Sunday, March 23, 2014

Murmur of bees

Sitting in the sun with the old dogs today. All afternoon there was the loud murmur of bees in the blossoms on the apple and the plum. I took this picture with the iPhone, but got out my Big Boy camera, too, because it was such a pretty garden day. It makes me happy that there are a few bees left, although we are certainly trying hard enough to wipe them all out. I remember the slogan, "Better Living Through Chemistry" from the early days of television. But, there are things we need to stop spraying RIGHT NOW if bees are to survive. Lots of people know this, just like lots of people knew other things, for instance, things like that the Iraq War would be an ongoing disaster for America and Americans. But the mighty forces grind on and now we all eat genetically modified corn in everything, But even GMO corn requires pollination. But enough of this: long before CMO corn and the frog and bee die-offs, there was a flowering of poetry in Ancient China. Just about my favorite is the poet Tu Fu (712-770) (or Du Fu in the newly preferred system of transliteration.) Here is his spring poem from the 700s in two different versions. That's the Tang Dynasty. Long time back.


It is Spring in the mountains.
I come along seeking you.
The sound of chopping wood echoes
Between the silent peaks.
The streams are still icy.
There is snow on  the trail.
At sunset I reach your grove
In the stony mountain pass.
You want nothing, although at night
You can see the aura of gold
And silver all about you.
You have learned to be gentle
As the mountain deer you have tamed.
The way back forgotten, hidden
Away, I become like you
An empty boat, floating, adrift.

This is the version by Kenneth Rexroth.


In spring mountains, alone, I set out to find you.
Axe strokes crack--crack and quit. Silence doubles.

I pass snow and ice lingering along cold streams.
then, at Stone-Gate in late light, enter these woods.

You harm nothing, deer roam here each morning,
want nothing, auras silver and gold grace nights.

Facing you on a whim, in bottomless dark, the way 
here lost--I feel it drifting, this whole empty boat.

(And this is the translation by David Hinton.)

Both poems are from The New Direction Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry, 2003, page 93.

I love the presentation in the couplets with longer lines by Hinton. But I also love looking at both versions and thinking about how they differ. And here is a young fig leaf from this afternoon's garden!

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