Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Sam Hamill — To the Tune: Sands of the Washing Stream

Beyond barred windows,

shadows cover the garden,

.

shadows slide over the curtain

as I play my lute in silence.

.

Distant mountains stretch the sunset,

breezes bring clouds and rain.

.

The pear blossoms fade and die,

and I can’t keep them from falling.

— Li Ch’ing-chao


Copyright 2016 Sam Hamill. From Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese, translated by Sam Hamill, published by Tiger Bark Press.

Translator’s note: Li Ch’ing-chao (1084?-ca. 1151) is certainly one of China’s greatest poets, a genius of the tz’u, one of the most influential critics of her age, and with her husband, compiler of an immense catalogue of stone and bronze vessels. The death of her husband at an early age was emotionally and socially devastating to a “liberated” Li Ch’ing-chao, perhaps China’s first literary feminist. When her second husband proved abusive, she had the remarkable courage to leave him.

 Her form, tz’u poems, are new lyrics for old tunes: the equivalent in American vernacular of writing new words for On Top of Old Smoky.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Enter your email address to follow Vox Populi and receive new posts by email.

Join 11,464 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 4,014,503 hits

Archives

%d bloggers like this: