relationships · Religion

Poem Without a Title 19

no-19My best ideas arrive in the night. Night pervades my thoughts. It is a time of darkness and intrigue, of hidden thoughts and longings, of forbidden dalliances, hail, ice and frosty paths glittering in the moonlight. Much of Tang poetry indirectly refers to conflict, tempering its anguish through symbols. These symbols are the blue-green waves of the Jiang river thundering against the heavens, the pearly tears of the moon, the shriek of a crow at dawn. May I have the nobility of such grief, to distill my passions into hungry phoenixes and widowed fish, bony phantoms and prickly ashes forsaken in icy wells and cold plum blossoms! Tang paintings are soft and subtle. The watercolors evoke smoke and phantoms, bamboos and birds, fruit and water, mountains and lakes, wind and rain, peace and balance. All are tools for meditation, and the conflict is in the nuances.

紫府仙人号宝灯,  zǐ fǔ xiān rén hào bǎo dēng
云浆末饮结成冰。  yún jiāng mò yǐn jié chéng bīng
如何雪月交光夜,  rú hé xuě yuè jiāo guāng yè
便在瑶台十二层。  biàn zài yáo tái shí èr céng

How surreal your vermillion chamber’s precious light,
My cloudy liquor 1, abandoned, turns into ice.
And the frosty moon reveals the night’s kael,
Atop even your jade tower’s distant twelfth flight 2.


About the Calligraphy
紫府仙人号宝灯, 云浆末饮结成冰How surreal your vermillion chamber’s precious light , My cloudy liquor, abandoned, turns into ice (2 rows, 14 characters, Cursive Cao Script)

1.  In Tang Dynasty poetry, clouds and rain are often associated with erotic and intimate relations. This type of allusion goes back as far as the Book of Songs, where  an attractive woman appears to the protagonist as a sheet of rain or cloud of morning mist.

2.  Some scholars refer to twelve jasper terraces by the K’un-lun Mountain, home of the Queen Mother of the West.

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