Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Snow, to the tune of The Black-Naped Oriole

It hasn’t snowed here yet, but we have freezing temperatures and frost, and there is snow on the other side of the Cascades. Snow is a popular theme in Manchu poetry (as in Chinese), so there is no risk that I will run out of snow poems this winter.

Baqiao (灞橋) is a district of Xi’an city. The reference here may be to a line of Huáng Tāo (黃滔) from the late Táng. Here is my tortured translation of those lines:

背將蹤跡向京師,On the trail with a load on my back, I headed for the capital,
出在先春入後時。I left the prior Spring, I got here a while later.
落日灞橋飛雪裏,The setting sun and Baqiao in the flying snow,
已聞南院有看期。I had heard of the southern court, now I have time to see it.

The Horse of Blue Pass (藍關擁馬) is a literary allusion used in poetry about snow back to the Táng. I am not sure what the original reference is, but a commonly cited one is from Hán Yù (韓愈):

雲橫秦嶺家何在?Clouds across the Qinling range. Where is my home?
雪擁藍關馬不前:Snow gathers on the blue passes, and the horse will not go forward.

With the blue passes and the remoteness of the scene, this poem by Hán Yù reminds me of some lines from W. E. B. Du Bois, in The Souls of Black Folk (ch. 4, “On the Meaning of Progress”):
So I walked on and on—horses were too expensive—until I had wandered beyond railways, beyond stage lines, to a land of “varmints” and rattlesnakes, where the coming of a stranger was an event, and men lived and died in the shadow of one blue hill.
Now, to turn to the Manchu poem:

nimanggi,    Snow
Staatsbibliothek 11.7 (View Online)
untuhun deri,    Down through the void
gukiong moo,    the gemwillow trees
sigapi,    have dropped their leaves.
gu-i jalan adali,    It is like a world of jade.
5ba kiyoo [灞橋] ya nofi,    Who has heard
gisun bahambi,    of Baqiao?
lan guwan morin [藍關擁馬] libki,    The horse at the Blue Pass is worn out.
niyengniyeri,    With the plum flowers
nenden ilha —    of Spring —
10juru ufuhi.    a matched set.

Translation Difficulties


gukiong moo. Norman has guki moo, “an exotic tree resembling the weeping willow,” as well as gukiong, “hyacinth (a gem).” This seems like a portmanteau, so I’ve translated it with a portmanteau of my own.

gisun bahambi. I am not aware of this being a set phrase, but the meaning “to hear of” seems possible. Perhaps the lines ba kiyoo ya nofi / gisun bahambi are meant to contrast with the 已聞南院 of Huáng Tāo’s poem, pitting the fame of the Táng court against that of Baqiao, a district that surely would not have been as well known in its own time, but has since become famous in poetry.

juru ufuhi. The word juru means “a pair,” and ufuhi “a portion,” but I’m not entirely sure how to put them together. I think the pair in question must be the snow and the plum flowers (which drift like snow when they fall). Several expressions containing juru, such as juru gisun, have a sense of two different things that fit together, so that is how I have read it.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Moon, to the tune of Black-Naped Oriole

The first eight poems of fascicle 11 of Staatsbibliothek 34981 are set to the Black-Naped Oriole tune, and written on the following themes:

  • The Firsherman
  • The Woodcutter
  • The Plowman
  • The Reader
  • Wind
  • Flower
  • Snow
  • The Moon

Poems 13-20 of the same fascicle are on nearly the same themes, but set to the tune Wind in the Pines. (The only difference is that the theme of poem 16 is “The Herdsman” instead of “The Reader.”) I don’t know what it means that these themes occur in this order, but I previously noted that the second poem on The Wind looks like a response to the first one, so perhaps the entire second set was written in response to the first set.

Since my last post was about the beautiful (and shocking) second poem on the Moon, I thought I would make this post about the first one.


biya,    The Moon
Staatsbibliothek 11.8 (View Online)
bulekui yangse,    This mirror-like thing,
atanggi,    when
werihe,    was it left behind?
tumen jalan genggiyengge,    It has been ten thousand generations of illumination.
5can o [婵娥] wei gege,    Whose princess is Chang’e?
u g'ang ya doose,    Which Daoist priest is Wugang?
guwang han gurung [廣寒宮]    Is the “Vast Cold Palace”
cibsunggeo,    full of silence?
ten-i e,    The lofty feminine,
10šungga moo ai biretei holo.    the osmanthus tree, are they completely false?

Translation Difficulties


werihe. Who is leaving what behind? Does this refer to Chang’e and Wugang leaving the earth behind? Or does it refer to the moon being left behind in the sky? I have decided to read it as the latter because otherwise the first like, bulekui yangse, is left hanging.

cibsunggeo. Norman has cibsu hiyan, “incense used at sacrifices,” apparently connected with the vocalically unusual cibsonggo, “harmony; the right side of an ancestral temple” and cibsen, “quietness; stillness.”

ai biretei holo. The phrase biretei holo seems to clearly mean “completely false,” but what is the ai doing? Since so many of the lines in this poem are questions, I took this to be a final question, rather than an assertion like “alas, they are completely false.”

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Moon, to the tune of Wind in the Pines

Here is another poem to the tune of Wind in the Pines. The theme is the moon (biya) so it has the thematic A-rhyme.

This poem is like a diptych, with the two stanzas of the Wind in the Pines form giving us two starkly different views of the moon. The first stanza describes the moon as an object of beauty, a sphere in space that bathes the world in a cold light. The second stanza abruptly turns to the regret Chang’e feels after being parted from the fertile earth to live out a cold eternity in the vast and empty palaces of the moon.

biya [月],    The Moon
Staatsbibliothek 11.20 (View Online)
untuhun ya bai tana,    From what region of the void is this pearl?
buleku fiyangga,    Mirror-colored,
we-i hungkerehengge,    molded by whom?
5 fosoci, gehun ba ba,    When it shines, everywhere it is bright,
gecen helmen jalu,    full of frost shadows,
muke elden niša,

    replete with water light.

da e simen bakjikan,    Her menstrual flow was once thick,
10 te goidatala,    now, after so long,
ekiyehun erin fulu,    thin times remain.
muheliyen ainu tongga,    How limited is this sphere,
selabun seriken,    happiness is sparse,
seyecun utala.    and regret so plentiful.

Translation Difficulties


e simen. Norman has in-i simen, “menstrual discharge,” which must surely be the same thing, the word in being Chinese 陰, and the word e being the native Manchu word for the feminine principle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Manchu Song on Winter Rain in Seven-Syllable Couplets

The rain has set in in Portland, and according to the traditional Chinese agricultural calendar we have entered winter, so it seems appropriate to post a song about winter rain.

Rain is an uncommon theme for Manchu poetry, and winter rain seems all the more dreary and unlikely as a topic of verse. But as the last lines make clear, this song is really about being happy regardless of your circumstances. It may be cold, but the rain at night is fragrant, and instead of flimsy flowers the world is decorated by yellow chrysanthemums and red maple leaves.

tuweri aga be irgebuhe manju uculen    A Manchu Song on Winter Rain
Staatsbibliothek 4.10 (View Online)
emu dobori beikuwen,    One night it was cold,
dule agai šahūrun,    it was actually the chill of rain.
erin ba be burakū,    I could not tell you where or when,
ara tuwahai gecuhun,    but oh, in the blink of an eye, there was frost,
5

wangga wa wen wasika,

    and an aromatic scent descended.

fiyangga fiyen fiyan filtahūn,    Bare of colorful makeup,
eiten ilha sigapi,    every flower had fallen,
boco ice juwe hacin,    but there were two new kinds of color,
bojiri hon sohokon,    the chrysanthemum being very yellow,
10 molo ele fulahūn,    and the maple all the more red,
elemangga kalcunggi,    but nonetheless vibrant,
utulihekū gecen,

    despite the frost.

sasa tuweri bolori,    Winter together with Autumn,
uhei kulun dahasun,    the Celestial and Earthly together,
15ainu cingkai encu ni,    aren’t they vastly different?
ere yala ai turgun,    So what is the reason for this?
teisu teisu banjitai,    They each have their nature,
meni meni sukdun wen,

    their various vital forces.

ilakangge hahiba,    That which blooms is quick,
20baharangge nekeliyen,    that which can do it is flimsy.
sigahangge amala,    After the falling of leaves,
alihangge jiramin,

    what remains is thick.

fulibuha giyan fiyan-i,    There is an order to the forms things take,
neigen akū de neigen,    an equality in their inequality.
25 tere tenteke giru,    That one has an appearance like that,
ere enteke banin,    this one has a shape like this,
ere tuttu jilakan,    this one is pitiful in that way,
ere uttu elehun,    this one is composed in this way.
daci adali akū,    Fundamentally different,
30

aide gese teheren,

    how are they equally balanced?

sence seci se seri,    A mushroom’s years are scanty,
jakdan jaci jalafun,    the pine has a very long life,
goiha goidaha,    stricken, and long-lived,
baji banjiha banjin,

    appearing only scarcely alive.

35manda bime hon manda,    When something is slow, it is really slow,
hūdun dade ten hūdun,    when quick it is fundamentally quick,
ehe dade ten ehe,    when bad it is fundamentally bad,
sain bime hon sain,    when good it is really good.
erei haran ai seci,    What do you say is the reason for this?
40

gemu meimeni sukdun,

    They are all vital forces.

hafu tuwaha sehede,    When you have seen through it,
teksin akū-i teksin,    it is a neatly arranged disorder.
arbun bisirelengge,    All forms that exist,
dubentele efujen,    in the end are subject to destruction,
45taka bisire beye,    the temporary body,
yaha tuwai fon erin,

    the seasons and hours of embers and fire.

sebjen bici sebjele,    When there is happiness, rejoice.
ainu urui jobocun,    Why be constantly miserable?
kuwai fai seme gūnici,    If one thinks about it lightly,
50

ne je yooni selabun,

    immediately one is entirely content.

jalan doroi mengde fa,    This is a window on the way of the world,
agu hūtukan neilen,    sir, a quick revelation:
encu emu abka na,    Different yet the same are heaven and earth;
nimaha še urgun ten,    fish and black kite are both extremely happy.
55 elhe baire dasargan,    A formula for seeking peace,
ere emu uculen.    is this single song.

Translation Difficulties


erin ba be burakū. Literally “not giving the time or the place.” The “giving” here is presumably metaphorical, but what type of giving is this? Who is the giver and who is the receipient? The default subject would be the topic of the previous line, “the chill of rain,” but I can’t make sense of that. Instead, I am reading this as the poet being unable to give the reader the time and place that the event occurred.

utulihekū gecen. From the verb utulimbi, “to be aware,” I take utulihekū to be a converb literally meaning “having been unaware,” but by extension “regardless of.”

encu emu abka na / nimaha še urgun ten. I wrestled with this for a very long time, and while I am not entirely happy with the reading I landed on, it is the best I could come up with. The poet has repeatedly touched on the idea of sameness within difference, in lines like neigen akū de neigen and teksin akū-i teksin. In these lines I think he means to say that heaven and earth are both different and the same, like the fish and black kite, which inhabit different realms yet both experience happiness.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Weiqi, a third poem, to an (as yet) unknown tune

The 11th fascicle of Staatsbibliothek 34981 has turned up a third poem on weiqi, this one is apparently set to a -style tune, but I’m not sure what the tune is. The metrical scheme seems to consist of two stanzas of the form 7,6,7,5,5 with rhyme x,A,A,x,A.

This poem uses an EO-rhyme, which consists of certain words ending in EO and IO. I think these words probably ended in a rising diphthong, such as [əw], and therefore do not rhyme with other words ending in -o, which fall into the E rhyme.

It seems likely that the poet chose the EO-rhyme because it rhymed with the theme, but interestingly the author of the first weiqi poem I looked at chose an E rhyme, suggesting that tonio could have been pronounced in two different ways, perhaps as [tɔɲɔ] at some times, and [tɔɲəw] at others.


tonio [碁],    Weiqi
Staatsbibliothek 11.22 (View Online)
yacin šanyan juwe siden,    Black and white, the two sides,
maka kimun binio,    I wonder, is there some enmity?
arga bodon unenggio,    Are the plans and calculations genuine?
etehe seme,    Suppose you win,
5aibe bahambio,    what do you get?
galai afambi seci,    As for attacking moves,
yala bucunuheo,    haven’t you just died together?
wara deribun sureo,    Is it wise to begin killing?
efin dabala,    It is only a game.
10batai adalio.    Are you like enemies?

Translation Difficulties


bucunuheo. I don’t find this in my dictionaries. I have read it as *bucenuheo, from *bucenumbi, “to die together.”

Friday, November 24, 2017

Wind, to the tune of Wind in the Pines

This poem seems like a response to the the previous version of Wind, which was set to the Black-Naped Oriole tune. The two poems use the same rhyme, but while the previous poem described the wind in sublime and lofty terms, ending with a reference to the primordial eldest sister, this poem takes the eldest sister and imbues her with might and power.

The Manchu poems set to Wind in the Pines in Staatsbibliothek 11 and 14 consist of two stanzas with the metrical pattern 7,5,7,7,6,6 and rhyme pattern A,A,x,A,xA. This is essentially the same as the  tune 風入松 as used by Song poet Wú Wényīng in a work titled 鄰舟妙香 (“Wonderful fragrance of the neighboring boat.”)

In addition to fitting the Chinese  pattern, this poem also makes every line alliterative.

edun [風]    Wind
feng žu sung [風入松] sere mudan    To the tune of Wind in the Pines
Staatsbibliothek 11.17 (View Online)
ere eyungge eyun,    This eldest sister,
dosire dosin,    her entry, when she enters,
ara arbun amba ni,    doesn’t she take a mighty form?
asuki, ai ajigen,    A faint noise, but nothing small,
5 fafuri fafungga,    stern when fierce,
nemeyen nesuken.

    tender when gentle.

lasihire lalahūn,    The soft one that shakes
wenere weren,    is the ripple that melts.
10were wara encu ba,    She will nurture and kill in different places,
enteke encu erin,    she does so in different seasons.
mutubure muten,    The force that raises to maturity
šahūrara šajin.    is the holy power that makes cold.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Wind, another Black-Naped Oriole poem

I’ve been busy the last week looking at poems in fascicle 11 of Staatsbibliothek 34981. I had not originally thought that these were autochthonous Manchu poems, but on re-reviewing it I now think they are. (If you want to know more about how I decide what is an original Manchu poem and what is a translation, see my page on the Staatsbibliothek poems.)

Here is one of the poems from that fascicle. It is another Black-Naped Oriole poem, concise and somewhat obscure. The theme is “the wind” and the rhyme is EN, comprising words ending in -en, -in, -un and -ūn, including the theme word edun.

At the end of the poem the author says that the wind is an eldest sister. Apparently each of the trigrams can be understood as a member of a family, and in this model the trigram of the wind corresponds to the eldest daughter (長女).


edun [風]    The Wind
Staatsbibliothek 11.5 (View Online)
jijuhan dosin,    The entry of the trigram,
asuki,    is a faint noise,
untuhun,    an emptiness,
halhūn beikuwen ai kemun,    heat and cold without order.
5hūwašarai tucin,    It is the reason for growth,
sigarai yarun,    the origin of leaf-fall,
were wara kūbulin,    the cycle of nurturing and killing.
da fukjin,    At the very beginning,
sargan jusei —    among the daughters it was —
10eyungge eyun.    eldest sister.

Translation Difficulties


were wara kūbulin. The phrase were wara doesn’t appear in my dictionaries, but the phrase banjire were is given in Norman for “livelihood”, and wara could be the imperfect participle of wambi, “to kill.” I have long thought that the verb wambi is somehow connected with words related to the sense of downward motion, like wasimbi, wasihūn, wala and wargi. Perhaps the verb wembi, now meaning “to melt; to warm; to civilize,” is connected with words with an upward sense like wesimbi, wesihun. If so, perhaps it originally had a meaning in opposition to wambi, with a sense of “to give life to something.” For the purpose of this translation, that is how I have read it.

ai kemun. This would technically be a rhetorical question (“what order is there...?”) but based on Jakdan’s translation of the Ever-Turning Horse Lantern I feel free to decode the rhetorical question as a statement that “there is no order....”