I’d pay pure gold for a letter.
Raking my head, exasperated,
I pull loose my scholar’s knot.
The hairpin dangles.
Painting: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang fleeing to Sichuan province from Chang’an; painter unknown. 11th century. WikiCmns. Public Domain.
2015 was full of distractions and challenges for RT, which has kept him from opining in these pages for some time. Major life changes confront him, but this is how things happen. At heart, though, he remains a writer and feels the call of his several projects, not least of which is The Rag Tree. His mother’s memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, is finished, but RT can only say that its publication is as imminent as anything else in his life right now.
The memoir is not the only project that RT has completed but been unable to share with the public. At the end of 2014, he finished a video that features an audio file of him reading his prologue to Gilgamesh, accompanied by various illustrations from the internet. He uploaded the video onto YouTube, hoping to attract more attention to his translation. Then things got complicated.
Things are now somewhat less complicated, and RT is posting a link to the video below. Eventually, he would like to put all of the translation up on YouTube. In the meantime, he hopes that the current offering will propitiate the god of complications and entertain his readers.
Happy New Year, and here’s to a wonderful 2016! RT
Image: Grabado de Nimrod. WikiCmns. Public Domain.
RT has been struggling with some problems, not least of them an invasion of the local bug population… running through all the distractions like Ariadne’s thread has been the work on his mother’s memoirs. A Daughter’s Song and Dance is now at the proofing stage, and RT hopes to have the first bound copies in the next week or two. Then it’s publication on Lulu and fundraising for a larger paper run to distribute in bookstores nearby.
Here is one of RT’s reconstruction based on material in the Gospel of Thomas… he hopes it will lift the reader’s spirit, as it has lifted RT’s:
Saying 3. Jesus said, “Do not listen to those you have trusted. If they tell you, ‘Look, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds will get there before you do. If they say, “Hey, the Kingdom is in the ocean,’ then the fish will swim into it first. And if they say, ‘The Kingdom is in the earth,’ the dead will get there before you. But I tell you that the Kingdom is the fire in your hearts, so that you may precede all others.”
© 2013, The Rag Tree
Photo: burning match. Heidas. WikiCmns. CC BY-SA 3.0.
what to do when the to do list gets too long?
write down a few words, of course. RT
i should have been smarter. not
that the moment was easy. i was
avoiding her, as i usually do, or at
least the possibility of happiness.
which isn’t always so pretty.
not to mention the guilt,
which pursues me like a poem…
but this was about her, wasn’t it?
insipid, some might say, but
the beginning keeps repeating itself,
longing to distend into a middle.
distill itself still? that can’t be
right… Milton, million? weathercocked or not,
it’s up and striding among the billions. horse marine.
copyright © 2015, The Rag Tree
Drawing: The Mermaid (1887). Frederick Stuart Church, WikiCmns; Public Domain.
Readers may recall that RT was born in Brazil 50-odd years ago. He considered himself fairly conversant in Braziliana, at least in its 1950s and 1960s aspects, but confesses that he had never heard of Albert Eckhout when he stumbled on his work a few days back. Such things happen of course, especially when the painter in question lived hundreds of years ago, but RT was also ignorant of the fact that the Dutch established a colony in northeastern Brazil, New Holland, and held on to it for a couple of decades before being forced out by the Portuguese. The Dutch incursion might seem trivial, except that Brazil apparently owes the origin of its national consciousness to this struggle with a European competitor.
And then there is the question of Mr. Eckhout’s work; African Woman, to RT’s eye, anticipates the paintings of Henri Rousseau by several centuries. What an achievement…and if that were not enough, Mr. Eckhout has a minor planet named after him. But now we have entered the realm of true trivia.
Last but not least among RT’s recent discoveries concerning Latin America is the artistic movement known as Costumbrismo, which flourished during the 19th century. Hardly a minor movement, Costumbrismo counted adherents in every Latin American country and in Spain as well.
Who’d’a thunk it? RT is more than satisfied with the results of his latest wanderings…
Painting: African Woman. Albert Eckhout (c. 1610–1665). WikiCmns. Public Domain.
Wow! Sometimes traveling 4.67 billion miles (or getting up at 4 in the morning) is worth it… RT
Photo: Pluto Backlit by the Sun. NASA. NASA website. Public Domain.
RT offers here a powerful and enigmatic poem by the great Victorian poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins. By way of unraveling these tightly bound lines, RT notes that kingfishers suggest the Fisher King, that emasculated keeper of the Grail. This is a physical poem, one that embraces the beauty and sheer substance of the world, and the acts of men, that handsome, tremendous spectacle.
AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme
AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 5
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces; 10
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Painting: Hopkins, painted 24 July 1866; unknown. WikiCmns; Public Domain.