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26 March 2017


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Thank you. In spite of all you may have heard about cynical, bitter Namvets - and there's no shortage of them and I passed through that territory myself - many of us did have that very hope you describe. We may - or may not have - been naive; we may - or may not have - been duped; it may - or may not have - been all for naught. But there was a hope. One can go up on Chicago's Argyle Street and find the South Vietnamese flag everywhere, and Vietnamese who speak well of the Americans.


Tidewater replies to Babak Makkinejad,

I had a tug of memory and forthwith ordered one of Arthur Waley's translations from the Chinese. Then I remembered Ezra Pound's translation of a poem by the Tang dynasty writer, Li Po. Pound indicated that it was "After Li Po." (Pound couldn't read Chinese, but so what.) I have been reverse engineering Rilke's 'Autumn Day', using fifteen different internet translations from the German. Just pick the line you like the best and stack them up. There is a touch of 'Autumn Day' at the end of this, by the way, the leaves falling early, the wind...

The poet's use of the informal American idiom "'cause "rather than the more formal usage of, say, a classic elegy, such as 'Lycidas,' adds a deft modernist touch. 'Woodstockian,' you might almost say...


The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter.

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed
You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me.
I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you Tidewater but this is not an elegy.

This is a very fine example of that virtue which has always been demanded of the Oriental wife:

"Loyalty in face of abandonment"

Pond is missing an essential cultural nuance here.

A modern American woman probably would be owning all of that fellow's assets by then, plus the custody of any children, plus sympathy from any and all...


Tidewater says to Babak Makkinejad,

Yes, you are right that 'The River Merchant's Wife' is not be an elegy. To me it was something about the voice(s). Pound's 'translation' (irritating Waley, though Pound was right) came out in 1917 and I was surprised to just learn that it is regarded as a war poem --a poem with the war deep in its subtext. There were soldiers on the front who saw it as such. One man wrote that he always carried it with him. So I was closer than I thought.

I hope E. is only smiling, not laughing, at us...

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