Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Clay Daughter-in-Law

There are two Staatsbibliothek poems titled The Clay Daughter-in-Law, a term that refers to a type of doll (sometimes a magical figure, also called 魔合罗, mó hé luó). They praise the doll as the ideal daughter-in-law: Serious but pretty, and adored by children, exemplifying motherly love.

The two poems are closely related, and this is made clear by the use of the word dacan. This term does not appear in my dictionaries or anywhere else in the SBJ poetry, so I have had to make a guess at its meaning from context, yet it appears in both of these poems in connection with the question of who will marry the doll. It seems quite likely that one of these poems is a response to the other.

The opening line of the second poem suggests an interesting subversive alternate reading. The word boihon means “clay,” but it can also be a variant spelling of boigon, “property,” and the two words were probably pronounced the same. If we read this line as “fated to be property” then the second poem takes on a subtly different tone. However, I cannot tell whether I want to read it this way because of my own cultural values, or whether the poet intended to invoke this ambiguous meaning.

The first poem is to the tune Celebrating the Sacred Dynasty:

boihon urun [泥媳婦],    The Clay Daughter-in-Law
Staatsbibliothek 11.86 (View Online)
urun buyakan,    The daughter-in-law is rather small.
abai dacan,    Whither is she destined?
yaka ini hojihon,    Who will be her groom?
banjinjiha ya aniya,    In what year did she come to live here?

sohon ihan,

    In the Yellow Ox year.

hehei doro giyan,    The right way of a woman
dulin yongkiyan,    is to be perfect in halves.
jingji dade hocikon,    Serious, but also pretty.
buya juse niorokoi,    A motherly love
10aja jilan.    that charms the little children.

The second poem is to the tune Heavenly Spice:

boihon urun [泥媳婦],    The Clay Daughter-in-Law
Staatsbibliothek 11.51 (View Online)
boihon hesebun,    To be clay is her fate,
yala unenggi gūnin,    indeed she is sincere,
heni oilohon akū,    not the slightest bit frivolous.
urun,    For a daughter-in-law

ujen jingji hon sain.

    to be grave and serious is very good.

dacan talihūn,    Her destiny is undecided,
tusuhengge ya eigen,    to what husband will she be given?
ainci nairahūn dere,    Presumably she is gentle.
gosin,    Compassion,
10buya juse haji ten.    for little children, is the height of love.

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