"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Birthday Present

Before I forget: from my last poll - most spiders are eaten by other spiders. 2 voters got it right. Congrats; you win, um, a dead spider?

Today, my dad would've been 98. Hard to imagine. The plan today is to stop by the cemetery, then run 98 minutes, indoors (it's COLD). 98 miles ain't happening. 98K isn't either.

My father never appreciated any gift he got (he was really hard to shop for) and he had no time for poetry. Still, I hope someone out there appreciates this little experiment in translating Chinese classics.

Li Bai (better known in America as Li Po) was one of China's greatest poets, famous for his drinking poems. Legend has it that he drowned trying to grab the reflection of the moon in water. That legend comes from the following.

When Meng Haoran wrote "Spring Dawn," translated as

"I slept this spring morning and missed the dawn.
From everywhere I hear birds cry.
That night the sound of wind and rain had come.
Who knows how many petals had fallen?"

Li's response was "Amusing Myself," translated as

"Facing my wine, I did not see the dusk.
Falling blossoms have filled the folds of my clothes.
Drunk, I rise and approach the moon in the stream.
Birds are far away, people too are scarce."

The word-for-word is

Face Wine Not Aware Darkened
Fall Flower Fill My Clothes
Drunk Stand Step Stream Moon
Bird Person Also Few

My version is a different riff:

Amusing Myself

Focused on my wine, I missed the sunset.
Falling, flowers saturated my clothes.
I stood drunkenly and stepped in a moonbeam.
Birds (people too) scattered.

It's a less accurate response, as it doesn't suggest a season or mirror Meng's storm tearing cherry blossoms and bird's nests from trees. Still, after a millenium, I bring Li out of the water and into the light and leave him smelling of flowers.

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