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Black labrador looking forlornly towards the right.

Slippery Pronouns

        玉 Jade 阶 Steps 怨 Grievance

玉 Jade 阶 Steps 生 Generating 白 White 露 Dew
夜 Night 久 Long Time 侵 Penetrate/invade 罗 Gauze 袜 Socks
却 However/retreat 下 Downwards 水 晶 Crystal 帘 Curtain
玲 珑 Tinkling 望 Gaze/full moon/expect 秋 Autumn 月 Moon

Li Bai (mid eighth century)


Why not a dog? Might not the dog pictured above have the sense of longing in the translations shown below? Projection. Man looking into the camera. To a page on the psychological idea of projection.

In many ways the highly stylized form of the original quite defies rendering A spider's web between stalks. To another Tang poem with its example of format conventions. in another language, however the ‘socks’ probably scuppers my particular projection. But there is nothing else in the words to gainsay it. Written Chinese, such as this poem, can allow the writer to dispense with pronouns. Couple sitting overlooking a lake. And another aspect to pronouns; that they do not have to reflect individuals, but can be about relationships. Consider the freedom gained if emotions and motivations can receive expression, and then hang, waiting for occupants projected by the reader. Again the same question With women one with money in her hand. Another example of how grammar may change our thought.

is raised, to what extent do our particular languages mould our thinking?

      	The Jewel Stairs Grievance    -    Ezra Pound

The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew,
It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
And I let down the crystal curtain
And watch the moon through the clear autumn.
		Jade-staircase Grievance    -    David Hinton
Night long on the jade staircase, white
dew appears, soaks through gauze stockings.
She lets down crystalline blinds, gazes out
through jewel lace-work at the autumn moon.
		Lament of the Jade Stairs    -    Zong-qi Cai
On jade stairs, the rising white dew
Through the long night pierces silken hose;
Retreating inside, she lowers crystal shades
And stares at the glimmering autumn moon.

Li Bai (also rendered as Li Bo or Li Po) lived from 701 to 762 reaching and (a little unusually) staying in high office. He was one of the most eminent T’ang poets. The poem in this form was recorded in The Complete T’ang Poems (1705), its provenance before then is opaque. Ezra Pound featured it in his work Cathay making it familiar in the west. Above it is shown character by character. Many translations are possible, here three are given: Ezra Pound’s 1915 version; David Hinton’s is from his 2008 book Chinese Classical Poetry; and the third is from Zong-qi Cai’s (2008) How to Read Chinese Poetry.

The pensive Labrador was in a friend’s house in Tübingen, southern Germany, in the 1970s

Above hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 20th March 2021

Murphy on duty to this site