Monday, September 17, 2018

The second After Autumn Rain

This song is a pair to the previous Simple Song after Autumn Rain. While the prior song used an AN-rhyme, this song uses an EN-rhyme. Other parallels tie the two songs together, such as a word derived from the verb gūni- in line 8, the EN-rhyme phrase aga simelen paired with the AN-rhyme phrase aga simeliyan, and the use of ne je opposite en jen.


julergi joringga,    On the Same Topic
Staatsbibliothek 11.74 (View Online)
buyecuke ten,    Much desired,
icangga,    pleasing,
seruken,    and cool,
eiten hacin hon genggiyen,    everything is very bright and clear.
5 edun nemeyen,    The breeze is gentle,
aga simelen,    the rain damp,
bolori fiyan iletun,    and the fall colors bold.
gūnicun,    One longs
kuwai fai seme,    wistfully
10en jen endurin.    for the fairy making things ready.


Translation Notes

simelen. The previous poem had aga simeliyan, a word that I could not find in dictionaries, and decided to read as “lonesome.” The word simelen in the present poem means “marsh,” but I could not fit that meaning into this sentence where I think the phrase aga simelen is supposed to parallel edun nemeyen. For that reason, I have read it as an adjective, “damp.”

 en jen endurin. The celestial being (endurin) is presumably a spirit of autumn. I have chosen to call it a “fairy” in keeping with my usage in the flower poems, though the term does not feel quite right. (Maybe I should use the word “spirit” instead.) In any case, the most obvious reading for this line is to have en jen modify endurin. I could not make sense of “the complete fairy,” so I took this as meaning something like en jen-i belhere endurin, “the fairy who is making things ready.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Simple Song after Autumn Rain


This is one of two poems composed on the theme “after an autumn rain.” The image above uses the calligraphy of the Staatsbibliothek manuscript on the background of a painting by Julian Alden Weir titled Autumn Rain.


bolori agaha amala
bai irgebuhe uculen
    A Simple Song After Autumn Rain
Staatsbibliothek 11.73 (View Online)
selacuka fon,    A pleasing season,
seruken,    cool,
bolokon,    and clean,
wangga wa su hon hihan,    rare and wonderful are the smells and whirlwinds.
5aga simeliyan,    The rains are lonesome,
edun mandakan,    the breezes gentle,
bolori fiyan gincihiyan,    the autumn colors brilliant.
gūnigan,    One feels
la li seme,    sharply and clearly
10ne je saikan ton.    that this, right now, is a beautiful time.

Translation Notes

wangga wa. The most obvious English translations for wangga lean heavily in the direction of the negative (smelly, odorous) or flowery (scented, fragrant). While wangga is indeed used to refer to the scent of flowers, it is also used to describe a broad range of other pleasant aromas such as autumn leaves, wine, and winter rain. I chose to reduce wangga wa to simply “smells” to encompass this range of meaning.

hihan. The word hihan conveys the idea that the winds and smells of Autumn are not encountered in any other season, and are precious for that reason. I can’t think of a single English word that really conveys this idea, so I have landed on “rare and wonderful” to capture both parts of the meaning.

simeliyan. My dictionaries don’t have this word, but I do find simeli, “lonely, bleak” and simelen, “marsh.”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Song on Begonia

According to the traditional Chinese solar and lunar calendars, Autumn has already started (though we have a few more weeks till the equinox starts the season in the Western calendar). In Chinese the begonia is called the “Autumn Sea Crab-Apple,” a calque of which becomes the Manchu name, bolori fulana ilha.

Begonias grow in China, but south of the Yellow River basin.

bolori fulana ilha be irgebuhe uculen    A Song on Begonia
Staatsbibliothek 11.75 (View Online)
hojo kai,    She is beautiful,
ilhai endurin,    the fairy of the flower.
bolgo gingge boco fiyan,    Clean and pure of color and hue,
urhu haihū banin wen,    her staggered appearance
5fiyanggai geoden.    is a colorful deception.

soktohoo,
   
Is she drunk?
cira jing fuhun,    Her face suddenly looks angry,
elhe alhai aššan,    her movements are languid.
nilgiyan fiyanggai simelen,    The wetland, brilliant with color,
10buyecuke ten.    is the height of loveliness.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Bottle Fish

Whereas the Bird in a Cage was anxious and agitated, this fish is apparently satisfied with its situation.

The title could suggest a fish in a bottle or a fish painted on a bottle.


molu-i nimaha [瓶魚],    Bottle Fish
Staatsbibliothek 11.46 (View Online)
ba na isheliyen,    Its realm is narrow,
daruhai,    but it is always
elehun,    content.
ula bira-i durun,    Like a river or stream,
5dehe aibide,    but where are the fish hooks?
asu seriken,    Nets are scarce,
ele mila mujilen.    and its mind is free and easy.


Translation Notes

molu-i nimaha. The word molu is apparently the same as malu, “liquor bottle.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Asking of Heaven, a lament composed during the Taiping rebellion?

This song laments a dark and bloody time during which the government was ineffective, the troops unfed, bandits proliferated, and neither the gods nor the buddhas would respond to calls for help.

It echoes the same themes as the Lament on the State of the Times, and while neither song mentions anything concrete that relates to a specific time period, there are a number of hints that suggest (to me, anyway) that this refers to the Taiping rebellion, one of the bloodiest civil wars in history. For example:
  • There is a clear feeling of betrayed religious faith the poem, daring to ask Heaven to explain itself, complaining that the gods are useless and the buddhas don’t care. It seems this could reflect the poet’s emotional response to the military successes of the alien religion of the Taiping rebellion.
  • This lament begs Heaven to “let the proper places of father and mother be in true balance,” which seems like it could be a response to the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom’s declaration that the sexes were equal.
  • This lament asks “Where are goods and property now?” This seems like it could be a response to the Taiping abolition of private property.


abka de fonjire ucun [問天歌]    A Song Asking of Heaven
Staatsbibliothek 4.4 (View Online)
abkai gūnin be dacilara.    I  will inquire of Heaven’s mind,
ai turgun be muten ala.    empower me by telling me the reason.
banjirede amuran.    The love of life
abka na-i giyan giyangga,    is the proper order of Heaven and Earth.
5tumen jaka serengge,    The myriad things
abka na-i juse dasu,    are the children of Heaven and Earth.
abka na oci    Heaven and Earth are
     tumen jaka-i ama aja,         the mother and father of the myriad things,
geren ergengge-i wesihungge,    they raised up the many living beings,
niyalmai teile dabala,    not only us human beings,
10urunderahū seme,    but they fear that we should become hungry,
tuttu banjiha jeku bele fulu,    so there are grains and food in plenty,
beyeburahū seme,    and fear that we might freeze,
tuttu mutuha kubun kima niša,    so there are cotton and hemp in profusion,
eture hacin,    and things to wear:
15jodon hiyaban cece ceri    garments of grass, hemp, gauze, netting,
     boso suje-i adu,         cloth and silk.
jetere jaka    and things to eat:
handu šušu turi    rice, sorghum, beans,
     maise ira mere-i buda,         wheat, millet and buckwheat.
fusu fasa tugi aga,    Clouds and rain rush by,
kete kata šun biya,    the sun and moon roll on,
20šahūrun halhūn-i ujire,    nurturing us through cold and heat,
edun akjan-i hūwašara,    raising us through wind and thunder.
aikan faikan jilaka,    They adored us as adorable things,
uttu tuttu gosiha,

    this way and that way they loved us.

te oci ajaja,    But now, oh,
25ai uttu gūwaliyaka,    how things have changed.
mujakū oshon,    Truly cruel,
umesi kiriba,    very barbaric.
ehengge,    Evil
kesingge,    is treated as a blessing,
30saingge,    Good
suingga,    is treated as harmful.
hūlha holo yendengge,    Robbers and thieves are on the rise,
nomhon sain susaka,    honesty and goodness perish.
boigon hethe te aibi,    Where are goods and property now?
35beye ergen bai waliya,    Cast away our bodies and lives,
usin yafan šuwe akū.    the fields and gardens are utterly gone.
menggun jiha ne aba,

    Where are silver and cash now?

haha hehe,    Men and women,
asiha sakda,    children and the elderly,
40fifaka fosoko,    are scattered hither and thither,
jailaha ukaka,    they have hidden and they have fled.
senggi eyepi,    Blood has flowed
giran iktaka,    and corpses piled up.
tumen boo-i ehe [凶] so [兆],    Evil omens on ten thousand households,
45tanggū ba-i wahūn wa,    a foul stench for a hundred miles,
geren irgen ai weile,    but what crime did the people commit?
sui akū de sui mangga,

    It is an injustice on those who did no harm.

jiyanggiyūn amban coohai dade,    Among the generals, officials and soldiers,
arga bodon eden tongga,    plans and calculations are poor and few.
50coohai baitalan,     Implements of war
dembei ambula,    are great in number,
namun funtuhun,    but the storehouses are empty,
caliyan wajiha,    and the provisions are finished.
tule edede,    Freezing on the outside,
55dolo gosime,    hungry on the inside,
dain de tuhekei,    they are falling in battle,
jeyen de wabuhai,    they are being slain by the blade,
dube ai, wajin ya    and what is the end of it? What is the finish of it?
enduri baitakū,    The gods are no use.
60fucihi wei guwanta,    The buddhas don’t care.
ba bade gelecuke,    Every region is frightened,
boo tome akacuka,    each home is full of grief.
genggiyen ejen ai baliya,    Oh enlightened lord! Alas!
abka ya,    Oh Heaven!
65abka ya,    Oh Heaven!
dutu doko ai waka,    Who could blame the deaf and blind?
šan waliya,    Discard your ears.
yasa de,    How can your eyes
uttungge ai jempi,    tolerate this kind of thing?
70 uttungge ai tusa,    What benefit is there to this kind of thing?
g'alab ton okini,

    Let the end of the world come!

šar sere gūnin ainara,    What would a sympathetic mind do?
jobolon be aitubu,    Revive sorrow,
jobocun be sucina,    and redeem grief.
75gashan be wasifi,    Descend upon the calamity,
hūlha sabe hūdun wa,    quickly kill the bandits,
taifin de forgošo,    restore the peace,
necin de dahūna,    and return tranquility.
ama emei teisu giyan,    Let the proper places of father and mother
80

teherere mujangga,

    be in true balance.

uttu akū ohode,    Since it has not been thus,
turgun gūnin yamaka,    there must be some reason for it.
gisun wacihiya,    Complete my words,
jorin hafukiya,    inform me in detail.
85aide uttu babe,    How can it be like this?
getuken-i alara.    Clearly tell.

Translation Notes

dutu doko ai waka. From context it is clear that doko is the same as dogo, “blind.”

g'alab ton okini. A similar line appeared in the Lament on the State of the Times, where the poet said g'alab ton esi giyan, and Jakdan used similar expressions a couple of times. I think the idea is that times have become so bad that the poet calls for the end of the kalpa and the dissolution of the world.

enduri baitakū, fucihi wei guwanta. Alternately, it seems like this might read “no one resorts to the gods, no one cares about the Buddhas.” Jakdan has a very similar couplet in his Ballad in a Drunken Ramble, where he says enduri wei guwanta, fucihi bai bodon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Another Fisherman

This poem about a fisherman is to the tune The Immortal of Linjiang (臨江仙).

Like the previous fisherman poems, this one paints the fisherman’s home as the outdoor landscape in which he fishes, and like 11.1 this one has the fisherman trade his catch for wine.

nimaha butara niyalma    Fisherman
Staatsbibliothek 11.80 (View Online)
suman weren hūwai seme,    Mist and ripples swirl,
mini beye boo hūwa,    around me, my home, my garden.
baha nimaha sampa,    The fish and shrimp we’ve caught,
nure udafi,    let’s trade them for wine,
5

sasa omica,

    and drink together.

niša baturu kiyangkiyan,    Cast strength, bravery and heroism
boljon ici waliya,    on the waves.
bi jalan ci jailaha,    I have hidden from the world,
gucu ulai su,    my friends are the whirlwinds of the river,
10 hoki alin biya.    my companions, the mountains and moon.

Translation Notes


boljon ici waliya. The use of ici in this line is interesting, reminiscent of the use of ci in Sibe to mean “towards.”

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Old Fisherman

In this poem, the fisherman is both poor and rich at the same time. While he has little in the way of valuable goods and property, with his simple outdoor livelihood he is rich in what he wants: Food, wine and a beautiful landscape.

nimaha butara mafa [漁翁],    The Old Fisherman
Staatsbibliothek 11.13 (View Online)
banjin ai,    What is he like?
borgon ambula,    With great heaps
dehe sijin welmiyeku,    of hooks, lines, fishing poles,
nure nimaha sampa,    of wine, fish and shrimp
5

bayakan mafa.

    the old man is rich.

teku ai,    What is his dwelling?
ūlen hon fiyangga,    His house is very colorful,
tugi suman boo leli,    his home of clouds and mist is vast,
ula alin hūwa amba,    his garden of rivers and mountains is great,
10mukei falangga.    in a watery neighborhood.