Writing of My Sorrow (visiting Mei Yao-ch’en)


Writing of My Sorrow

My wife has been taken to the heavens,
and now, my son.
Life leaves my eyes, in tears.
My heart wants to follow.
Rainfall seeps into the earth.
A pearl sinks deeper, to the ocean’s bottom.
The pearl can be found in the water.
Water will be found when you dig in the earth.
But no one returns, once they are truly gone.
All these years, I thought I have known myself.
But as I touch my breast, I ask who this is
wasting away in the mirror.

Literal translations of classic Chinese poetry can be found at chinese-poems.com. This is my interpretation of a poem by Mei Yao-ch’en. The literal translation, as provided at chinese-poems.com, is as follows:

Writing of My Sorrow

Heaven already take my wife
Again again take my son
Two eyes although not dry
(Disc) heart will want die
Rain fall enter earth in
Pearl sink enter sea deep
Enter sea can seek pearl
Dig earth can see water
Only person return source below
Through the ages know self (yes)
Touch breast now ask who
Emaciated mirror in ghost

Image source: The British Museum
Izanami and Izanagi on the Bridge of Heaven, by Totoya Hehhei
More Chinese interpretations can be found here.

dVerse Open Link Night #234

It would seem this poem was on my mind when I wrote What Lies Beneath on 12/14/18.

49 thoughts on “Writing of My Sorrow (visiting Mei Yao-ch’en)

  1. I found this quite chilling to be honest – quite precise and telling in the spirit of the original Chinese, I’m sure. Thank you and I will be back for more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your poetic take on classic Chinese poetry; quite the project. Have you and Bjorn collaborated on poems in the past? Your exchange was stunning, great fun. The elder I find in the mirror is the copy of my grandfather; his eyes, his hair. My father is faceless, unknown, cruising in the void or other dimensions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Frank As much as I try to make that literal translation into something readable, I also want to put part of myself into it. I may not be an emaciated ghost in the mirror, but I sure ain’t no spring chicken, anymore!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The art of translating literature from a foreign language, has been described, as poetry. Literally translating from one language into another, doesn’t convey the nuances or intentional play on words that author is using to express their thoughts.

    Truthfully, I prefer your translated versions of the poems that you have shared here. They have an internal life that the literal ones don’t. Please continue the sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your rendition is easy to relate to – “All these years, I thought I have known myself” is easy to identify with – and a flag waving for our attention: the brink of death is the brink of finding out who we’ve really been all along, disguised as human. You capture that mysterious near-awakening (near transition).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: What Lies Beneath ~ #writephoto | rivrvlogr

  6. Love especially

    “A pearl sinks deeper, to the ocean’s bottom.”

    I feel the weight and depth of sorrow in the comparative cascade between water and the pearl sinking to the depths. This is what inextricable grief feels like it, there’s nothing for it.


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