Monday, April 26, 2010

Complaint - Sun Yu-T'ang

 Sun Yu-T'ang (1905? 1910?- 1985) was a member of the Crescent Group, a group of young Chinese writers who formed in 1923.  The historical context is important: China was in the middle of the Warlord Period between the end of the Empire (and creation of the Republic) in 1912, and the Japanese invasion of 1937.  There was turmoil and exuberance, a sense of "finally perhaps maybe possibly" being able to learn/use the energy and ideas of the West without being dominated by it, politically or otherwise.  Tradition in poetry, as in other parts of society, was being broken, and the writers in this group wanted to create new forms and ways to express new ideas.  In this, their attitudes toward love, beauty and life were closest to the Romanticcs (Keats and Byron were admired by several of the members).  A key development in the group was taking the musicality of every-day language and combining it with great structural rigor in their verses.  Obviously, most of this is lost in translation - sigh... - but not what one critic called "...the measured metaphors.." used.   (Note: Sun Yu-T'ang graduated from Tsing-Hua University's history department in 1933, the year my father entered as a freshman.  He's another poet from that period that my father probably knew about and read.)
                                       transl. by Kai-Yu Hsu

Yes, you loved, just for that wink of an eye –
Like a swallow’s wing-tip touching the water,
A whiff of gentle breeze, leaving no shadow to be caught,
No light to be traced – like a flash of a falling star –

It was gone.  You did not mind at all,
But unthinking, untied my anchor chain.
thus on white sails, swollen with warm dreams,
I flew out of a river, across the sea, and soared over the hills,

Through blue clouds I darted into the depth of night,
Losing myself, and missing my road;
All because I took that instant to be eternity,
Thinking that the silver stars were your eyes.

Then you laughed, and that awakened me,
Awakened me to my earlier hasty belief.
But, ah, what do you want me to do now?
Now that you have slammed shut forever the door of my
                                                                               Sun Yu-T'ang - Chinese

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