Now, if you please, turn the lights off: A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “A Perfumed Garden”

I’m no good at healing the sick,
So I’ll stick to raising the dead,
Although my spells are weak and pale—
Moonlight on a carpet of leaves—
Worse yet, in the city these days,
There is 24/7 glare,
And spectres, like wan moonlight, need
Shadows if they are to be seen
Moving at the edge of vision,
So faint we wonder and we doubt
Our own eyes even as we feel
Their gaze upon us, gentle touch
Caress us with remembered love,
Now, if you please, turn the lights off.

AGG20141029

Tune: “A Perfumed Garden” (a new version)
A Reminiscence
by Li Qingzhao

A pond fringed with sweet-smelling grass;
A courtyard canopied by green shadows.
Evening chill seeps through
The window-curtains as the sun declines.
Suddenly there’s a creak
In the jade curtain-hooks and golden door-locks;
It’s my friends coming to visit.
Our dinner-party is not without a queer sense of loneliness,
My mind clouded by the thought
Of their leaving all too soon for lands far away.
Will the pear-blossoms help make them stay
Now the raspberries are all faded?

I recall happy days in the past
When fine carriages in streams
And horses like writhing dragons
Thronged the gate and guests in perfumed robes
Sipped tea brewed over a living fire .
Unafraid of sudden storms,
We had our fill of toasting
While we admired falling blossoms.
Now our moods are changed,
Will they ever return-
The good old days?

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

Depth Charge: The version of this poem in the book I am using is the earliest known version, which has missing characters as indicated in both the simplified and traditional text below. However, the translation is based on the Qing Dynasty version in which the editors furnished characters to fill these blanks.

《满庭芳》 李清照
芳草池塘,绿阴庭院[,晚晴寒透窗纱。□□金鏁,管是客来唦。寂寞尊前席上,惟□□海角天涯。能留否?酴釄落尽,犹赖有□□。
当年曾胜赏,生香熏袖,活火分茶。□□龙骄马,流水轻车。不怕风狂雨骤,恰才称煮酒残花。如今也,不成怀抱,得似旧时那?

《滿庭芳》 李清照
芳草池塘,綠陰庭院[,晚晴寒透窗紗。 □□金鏁,管是客來唦。寂寞尊前席上,惟□□海角天涯。能留否?酴釄落盡,猶賴有□□。當年曾勝賞,生香熏袖,活火分茶。 □□龍驕馬,流水輕車。不怕風狂雨驟,恰才稱煮酒殘花。如今也,不成懷抱,得似舊時那?

 

“Mǎn tíng fāng” Lǐ Qīngzhào
Fāng cǎo chítáng, lǜyīn tíngyuàn [, wǎn qíng hán tòu chuāngshā.□□Jīn suǒ, guǎn shì kè lái shā. Jìmò zūn qián xí shàng, wéi □□hǎi jiǎo tiānyá. Néng liú fǒu? Tú mí luò jǐn, yóu lài yǒu □□.
Dāngnián céng shèng shǎng, shēng xiāng xūn xiù, huó huǒ fēn chá.□□Lóng jiāo mǎ, liúshuǐ qīng chē. Bùpà fēng kuáng yǔ zhòu, qià cái chēng zhǔ jiǔ cánhuā. Rújīn yě, bùchéng huáibào, dé shì jiùshí nà?

 

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

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