Yellow Crane Tower


 
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使

Yellow Crane Tower
Cui Hao 704-754

A man rode off on a crane long ago
Yellow Crane Tower is all that remains
Once the crane left it never returned
For a thousand years clouds have wandered in vain
The trees of Hanyang shine in midstream
The sweet plants of spring overrun Parrot Isle
At sunset I wonder which way is home
Mist on the river only means sorrow
 
Huánghè Lóu
Cuī Hào 704-754

Xī rén yǐ chéng huáng hè qù,
Cǐ dì kōng yú Huánghè Lóu.
Huáng hè yí qù bú fù fǎn,
Bái yún qiān zǎi kōng yōuyōu.
Qíng chuān lìlì Hànyáng shù,
Fāng cǎo qīqī Yīngwǔ Zhōu.
Rì mù xiāng guān hé chù shì,
Yān bō jiāng shàng shǐ rén chóu.
 
Translator: Red Pine-Bill Porter 赤松

Notes:
At the 1999 meeting of the Asociation of Asian Studies, Wei Shang of Columbia University gave a paper on the poetic obsession with the Yellow Crane tower. His abstract reads:

"With poems like his "Yellow Crane Tower," Cui Hao (?–754) established himself as one of the premier poets of the High Tang. Though not the first poem to be composed on that landmark, his was the one that was recognized as definitive, exerting a shaping and conditioning influence on poetic representation of that locale for generations to come. In response to Cui Hao’s poem, Li Bai (701–62) wrote a poem on the Phoenix Tower at Jinling, which in turn guaranteed Li’s own poetic dominion over that spot. But beneath this apparent triumph lies a story of frustration: anecdote has it that Li Bai once ascended Yellow Crane Tower, but left without having been able to compose anything—reduced to unwilling silence by Cui’s poem inscribed conspicuously on the tower’s wall.

Yet Li Bai was to recover from this silence: in several subsequent poems, he continues an oblique dialogue with Cui Hao’s "Yellow Crane Tower." This paper will address two sets of issues arising from a reading of these poems: the first concerns the question of poetic authority and competition among High Tang poets; the second centers on the actual or imagined conditions under which these poems were composed, circulated, and responded to. In one poem, Li Bai imagines that he has smashed Yellow Crane Tower to pieces; in another he envisions it reconstructed, with a freshly painted wall—an invitation to him to inscribe a new poem on it. The repainted wall assumes a double role in the production of meaning in the poem, erasing or covering over Cui Hao’s poem while at the same time opening up a new space for Li Bai’s own creative imagination."

Translation from Poems of the Masters, one of the best books of general translations of Chinese poems into English. detailed notes on each poem and all poems are displayed in the original Chinese.

Translated by Red Pine, published by Copper Canyon Press.

 
 
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