Monday, April 17, 2006

"The way that's spoken"         [transcreation]


He said "the way that's spoken is never the way"
then why are there 5000 words in Lao Tzu's tome?
albeit these words are not the way per se
in the midst of reading them you glimpse the gloam



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The original is a Chinese poem from the Song dynasty. I haven't read it since many years; -- but this morning it came to mind, and I gave it this new English rendering. Will have to look it up at some point; the original is probably either by Yang wan-li or Bo Chu-yi. It's a well-known verse, reflecting (with both wit and brilliance) on the subject of mystical language.
I call this a "transcreation" mainly because I suspect my invention for the 4th line may veer from an exact verbatim translation -- but it may get at the feeling. But not having read the poem in so long (even in English, let alone in the original), who can say?

The 5000 word classic mentioned is Lao Tzu's Dao De Jing [Tao Te Ching], the fundamental little mystical poetry-book of Chinese antiquity. It opens with the words
Dao ke dao fei chang tao
ming ke ming fei chang ming

(the way you can say ain't the ever-present way / the name you can name ain't the ever-present name)

[image is from a painting depicting Lao Tzu -- from centuries later of course, indeed it might be a 20th century painting; the web-source regrettably doesn't describe it]

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