2011年1月31日 星期一

An All French Evening


After another hectic week, I longed for Saturday. Saturday always has a special meaning for me. It's the day when I can immerse myself completely again in one of the activities I like most, being touched by music. Last Saturday, it was music from a country where I spent the happiest days of my life: France. We had Ravel, Berlioz and Debussy, impresionists all under the baton of Carlo Rizzi and the voice of soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci. 

The first piece of the evening was Maurice Ravel's La alborada del gracioso( Funny Dawn) composed in 1905 as the fourth movement of his Miroirs for piano and  only adapted for the orchestra next year. Ravel's mother, Marie Delouart was a Basque and he had a strong emotional attachment to the region and visited it frequently in his life. His most famous work, Bolero was based on a Spanish dance rhythm. It is a very lively piece of music, full of color, dramatic switches of mood, from loud explosive and colorful sound involving many different instruments to low, soft and wistful melodies and he made use of includes some typically Spanish element, those AminorGFE chords we so often hear in Flamenco songs and the use of castanet-like sound and some of parts sounded very Arabic with the same motifs repeated by different sections of the orchestra and the peculiarly clear tapping sound of castanets. It opened with a light wind with plucked strings to maintain a lively rhythm, then moved to the tuba and then exploded in full splendor, then a soft flowing sound from the wind and quite sudden drops and then changed dramatically again with sound from the low strings before exploding again into almost a jazz like cacophony before reverting to soft and then a cartoon music type of sound. It's a piece full of unexpected changes of very colorful sounds. 

We next had 6 excerpts from Hector Berlioz's Les nuits d'été (Summer Nights: Villanelle,, Le Spectre de la rose (the Ghost of the Rose), Sur les lagunes: Lamento ( The lament over the lagoons) , Absence, Au cimetiere: Clair de lune (Moonlight at the Cemetery), L'ile inconnue (Unknown Island), which were titles of 6 poems in Theophile Gautier's poem collection called Comedie de la mort (The comedy of death )(1838-1841) which Berlioz set to music for mezzo-soprano in 1843. It has been described as a perfect union of poetry, song and orchestral color where each element reinforces the others. The first was a rather light and very French piece, the second a bit sad at the start but changed moods quickly, the third was hauntingly reflective, the fourth a bit melancholic, the fifth quite dreamy and last has a lingering mystery about it. Antonacci was described as a dramatic singer. She certainly has a very strong stage presence. She is a lady with broad shoulder partly obscured by a matching shawl which however fail to hide a big sparkling diamond necklace below a head of black hair in big curls in a flowing bare shoulder and back silk dress in shiny navy blue: a most Italian look. She sang with a beautiful voice and with great expression, aided by many dramatic Mediterrean gestures but I could not help feeling that she rounded up the sound of many of the French words in the songs so that they have lost completely that nasal and strong end accent of the last syllable of some of the French words. But who cares if they did not sound completely French!

The last piece of the evening was Claude Debussy's Images: Gigues, Iberia ( Par les rues et par les chemin (by the roads and paths), Les parfums de la nuit (the fragances of the night), Le matin d'un jour de fête (the morning of a festival day")and Rondes de printemp (Spring Rounds). Debussy has been described as one of the most innovative composers of the twentieth century. He is most famous for evoking the moods of uncertainty, wistfulness, dreaminess in ways rather like the effect of the ineffable play of the hazy sunlight over a misty sea. He achieved this effect through a most unusual technique: the blurring of boundaries of musical phrases by de-emphasing the conventional rhythm which normally marks the end of one phrase or motif by playing the relevant notes with an obvious increase in force and emphasis so that the music has a quality of never quite ending the previous phrase before easing into the next. Another technique he used was to write music in full tones (tonal intervals) so that the normal CDEFGAB become CDEF sharp, G sharp, A sharp C, thus achieving a kind of uncertainty of effect to confuse our accustomed conventional tonal intervals. These three pieces were written by him during different periods and were never intended to form a single work. The first, Gigue was supposed to describe Debussy's feeling about northern England, using a folk tune "The Keel Row" but the top and the bottom sounds were set off against each other, with the upper rigister gay whilst the lower strings sad and menacing. It's a rather dreamy song beginning with the winds, becaming very atmospheric when the strings came in, and then there was a sharp burst of the drums whereupon  the other winds would join in and the pattern was then repeated with some variations. The next piece Iberia was rather long and is a very popular peice has some very Spanish sound with a great deal of variety, with its full complements of castanets and Arabic sounds and some slow ambiguous and very atmospheric, almost dreamlike sound and then ending very very quietly with the percussions.  The final piece of the Images was originally written for the piano in 1886 and has some French motifs taken from the French folk songs Nous n'irons pas au bois (We are not going into the woods) and Do do l'enfant ( do do child) . It is a joyful piece to celebrate the coming of spring. It a very unusual composition: dreamy, colorful, strong, soft, fast and slow by turns.

Like the previous concert, none of my friends came. Fortunately there was a European lady sitting at my side who was not too shy to engage in conversations. But we didn't talk much. But still better than having nobody at all! It was good concert and the HKPO seemed to have come back to form this time.


2011年1月30日 星期日

Tong Lik Kuen's Philosophy of Field Being/Existence

On Friday night, I attended at the HKSHP another talk on a most unusual topic. It's a talk by Dr.Lau Kwai Biu on the metaphysical basis of power in the philosophy of what has been called "Field Being/Existence" by Professor Tong Lik Kuen, a noted New Taoist scholar.

According to Dr. Lau, Tong was quite ambitious. He wanted to set up a metaphysical system for the ahcievement of human happiness, one which he hoped would not have the the kind of weaknesses he found in Western, Indian and traditional Chinese philosophy. Tong started on the initial premises that the emphasis of Western philosophy has been too much on reason and the cognition, Indian philosophy too much on the spirit and Chinese philosophy too much on morality. He therefore proposes his own philosophy of field existence (場有哲學) as one which has all their strengths and none of their weaknesses. To do so, he proposes that philosophy should also take into account what we would regard as the basic human instincts and emotions. In this, Tong was much influenced by the philosophical ideas of Freud, Nietzsche and Whitehead and those found in the I-Ching (易經) He had in fact written a book called Between the Chou I and Whitehead: An Introduction to Field Philosophy (周易與懷德海之間: 場有哲學序論)( 1989) ("BCIW"). In this book, he has criticized the views of such New Confucians asTong Chun Yi (唐君毅) and Mou Zongsan (牟宗三).

To Lau, the core of Tong's view of human nature is that of what has been called "Interrogating Mind" (問題心). To Tong, like Whitehead, the human mind never exists in a vacuum. It exists always already engaged with the material world and in fact cannot be understood apart from its manifestation and in its interaction with each other and both the human mind and the world are equally important. In the West, the emphasis has always been on cognition but it was the cognition of an isolated mind, a mind presumed to be in opposition to the non-mind, the others and the world. Hence, in the West, dualism is inevitable: mind vs non-mind, mind vs matter, self vs the world, self vs others, reason vs emotion or irrationality, soul vs body. The history of Western philosophy is thus a history of the struggle between these poles, which always struggle for dominance one over the other in different periods of its history and there is seldom any harmony eg. Plato emphasised the primacy of the Ideal Form which he considered superior to mattter which is always contingent and subject to corruption. Descartes started his whole philosophy from his own personal reflection (I think, therefore I exist ie. he stands out from the rest of the world, in opposition to it) and the whole analytic tradition of Anglo-American philosophy based largely on the primacy of the sensatory data and on observation of the world by the self through its senses. But to Tong, the mind is not just reason or logos, but the mind as conceived by Taoists as re-interpreted by Tong ie. something natural, something with two components, a body with its animal instinct, desires, emotions and also a mind, which can under ideal conditions transcends mere human instincts, desires and emotions. To Tong, all previous Chinese philosophers emphasized how to be the ideal moral person and did not pay sufficient attention to the needs of the human psyche. To Tong, the ideal condition is the satisfaction of man's natural desires which if not distorted by different social and moral philosophies would find it own natural equilibrium and harmony.

The core of the Tong's Field Philosophy is the concept of the Body 道體 and the Heart (read Mind) 道心 of the Tao and its phenomomenological manifestation in human life. From the I-Ching, Tong got the idea of the I(易) and Tao (道). The body of the Tao (道體) is unchanging but in its manifestation it in the universe constantly changes (道心) and is affected by both space and time (易). All human acitivities, including philosophising is a product of the time in which such philosophical thoughts occur. The two ideas in practice can never be separated. He says that the two idea is two in one, one in two, and practically can never be separated (這兩觀念是二而一,一而二,實遠很難分開 )(BCIW 2). Everything in the universe is governed by the operation of the Tao and exists within the Tao. There the I-Tao is the the Tao of heaven, of Earth and of Man. And the I-Ching is written to describe the relationship between the Tao of Heaven, Earth and Man. Everyone of the 64 Gwa's (掛)  in the 8-Gwa is subject to the operation of time and the central concept of the I-Ching is being faithful to time and taking the golden mean (時中), 中 meaning no biased in any way, doing what is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case at the relevant point in time and to find the golden mean at a specific point in time and to help to bring it about (於時中求中或成中). Therefore the Tao of Heaven, Earth and Man are what encourages and promotes harmony at the appropriate point in time (人道與天道、地道在時中所取得的和諧)(BCIW 2).

Tong's philosophy emphasizes the timeliness of everything. To him the concept of time and position is not the equivalent of time and space in physics but is more fundamental and more metaphysical. to him time and position is the general form of the relativity of things (時位乃一事物底「相對性」的普遍形成式) (BCIW 3) and the characteristics of everything is determined by its time and position in its relation to other things and can never exist independently of other things. This is the core idea of his philosophy of field existence (場有哲學). Everything exists by virtue of and is determined by its position and relation to that field (場有就是依場而有的意思。) i.e. all existence is field existence( 一切存有都是場的存有。) .

In I-Ching, the ultimate existence or reality is called Tai Chi (終極存有或實在--『繫辭傳』稱之為太極), a creative entity which continues to grow, develop, something which constantly changes and is transforming and being transformed according to time and position and the rhythm, the beat and the principles of this creative and progressive process by this this "embodiment of life" or "embodiment of the I" is concretely manifested through the time and position, the relativity and mutual influence of everything. (這「生體 」或「易體」底創進歴程的韻律,節奏和條理正是通過事物的時位和相對相關性而具體地表現出來的). The field that Tong is talking about is the location where the relativity and mutual influence take place and also why those very relationship and mutual influence become possible. (場就是事物底相對相關性的所在,同時是此相對相關性之所以為可能的所在)(BCIW 3).

Tong characteristics of the relavant field (場性) change with the nature of such fields eg.nature, culture, history though each bears certain relations to the other. To Tong, all the mtaphysical ideas within the I-Ching are the product of that field that Tong talks about eg. Tai Chi, I, Life, Tao, Yin & Yang, Heaven and Earth, Positive and Negative. Thus Tai is the infinte background or filed against which the relativity and mutal influence of everything takes place and I and Tao are merely the operation of this Embodiment of the Tai Chi (太極就是此場有的本體或「場體」而易和道則是此太極體之「場用」)(BCIW 4) The "operation of the Tai Chi field" can be found in the creation of life and the interactions of the Yin and Yang (太極之「場用」就在創造權能底生生不已與陰陽相交的歴程裏. 一陰一陽之謂道) (BCIW 4-5). Thus Tai Chi can also be described as the embodiment of the I, the embodiment of Life, the embodiment of Tao. The difference between embodiment and operation depends on the creativity of the relevant field (體用之別乃是依陽有之創造性). Operation is the manifestation of the creative power and are merely different aspects of the field and their operation can be seen in the relativity and their mutual influence and interaction.    

To Tong, there is no absolute one nor is there any absolute many; there is no absoute transcendence nor is there absolute immanence; there is no absolute creator nor any absolutely created things, objects or life; there is no absolute subjectivity, nor is there absolute objectivity; there is no absolute mind, nor is there absolute matter. In short, the poles of all purported absolutes can and must in practice only have their being relative to each other and they can seldom exist independently of each other and must rely on one another for their own existence. Therefore, all absolutes are relative: all One are many and all many are part of One; all transcendence are at the same time immanent; all creators are themselves created; all subjectivities rely upon objectivity and all objective bodies are in some sense subjective; there is no mind which is not matter and no matter which does not include some kind of mind. He agrees that his field philosophy is a philosopy of ambiguity. That is so because the reality is that all matters have field characteristics which by their nature must be uncertain and ambiguous because always subject to change according to time and space and positions.

Behind the need for the kind of clarity sought by Descartes is the Western emphasis on substance or matter, something having an independent existence, separate and distinct from others and from the objective world. Tong's field philosophy seeks to overcome and eliminate such over emphasis on clearcut boundariesm their tendencies to absolutize everything and to push everything to their "logical" extremities or conclusions, the division between the subjective and the objective, the self and the other and restore to phenomena a little of that ambiguity which is part and parcel ofwhat he thinks their true metaphysical reality. To Tong, it is not advisable and unreasonable that the philosopher regards himself as standing outside of the world when he makes his observations as if he were not part of that very world which he is trying to observe. The philosopher is already inside that world and there is no way he can separate himself absolutely from that world except in his imagination. Tong agrees with Whitehead that even God once he has created man and the world can only continue to exist in relation to man and that world and hence what happens in that objective universe and in the human world may affect how he wishes to be God. From the point of view of Tong's field philosophy, man can only observe the world from inside of that world. Hence the Tai Chi is not outside of universe and the human world. On the contrary, Tai Chi relies on the universe and on man to manifest itself and to continue to change according to its own principle of operation.

In Tong's philosophy, the Tao is metaphysical. (形而上者謂之道) and the Tao or the embodiment of the Tao is something which transcends our physical body: it is something behind, over and above and is a concept, principle, idea, entity which is ultimate and in that sense is beyond form. In I-Ching, vessel/instrument (器) is a kind of form too but whereas form (形) refers to to me (a subjectivity) vessel (器) refers to other people or objects (an objectivity) . When we exist in so far as we react with other people or the world.. We derive the sense of up and down, above and below in primitive times from the fact that we were able to stand up and survey the world as if we were above and the world is down but when we lift our gaze heavenwards, we found that the heavens cannot be reached and does not have any contact with us and we formed the idea that the heavens have its own subjecitivity which is different from our own subjectivity and hence we call it the Tao of heaven (天道 or 道體). To the ancients, the mind can never be separated from the body and the mind was considered only the spiritual function of our form (所謂「心」者不過是形軀的靈明作用吧了) (BCIW 13).

To Tong, strictly speaking, there is no materialism nor idealism in Chinese philosophy because the mind has never been isolated from the body. In I-Ching, the mind is the spiritualization which harmonizes the Tao, the form and the instrument. It occurs in the space between the form and the instrument and hides towards that space. It does not belong to any person, nor any embodying vessel. It belongs to the field. All actions of the mind are the spiritual actions of the field (心...正是調和於道形器之間的靈明作用...它好像發生於形器之間的虛空處,而又朝這形器之間的虛空處而隱伏...它是不屬於任何人的--任何器的,而是屬於場有的。所有心的作用,都是場有的心靈作用。), (BCIW 14) When we say something is our opinion, all we are doing is to monopolize the field as if it belonged solely to ourselves!

Tong describes our mental activity as abstract spirit and enlightening sensation or awarness or consciousness「虛靈明覺」( BCIW 14). In the I-Ching, the enlightened awareness is usually described by reference to the relative concepts of clear/unclar (明晦) or  obvious/hidden (顯隱) and as part of the concept of Yin and Yang (陰陽) but also through the language of "feeling and touching/reaching/attaining" (感通) and developing/shaping/forming and transforming (裁化). The process of feeling, attaining, shaping and tranforming is a process of honestly/faithfully giving form to the hidden potentialing opportunity (誠儀隱機). 誠 indicating the direction or aim towards which the mind tends or strives to achieve. The儀 is the form or shape or gesture or posture of the human mind and the human body but in thus shaping the world and our own thought, our mind is also inevitably being shaped at the same time by the form of other people, things and events and is inextricably bound by the latter too. In the I-Ching, the word 儀  in 兩儀生四極 ( the two forms produce four poles) , refers to the opposing pairs constituting the Tai Chi ie. strong/weak, yin/yang, movement /stillness (剛柔,陰陽,動靜).

To Tong, all mental activities start from the body and moves upwards and is thus a creavtive metaphysicalizing activity (through the use of its own power inherent in life) towards yin/yang (「形上化」的歴程). In this creative process, the idea (念) is transient and ephemeral and the word 念 had the word mind at its bottom and therefore idea is a temporary manifestation in the here and now of the tendencies of the mind and life is but the the result of the creative activity of the mind and the manifestation of its "gesture/posture" (「生命」者只不過是心或創造權能的誠儀) (BCIW 17). To him, the gesture/posture will never permanently disappear. What disappears is merely the provisional form it took or in the words of Whitehead, its "subejctive immediacy": what the mind felt or its mood at that point in time and when that is accomplished, that is also the time of its "objective immortality" (「不朽待用」 or 「不朽所對」) (BCIW 17). I suppose what he means is that whatever we do will leave a trace behind in other people or other objects or events (hence the purported "objective immortality) in the same manner that in Buddhist philosophy, a result can at the same time be a cause and aneffect in that whilst it may be the effect of cause 1 for Event 1 but that result may itself become the cause of Event 2. That idea may become buried or merged into  the subseqent event and be part of its cause. What he calls "objective gesture:) (客體誠儀) is equivalent to what Whitehead calls "data" (「與料」(BCIW 17).  

What is the characteristics of the view of Field Philosophy on the mind. To traditional Chinese philosophy, the mind is the product of the Tao, the Form and the Vessel and completely without Western philosophy's isolated consciousness which is equivalent only to cognition (the Chinese 明覺心 or 心的虛靈明覺心) but the mind of Chinese philosophy includes also the Unconscious or the Sub-conscious and includes the idea of its dominance 心的主宰性. The Chinese mind acts through 感道裁化 (a process of 誠儀隱機的歴程), which is a process of empowering life. That which makes the heart dominat  is its subjectivity, which creates the relevant power. This subjectivity manifest itself concretely through empathic formation (感通化裁). To Tong, the cognition is a form of positive attachment to something which is thought to exist independently and his cogitive ability comprises three components: perceiving/ sensing/ feeling (which has no attachment)  knowing ( which exists in that space between the non-attached perceiving and  alertness/ mindfulness) and alertness/mindfulness (which also has no attachment because it is transcends the ataching self-consciousess). (「知性」就是意識作用的有執性....人的意識心乃是由「感意識」「知意識」「覺意識」...三童基本心識作用組成的意識體) (BCIW 116). Cogntion may also be considered as having four other faculties of feeling, memory, imagination and understanding (感覺、記憶、想像、理解) just like a man has five organs and 6 function (五臟六腑) but in the west, the mind is not considered as organic but only a mechanism and the cognitve act is considered merely the processing/forming/shaping of sense data(知性活動視為一感覺或經驗與料的「」歴程)(BCIW 118) ie. their concepualizing, categorizing/classifying and even Kant follows this tendency except that in his case, the concepts and categories are internal and belong to the mind itself and does not come from the external world as if there were absolute separation between what is inside and what is outside the mind and as if the mind were a "knowledge processing plant". (知識加工廠) with all the necessary equipment and the necessary implements and the manufacturing formulas but we do not know who the owner of the plant is nor why we have those manufacturing formulas. (BCIW 118) 

Tong advocates there should not be any dominance as between the mind and the body and that there should be equal status between the two and to redress the balance, the current disequilibrium between mind and matter should be reversed from a state of 仁材倒置 to 仁材共建 so that the universe function much more smoothly and harmoniously. To tong, the basic tendencies of Chinese philosophy is the primacy of morality, epitomized by the emphasis on 仁. But to complement this, Chinese philosophy must learn from the Western philosophy, whose main tendencies is on the instrumental value of the craftsman who has a special affection for his material the instrument to help him to perfect his craft, the instrument of reason and logic: the 材 that he was talking about.

2011年1月29日 星期六

A Little Saturday Fun

It's been fairly cold this week, the temperatures always hovering around just above 10 centigrade. The observatory told us that it'd be warmer. But to me, the the god of weather does not seem to be in a very compliant mood. So it's really up to us to console ourselves. What better than a little weekend fun. I hope that somehow, it'd make the cold a little more tolerable. So, without more ado, here's another one of the weekend jokes.

A preacher was completing a temperance sermon. With great effusion he said, "If I had all the beer in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river."

With even greater emphasis he said, "And if I had all the wine in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river."

And then finally, he said in a voice of great drama, "And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I'd take it and throw it into the river."

He sat down.

The choirmaster, who had throughout the sermon stood inconspicuously at the side, then very quietly announced to his choir: 

"For our closing song, let us sing Hymn # 365: "Shall We Gather at the River."

2011年1月28日 星期五

Rilke's Von Den Fontänen (About Fountains 雷亞爾克的『噴泉點滴』)

I read one of Rainer Maria Rilke's poems last night. According to the Wikipedia, René Karl Wilhem Johan Josef Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and one of its most significant. He is considered as a transitional figure between traditional romantic poetry and modernist poetry, writing both verse and a lyrical prose about solitude, reminiscence, the difficulties of communication, the landscape of the unconscious, excursions into myth, history and religion. He is best known for his Duino Elegies and his 400 French poems and Letters to a Young Poet and and the semi-autobiographical The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

     Von den Fontänen                                           About the Fountains                             噴泉點滴

Auf einmal weiß ich viel von den Fontäen,   Suddenly I know a lot about  fountains     我忽然對噴泉知得多了

den unbegreiflichen Bäumen aus Glas.          those incomprehenible trees of glass       那些令人費解的玻璃樹。     

Ich könnte reden wie von eignen Tränen,      I could talk now as of my own tears,        我談它們如同談我自已的淚水

die ich, ergriffen von sehr großen Träumen, which I, gripped by such fantastic dreaming,  由於全被這神奇的夢想吸引著

einmal vergeudete und dann vergaß.      spilled once and then  forgot    故我一擠出它們後便把它們忘掉。 .            


Vergaß ich denn, daß Himmel Hände reichen Could I then forget the heavens reaching its hands  我能忘記天堂插手

zu vielen Dingen und in da Gedränge?          toward many things and into this commotion?  入一切及這騷動嗎?

Sah ich nicht immer Großheit ohnegleichen    Did I not always see unrivaled greatness   我不是在熱切期盼夜温柔而正

im Augsteig alter Parke, vor den weichen in the ascent of old parks before the soft上升中的古老花園中看見其無敵之雄偉

erwartungsvollen Abenden,--in bleichen          expectant evenings--in pale chants                -----從某些少女

aus fremden Mädchen steigenden Gesängen,    rising from unknown girls                           蒼白無力的頌曲之

die überfließen aus der Melodie                     and overflowing from the melody                  旋律溢出

und wirklich werden und als müßten sie         and becoming real, and as if they must be       如幻如真猶若

sich spiegeln in den aufgetanen Teichen?        mirrored in the opened ponds?                      露天池塘之鏡影?


Ich muß mich nur erinnern an das Alles        Had I reminded myself of all                  一旦我提醒自已  

was an Fontänen und an mir geschah,--   that happened both to the fountains and to me 在噴泉及自身所發生的--- 切

dann fûhl ich auch die Last des Niederfalles, then I feel too the heaviness of the descent,   我便感覺墮下之重量

in welcher ich die Wasser widersah:              where I saw the waters again:                   在哪我再與水相遇

Und weiß von Zweigen, die sich abwätyd wandten, and know of branches that bent downwards,發現那些向下彎身的樹枝

von Stimmen, die mit kleiner Flamme brannten, of voices that burned with small flames, 那些如燃燒中小火舌般的聲音,

von Teichen, welche nur die Uferkanten           of ponds that dim witted,shunned,          那些弱智地不停及永在逃避

schwachsinnig und verschoben wiederholten, their sharp-edged banks repeatedly endlessly ;陡峭險峻河岸的敞開的池塘

von Abendhimmeln, welche von verkohlten    of evening skies, which from charred western forests 那些對著西邊燒焦的森林

westlichen Wäldern ganz entfremdet traten,    stepped back totally bewildered,                   惘然卻步

sich anders wölbten, dunkelen und taten         arched differently, darkened and acted       不同方式拱背,臉色下沉而

als wär das nicht die Welt, die sie gemeint...    as if this were not the world they had envisioned...好像這不是他們夢見的世界般行事。


Vergaß ich deen, daß Stern bei Stern versteint Could I forget that flanking star starting to harden 我能忘卻那星旁星開始堅硬起來

und sich verschließt gegen die Nachbargloben? and shuts itself from its neighboring globe?         而不望毗都他的地球?

Daß sich die Welten nur noch wie verweingt  That the worlds in space only recognized each other 忘卻太空的世界彷怱只能

im Raum erkennen?--Vielleicht sind wir oben, as if through tears?--Perhaps we are above  透過眼淚相誌?---也許我們在

in Himmel andrer Wesern eingewoben,            the woven skies of other beings            其他生物所編織的天空上

die zu uns aufschaun abends. Vielleicht loben who turn their gaze toward us at evening. Perhaps their他們在黄昏時凝視我們。也許

uns ihre Dichter. Vielleicht beten viele           poets praise us. Perhaps some of them    他們的詩人稱頌我們。也許他們中有人

zu uns empor. Vielleicht sind wir die Ziele   pray up towards us. Perhaps we are the target  向我們祈禱。  也許我們是

von fremden Flüchen, die uns nie errichen,    of strange curses that never reach us,  那些從未達我的奇異詛咒的標靶

Nachbaren eines Gottes, den sie meinen        neigbors of a god whom they envision  當他們獨自在我們的高處哭泣

in unsrer Höhe, wenn sie einsam weinen, in our heights when they weep alone, 他們想像自已成為他們預見之神的鄰居

an den sie glauben und den sie verlieren,    whom they believe in and whom they lose,  他們所信之及失去

und dessen Bildnis, wie ein sChein aus ihren  and whose image, like a gleam from their 而他們的形像,猶一從他們尋找燈下發出的光芒

suchenden Lampen, flüchtig und verweht,        seeking lamps, fleeting and then gone,    稍縱即逝

über unsere zerstreuten Gesichter geht...          passes over our scattered faces.            照著我們菆開的臉龐。..

Rilke was born in Prague, the capital of Bohemia, then a part of Czechoslovakia, same as Kafka. His father was a railroad official after an unsuccessful military career and his mother came from a rich family. Rilke's childhood was unhappy because his mother was obsessed by mourning Rilke's elder sister who died just one week after birth. She would dress Rilke as a girl but his father wanted a military career for him and thus enrolled him in a military academy from 1886 until  1891, when he was forced to leave due to illness after which he studied literature, art history and philosophy in Prague and Munich. Then in 1897, he fell in love with a married woman of letters Lou Andreas-Salomé, who had trained as a psychoanalyst with Freud and he travelled twice to Russia with her, the first time with her husband but the second time without. The relationship broke off in 1900 but she continued to be his confidante until his death and shared her knowledge of the human psyche with him. In his first trip to Russia in 1899, Rilke met Tolstoy and in his second, he met Boris Pasternak and Spiridon Droghzhin, a peasant poet.

In the autumn of 1900, he stayed at an artists' colony at Worpswde where he met a woman sculptor Clara Westhoff whom he married in 1901 and in the same year, his daughter Ruth was born. The following year, Rilke went to Paris where he wrote a monograph on the sculptor Auguste Rodin, and acted for a time as his secretary. From Rodin he learned the need for objecitvity in art and began to use the word in his own writing as if it were a tool for painting an image, instead of using them as incantation and other more directly subjective purposes. It was during his stay in Paris that he wrote the Neue Gedichte (New Poems)( 1907), Der Neuen Gedichte Anderer Teil (Another Part of the New Poems)( 1908) and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1904-1910). 


Paula Modersohn-Becker. Rainer Maria Rilke, 1906

Between October 1911 and May 1912, Rilke stayed at the Castle Duino, near Trieste, home of Countess Marie of Thurn und Taxis, where he started the Duino Elegies and which would remain unfinished for a decade because of a long-lasting creativity crisis.Then he got stuck in Munich when the WWI broke out and was unable to return to Paris, where for political reasons, his property was confiscated and auctioned. From 1914 to 1916 he had a turbulent affair with the painter Lou Albert-Lasard.  Rilke was called up at the beginning of 1916, and he had to undertake basic training in Vienna. Influential friends interceded on his behalf, and he was transferred to the War Records Office and discharged from the military on 9 June 1916. He spent the subsequent time once again in Munich. The traumatic experience of military service, a reminder of the horrors of the military academy, almost completely silenced him as a poet.

On 11 June 1919, Rilke traveled from Munich to the commune of Veyras in Valais, Switzerland., and established himself rent free at his patron Werner Reinhart's Chateau de Muzot, where he quickly completed his Duino within several weeks in February 1922. Before and after that, Rilke rapidly wrote both parts of the poem cycle Sonnets to Orpheus, considered by many to be his greatest works. During this time, Reinhart introduced Rilke to his protégée, the Australian violinist Alma Moodie. He died of Leukemia in December 1926.

Rilke's grave

Rilke had chosen as his own epitaph this poem:

Rose, oh reiner Widerspruch, Lust,
Niemandes Schlaf zu sein unter soviel

   Rose, oh pure contradiction, delight
   of being no one's sleep under so
   many lids.

A myth developed surrounding his death and roses, which we see as a constant motif in his work. It was said: "To honour a visitor, the Egyptian beauty Nimet Eloui, Rilke [had] gathered some roses from his garden. While doing so, he pricked his hand on a thorn. This small wound failed to heal, grew rapidly worse, soon his entire arm was swollen, and his other arm became affected as well", and so he died.

Volumes of poetry

  • Leben und Lieder (Life and Songs) (1894)
  • Larenopfer (Lares' Sacrifice) (1895)
  • Traumgekrönt (Dream-Crowned) (1897)
  • Advent (Advent) (1898)
  • Mir zur Feier (To me Only Celebration) (1909)
  • Das Stunden-Buch (The Book of Hours)

    • Das Buch vom mönchischen Leben (The Book of Monastic Life) (1899)
    • Das Buch von der Pilgerschaft (The Book of Pilgrimage) (1901)
    • Das Buch von der Armut und vom Tode (The Book of Poverty and Death) (1903)

  • Das Buch der Bilder (The Book of Images) (4 Parts, 1902–1906)
  • Neue Gedichte (New Poems) (1907)
  • Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies) (1922)
  • Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to Orpheus) (1922)

In the poem, I think Rilke is discreetly talking about the instrument of his love by employing the fountain as a symbol. He may or may not have been influenced by his understanding of Freudian psychology which he acquired through his lover Lou Andreas-Salomé. The references to things being forgotten once they are squeezed out, the little inflamed voices, the arched back, the forests, the ascent and the descent,  the water, the opened pond, steep banks it encounters, the stars meeting in tears, the light under the lamps, the tenderness of the night all suggest such amorous activities inside a certain bed chamber. 

2011年1月27日 星期四

Jules Superveille's "Haute mer" 于勒. 蘇佩維埃爾的『大海』

Read a poem by a French poet Jules Supervielle last night. It's also about the sea, which Yu Guangzhong also wrote about. But in this poem the feeling is entirely different. It is far more purely descriptive, and far less imbued with any morals. Perhaps in China, the tradition is very strong that the word must always carry a message (文以載道) and be a vehincle for teaching people how to live. In the west, the poem is more purely a means for recording certain emotional experience that the poet may have about one or another aspect of his life. The following poem is typical of this very different attitude.

            Haute Mer                                        High Sea                                          大海

Parmi les oiseaux et les lunes           Amidst the birds and the moons          在那些縈繞水底的

Qui hantent le dessous des mers    Which haunt the underside of the seas 雀鳥與月亮中

Et qu'on devine à la surface              And which one detects upon the surface在哪可在水面

Aux folies phases de l'écume,          the crazy phases of the foam    依稀可見泡沬之各種狂態


Parmi l'aveugle témoinage                Amidst the blind witness     在成千上萬不見容顏

Et les sillages sous-marins               and the undersea tracks       及將其路線隱藏起來的魚類

De mille poissons sans visage        of thousands of facelss fishes 及其水下軌跡的 

Qui cachent en eux leur chemin,     which hide in their paths within themselves盲目見証中


Le noyé cherche la chanson        the drowned man searches for the song  那被溺者正尋找          

Où s'était formé son jeune âge,    where his youth was moulded,     塑造他年青的那首歌曲

Ecoute en vain les coquillages     listens in vain to the shells           聽著白費心機的海螺殼

Et les fait choir au sombre fond.  and makes them drop to the murky bottom使它們掉下那混濁不清的海底..

The sea, the crazy foams upon its surface, the undercurrents, the fishes, their paths here may refer to something rather more than the physical sea and what was in there. He may well be talking about the sea of his emotions and the movement deep within his subconscious, possibly with sexual implications (the bird, the curves of the moon, the sea shells or conch and the currents, the fishes, the crazy foam, the madness of love-making in his youth? ). It may well be the interior seascapes of his psyche.

According to the Wikipedia, Jules Supervielle (16 January 1884 – 17 May 1960) was a Uruguay born French poet and writer who was most concerned about the interior world of his psyche but who refused to join the automatic writing of the surrealists dominant in his days in the first half of the 20th century and who refused to submit to the so-called "dictatorship of the unconscious". But he was also heavily influenced by the poetry of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Apollinaire and adopted certain of their writing techniques. He anticipated the movements of the years 1945-50 back to lyricism of René Char, Henri Michaux, Saint John Perse and Francis Ponge. Amongst his admirers are René-Guy Cadou, Alain Bosquet, Lionel Ray, Claude Roy, Philippe Jackotett and Jacques Réda 

He had a banker father, a Basque mother, lost his parents whilst young and was intially raised by his grandmother in France and then later in Uruguay by his uncle and aunt as their own son and he always thought of himself as their son until 9 and he began to write fables and in 1894, his uncle and aunt brought him to settle in Paris where he got his secondary education and there he disovered such romantic writers as Musset, Hugo, Lamartine, Lecomte de Lisle and Sully Prudhomme and started to write poetry in secret.. In 1901, he published certain poems entitled Brumes du Passé.( Mists from the Past)  He spends his summer holidays in Uruguay in 1901, 1902, and 1903 and from  1902 to 1906: Jules continuedhis studies, from the baccalauret to the licence of literature. He makes also his military service but, of fragile health, he badly supports the life of barracks.In 1907, he married Pilar Saavedra in Montevideo. From this union will be born six children, born between 1908 and 1929. In 1912, after manay voyages, he settledin Paris, in an apartment where he would stay for the next 23 years. He was conscripted for the war from 1914-1917 and did certain work for the Ministry of War, thanks to his linguistic abilities. Since 1917, he reads much and discovers Paul Claudel, Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphen Mallarmé and Walt Whitman. And in 1922, he published his first collection of poems, Débarcadères ( Jetties) and in 1923, got to know Henri Michaux and published his first novel L'Homme de la pampa (Man of the Grassland)  and then in 1925 published Gravitations and then  in 1927, he became close friends with one Jean Paulhan who would thereafter edit all his future publications  and in 1931, he publsihed his first collection of fantastical short stories L'Enfant de la haute mer ( The Child of the High Seas) (5 texts between 1924- 1930) . At this time, he is devoted to many literary activities and acquires the recognition of criticism, including in Uruguay. He then wrote a play La Belle au bois (The Beautiful Lady in the Wood) .Then because of his political leanings, he was exiled from Uruguay for 7 years starting 1939 and was declared a bankrupt the following year because his uncle's bank failed. Then he devoted himself to translation of the works of Guillen, Lorca and Shakespeare. He won several literary prizes during such mature years. In 1946, he  returned to France and published some mythological tales under the title of Orphée (Orpheus). In 1947, he published a play Shéhérazade, directed by Jean Vilar at the first festival d'Avignon. In 1951, he published another poetry collection called Boire à la source (Drink from the Spring) and in 1959 published his last poetic collection Le Corps tragique (The Tragic Body) .He was elected Prince of Poets by his peers in 1960 but died later the same year.

2011年1月26日 星期三

Yu Guangzhong's " Magic Mirror" 余光中的『魔鏡』

Read another poem from Yu Guangzhong's collection of poems called Spirit of the Lotus Root (藕神) (2008). This is a typical expression of that principle of writing by showing and not telling. In the first two stanzas, the poet merely tells us that what he is writing about is the "twilight of the setting sun and the reflection of dreams". It is something hung higher than the highest tips of towers and roofs, higher than all the tall windows and the distant sorrows hanging thereon, using there metonymy, or the part of the relevant object or matter for the whole: here the sorrows of those lovers longing for their beloved, their bodies bent over the window sills looking up at the moon missing those whose images occupy the entirety of their minds and hearts and regretting their absence. 

To the poet the subject of the poem is like a tender mother who would stoop down tenderly to console and to give hope to everyone including the lowest, although it is higher than all the buildings of the world. Nontheless, it is the place where lovers seek to find the face of their own lovers. But to the poet, it is nothing but a freckled face mirror. There is nothing on it. Yet people have created cultural festival around such illusions. Where is the link? Is it its soft light or in the words of the poet, its light gold or magical silver? Is it the hope of tenderness? Is it relief from the uncertainties and hence risks of love? 

Yet the subject of the poem is not revealed until the very end, when he lifts the veil of mystery surrounding all the previous descriptions, when he was writing around it, when he was using circumslocution: it is the moon that he is writing about. The magic mirror is the moon! It is magical because of all the dreams of lovers epitomized by the use of two Chinese festivals: mid-autumn and the evening of the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calender, a Chinese Valentine's Day. Perhaps the is the waning and waxing of the moon which prompted such magical projection. Like love, like the emotions, the moon gradually increase in size and brightness and as regularly decrease and fades. Its magic is the magic of love and the imagination fired by such love.


魔鏡                                                          Magic Mirror

落日的迴光,夢的倒影                Twilight of the setting sun, reflection of dreams

掛得最高的一面魔鏡                     The highest mirror ever hung

高過全世界的塔尖和屋頂              Higher than the tips of all towers and roofs

高過所有的高窗和窗口的遠愁      Higher than all the tall windows and the far away sorrows upon the windows

而淡金或是幻銀的流光                  Yet the fleeting light of light gold or magical silver 

卻温柔地俯下身來                           Bows tenderly

安慰一切的仰望                               To comfort every hope

就連最低處的臉龐                           Including those faces at the lowest places


高不可觸,那一面魔鏡                 Unreachably high, that magic mirror 

掛在最近神活的絕頂                     Hung closest to the highest peaks where the gods live

害得所有的情人                             Forcing all lovers                       

都舉起寂寞的眼睛                         To lift their lonely eyes

向著同一個空空的鏡面                 Towards that same empty empty mirror

尋覓各自渴望的容顏                     Seeking the face each longs for

不管是一夜或是一千年                  Be it from a single night or a thousand years

空鏡面上什麽都不見                      Nothing is seen upon that empty mirror


除了隱約的雀斑點點                      Aside half hidden spots of freckles

和清輝轉動淡金或幻銀                  And clear light wheeling light gold or magical silver

卻阻擋不了可憐的情人                  Nothing stops the poor lovers                  

依然痴痴向魔鏡                              from dotingly searching still in that magic mirror

尋找假面具後的容顏                     for the faces behind the masks

從中秋找到元夜,就像今宵         Searching from Mid Autumn to Mid First Moon Eve, like tonight

對似真似幻的月色                         Arduously searching from this half real half magical moonlight

苦尋你鏡中的絕色                         For that absolute beauty in your mirror.

3.3. 1999

2011年1月25日 星期二

Yu Guangzhong's "As Neighbor of the Sea" (余光中的『與海為鄰』)

The sea has always fascinated me by its vastness, its gentleness, its beauty, its power, its msyteries and its romances. What does Yu Guangzhong think? Let's find out from the poem "As the neighbor of the sea".

與海為鄰                        As neighbor of the sea

住在無盡藍的隔壁        Living at the side of the limitless blue 

卻無壁可隔                    But with no dividing walls

一無所有                        Having nothing

和擁有一切                    Holding everything


最豪爽的鄰居                Most generous neighbor

不論問他什麽                No matter what you ask him

總是答係                        He always says yes  

無比開濶的一臉            Incomparably wide face

盈盈笑意                        Full of smiles


脾氣呢當然                   His temper of course 

不會都那麽好               won't be that good

若是被風頂撞了          Were he crossed by the wind

也真會咆哮呢              He really knows how to growl

白沬滔滔                      Spilling white foams everywhere


絕壁、燈塔、長堤      Precipice, light tower, long causeway

一波波被他笞打         lashed by him one billow after another billow 

所有的船隻                  All vessels 

從舴艋到艨艟              From small boats to big battleships 

都拿來出氣                 were subject to the release of its pent up emotions



有誰比他                     Who is

更坦坦漡蕩的呢?      More open and free than him?

有誰又比他隱藏著       Who hides

更富的珍寶?                  More treasures?

更深的秘密?                Deeper secrets?


我不敢久看他                 I'm afraid to gaze at him too long

怕蠱魅的藍眸                 Fearing that the bewitching demon within his blue eyes

真的把靈魂勾去             Really might hook away my soul

化成一隻海鷗                 Turn it into a seagull

繞著他飛                         Circling him.


多詭詐的水平線啊        How slippery and sly the line of the horizon 

永遠找不到線頭            Never can one find its head

他就躲在那後面            He hides behind there

把落日、斷霞、黄昏星 Stealing one by one  

一一都盜走                     The setting sun, the broken twilight, the evening star.


西班牙沈船的金幣        I don't admire

或是合甫的珍珠            The gold coins of the sunken Spanish galleons

我都不羨慕                    Or the pearls of He Po

只求做他的一個            I wish only to be his

小小鄰居                        Little neighbor

只求他在岸邊能拾得   Asking him only to allow me to pick up

他留給我的                   the conch

一枚貝殼                       he saves for me.


好擱在枕邊                 so that I may place it beside my pillow

當作海神的名片         as the sea god's name card 

聽隱隱的人魚之歌    listening to the barely audible songs of the mermaids

或是擱在耳邊            or place it beside my ears

曖昧而悠遠                obscure yet far away.


To the poet, the sea is vast, blue, has nothing and everything,  generous and always answers to one's needs. full of smiles yet can lash out in fury. Behind its horizon the sun as well as small crafts and big battleships disappear. Within its depths are gold and pearls. But the poet does't want any of its jewels but only a conch so that he may listen to the song of the mermaids. The sea is not real. The sea that the poet longs for and wish to get close to is not the sea as it is, but the sea of his imagination: obscure, ambiguous, uncertain, puzzling and enigmatical. It is the space where his imagination may roam. He wishes to roam to those mysterious palaces where the mermaids sing!

2011年1月23日 星期日

The Tao of Flow

Friday night, I attended a talk at the HKSHP by Dr.Chan Pui Yin (陳沛然) . It was an excellent talk. I learned a great deal. The talk was entitled "平常心是道" (The Tao is Casualness or The Natural flow is Tao). Although it was almost the end of a hectic week and I was a bit tired, I didn't fall asleep at all as I did at some of the other talks at the HKSHP. 

Dr. Chan approached the topic from the macro-angle of the different emphases of Indian philosophy, American philosophy and Chinese Buddhist philosophy. To him, Indian philosophers were the most careful and subtle thinkers. They have a tradition of making the finest distinctions in thought and thus tended to be idealist. They were the very opposite of American philosophers which were more concerned with the results and effects of various ideas. The American philosophic bent could in a sense be described as pragmatist.  Chinese thinkers on the other hand could be seen as occupying a middle position: neither too theoretical, not too pragmatic. To him, the best Buddhist philosophy is that of the Tin Toi Sect (天台宗) which emphasized what he termed complete merging or harmony of three truths (三諦圓融論) and the Middle Way, same as Nagajuni (龍樹菩薩)  who says that the truth is that it is the case that there is existence/reality and it is also that case that there is no existence and no reality and in addition, it is also the case that there is neither existence nor non-existence. In other words, any distinction is wrong. To him, the Indians were too idealistic, the Americans too pragmatic but Chinese had the best of both worlds. I just wonder whether it is possible to make such generalizations. I thought the age of generalizations and universal truths was gone forever. It certainly seems that old habits die hard. Simplifications will always have a market. Anyway, it is always good to know where one stands.

Dr. Chan said he would like to introduce the idea of the "natural/casual/ordinary/usual" mentality (平常心) through the Zen method. He started by giving us a zen poem: by Master Doorless (無門禪師): "Spring has hundreds of flowers and autumn has warmth, Summer has coolness and winter has snow. If there's nothing in one's mind, then it must be a good time for man." " 春有百花秋有暖,夏有涼風冬有雪,若無閒事掛心頭,便是人間好時節"  ( Spring has a hundred flowers and autumn has warmth. Summer has cool winds and winter has snow. If there is no trifles upon my mind, Then it is a good season.) The master is called "Doorless" because if there is a door, then it may imply that there is only one way. If there is no door, then every place or point can be a door. Zen masters teach by suggestions and by concrete examples and not by building philosophical systems.  To the Chinese mind, there is no heaven, no hell and thought should not be dualistic at all.

He cites the Heart Sutra (心經):  色即是空, 空即是空, 色受想行識,五蘊皆空. Everything is an illusion in the sense that that nothing is permanent: everything is subject to perpetual changes and is the result of a number of prior causes coming together due to their inherent natures but there is also an element of chance. Thus , a good idea must also meet with the right kind of environment before it can demonstrate or reveal its own goodness. All our senses, our thoughts, our will, our conduct and our knowledge can be sources that prevent us from attaining the ultimate truth. To Tin Toi Sect,(天台宗) , the most essential truths are 因緣所生法,我說即是空,亦為是假名,亦是中道矣. ( the law of co-dependent origination and the concept of "I" does not have any reality. In a sense, even the doctrine of co-dependent origination are false ( 緣起性空). It is false in that it is not true but it is also not untrue. We must follow the middle way. Everything has a certain reality but is is never ever completely what it seems. This truth is embodied by another Zen poem by Endless Nun (無盡尼) 進入立春不見春,芒鞋踏遍隴頭雲,歸來偶拈梅花嗅,春在枝頭巳十分 ( Entering upon Spring Equinox, spring is not seen Reed shoes stepping all over the clouds of Szechuan. Smelling upon return a plum flower by accident Spring already is completely at the tip of the branch. ). In other words, Spring is already there, just that he was  looking for it at the wrong places. If you are too intent on finding soemething general, you will not find it because you are too focused on some particular. We can never really find anything useful if we make too much distinctions. In the final analysis, all distinctions are merely mental distinctions, a creation of the human mind. They have no real existence out there in the world which is one, indivisible and each of whose elements just occur according to the inherent laws of their own nature and which only come together for short periods, partly impelled by the logic of their own nature and partly through the operation of pure chance or accidents and the context in which it happens to be at a particular point or period of time and place and each following the cycle of birth, development, decline and death, destruction and disintegration. Nothing has any lasting characteristic or structures and in that sense permanent or" real". Everything remains mere transient phenomena. That is their "true" nature. Hence a wise man will just follow the events in accordance with the natural logic of their own development and not try to force anything. This however does not mean that we must all be completely passive. We must still act according to the internal necessity or logic of our own personality, education, experience etc. but always with the overriding awareness or mindfulness that nothing is permanent or can only be done one way. If so, then whatever happens as a result of our efforts, we shall be equally happy and will not be angry, disappointed, frustrated, anxious, fearful, overly excited. We just take everything in our stride and maintain that calmness of mind, that clarity of vision and that natural joy which has always been with us from the beginning had we not done all sorts of things to disturb or interfere with it or cloud it with our own subjective desires. 

The theory of the Tien Toi Sect was further developed by the Hua Yim Sect (華嚴宗) whose principal concepts are 圓融無盡,六相圓融,主伴圓融. or endless and seamless merging, mutual seamless merging of the 6 phenomena and principal and contextual merging. The 六相 ( 6 phenomena) are 總相 (total phenomena) and 別相 (individual phenomena), 同相( similarity) and 異相 ( difference) 成相 (complete) and 壞相 (defective).. Another idea is 理事無礙, 事事無礙 (phenomena relies upon the mutual constraints of the rationality of different parts, the merging of one into another, both competing and complementary). All of such ideas are based upon the original principle of 緣起性空. This sect thinks 隨緣不變 不變隨緣, the former referring to the what should happen in the ideal world and the latter referring to what may happen in the the material world. When they say 理事無礙, 事事無礙, what they mean is that the true cause of things will never change but because the true cause of change never changes, it can adapt itself to particular circumstances and if we follow reason, we may arrive at non-contradiction so that when we actually do things, we will not experience contradiction.

To achieve perfection, we do not need to do anything special. All we need to do is to follow the logic of the circumstances because if we do so, then we shall be acting in accordance with the normal nature of things. If we keep this (平常心) always in mind as a plain truth, we should have little difficulties in achieving perfection!

2011年1月22日 星期六

Chou Meng-Tieh's "Angling" 周夢蝶的『垂釣』

Attending a talk on Zen wisdom last night piqued my interest in Zen-ish poetry. So I read a short poem by a Taiwanese poet born in Xichuan county of Henan (河南省淅川縣) called Chou Meng-tieh  周夢蝶 (b. 1921) originally called 周起述. According to the Wikipedia, he joined the China Youth Corp青年軍 in 1948, came to Taiwan during the Civil War, leaving his wife and two sons and a daughter in the PRC, starting to write poetry 4 years later at age 32, publishing in the Central Daily News (中央日報 「青年戰士報副刊」), retiring in as a veteran 1955 and started selling second hand books outside of the Astoria Cafe (明星咖啡廳) in Taipei and then joined a poetry society called Blue Star Poetry Society (藍星詩社) and published his first book of poetry "Land of Solitude" (孤獨國) in 1959. He continued doing that until 1980 when he was forced to close his stall owing to gastric ulcers. He was silent and introvert. He started studying about Buddhism in 1962 and did Zen meditation in front of his bookstore, becoming a public spectacle in busy Taipei.  In 1966, at age 45, he published his second volume of poetry Grass of Returning Spirit《還魂草.》. He only returned to the PRC for the first time at age 77 but it was too late for the kind of family reunion he expected. In 2003, at age 82, he published his two final volumes of poetry Rendezvous《約會》and 13 White Chrysanthemums《十三朵白菊花. 》.  He won the National Culture and Arts Foundation Literature Laureate Award. During his life, he worked successively as book seller, primary school teacher, cemetery watchman. Here's his short poem on fishing and my translation.



是誰? 是誰使荷葉,使荇藻與綠萍,頻頻搖動?











Who's that?  Who's that who makes the lotus leaves, the yellow heart algae and the green duckweeds tremble?

Embracing boundless winds and rains from all directions with a fishing line! Holding on to the fishing rod without looking.

The man sat there when the oriole first sang from deep within the forest until half the sundial was swallowed by the setting sun.

Sitting there until his back and shoulder of forty fifty sixty seventy were bent by falling flowers, drenched...

A dragonfly stood upon his head, the shadow like a monk upon his droopy droopy eyelids,

How many long dreams, short dreams, short short dreams, all vanished slowly slowly along with long waves, short waves, short short waves---

He awoke to the east of the reed flowers in the shallows. The fishing rod was gone,

Blown off by the wind? Or swallowed by a giant fish scale?

Looking around the green expanse, over that light mist,

It sounded vaguely like a star falling into the water, splash!

This is a very unique poem. There is a certain directness in the way he writes. He appears to wish us to feel his thoughts directly and reproduces his sentiments as they occur within his brain or his heart. He starts the poem with two questions, as if he did not know what the answers were. Of course, he does. But he writes as if he did not.  He presents us with clear images: a man sitting all alone. The man was intent on fishing. But he was not looking. He held on tightly to the fishing rod. The winds blew, the rains fell. But the did not care. He was intent only on his angling! He seemed very concentrated, focused on one thing only: catching what he hoped would be a big fish from the water. There winds were blowing. Hence the trembling of the duckweeds etc, on the surface of the water.

He gradually builds up on that initial image through first sound: the song of the oriole which marks the beginning of that meditation and then sight: the sun swallowing half the sundial at sunset, presumably referring to the shape of the sundial which remained bright on the side where the sun was shining upon it and dark and invisible on the side behind the vertical triangular plate on the surface of the sundial. Then he enhances the time by the repetition of number of years he had been sitting thus from 40 to 70. His back and shoulder were bent by so many flowers (ladies?) that he became almost a statue, all life drained out of him. He was certainly so treated by the dragonfly which stood upon his head. But he remained sitting, like a monk deep in meditation. He remains all alone. His only company after so many years is the dragonfly!

By the time he awoke, he was already 70! In the meantime, the winds and rains that he ignored had already blown away all his dreams. In the Chinese cultural tradition and language, the words "the winds and the rains" are synonymous with the ups and downs of life. He was said to be "drenched ..." The fishing rod was gone. He started by fishing for something, hoping to catch something and ended without the instrument of his initial search. Why east of the reeds? The east is the land where the sun rises, where hope arises. But why the disappearance of the fishing line and rod? He suggest two possible explanations: blown away by the wind, symbol of time or swallowed by a "giant scale", a metonymy for a big fish. Whatever the real cause might have been, he looked around after waking up only to find the environment filled with something which prevented from seeing clearly, a light mist or a cloud of smoke. Then from sight, he reverts to sound, like in the beginning of the poem. He seemed to have heard a star falling by accident or error into the water. It made a splash: the abrupt crash and impact of enlightenment upon that water at whose edge he had been sitting for 70 years! And the water is the water of the lake of enlightenment. It made a loud noise only because it was so serene: the state of nirvana, of clarity. Nothing disturbs its surface any more, unlike at the beginning of the poem when the duckweeds etc. were rocked by the winds or rains or something else. His heart has become as serene as the unruffled surface of the lake!

The poem ends with a sound, the clear sound of the splash of the falling star. It was the evening of his life. The sun had been replaced by the stars and his star has fallen into the water within which he had been trying all his life to catch a big fish! The angler had no more need of the fishing rod! What must be caught is not out there in the world. It's something which has always been there, inside his heart, his mind. He has no more need of any external and material fishing rod. All he needs is a change of perspectives! He has realized the illusory nature of everything. Nothing seem to matter any more. He and Nature has become one.

The disappearance of the fishing rod has a religious meaning. The Buddha taught us not to get attached to anything, even something we normally regard as "good", "beneficial". For the Buddhists, this means the dharma (法). The dharma is merely an instrument, a vehicle (乘), something which helps us to attain enlightenment. The Buddha taught us that once we have attained enlightenment, we may throw away the instrument, the ladder, the vehicle, the dharma! The poet cleverly introduces this idea by the use of the word "looking" (顧). In line 2, the angler was not looking. When he woke up, in the east, at the end of the poem, he was looking around over the mist of the intervening years and he discovered that it appeared that a star has fallen into the water, the place where he was hoping to catch something when he first started many many years ago! But he was no longer using his eye-sight which had misled him for so long. He used his ears. He was listening to the message inside his heart! And he heard! The truth was not in the heavens, it was in the here and now, amidst this ephemeral world, if only we knew where to look or listen.

The essence of Zen is sudden enlightenment often under the most unexpected but otherwise perfectly "ordinary" circumstances. The lessons have always been there. Only that we failed to see them. We fail to see because we do not see with the right kind of eyes, the right kind of perspectives. Accordingly to the Buddha, we fail to see only because we are blinded by our emotions" avarice or greed or desire or attachment, addiciton or fetishism to objects or matters we like (貪) anger or hatred towards those people or matter who or which appear to oppose our will or desires (瞋),stupidity, foolishness, confusion, ignorance, lack of knowledge, insight or unwillingness to learn (癡)  and excess, immoderation (妄). Here, in this poem, what the poet seems to depict is that fault of 癡.  It was his 癡 which made him stay there for so many years  He failed because he did not know how to get non-attached  (不執 ) or disburden himself (放下). He began to realize his mistakes when he turned his eyes away from his life's project of catching the big fish and began to look around at Nature with which he has now become merged, indistinguishable, symbolized by the dragonfly landing on him as if he were part of Nature.

Some Saturday Fun

This week has been a fairly hectic week. Time to get back at work, work and more work! And I don't think I am alone in needing and wanting to do that. So I shall post something light related to that otherwise dreary, necessary but soul destroying plague of the contemporary men and women called by a most pompous title: "work".  It's "Murphy's Laws on Work". Without futher ado, here they are.


A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the pants.

Don't be irreplaceable, if you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

The more crap you put up with, the more crap you are going to get.

You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard.

Eat one live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.

Never ask two questions in a business letter. The reply will discuss the one you are least interested in, and say nothing about the other.

When the bosses talk about improving productivity, they are never talking about themselves.

If at first you don't succeed, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.

There will always be beer cans rolling on the floor of your car when the boss asks for a ride home from the office.

Mother said there would be days like this, but she never said there would be so many.

Keep your boss's boss off your boss's back. This is what I'm doing wrong.

Everything can be filed under "miscellaneous."

Never delay the ending of a meeting or the beginning of a cocktail hour.

To err is human, to forgive is not company policy.

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing.

Important letters that contain no errors will develop errors in the mail.

The last person that quit or was fired will be the one held responsible for everything that goes wrong - until the next person quits or is fired.

There is never enough time to do it right the first time, but there is always enough time to do it over.

The more pretentious a corporate name, the smaller the organization. (For instance, The Murphy Center for Codification of Human and Organizational Law, contrasted to IBM, GM, AT&T ...).

If you are good, you will be assigned all the work. If you are really good, you will get out of it.

You are always doing something marginal when the boss drops by your desk.

People are always available for work in the past tense.

If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done.

At work, the authority of a person is inversely proportional to the number of pens that person is carrying.

When you don't know what to do, walk fast and look worried.

You will always get the greatest recognition for the job you least like.

No one gets sick on Wednesdays.

When confronted by a difficult problem you can solve it more easily by reducing it to the question, "How would the Lone Ranger handle this?"

The longer the title, the less important the job.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.

An "acceptable" level of employment means that the government economist to whom it is acceptable still has a job.

Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it makes it worse.

All vacations and holidays create problems, except for one's own.

Success is just a matter of luck, just ask any failure.

2011年1月21日 星期五

Ya Yin's "Andante Cantabile" 瘂弦的『如歌的行板』

I had an extremely taxing day yesterday, having to finish a 15 page witness statement, 4 letters and numerous trivial office duties, looking for new office premises, revising and then taking the Spanish final examination and organizing a class list and a dinner. So I shall be lazy today, just as the conclusion of the first stanza of the poem by Ya Yin I am about to translate.  I shall just choose a short poem for translation.

如歌的行板                                               Andante Cantabile


溫柔之必要                                                              The necessity for tenderness                                                        

肯定之必要                                                              The necessity for assurance 

一點點酒和木樨花之必要                                   The necessity for a little wine and plum flower

正正經經看一名女子走過之必要                     The necessity for formally looking at a passing lady

君非海明威此一起碼認識之必要                      The basic necessity for acknowledging that you are not Hemingway

歐戰,雨,加農砲,天氣與紅十字會之必要 The necessity for European wars, rains, canons, weather and Red Cross

散步之必要                                                             The necessity for a stroll

溜狗之必要                                                             The necessity for walking a dog

薄荷茶之必要                                                         The necessity for mint tea

每晚七點鍾自證券交易所彼端                           The necessity for rumours rising like grass at the other end of the Stock Exchange

草一般飄起來的謠言之必要。旋轉玻璃門    at 7 oc'clock each evening. The necessity for

之必要。盤尼西林之必要。暗殺之必要。晚報之必要 for revolving doors. The necessity for penicillin. The necessity for assassination. The necessity for the evening post

穿法蘭絨長褲之必要。馬票之必要              The necessity for wearing long flannel pants. The necessity for horse racing tickets

姑母遺產繼承之必要                                        The necessity for inheriting paternal aunt's estate 

陽臺、海、微笑之必要                                   The necessity for veramdahs , seas, smiles 

懶洋洋之必要                                                    The necessity to feel lazy.


而既被目為一條河總得繼續流下去的        Having been treated as a river, it must continue to flow

世界老這樣總這樣:──                             The world is always so and ultimately so

觀音在遠遠的山上                                          The Koon Yin on the distant hill

罌粟在罌粟的田裡                                          The poppies in the poppy field

This is a most unusual poem. It seems to merely list various things which the poet regards as necessary. They are put in the form of a list to show first that they are required for his life and secondly that they are of equal importance. However, a more careful scrutiny will reveal that some of those "needs" are objective whilst others are purely personal to the poet and thus subjective. They range from minor personal habits and taste to the need of man to fight and to kill each other and the subsequent need to repair the damage to life and the institutional need to redress man's problem of survival. Twice he mentions the need to look after his material welfare: the stock exchange and the need to inherit money to enable him to survive.

The first stanza starts with certain emotional and psychological needs. Then he goes on to list the material conditions for the achievement of those needs. Then towards the end of the first stanza, the poet skilfully begins to talk for the first time about the need to relax: the verandah, the seas, the smiles and the need to do nothing.

In the second stanza, there is a sudden switch of pattern. The litany of the repetitious "necessity" is dropped. But that change is more apparent than real. It is no more than a change of form, not of contents. He continues to emphasize the "inevitability" or he "necessity" of the ways of the world. From the concrete details, he goes into the general principle and perhaps universal principle of the ways of the world: the need of the world to go on drearily the way it has been doing so and he emphasizes this ineluctable "necessity" by the use of the words "老" or always, in the old and familiar way and "總" or always or in the end, finally or ultimately etc.

Then at the end of the poem he introduces two ways of resolving this monotony of having to do all the things which are needful: the spirituality of a Buddha which advocates that in the end, everything is "empty", that the world is little more than the temporary coming together of all kinds of causes which are mutually co-dependent and which cause each other as transient, provisional, temporary phenomona or in Buddhist jargon "illusions". The other alternative is a journey not into spirituality but into drugs: the poppy, the ingredient for the production of opium. These are the only two solutions: religion and drugs. To Marx, religion is the opium of the people! Is this what the poet is trying to suggest? The title of the poem is "andante cantabile" ("andante" being Italian for a normal ambling or walking speed  and "cantabile" being Italian for song-like) which again emphasizes that it is not something rapid, quick, rousing, soft or strident: something perfectly "normal" and "ordinary" and hence "general", hence perhaps inescapable!What is that song? The song of Life itself!