Monday, November 6, 2017

A Chrysanthemum at the End, to the tune of the Black-Naped Oriole

I had originally intended to post another weiqi poem, but I got bogged down in the details, so it will have to wait till later. In the meantime, keeping with the autumnal theme, here is another Black-Naped Oriole poem about a chrysanthemum at the end of the season.

The last line is a reference to the one of the Chinese names for chrysanthemum, 陶菊 táo jú, whose first character is the same as the surname Táo. In my translation I have taken the subject to be singular, though it could have been plural, and I have read the last line to mean that the chrysanthemum is a member of the Táo family, because I think this reading works well as an homage to an elderly person of the surname Táo.

dubesilehe bojiri [殘菊] ilha    A Chrysanthemum at the End
Staatsbibliothek 14.9 (View Online)
geren ududu,    Although numerous are
cak sehei,    the sudden
edun su,    gusts and whirlwinds,
ilha tuhenjirakū,    the flower will not fall.
5 banin wen gulu,    Simple in appearance,
dubei se guigu,    it is mighty in its old age,
salgabuha bekitu,    ordained by fate to be strong.
da uju,    Root and head
tuwakiyan fili —    it is resolute in watchfulness —
10too [] halai gucu.    our friend from the Táo family.

Translation Difficulties

geren ududu, the word ududu, “several, many” is a reduplication of udu, “several.” In this case I feel it is intended to simultaneously evoke the other meaning of udu, “although.”

too halai gucu, this is ambiguous, and we could read it as meaning that the chrysanthemum is a friend of the Táo family, or that the chrysanthemum is a friend of ours who is a member of the Táo family. Furthermore, nothing in the poem says we are talking about a single chrysanthemum instead of many of them. My reading reflects my specific interpretation of this poem as an homage to an elderly person.

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