Tuesday, May 12, 2009

DU Mu: A Green Grave

Today, last year, a disastrous earthquake claimed countless deaths in Sichuan....

A Green Grave (a Seven-Character Quatrain) by Du Mu (803-852 Tang Dynasty )


Word-by-word Exegesis 逐字注

    青green 冢grave
青qreen 冢grave 前in front of 头head 陇Long 水River, water 流flow
燕山Yan Mount 山mountain 上on 暮dusk 云cloud 秋autumn
蛾moth 眉eyebrow 一once 坠drop 穷end 泉spring (akin to Lethe) 路road
夜night 夜night 孤lone 魂ghost 月moon 下under 愁sad

     A Green Grave
           By DU Mu (803-852 Tang Dynasty )
A green grave lies where the Long River flows past its head,
Mount Yan lures evening clouds of autumn over its peak.
Once the moth-browed soul drifts down the Yellow Springs Road,
Her lonely spirit will grieve in the moon, night after night.

    A Grass-Covered Grave
           By DU Mu (803-852 Tang Dynasty )
Water flows past this grass-covered grave, non-stop,
Autumnal clouds linger in the dusk over Swallow Mountain top.
Once her fluttering eyebrows drop into the Yellow Springs of Death,
Night after night only her ghost floats lonely in the moonlight.

Some Formal Aspects in this Poem
  Chinese poems, like this quatrain, are formally very strict, and the skill shows in how the poet can walk the wire with ease. Firstly, there is sound and intonation requirement of every word in the poem. For this quatrain, Lines 1, 2 and 4 are end rhymed with a long flat or rising intonation. For seven-character lines, the parsing should be 2 (characters), 2 (characters) and 3 (1+2 or 2+1 characters). Furthermore, the 2-character phrase is usually a compound, of the modifier and modified key word. Therefore, for the first couplet, we have “green grave” to correspond to “moth-like brow” as they are both nouns referring to places. We have “in front of the head” to counterpoint “on the mountain,” as they both referring to directions. The last three characters here should be parsed into 2+1, as “Long’s water + flow” and “evening clouds + autumn (as a verb).” The first line is mobile, while the second is of still motion. The first line is about horizontal grave and water, the second about vertical mountain and cloud.

No comments: