Fir-Flower Tablets for Poetry Friday

Today was decidedly mixed. On the plus side, I got the sewer bill paid, and some other small but pressing business of that sort attended to. Also on the positive side, the library at Brown University had a book sale, and my husband and I filled a box with treasures. I, for instance, found a book called Librarians are Human, by Margaret Bingham Stillwell, subtitled "Memories In and Out of the Rare-Book World 1907-1970" that looks rather fascinating. I also got a $25 parking ticket, because I was so excited at the site of all the books that I couldn't be bothered to put a wretched quarter in the wretched meter.

However, I did find a book for Poetry Friday. It's Fir-Flower Tablets, a book of poems translated from the Chinese by Florence Ayscough, re-worked as poems by Amy Lowell, a favorite poet of mine (Houghton Mifflen, 1921). There are many beautiful poems here, and it is hard to choose which to share. These are a few that caught my eye at first glance.

Song of the Snapped Willow

written during the Liang Dynasty

When he mounted his horse, he did not take his leather riding-whip;
He pulled down and snapped off the branch of a willow tree.
When he dismounted, he blew into his horizontal flute,
And it was as though the fierce grief of his departure
would destroy the traveller.

Autumn River Song on the Broad Beach

by Li T'ai-po

In the clear green water -- the shimmering moon.
In the moonlight -- white herons flying.
A young man hears a girl plucking water-chestnuts;
They paddle home together through the night, singing.

and another by Li T'ai Po, A Song of the Rest-House of Deep Trouble

At Chin Ling, the tavern where travellers part is called the
Rest-House of Deep Trouble.
The creeping grass spreads far, far, from the roadside where it started.
There is no end to the ancient sorrow, as water flows to the East.
Grief is in the wind of this place, burning grief in the white aspen.
Like K'ang Lo I climb on board the dull travelling boat.
I hum softly, "On the Clear Streams Flies the Night Frost."
It is said that, long ago, on the Ox Island Hill, songs were
sung which blended the five colours.
Now do I not equal Hsich, and the youth of the House of Yiian?
The bitter bamboos make a cold sound, swaying in the Autumn Moonlight.
I pass the night alone, desolate behind the reed blinds, and
dream of returning to my distant home.

I don't know what it means that "songs were sung which blended the five colours," but it sounds like the stuff of which dreams are made.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Wild Rose Reader today.

NB: the poems in the book are laid out slightly differently from the way they appear here, and I'm sorry about that but blogger will not let me do it properly. grrr. However, this book is available on line if you want to see the real thing....

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