Don’t read this, it’s meant
Just for me and not for you
Who stumbled on this poem
Just by accident.
Who smelled a pretty red, red rose
Dreaming of her handsome sweet, sweet love
And so, was stung by a bee
Was it on her lip or on her nose?
I’ll let you guess
Of Rosemarie, her love and the bee
Comme ce soit c’est fois
Ne lisez pas cela
C’est seul pour moi
Pas pour toi
Qui a arrive a ce poème
Juste par accidentellement
Qui sentait une rose rouge rouge
Rêver de son amour doux doux
Et a été piqué par une abeille
Était-ce sur sa lèvre ou nez?
Je vous laisse deviner
Du Fu’s poem Facing Snow was written in the winter of 755 after the rebel capture of Chang’an, eastern capital of the Tang Dynasty. Du Fu took his family to safety and then was captured by the rebels and taken to Chang’an. He witnessed first-hand the horror of the An Lushan Rebellion before escaping south the following summer.
War cries and legions of ghosts.
An old man fretfully chants
A misty chaos and half twilight
Snow dances in a swirling wind
A languishing ladle with no wine or green tea
A cold furnace, once fiery red
Men whisper, what news.
While I brood on my empty book
Face à la neige
Cris de guerre et plus fantômes.
Un vieillard chante avec inquiétude
Dans le chaos de la brume et le demi-crépuscule
Danse de neige dans le vent tourbillonnant
Une louche négligé sans vin ni thé
Un four vide, pas rouge vif
Les hommes chuchotent, quelles nouvelles.
Alors que je rêve sur mon livre vide
Blick auf den Wind
Krieg schreit und Legionen von Geistern.
Ein alter Mann fragt sich gern Ein Demi-Chaos und Halbdämmerung
Schnee tanzt in wirbelnden Wind
Eine unsichtbare Pfanne ohne Wein oder grüner Tee
Ein leerer Ofen, nicht feurigrot
Männer flüstern, was Neues
Während auf meinem leeren Buch ich starre und brühe
Notes on the Translations
Language is nuanced by time and culture. Its meaning subtle and mysterious. Thus translating can be a winding path through a dark forest. Even the title of Du Fu’s poem, Facing the Wind gives me pause. Why not a the stronger image of Facing the Snow?
Wind is the better choice. Du Fu conveys his thoughts on two levels. One is visual imagery, the other is metaphor. Captured by the enemy and held in Chang’an, Du Fu must answer for his actions once he escapes. While snow symbolizes the hardships of the winter, wind becomes a metaphor for the swirling accusations that inevitably would be made at court once Du Fu arrived to make his report.
Du Fu was forgiven for his temporary sojourn with the enemy. Others, like his friend Li Bai were not so fortunate.
Chante une chanson de six sous, Une poche pleine de seigle. Quatre et vingt merles, Cuit dans une tarte.
Quand la tarte a été ouverte, Les oiseaux se commencé à chanter; Était-ce pas un plat savoureux, Pour régler devant le roi?
Le roi était dans sa maison comptage, Compter son argent; La reine était dans le salon, En mangeant du pain et de miel.
La femme de chambre était dans le jardin, Raccrocherles vêtements, Quand le bas est venu un merle Et picoté hors de son nez.
Blackbirds are a common in Europe and America and considered a nuisance when they gather in flocks. We go to great trouble to get rid of them. But some good must come of them.
I speak of the common blackbird, although there are certainly others such as the red-wing, grackle, raven, rook, or jackdaw. Yes, I speak of the blackbird that in autumn and winter gathers in flocks by the thousands and makes a mess of cars, tables, and porches. In the country they can be seen in the cut fields gathering what remains of the wheat and corn; in the city they perch on telephone wires and buildings, watching, it seems, as if to descend and strike back at us for cutting down their habitat.
Who doesn’t recall Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds? If we let the mind wander and soar, then I prefer Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire.
Wander I must.
Here I am in Belgium, outside Brugge, walking along the canal on the way to Damme. It is early September, a little early for the blackbirds to gather together in flocks, but someone has to put out the word.
“Four and twenty blackbirds…” goes the rhyme, first appearing in print in 1744 in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Songbook.
Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds, Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, The birds began to sing; Wasn’t that a dainty dish, To set before the king?
The king was in his counting house, Counting out his money; The queen was in the parlour, Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden, Hanging out the clothes, When down came a blackbird And pecked off her nose.
In the Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder had ma improvise when pa shot the blackbirds that ate the crops. There is no great loss without some small gain.
On Facebook, I came across this saying from a Japanese friend, “…potsu potsu.” It was her sad remark accompanying the departure of her child to another city, another place far far away. I too felt this emotion this last week with my daughter’s departure to Dallas. Though it is only five hours away, it is still another place, far away from home.