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January 20th, 2012


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11:58 pm - The Emerald City
quillori has written a post about yuletide fanfiction and in particular a fanfiction Green which was written for her by lnhammer, based on a poem called something like Green Jade Walls by a T'ang poet called Li Shangyin. Here is a translation of the poem another here. Below the cut is my very loose translation of the same poem.

The Emerald City

twelve times round the emerald walls
‘unicorn horn against dust; diamond against frost’
the gods send me letters, in the beaks of angels
firebirds nest in my lady's chamber
the underwater stars are bright at my window
the rainclouds come downriver
watch from your lonely seat
if the morning pearl were fixed in place
I could gaze into the crystal bowl
gaze without flinching

to see her darkness, to hear her murmuring, is to love her
leaves scatter across the green water
don’t look back, unless you hear the flute-player
don’t touch the mountain on his shoulder
the purple firebird takes the jewel into her mouth
the red fish spasms on the plucked line
Prince O is crying on his boat
in the incense smoke
alone under the embroidered quilts

on the seventh night she came to me, at the time appointed
the bamboo blinds have never opened since
the white hare is coming to life, in the dark cave,
he is coming alive
like red coral caught in an iron net
I have the medicine which will stop the flow of time
the firebird spell written on phoenix paper
the secret of immortality
my secret which everyone knows

(5 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:espresso_addict
Date:January 21st, 2012 02:14 am (UTC)
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Thanks for linking this. I particularly enjoyed the reinterpretation of the images in an sf context in lnhammer's retelling.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:January 21st, 2012 09:23 am (UTC)
(Link)
Good point I will add a link to that in the main post

(also, I agree about the retelling, I think it maintains the core or original meaning of the poem)

Edited at 2012-01-21 09:36 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:quillori
Date:January 21st, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I mean, I know you didn't do this for me, but I still can't help feeling like I got a particularly fine extra Yuletide treat. I've been haunted by the poem for many years, and while it lead to an interest in poetry of that period in general, and Li Shangyin's in particular, and thus a desire to understand the poem in its original context (to the limited extent that's now possible), I remain especially fascinated with how it speaks to people who came on it as I first did, without any knowledge of the years of speculation and debate as to its meaning.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:January 21st, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
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So glad you like it. I first read Poems of the Late T'ang as a teenager and the whole collection, as you say, haunted me.
[User Picture]
From:tehomet
Date:February 21st, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for this.

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