Songs of My Cares XXXIII, by Ruan Ji (210-263)
One more day, then one more evening,
one more evening, one more dawn.
Complexion changed from what it was,
by itself the spirit wastes away.
I hold fire and boiling water in my breast,
all things in change are calling to me.
Thousands of problems that have no end,
more than deftest schemes can comprehend.
I fear only that in an instant
my soul will be whirled away by wind.
All my life I have walked upon thin ice,
and none understand how this heart seethes.
~I totally burst out chuckling when I read this. No one understands how this heart seethes? What total teenage angst! But to be fair, this was written during a time of warfare and change in China. The Han dynasty was no more and the time of the Three Kingdoms had been ushered in with mass bloodshed. But I'm still chuckling ... some things never change.
The next poem is from the Zi-ye songs, which were typically performed during the royal banquets. They were background music, performed and composed by women and from a women's perspective.
I held my dress, not tying the sash,
I painted my brows and went to the window.
My gauze skirt is easily whirled by the breeze-
if it opens a bit, just blame the spring wind.
~These poems get a bit raunchy. This was more subtle and made me laugh. Damm liked it too. Time period was the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (280-581 AD/BCE). The North was ruled by "barbarians" although the majority of the Chinese people still lived in the North. The South was were the aristocrats had fled and was a very genteel, rich, and soft society. They certainly liked their entertainment:)
Zi-ye Songs of the Four Seasons
Flowers so lovely in the spring groves,
the mood so sad of birds in spring.
Then the spring breeze, so full of desire,
blows open wide my skirts of gauze.
~don't really need to do any explicating on that one:)
This one made me cry. I also might have uttered an epithet, because it is just so sad.
Wang Can (177-217), Seven Sorrows I
In Chang-an the fighting was out of control,
jackals and tigers contrived our doom.
I abandoned the heartland, I went away,
to take myself far to the land of Jing-man.
In sorrow my kinsmen stood facing me,
my friends came after me, clinging.
I went out the gates, no one was seen,
only white bones hiding the meadows.
On the road was a starving woman
who abandoned her baby in the grass.
She heard it wail, she looked around,
she wiped away tears but did not turn back.
"I know not where I myself will die,
I cannot keep us both alive."
I whipped on my horse and left her there,
such words I could not bear to hear.
To the south I climbed the slope of Ba mound
and turned my head to gaze on Chang-an.
And I understoof why someone wrote "Falling Stream"-
I gasped and felt that pain within.
~This was written at the cusp of the fall of the Han (220ish AD). Warfare ravaged the country, cities were sacked and destroyed. While I almost hate this poem because of the woman and her baby, I appreciate it because the writer evoked a visceral response and has transmitted the horror that is war. There can be glory and honor, but in reality it is brokenness and heartbreak.
I'll end there. Perhaps these poems can't be understood without more background knowledge. I've tried to give some context; my apologies if it wasn't sufficient. I find this course absolutely fascinating-it's so alien, yet some things are exactly the same.