I am a man who loves poetry. Once upon a time it was all that you could get to come out of my mouth…a steady stream of metaphor, simile and a hundred different variations of style. When I took a poetry writing class in college I wrote a poem about my wife, possibly the most personal and nakedly vulnerable and honest things I’ve ever written, and it was so lovely that my professor and most of the students asked me how long I’d been cheating on my wife. Apparently (exact words of the professor) “No husband feels this way about his wife. It’s just not real.”
So, I found my little red book of love poems today and was not all that surprised at the place red ribbon book marker was holding. The poem is by far the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read in my life. To my shock the internet has only one place where it can be found. This post is in order that I may do my part in making sure that when books fade and crumble then perhaps it might live on a little longer.
Madams and Monsieurs I here lay down upon digital tablets….
A Song of Chang Ching-Yuan Picking Lotus Flowers
Essence of orchids in her tumbled hair, a goddess of Spring.
She takes a swallow hairpin from her nape, loosens coiled tresses.
Under the willows by west gate, near the bridge at dusk,
Moated waters past doorways, dabbled, riffled flow.
A prince of rare talents, visitor to the imperial court,
Shell fittings on his saddle all a-jangle, crosses the spring lane
Dancing effortlessly on an open palm, her sheer skirt,
Tailored shagreen dress, best the colors of spring.
Like wafting smoke embracing the moon, waist one measure round,
Scent of musk and dragon marrow, how lovely, graceful is she!
Clouds like autumn curtains brush the water- fragments of bright movement;
Dew-laden, flowers in profusion, their fragrance unfading.
Mandarin ducks go to an fro on the brimming pond,
‘Midst duckweeds green like tassels, and short lotus stems.
One evening the west wind comes bringing showers,
Scaring, stripping bare the flowers, a melancholy pale red.
Boat prows sever lotus stems, but strands unseen hold fast,
For lotus roots, lotus seeds, preserve a mutual bond.
His heart is like the moon, a moon not yet on the wane,
Clear, bright and full of mid-month days.
Wen Ting-Yun (813-870)
Trans. William R. Schultz
So, there you have it.