A Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Celebrating the Clear Serene Dawn: To the Late Peony”

The peonies of late-spring,
So many dying strangers
Who extend exquisite doom,
Standing proud on arching stems,
Resin-coated, soon to bloom,
x     A squander of bright petals,
x     The sun caresses the moon,
x     Under moonshine flowers bloom,
x     Beneath flowers lies dark soil,
x     Fragrant rusting of the dead,
Ancient couplets, ancient songs,
x     Spiral always from within,
x     Squalling, squawking, mandibles,
x     Squeaking, buzzing, flying things
x     Talking, talking, talk, talk, talk…
x     Fucking, fucking, fuck, fuck, fuck…
Again rising just to drop.

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Depth Charge: For more on peonies. Photo by Eileen Lavery.

李清照庆清朝慢
禁幄低张,彤阑巧护,就中独占残春。容华淡伫,绰约俱见天真。待得群花过后,一番风露晓妆新。妖娆艳态,妒风笑月,长殢东君。
东城边,南陌上,正日烘池馆,竞走香轮。绮筵散日,谁人可继芳尘。更好明光宫殿,几枝先近日边匀。金尊倒,拚了尽烛,不管黄昏。

李清照慶清朝慢
禁幄低張,彤闌巧護,就中獨占殘春。容華淡佇,綽約俱見天真。待得群花過後,一番風露曉妝新。妖嬈艷態,妒風笑月,長殢東君。
東城邊,南陌上,正日烘池館,競走香輪。綺筵散日,誰人可繼芳塵。更好明光宮殿,幾枝先近日邊勻。金尊倒,拚了盡燭,不管黃昏。

Lǐ Qīngzhào qìng qīngcháo màn
Jìn wò dī zhāng , tóng lán qiǎo hù , jiù zhōng dúzhàn cán chūn. Róng huá dàn zhù, chuòyuē jù jiàn tiānzhēn . Dài dé qún huā guòhòu, yī fān fēng lù xiǎo zhuāng xīn. Yāoráo yàn tài, dù fēng xiào yuè, zhǎng tì dōng jūn .
Dōngchéng biān, nán mò shàng, zhèng rì hōng chí guǎn, jìngzǒu xiāng lún. Qǐ yán sàn rì , shéi rén kě jì fāng chén . Gèng hǎo míngguāng gōngdiàn , jǐ zhī xiān jìnrì biān yún . Jīn zūn dào, pànle jǐn zhú, bùguǎn huánghūn.

Tune: “Celebrating the Clear Serene Dawn”
To the Late Peony
by Li Qingzhao

Usurper of the last days of spring,
Canopied by low palace curtains,
Protected by exquisite crimson railing;
Delicate, unadorned,
Nature’s very image untrammelled by art!
Let all other flowers hide away!
To you alone the dewy breeze of morn does bring
A hundred charms after your early toilet –
Envied by the wind and laughing at the moon,
Enough to make the God of Spring fall in love with you,
Ever reluctant to depart.

Perfumed carriages jostle one and all,
Through the southern streets,
To where sunshine bathes Brookside Hall①
East of the city wall.
Who can succeed you when you become fragrant dust,
The banqueting once over?
Let all the golden cups be drained,
All the candles gutter out,
And yellow twilight fall unheeded in the west!
But miss not your boughs
Nestling beside the Palace of Brilliance, ②
By the sun③ first softly caressed.

①Presumably a popular resort to which people of rank
and wealth flocked t o enjoy shows of r a r e flowers and
plants.
②A luxurious palace b u i l t in t h e reign of Emperor Yu of
the Han Dynasty, reputed for its walls inlaid with pearls
and its staircases and doors shining with gold, the whole
palace being a blaze of light even on a dark night.
③A pun meaning both royalty and the sun.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

Here is all the ci/词 and responses to it on this blog.

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…”

To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”

To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda 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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In The Peony Pavilion

Peony-2

The ants swarm the bud
An army of mandibles
Hungry for nectar
The peony luring them with
Sugars—amino acids

Peony-4

But the bud will burst
In explosions of pink—white
With or without this
Voracious invading host
To release what lies hidden

Peony-1

Peonies bloom in
Their strange witchcraft of beauty
Independent of
The attendant ants—and our
Admiring and selfish eyes

Peony-4

My grief beyond doubt
Unfolds across beds ruffled
Seeded—salted hot
Not with tears—I am no ghost
From a haunted grave released

Peony-3

My sorrows—full-blooded
Rage and boil beyond the reach
Of mortal words—tongues
No more wounded than the flowering
Of the peonies’ petals

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Depth Charges:

昆曲-张志红-牡丹亭-寻梦
Kunqu – Zhang Zhihong – The Peony Pavilion – Search for the Dream
Book I.Scene 5 – Search for the Dream

Du Liniang returns to the garden to retrieve traces of her dream. She finds fond memories everywhere. She relives her dream and recalls how she was awakened by swirling flowers.

To read all the Tanka, and writing about Tanka, please click here.

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…”