Author Comment    
Miss Drusilla

Jul 22, 05 - 9:36 PM
Climbing Yenchou Tower

It is my practice, whenever I have had dealings with the Pit, to deliberately erase them from my memory with some piece of beauty. This afternoon I was obliged to sort through fish offal of the most odiferous variety; hence, I have been reflecting upon this poem about the march of history, written in 737 by the great Tu Fu.

Visiting my father in East District
I finally looked out from South Tower
clouds stretched beyond Taishan to the sea
barren land spread through Hsu and Chingchou
the outline of the stele of Ch'in was still there
the walls of Lu Palace were rubble
I've always been drawn to the past
but this time my heart trembled
Sushuri Novaryana

Jul 23rd, 2005 - 1:53 AM
Re: Climbing Yenchou Tower

Reading those words, I was reminded,both positively and negatively, of Shelley's Ozymandias:
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
In some ways parallel, and in some senses poignant: a memento mori for a time-bound world. Where indeed will all the "urgent concerns" of the day be in a thousand years, or far less?

Yet how much less delicate - and somewhat marred by hints of vulgar 19th-century "revolutionism".

However, putting two two together, recalling how terrible a weapon was that "revolutionism", itself grow into an Ozymandias, against the ancient culture of China, do we not feel a curiously profound sense of historical and literary irony?
Isabel Trent

Jul 23rd, 2005 - 2:47 AM
Re: Climbing Yenchou Tower

Well, quite.

I too was reminded of something when I read this thread, although inevitably my contribution isn't as interesting as Raya Novaryana's. It's just a cute little verse I copied into a notebook a couple of years ago, written for and about Tu Fu by another T'ang Dynasty chap called Li Po.

For Tu Fu

On Boiled Rice Mountain
I met Tu Fu

wearing a big round bamboo hat
in the hot noon sun

Tu Fu
how come
you've grown
so thin?

You must be suffering
too much
from poetry!
Sushuri Novaryana

Jul 23rd, 2005 - 3:04 AM
The Inner Harmony

I foolishly copied the poem from an Elektraspace source.

The line:

Look upon my works ye mighty and despair

Of course does not scan and should be:

Look on my works ye mighty and despair

The copyist, consciously or unconsciously trying to "improve" on Shelley, doubtless thought "upon" more resonant and dignified, while clearly having no sense of the poem's rhythm which is thereby destroyed.

Which rather reminds me of Professor C.S. Lewis saying that the way undergraduates misquoted Shakespeare in exams - which showed they had not the faintest "feel" for iambic pentameter - indicated to him that the modern person has lost something "in the blood" (as he put it) that makes verse and poetic rhythm natural to her.

Could this have something to do with the undermining of the fundamentals of Western culture and the loss of contact with what Professor Lewis called "the tao" and we call thamé?

Well, bear in mind that thamé is always traditionally associated with music, and that in Shakespeare's plays verse is only used for those of sound and superior mind. Speeches given to the insane (e.g. Hamlet and Lear in their "mad" phases) and to lower-class speakers are always in prose. Food for thought in a world overrun by proletarianisation and deformism which also seems to be losing its ear for verse.

Incidentally, those who have been following the proceedings at this Club may be interested to know that Ozymandias originally came out of a small private sonnet competition.