Saturday, December 1, 2018

Jug of Mystery

This poem looks like a riddle. If you didn’t have the title and the explanatory note, it might be quite difficult to figure out that this is talking about a piggy bank. Over time you put money into it until it won’t fit more, then you break it open and relish the reward of having a heap of cash.

butu tamse,    Dark Jug
擈滿俗名悶葫芦罐兒    A vernacular name for a piggy bank is “covered gourd bottle”
Staatsbibliothek 11.42 (View Online)
jiha-i aha,    Money servant:
tebuci,    If you put some in,
jing fita,    and it’s on the point of being tight,
yondorakū ainara,    what do you do when it won’t fit more?
5hen tan jaluka,    With difficulty it was filled,
ne je hūwalaha,    in an instant broken open.
funcehengge geli ya,    What is still left over?
hafu tuwa,    Look through it,
fulu akū —    there is nothing better —
10 kesi dabala.    except for generosity.

Translation Whatnots

fulu akū — kesi dabala. It seems like this is saying “there is nothing left over — except kindness,” but since we have just cracked open the piggy bank that doesn’t quite make sense. Instead, I think the fulu must have the meaning of “excelling, surpassing, better, superior” (Norman), so the last two lines mean that there is nothing better than opening up the piggy bank — except for generosity itself.

1 comment:

  1. I too find the last lines hard to understand precisely but I am drawn to a different interpretation than yours. I'd take both funcehengge and fulu to refer to the idea of "surplus/more [money]", which avoids the problem posed by "left over". Basically something along the lines of "we've just cracked open the piggybank and have found sum X. Is there more? Nope, have a good look, there is nothing else. Only generosity [can help us]/we'll have to rely on others' generosity then".

    funcehengge geli ya, Maybe there is still more [money]?
    hafu tuwa, Have a good look,
    fulu akū — there is nothing more —
    kesi dabala. only generosity.