Friday, June 29, 2018

Captain of the Team

This seems like a good poem for World Cup season. It is one of a group of poems relating to sports.

The primary meaning of mumuhu is apparently a kind of leather ball, but looking at the 1771 Qianlong dictionary it seems this can also refer to someone who plays with such a ball:
sukū be muheliyen arame ufifi dolo fuka teleme sindafi fesheleme efirengge be mumuhu sembi
“one who sews leather to make a ball, stretches it around rings within, and plays with it by kicking it, is called mumuhu
This poem is apparently intended to invoke both meanings of “ball” and “player,” since it starts out describing a ball, and ends up describing a person. According to, the Chinese title 行頭 (pronounced háng tóu) was a term for the captain of a squadron in ancient times, and I have tried to incorporate this sense in my translation of the title.

The word mumuhu also has a derisive meaning, perhaps because a person who spends his time playing ball was considered idle and aimless. If the derisive sense is intended in this poem, it is not overt, but there might be a bit of a joke here anyway. Suppose we read the entire poem with the vision of a ball in our mind, end then the last line hits us like a punchline and we realize it is not the ball but the handsome player who is being called mumuhu.

mumuhu [行頭],    Captain of the Team
Staatsbibliothek 11.53 (View Online)
tor sehei,    Spinning,
aimaka biya,    like the moon,
pio seme,    floating,
wesihun ya,    so high.
5 fahara sain    Good at throwing down,
alire mangga,    and difficult to withstand,
karahai geren yasa,    all eyes are looking on,
oihori saišacuka,    exceedingly praiseworthy,
yalake,    truly,
10hojo haha.    a handsome guy.

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