Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Joy over Lu’s Visit When I’m Bedfast by a Lake



  Joy over Lu’s Visit When I’m Bedfast by a Lake
        Li Ye [Tang Dynasty]
Last time in frosty moonlight you went away,
This time in bitter fog you come to pay a visit.
Upon meeting when I am still bed-confined,
Before I could greet, my tears well up and drop.
You are persuaded into a wine favored by Helmet Tao,
Then we compose lines in the light of Landscapist Hsie.
This occasion is rare, so let’s get drunk,
What else to do when there is nowhere to go?

Word-by-word Exegesis:

 湖lake 上on卧lie病sick喜happy陆鸿渐Lu Hongjian至arrive

昔past 去go 繁luxuriant 霜frost 月moon
今today 来come 苦bitter 雾fog 时time
相each other 逢meeting 仍still 卧lie 病sick
欲want 语speak 泪tears 先first 垂drop
强hard 劝persuade 陶Tao 家family 酒wine
还furthermore 吟recite/ compose 谢Xie 客guest 诗verse
偶然occasionally 成make 一one 醉drunk
此here 外except 更more 何where 之go

About the Author:
  Li Ye李冶, courtesy name Ji Lan季兰, was one of the three most famous female poets in Tang Dynasty (the other two being Yu Xuanji (鱼玄机Yu Hsuan-chi) and Xue Tao (薛涛Hsüeh T'ao). The friend Lu Hongjian (Lu Yu) who came to visit her authored a book on tea Classsic of Tea (Tea Sutra). Li Ye was a very liberal beauty, but eventually she became a Taoist nun. She was called to serve at the Imperial court later in her life, but unfortunately she was put to death in 784 BC because one of her poet friends at the court was found guilty. One story about her goes like this.
  Once she was reported to have a dialogue with another famous poet Liu Changqing. Liu was suffering hernia and had to use a cloth bag to hold up his scrotum to ease himself. One day, she asked about his health by quoting a line from Tao Yuanming: 山气日夕佳, which literally means “Mountain air is good morning and dusk”. However, the “mountain air” in Chinese is homophonic to 疝气 hernia. Liu responded by quoting another line by Tao: 众鸟欣有託, which literally means “All the birds are happy to have trust”. In this response, “the birds” refers in slang to the male genital, while the word “trust” is homophonic to “hold” (codpiece).
  The last couplet of this five-word regular verse (four five-word couplets, with a rhyme scheme of ABAA) is usually read to be feminine, as being drunk could be usual among male poets while here the poetess appeared to find excuses for getting drunk. In the poem, Tao refers Tao Yuanming (陶渊明Tao Qian, T’ao Ch’ien 365-427 a most influential pre-Tang poet), a helmet poet, and Xie refers to Xie Lingyun (谢灵运Hsieh Lingyün 385-433), a poet about landscape.

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