Friday, June 4, 2010

Four Songs - Tzu Yeh

 Some suggest that the group of 117 short poems known as the "Tzu Yeh songs" were authored by more than one person.  However, the compositional style of back-to-back couplets was new and suggest a single author.  As a "wine-shop girl", she would have been ".... trained in music, dance, calligraphy, history..." (Hamill), making her a very early precursor - by roughly 1,300 years - of Japanese "geishas".  I'm sure some doctoral student somewhere has done a cross-cultural comparison of female entertainers in ancient cultures - from the Greek hetaerae to "wine-shop girls" to geishas - and what was included in their range of offerings, from chaste to carnal.)  This grouping of Tzu Yeh songs first showed up in a compilation dating to the second half of the 4th Century A.C.E. (After Christian Era - the new "A.D.")  I've selected four of them for this posting: I may add others at another time.  (Sorry, no photo!)
Four songs   
                                                  transl. from Chinese by Sam Hamill

The Lotus Lover

A green lotus on waves of transparent blue:
the flowers grow red and new.

You want to collect these lovely flowers?
I’ll give my lotus bud to you.

And End to Spring

Your leaving brought an end to spring;
longing burns through summer heat-waves.

Will I ever lift my dress for you again?
My pillow ever hold your lovely face?

A Smile

In this house without walls on a hill
the four winds touch our faces.

If they blow open your robe of gauze,
I’ll try to hide my smile.


Winter skies are cold and low,
with harsh winds and freezing sleet.

But when we make love beneath our quilt,
we make three summer months of heat.

                                                                      Tzu Yeh - Chinese

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