Friday, February 22, 2013

PSF with a happy ending (sort of)





Setting a Migrant Goose Free


Snows heavy in Hsun-yang this tenth-year winter,
riverwater spawns ice, tree branches break and fall,

and hungry birds flock east and west by the hundred,
a migrant goose crying starvation loudest among them.

Pecking through snow for grass, sleeping nights on ice,
its cold wings lumber slower and slower up into flight,

and soon it’s tangled in a river-boy’s net, carried away
snug in his arms, and put for sale alive in the market.

Once a man of the north, I’m accused and exiled here.
Man and bird: though different, we’re both visitors,

and it hurts a visiting man to see a visiting bird’s pain,
so I pay the ransom and set you free. Goose, o soaring

goose rising into the clouds – where will you fly now?
Don’t fly northwest: that’s the last place you should go.

There in Huai-hsi, rebels still loose, there’s no peace,
just a million armoured soldiers long massed for battle:

imperial and rebel armies grown old facing each other.
Starved and exhausted – they’d love to get hold of you,

those tough soldiers. They’d shoot you and have a feast,
then pluck your wings clean to feather their arrows.

(Po Chu-i translated by David Hinton)

6 comments:

Cath said...

Sort of beautiful... and depressing. But maybe, I will go with beautiful for now.

squib said...

I love Po Chu-i. I love the way he bought that old goose and I love the way this poem can travel well over a thousand years and still mean something

Alex said...

Wonderful to see that you're immersing yourself in the culture of your new homeland Squib, and also that in doing so, you're uncovering such fabulous gems to share with the rest of us.

It is a seriously lovely bit of writing though. Moving, even for a poetry-illiterate dickhead like myself.

squib said...

Moving, even for a poetry-illiterate dickhead like myself.

I don't know if I should tell you that it was said that Po "always showed his poems to an uneducated old servant-woman, and anything she couldn't understand he rewrote."

Contemporary poets, on the other hand, prefer to rewrite anything that everyone understands so no one understands it

Alex said...

Then I'd say Po was onto something and it's a shame more modern practitioners don't take a leaf from his book.

But why would you wonder about whether you should tell me that? It's a fantastic bit of trivia.

squib said...

I don't know, Alex. I think you would like this collection (but make sure you read the intro): The Selected Poems of Po Chü-I by Po Chü-I and David Hinton

Does anyone know if Ramon is OK?