Thursday, January 20, 2011
A Tang poet, gates and goodbyes
Our parting in these hills is over
The sun sets and I shut my door
The spring will be green again next year
Will I never see your face again?
[Wang Wei, famous Tang poet C.7 CE]
Many traditional Chinese poems have as their subject the theme of parting of friends and relatives dear to them.
The reason for this is that even in the best of times, these partings were very often permanent. Times were dangerous, life could be short and often was, and there were no guarantees that they would ever meet again. Very often they did not.
I read these sorts of poems to a generation of university students when we talked about traditional Chinese literature. I thought I appreciated them, but never so much as now.
Alice returned to Melbourne a fortnight ago, and Sylvia made her way south on the train this morning. When my daughters left this time, the true poignancy of these poems was revealed to me with crystal clarity.
Quietly, I've waited here so long,
Day after day; but now I must return.
It's time to seek the fragrant grass,
But I grieve to part from my old friend.
Who is there who would help me on the road?
Understanding friends are few in life....
I should just observe my solitude,
And close again the gate of my old home.
I am thankful that I can reach out and touch the one who is here for me, in spite of the sadness.
That’s all I want to say today. I’ll close the gate and sleep a little now, I think.