Monday, 11 February 2013

Maid in China

Given the precise, highly nuanced and specialised way in which language is used in poetry (see several previous posts, including this and that one), I am very dubious about translated verse being able to reflect meaningfully the original work.  My apologies are tendered to those whose entire professional  raison d'être I have just blithely dismissed.  As Twitter, however, was chirruping brightly with Chinese New Year greetings yesterday, and as I cannot claim entirely to shun poetry from other tongues, I thought I'd offer up this elegant piece from Helen Waddell's Lyrics from the Chinese:


Written B.C. 650.

' Other things,' says the 'Little Preface' solemnly, 'more difficult to overcome than Distance, may keep one from a Place.'

It is the yearning of a young wife for the home to which it was an indecorum that she should return.

HOW say they that the Ho is wide,
When I could ford it if I tried?
How say they Sung is far away,
When I can see it every day?

Yet must indeed the Ho be deep,
When I have never dared the leap;
And since I am content to stay,
Sung must indeed be far away.

And, to demonstrate further my lack of proper restraint, I leave you with a few choice literary titles appropriate to this theme:

The Dim Sum of All Fears
Sampan of Green Gables
Jade the Obscure
The Maoists of Avalon
The Manchu knew too much
Long Wok to Freedom.


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