At some point in the early 1990s, I put two images together (those above)—by chance. The context was an argument I was having with a colleague about the "worth" of cultural comparison—especially those dealing with American popular culture. Suffice it to say that I was very much in the "elitist" camp at the time, and felt that the lines above proved my point. The Korean poem was resonant and layered, while the lines by Williams (as I thought of him then) were wooden (literally and figuratively) and insensitive at best. Indeed, the rest of the song takes that observation to new levels. It is not a masterwork of cultural understanding, to say the least, and I determined that such matters were not worth my time. I studied East Asian poetry and eschewed popular lyrics of all kinds.
Then, on a July morning in 1992, it was almost as though some higher radio power asked me to reconsider. I had just bought a car—the nicest one I had ever owned (which isn't saying much), and the FM radio was tuned, by chance, to KQRS 102.4 in Minneapolis. I was in the middle of my graduate studies at the University of Chicago at the time, and had just finished a seminar on Song dynasty (960-1279) lyric poetry. We had read many hundreds of pages of that special style of lyric and discussed its deep place in early-modern Chinese social and intellectual life. I had also been reading the classic shi (詩) "poem" that saw its heyday in the Tang dynasty (618-906). The images, cadences, rhymes, and patterns coursed their way through my system, as they do today. A seventh-century hybrid might give a small glimpse of at least a little of this rhythm and beauty (yes, even in translation).
My combing and washing are finished
To a Hermit in the Mountains
—Xu Ben (1335-1380)
You've lived there long, away from the trappings of office
Your mind at peace, cut off from the world
In jars: herbs, handed down by your teacher
In bags: elixir, refined by your own hand
You whistle out loud beyond the thousand peaks
Walk quietly along a hundred streams
You resent even the intrusion of woodcutters and shepherds
So now you want to move still deeper into the clouds
|[b] Ways RF|
He said some folks don't, but that's o.k.
They won't know which road to follow
Because an easy street might lead you astray
I'll take the dirt road, it's all I know
I've been a'walking it for years
It's gone where I need to go
It ain't easy, it ain't supposed to be
So I'll take my time
And life won't pass me by
'Cause it's right there to find, on the dirt road
I have lived life in the fast lane
You gotta watch your back and look both ways
When it's said and done the time we have is borrowed
You better make real sure you're headed the right way
On the dirt road
Rain Just Ended; Night of the Lantern Preview
—Wu Wenying (c.1200- c.1260
Goddess of the Moon looks down after her evening toilet
Laying the dust and moistening the ground
That Fairy Maidens tread
Back again in the bustling thoroughfare,
I feel myself reliving
Scenes of jolly lantern shows of other days
With nostalgic feelings tender as water
What can I do but retrace my steps to the small chamber
Where under heated quilts
I'm soon lost in spring dreams
Still haunted by the din of music and song 
|[d] Party PD|
For the complete list of Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin' posts, go to the Resource Center (click here)
 Mair, Anthology, 347.
 Driving, appropriately, south—it works in the Chinese and American country-western imagery (the rich cities of the south were centers for the development of the Song lyric). And don't even get me started on my "theory" about painful lyrics originating in the Song dynasty (960-1279) and then working their way up through Siberia, across the Bering Strait, and eventually ending up...in Alabama. No, don't get me started.
 David Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase—Volume One: The Gathering (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 220-222; 224.
Mair, Victor. The Columbia Anthology of Classical Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
Roy, David. The Plum in the Golden Vase—Volume One: The Gathering. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.