Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Vengeance - or justice?

Yesterday three things of import happened:

1) I posted an inaccurate (because remembered) version of Mike Johnson's translation of the Li He poem known in English as 'incarceration'.

2) My bedroom window was smashed (my flatmates blame the wind and my inability to lock anything when I leave the house - but I've been around the block too many times to fall for that one).

3) The Black Caps tumbled to yet another wholly unnecessary loss in a one day international.

Now, it may be a stretch to posit a causal connection between 1) and 3), but could 1) and 2) plausibly be related? Did I offend some partisan of Chinese culture and the poetry of the late T'ang dynasty with my mutilation of Mike Johnson's rendering of Li He's lines?

In an effort to expiate my guilt and avoid any future interaction with the local glazier I've reproduced the true and authentic (Johnson) version of 'incarceration', which was kindly supplied by a commenter with the splendid name of Zillah. I'd like to point out, too, that Johnson is apparently as innocent of the Chinese tongue as myself, and relied on pre-existent translations and cribs when he was writing The Vertical Harp. (This probably has a good deal to do with the success of many poems in the book - most of the best translators have been unable to read what they are importing into a new language. Ezra Pound, for instance, almost single-handedly brought Chinese verse into English at the beginning of the twentieth century, despite or because of a profound ignorance of the Chinese language.)

incarceration

the moat, blood red,
reflects a palace in spectacular decay

wind-seducing leaves
mirror the gestures of palace-girls

how many spring darlings seen
from behind drawn curtains
hair whitening to dust?

ten thousand years of pale days
locked away

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you people calling him LI HE when he is really called LI HO? That's right, LE FRIGGING HO! NOT Li He!

HO, HO, HO LE HO!

5:57 pm  
Blogger muzzlehatch said...

well, he used to be called Li Ho, until the modern pin yin system of translation became the standard, now he's known as Li He.

7:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

saw a fly - it was givin' me the buzz...

7:46 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Li He - never heard of him - is he a Chinese Santa? Ho! Ho! Ho!

BTW Benny Hill is beating Marx and old JC in the popularity or bring back to life contest!!

Surely BH could have been left out? - though I have to concede he was one of my favourite comedians.

11:02 pm  

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