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Friday, July 22, 2016

A Poem For A Friend's Painting


On, 25 Jun 2016, an italki friend, Julius Ku sent me a marvellous Chinese painting that he did and asked me to pen a classical poem for him to complete his work. Below is the version that appeals to me most.


After studying the painting for awhile, I came up with a draft of to describe the painting. I liked the way how to boats are depicted simply.

山雲接海迎小舟 The cloudy mountains receive the ocean and welcoming the little boats.
松峭参天拜          Pine cliffs bowing to heaven.

With this idea, I can take my time to work out the mechanics in composing a classical Chinese poem. The idea was to compare human life with the seemingly eternal mountains and heavens. After much doodling, I came up with the following,

山雲接海迎小舟
松冠峭壁参蒼天       Pine trees crowning the cliffs paying respect to heaven
人生蜉朝一日過       Life is like a mayfly day
自然依舊待/侍千秋 As nature remains waiting/serving for a thousand autumns.

I was stuck and had to fallow my mind. The next day, as I explored different words and rhyming schemes, a different version materialized,

千山白雲小舟臨/逢          White clouds of a thousand mountains, the little boats arrive/meet
松冠峭壁/敬蒼天/蒼天敬 Sheer cliffs crowned in pines pay respect to the vastness of heaven
桃源何處曾一見               Where had I once seen the source of peach (paradise)
迷離境界在水邊/              The blurry realm (of the paradise) is at the water's edge/
無意不識入仙境               Unintentionally and unknowingly, I stumbled into the fairyland.

Although the result is solidifying, I still think the poem is too contrite; words not too elegant and the flow of sounds not too smooth. 

Notes:

1. Pine trees are longevity symbols but still has an end. The sky doesn't.

2. The peach source is an allusion to a story when a fisherman inadvertently stumbled into paradise filled with blossoming peach trees. He spent a day there before returning home. However, he could not find his way back the next day. This is a frequent theme in Classical Chinese poems.



I always have said -- "give oneself a good night's rest and things will look better the next day". Sure enough, after my daily jog, I came up with this:

千山白雲碧/滄/海迎 White clouds from the thousand mountains welcome the blue/cold ocean
松冠峭壁青天敬        Sheer cliffs crowned in pine trees paying respect to the green sky
桃源此處曾一見        The peach source is here where I saw once
心空愰惚入仙境        My heart is empty and suddenly the fairyland I entered.

Being very satisfied with this version, I stopped the fine tuning. However, five days later, I used this poem to practise my brush writing. As I wrote, fresh ideas and words came into mind. This is the final version as one can go on eternally fine tuning things...

千山白雲滄海迎, White clouds from a thousand peaks welcoming the vast ocean,
松冠峭壁参天敬. Sheer cliffs crowned in pines paying respect to heaven.
桃源此處曾一會, This is the place where Paradise I once had been,
必是心愰入仙境. Must be in my absent-mindedness that I stumbled into the immortal's realm.


Friday, July 22, 2016

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