Monday, April 30, 2018

Jakdan’s Song on Lotus Flowers

Jakdan engaged in clever wordplay, both in his translations and in his own poetry. I doubt I will ever have the subtlety or refinement to see all of his clever plays, but sometimes I catch one.

The lotus flower is called šu ilha in Manchu, and Jakdan opens his song by asking why this is. He follows by saying that the flower is dignified in its color and elegant in its appearance, alluding to the meaning of the word šu as “culture” or “refinement.”

Interestingly, like the two flower poems from SB 11, Jakdan makes a reference to the “yang spirit” (fayangga) of the flower.

šu ilha be irgebuhe ucun    A Song on Lotus Flowers
Jakdan 8.17
ilhai gebu šu sembi,    The flower is named “Lotus,”
ere yala ai turgun,    and indeed, why is this?
ambalinggū boco fiyan,    Dignified is its bright color,
fujurungga banin wen,

    elegant its appearance.

5emte darhūwa emteli,    Each stalk is solitary,
yaka faju ya siren,    with neither fork nor tendril.
cikten emhun ilingga,    The stem stands alone,
geli yaka nikebun,

    and without a support.

niohokon-i saracan,    A green parasol,
10abdaha-i muheliyen,    is the roundness of the leaf.
fulgiyakan-i fiyentehe,    The pink petals,
jaksan icehe tumin,

    deeply stained with the color of dawn clouds.

nantuhūn ci banjifi,    It grows from the filth,
aide heni nantuhūn,    but where has it the least bit of filth?
15usihin de šekehei,    It’s submerged in wetness,
aide heni usihin,    but where is it the least bit of wet?
boihon muke fosofi,    Though sprinkled with earth and water,
aide heni icebun,    where is it contaminated at all?
šun-i fiyakiyan fiyakiyahai,    Though exposed to the burning sun,
20aide heni lalahūn,    where is it the least bit wilted?
mukei siden de bifi,    Being in the midst of the water,
abai buraki hukun,

    where is its dust and soil?

colo ambasa saisa,    Its nickname, to wise gentlemen,
muke biya-i guwan ši yen,    is Guanyin of the Water and Moon.
25ere ilhai fayangga,    The spirit of this flower
yoo cy omoi endurin,    is the fairy of Yaochi lake.
fusai amaga beye,    The incarnation of a bodhisattva,
iceburakū banin,

    its uncontaminated body.

boihon sahaliyan seme,    Though the soil is black,
30banjiha de hon šeyen,    what grows from it is so white,
lifagan ci faššahai,    bestirring itself from the mud,
watai baibuha hūsun,    with a fierce strength.
colgoropi ja waka,    Imposing, not ordinary,
ten gosihon mujilen,    an exalted and compassionate heart.
35saisai mujingga gese,    Strong-willed like a hero,
šadacuka suilacun,

    tiring are its labors.

yanggar sere mudan ai,    What is that resounding tune?
ilha gurure ucun,    A flower-gathering song.
saikan gege kejine,    Many pretty ladies,
40sasa nioboro efin,    together in deep green play,
hojo gilha inenggi,    on a beautiful clear day,
yala kumunggai tenggin,

    truly a sea of melody.

geren fucihi teku,    Seating for a crowd of Buddhas,
suman dolo getuken,    is discernible in the mist,
45goro tuwaci oihori,    splendid when seen from afar,
hanci šari felehun,    shining and brash up close.
jortai wangga benjihei,    The wind plays around,
yobo arara edun,

    pretending to carry its fragrance.

šu ilha be jonoci,    If one reflects upon the lotus blossom,
50wajin akū-i sain,    it is infinitely good.
taka joringga gaifi,    This creation in the Manchu language
manjurara banjibun,    takes it as the theme of the moment,
emu tookabure ton,    a diverting enumeration
irgebuhe muwa gisun,    of crude words of verse.
55gisun cinggiya bicibe    Though the words are superficial,
gūnin mujakū šumin,    the idea is extremely deep.
agu cincilame tuwa,    Brother, scrutinize
erei baktaka jorin.    the meaning this contains.

Translation Notes

yaka faju ya siren. This is structured like a rhetorical question, “Which fork? What tendril?” But as we can see in the second line of Jakdan’s translation of the Ever-Turning Horse Lantern, this type of rhetorical question can be used to simply convey that something is not, e.g. “there is neither fork nor tendril.”

gosihon mujilen. For gosihon Norman has “bitter; miserable,” and the Qianlong dictionary says that it refers to extremely pitiful grieving and weeping. Norman often commented on the semantic connection between this word and gosin, “pity; mercy; love,” and indeed we see gosingga with the meaning of compassionate, so I think it is not completely untenable to translate this as “compassionate heart.” The Qianlong dictionary also says gosihon can refer literally to a bitter flavor, in which case I wonder if this could also refer to the bitter germ of the lotus seed.

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