CMO/OAA Cahier #04
hen I stayed in Taipei, Taiwan, for ten months to observe Mars in 1986, a Taiwanese master of the
laundry to which I usually went marked any laundry of mine by the name “”= “Southern
Mountain” in Chinese characters. I did not know his age, but I supposed he
understood some Japanese pronunciations as the old Taiwanese did, and
at least he knew my name “MINAMI” implies “South” and he further knew that I
was usually called in
I like this kind of wit, and furthermore I liked it as a pronoun of my own name because frequently appears in gems of the Chinese poetry. One of famous cases is in an old poem sung by TAO Yuan-Ming (365 - 427) which partly composes “I pick chrysanthemums at the eastern hedge, and then I gaze far off toward the Southern Mountain.” Usually “western mountain” or “eastern mountain” implies just a mountain in the west or east, but here in the TAO Yuan-Ming case, the Southern Mountain was rather a proper noun and implied the famous mountain called Lu-shan.
TAO Yuan Ming lived in the time of declining Eastern Jin Dynasty, but in the later era of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), the usually implied Zhong-Nan-shan which was the long range of mountains located to the south of the metropolis Zhang-an (now Xi-an) of Tang.
As one of the poets in the time of the Tang Dynasty who liked “Zhong-Nan-shan”, WANG Wei (699 - 759) has been famous. For example he sang such a song as “looking over Zhong-Nan-shan” or a poem whose title is just “Zhong-Nan-shan.” The latter has such a phrase as “White clouds are, if I look back, close behind me, and Blue mists, if I come near them, cannot be seen.” He also used the word Nan-shan inside several poems; these are thus showing Nan-shan implied calm mountains of deep misty forests and valleys devoid of any bustling sign.
WANG Wei was a brilliant person proficient in calligraphy and painting as well as composing music, in addition to making poems. He was successful also as an officer of the Tang Government, but he frequently had a sense of setback and often wanted to live in seclusion at a cottage located at the foot of Nan-shan.
The following five-letter/six-line poem entitled “Farewell” is one of the most well-known poems of WANG Wei (read from left to right):
Note that the fourth line contains the word . This poem roughly implies as follows:
Dismounting from my horse,
I offer you, my friend a cup of wine.
I ask you then where you intend to go.
You answer: “I have never been content,
And would retire to lie down at the foot of Nan-shan.”
Now leave to go and no more speak to me.
White clouds will drift there without end.
looks to imply the second person (once so believed, see below), but nowadays it
is interpreted that “you” implies
WANG Wei himself. In fact it was associated with WANG Wei himself who met an
obscurity in earthly affair world despite his brilliancy, and really secluded
at the foot of Nan-shan. At Nan-shan,
the white clouds rise eternally. In
Several poems show that WANG Wei was very fond of using the word of white cloud in poem lines. Note he was quite religious (Buddhist). We also note as another declination, he often wanted to force his intimate friends to drink a cup of wine.
The Chinese poetry has a long history, but nobody would deny it was most flourish during the Tang dynasty era. In addition to WANG Wei, such poets as LI Bai (or LI Tai Bai or LI Po, 701 - 762), DU Fu (maybe TU Fu in Wade-Giles spelling), BAI Juyi (or BO Juyi, 772 - 846) and others have since been very well known even in Japan as great poets.
It was however not until the 19th century that the Tang poems were widely known and attracted a great
deal of attention in
The above poem “Farewell” of WANG Wei was translated by SAINT-DENYS: The title became “En se séparant d'un voyageur” and WANG Wei was spelled “OUANG-OEY.” The poem was translated as
Je descendis de cheval; je lui offris le vin de l'adieu,
Et je lui demadai quel était le but de son voyage.
Il répondit; Je n'ai pas réussi dans les affaires du monde;
Je m'en retourne aux monts Nan-chan pour y chercher le repos.
Vous n'aurez plus désormais à m'interroger sur de nouveaux voyages,
Car la nature est immuable, et les nuages blancs sont éternels.
The French pronunciation of Nan-chan is basically not far from Nan-shan, and so preserved quite exactly. The words of wine of farewell and failure in the earthly affairs are too realistic but faithful. The plural mountains are pertinent since Nan-shan is a range of mountains (in Chinese, it is rather not easy at a first glance to judge the plurality as well as the tense). However WANG Wei’s concealment (to retire and lie) looks somewhat different from a search of the rest. We don’t know furthermore if it is right to say the nature is immutable or immovable or eternal, while the white clouds at least here remain well translated.
The French translation has a note (note (1)) on the following page in which the second person of “Farewell” is described as MENG Hao-Ran (MONG-kao-jén by SAINT-DENYS). Really MENG Hao Ran (679 - 740) was a friend of WANG Wei, and also one of the great Tang poets (more popular in Japan than WANG Wei: I suppose MENG Hao-Ran’s phrase “Spring dawn brings a peaceful over-sleep” is known to every Japanese as a proverb), but later investigation denied the relation of MENG Hao-Ran with the “Farewell” poem.
The Tang poems were introduced to
Ich stieg vom Pferd und reichte ihm den Trunk
Des Abschied dar. Ich fragte ihn, wohin
Und auch warum er reisen wolle. Er
Sprach mit umflorter Stimme: Du mein Freund,
Mir war das Glück in dieser Welt nicht hold.
Wohin ich geh? Ich wandre in die Berge,
Ich suche Ruhe für mein einsam Herz.
Ich werde nie mehr in die Ferne schweifen, -
Müd ist mein Fuß, und müd ist meine Seele, -
Die Erde ist die gleiche überall,
Und ewig, ewig sind die weißen Wolken....
Unfortunately here Nan-shan disappeared! To BETHGE who was not so acquainted with Chinese affairs, Nan-shan must have not meant anything, and it was degraded to mere Shan (Berg) with a definite article. However, though not word for word he added some atmosphere à la WANG Wei: SAINT-DENYS’ voyage sounds prosaic, but here BETHGE inserts more poetic words wohin und warum, and it is good for him to suppose the hoarse voice spoken (though I suppose WANG Wei had a beautiful voice pertinent to reading loudly the Buddhist secret scriptures), though it may be usually difficult to suppose his tired feet. Anyway, Die weissen Wolken was preserved with the nice word “ewig”, zweimal ewig!
Nan-shan and White Clouds were indispensable and rather indivisible in WANG Wei, but unfortunately Nan-shan as a peaceful accommodation disappeared in Hans BETHGE, and subsequently the White Cloud also disappeared in Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911).
As is well known, Gustav MAHLER was impressed with the translated Chinese poems of BETHGE, and composed the heterodox symphony “Das Lied von der Erde” made of six movements based on BETHGE’s poems. In particular, the latter part of the sixth movement, which occupies a half of the symphony, depends basically on WANG Wei’s Farewell. However MAHLER was elder than BETHGE by sixteen years, and it looked he did not pay so much respect to the original lines of BETHGE, and changed some words and phrases as he liked.
One plausible change is however made as follows: As aforementioned, SAINT-DENYS put a note on MENG Hao-Ran nominated as the second person, and hence BETHGE chose a poem of MENG Hao-Ran (he expressed as Mong-Kao-Jen) as “In Erwartung des Freundes” on the left hand side page (p18), and put WANG Wei’s “Der Abschied des Freundes” on the right-hand side page (p19). In view of this balance, MAHLER invented a long lyric by combining two
poems: MENG’s poem just begins like this, “Since the sun has set down beyond the western range, every valley is shadowy and dull….”, and MAHLER begins from
Die Sonne scheidet hinter dem Gebirge.
In alle Täler steigt der Abend nieder
And in the middle, MAHLER turns to WANG Wei’s lines (from “Er stieg vom Pferd und reichte ihm den Trunk/ Des Abschieds dar. Er fragte ihn, wohin…”, however note that G M alters Ich in H B to Er) and ends with several repeats of “ewig.” Thus MAHLER employed the dismounting from the horse and a cup of wine, but did not pay attention to the white clouds. The last several lines are the ones utterly created by MAHLER himself:
Ich wandle nach der Heimat, meiner Stätte.
Ich werde niemals in die Ferne schweißen.
Still ist mein Herz und harret seiner Stunde!
Die liebe Erde allüberall
Bluht auf im Lenz und grünt aufs neu!
Allüberall und ewig blauen licht die Fernen!
Ewig, ewig........ewig, ewig........
We can admit Nan-shan cannot be restored in MAHLER because of BETHGE, while it is unfortunate to see that MARLER discarded the religious white clouds: WANG Wei’s white clouds split into nature and white clouds in SAINT-DENYS, and they were varied to die Erde und die weissen Wolken in BETHGE, and finally in MARLER just die Erde was preserved and it suggested a flourish world of green forests and blue bright light. This colourful landscape looks thus far from that of Nan-shan. However we may say the lines around Heimat and Stunde convey more of feeling of a calm resignation than WANG Wei’s. In fact WANG Wei also wanted to greet his last moment at the corner of Nan-shan.
Gustav MAHLER suffered from angina pectoris before the composition of this symphony, and after finishing, according to Bruno WALTER (1876 - 1962), MAHLER was afraid if the symphony might bring some of audience to commit suicide. MAHLER died in 1911 at the age of 51 without observing the first performance of “Das Lied von der Erde”.
When WANG Wei was 52 years old, he lost his beloved mother who deeply believed in Buddhism. He then converted his cottage at the foot of Nan-shan to a temple, and when he was 63 of age, he laid down his pen and died there. He was buried to the west of the temple.
The above was published originally in Japanese in CMO #225 (25 November 1999 issue).
GAUTIER must have encountered with the word
Right: Hans BETHGE
MAHLER employed “Der Pavillon aus Porzellan” of BETHGE in the third movement of “Das Lied von der Erde.” This poem is a direct translation of Judith GAUTIER’s “Le pavillon de porcelaine” in “Le Livre de Jade.” Judith records it’s a translation of Li-Tai-Pé (LI Tai-Bai)’s poem. However it is known to be difficult to identify it with any of LI Bai’s poems while discussion was a lot raised to tell the original poem: It is now known there is no exactly corresponding poem, but there are counted two candidates that may inspired Judith. Both contain in addition to some other hints the Chinese character (Kanji in Japanese) called TAO which implies a name of a particular person here, but at the same time it has a meaning of porcelain. So it is quite probable she gave, from a misreading, a free play to her imagination.
(Mn on 5 May 2005)