Saturday, October 6, 2018

G45.15: Go fatten the horses

When the Staatsbibliothek poems talk about getting away from it all, they evoke the image of the fisherman idling away his hours with rice and wine on remote rivers and lakes. In those poems it is easy to imagine the poet as a scholar-official retreating from his busy duties.

In contrast, this couplet from Grebenshchikov 45 seems to be born on the frontier. You can imagine the speaker talking to someone who has been cooped up through the winter, telling him to take the horses out and enjoy the quiet and lonesome high meadows.

From a metrical perspective this couplet is different from those found in Staatsbibliothek/Jakdan poems. In the SBJ poems a couplet doesn’t stand on its own, but is part of a couplet poem where the second line of each couplet shares a common rhyme. In the example below, however, the couplet stands alone and the two lines rhyme with each other (A-rhyme). There is also a caesura in each line after the sixth syllable. (Alternately, I suppose it could be described as a quatrain with a syllabic structure of 6,10,6,10 and a rhyme scheme of x,A,x,A.)

gūnin duyen age, morin be elgiyeme1 niyengniyeri omo de elbi šecina2,

   You, sir, with your reclusive heart, please go fatten1 the horses and bathe2 in the spring lakes.

   “niyalmai jilgan goro,
   morin-i incarangge nakaha,
   ula-i abka den,
   alin-i biya ajige mujangga”
      “Far from people’s voices,
   the neighing of the horses grew quiet.
   The heaven of the river was high,
   the moon of the mountains was small indeed.”
sehebi.   So it has been said.

1 elgiyeme. Norman has elgiyen, “prosperous, rich, plentiful, abundant.” It seems like the verb elgiyembi could mean “to breed horses” (i.e. make them abundant) or “to fatten horses.” The former seems semantically closer to the meaning of elgiyen, but the reference to “spring lakes” suggests a time that is earlier than the breeding season, when the horses might be taken up to higher pastures to start to regain the weight they have lost over the winter. The season for mares in China’s horse-breeding provinces begins in late May, which means breeding happens primarily in what would be considered summer in the lunar calendar. (For the season, see “Animal Agriculture in China”, CSCPRC Report no. 11, National Academy Press, Washington DC, pg. 100)

2 elbi šecina. Written as two words in the text, but from context apparently this is the verb elbimbi.

Monday, October 1, 2018

G45.14: A Letter from a Single Mother

This is a letter from a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock, written to the father of her twin children, who left her two months before they were born. It shows that this particular Grebenshchikov manuscript (F. 75, Op. 1, No. 45) includes other types of short literary works beyond poems and songs.

Soon after her children were born, her parents died, leaving her to raise the babies alone. The letter is written three years after her parents’ death. The children are now toddlers, but still young enough to nurse.

bodoci amga emge-i beye gemu sain fulgiyan buraki de enteheme giyalabuhangge geri fari ilan aniya oho,

   I think it has been roughly three years since my parents became permanently parted from us by the good red dust.

yacin gashan jasigan hafumbure de manggangge hūwai sere emu mukei haran, ede kidume gūniha tolgin banjinafi, monggo sambi1 nimeku de darubuha,

The disaster that made it difficult to get letters through to you was a high flood, because of which I was haunted by dreams of longing, and then I sprained my neck1 and was sick for a while.

buru bara abka na korsocun bihe seme ainaci ojoro,

But what can one do about the vague misfortunes of Heaven and Earth?

geli gūnici biya de baime genehe heng o, šungga gurung de hono beye teile, komso maktame2 jodoro jy nioi, sunggari bira de kemuni emhun usaka bade, muse oci ai gese niyalma,

And then I think about Heng’e, who went pleading to the moon and continues to live by herself in the Osmanthus Palace, and also the weaving2 girl Zhinü who is still alone in that forsaken place on the Milky Way, and I wonder: What kind of people are we?

adarame enteheme hajilame banjime mutembi,

How is it that we can live continually in love?

ubade gūnime isinaha de uthai, songgoro be nakafi injehe,

When I arrive at this place in my thoughts, I stop crying and I smile.

fakcafi juwe biyai dubede bahafi kaba jui banjiha, 

Two months after you left, I gave birth to twins.

te emgeri huhuri jui ofi, juju jaja injere gisurere be, mujako ulhimbi,

Now they are still nursing, but I really do understand their babbling, laughing chatter!

soro baime šulehe3 jafame mutufi, eniye ci aljaha seme banjici ombi,

Since they have grown old enough to ask for jujubes and to hold pears3, it think it would be OK for them to be parted from their mother.

gingguleme agu sinde amasi buki,

I would respectfully like to present them to you.

werihe fulgiyan gu-i šu ilha be, mahala de hadafi, temgetu obuhabi,

I have taken the red jade lotus flower you left behind and affixed it to my hat, making a memento of it.

jui be buhi de sindafi tebeliyehe erinde, uthai fusihūn beye hashū ici de bisire adali oki,

When I put the kids on my knees and hug them, I want it to be like I am all around them.

agu sini da gashūha babe tuwakiyame mutehe be donjifi, gūnin-i dolo kek sehe,

I heard that you were able to garrison in the place you were originally sworn to, and it pleased my heart.

fusihūn beye ere jalan de juwederakū, bucetele gūwabsi akū,

I am loyal in this world, and there is nowhere else for me until I die.

sithen-i dolo buyecuke jaka šunggeri ilha nimanggi4 be šuwe-i sarahabi,

I have taken the lovely things and elegant catkins4 that were in the box and spread them out.

buleku de bakcilame injeme miyamirengge, fiyen fiyan be aifini ijuhakakūbi,

I have stood before the mirror smiling and dressing up, but it has been a long time since I have put on makeup.

agu si dailanara niyalmai adali, fusihūn beye sula hehe ombi,

You are like someone who has gone off to war, and I have become a single mother.

udu giyalabufi dere acahakū bicibe, eigen sargan waka seci, ojoro kooli bio,

Though we have parted and not seen each other, is there any sense in saying that we are not husband and wife?

damu gūnici amga emge emgeri omolo tuwaha bime, kemuni ice urun be emgeri sabuha akūngge,

Yet I think of my parents, who saw the grandchildren, but have still not seen the bride.

gūnin giyan de tolbime gūnici, inu acanarakū babi,

If you think about what is right and reasonable, there is something unsuitable about it.

ishun aniya emge-i icihiyame sindara erinde, giyan-i tomon de genefi, urun-i teisu be emgeri akūmbuci acambi,

Next year, on the date of my mother’s burial, we should go to her grave, and I will stand in the place of the bride and do my utmost to meet you at that time.

ereci julesi lung gung5-i hesebun sain ofi, gala be seferere erin edelerakū, musei jui fuhai6 jalgan golmin de, hono amasi julesi yabure jugūn bi,

After that, the fate of the Dragon Palace5 being good, there will be no shortage of opportunities for them to take your hand, and as it seems6 our children’s lives will be long, there is a road by which they may often go back and forth.

banjirengge agu-i beyebe olhošome ujelereo, 

Has life been treating you well and generously?

fi-i dubede gisurehe seme wajirakū, 

I have talked to the point that the brush is used up, but I am still not done.

erei jalin fusihūn sargan agu-i elhe be baime gingguleme donjibume jasiha,For this reason, this humble woman dictates this letter, respectfully asking after your health.

Translation Notes

1 monggo sambi. In this context I can’t make sense of the obvious literal meanings of these words, “Mongol” and “know.” It is possible that these are the names of the twins, but she hasn’t introduced them yet at this point in the narrative. I think this may describe her illness, perhaps something like monggon sampi, “my neck stretched.”

2 komso maktame. The same as homso maktame, “passing a shuttle back and forth.”

3 šulehe. The same as šulhe, “pear.”

4 ilha nimanggi. I provisionally take this to be a calque of Chinese 花雪, which can mean catkins.

5 lung gung. The only poetic allusion I can find that might match this is the Dragon Palace (龍宮), but I am not sure how that fits here. Perhaps she means 冷宮, a metaphorical place where unnecessary things are placed aside.

6 fuhai. I am taking this to be the same as fuhali, but not entirely happy about that.