Winter Night, Writing About My Emotion

The winter night is cold and endless
and the palace water clock drums the hour.
Grass is white clouds of heavy frost
and aging trees reveal a bright moon.
Beautiful robes frame my wasted face.
A red lamp shines on my white hair.
Now the Han emperor’ respects only the young.
I look in my mirror, ashamed to go to the court.

Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

A Stray Poem Written While Living in the Mount

Huang Zongxi

Knives, arrows, and imprisonment, let thesis come,
nothing can stop my strings and songs.
I face death with a calm heart
so what can poverty do to me?
With twenty-two ounces of cotton stuffing my broken comforter
and three pine Is to cook my empty wok,
this winter I still feel lavishly supplied.
I can’t imagine anyone doing better than me.

Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

The Four Seasons in the  Mountains

Chang Yu

The old man of the mountains loves the mowuains:
in the mountains he has built his thatched hut.
At night, there’s a storm; the snow is so thick
it snaps branches of bamboo outside the window.

Jonathan Chaves

Commiserating with the Poor

Li K’ai-hsien

Hiss, hiss—the north wind blows,
knocking people down in the streets.
They have pants which don’t even cover their shins;
and they have no food at all; only dust fills their jars.
In the warm houses, what do they know of winter?
The flowery rooms have a springtime of their own!
Those dandies with their fancy pants of silk:
there’s not much you can say to them about the poor.

Jonathan Chaves

The Shih Ching , usually translated as either The Book of Songs or the Classic of Poetry, is the first great collection of Chinese poetry. Tradition says that it was edited into its present form by the Sage of Sages, Confucius himself. In fact the book was assembled before, during, and after the life of Confucius. Its more than three hundred poems include fragments of works as old as the Shang Dynasty (traditional; dates 1766-1154 BCE) as well as “contemporary” poems from the Chou feudal states written or spoken by both aristocratic court figures and just plain “folks”. A great deal has been said about the origin of many, if not the majority of the poems as oral “folk” art, but it is clear from the artistry of the written language in which they have been handed down that, like the scribes who improved upon the originally oral poetry attributed to “Homer” in the West to create the Iliad and the Odyssey, the people who converted Chou folk songs and court verses into poetry in written Chinese characters clearly thought of themselves as (and were) artists. So the characters used to render simple and direct lyrical utterances of the illiterate peasant folk often honor them with carefully chosen written vocabulary: the heart and soul of folk art remains clearly present, but literary subtleties are introduced. The scribes who created the Shih Ching were poets, not tape recorders. They chose the best of what existed, and they honored it with their own art.

In its present form, the Shih Ching consists of three major sections, the Kuo Feng, or Odes of the States, comprising 160 of the 300 are generally but not always folk songs. The Ya (Elegant Verses) subdivided with no obvious criteria into greater and lesser, include poems 161-265, and the Sung or Temple Odes high ritual songs and bits of dynastic myth, include poems 266-305. The present selection is comes, all but a single longer poem on drinking and its positive and negative consequences from the “Lesser Elegants”, all come from the Kuo Feng Sections.

Knowledge of the Shih Ching poems was a necessity of diplomatic practice around the time of Confucius, when it was a common practice to deliver or at least support the delivery of diplomatic messages among the feudal domains (the “States or Guo of the Guo Feng) by oral presentation of relevant lines from the Classic. From the Han on many of the poems where imbued with very specific allegorical interpretations, but it is clear that later poets, who memorized the book word for word, used it as allusive material in their own poems at least as often for its plain “folk” messages as for its orthodoxly approved allegorical ones.