From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (42)—Fightin' Words

Click here to read the introduction to the Round and Square series "Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin'..."
[a] Gendered argumentation RF
Loretta Lynn is fightin' mad, and her fury is focused, terrifying, and gendered. Up walks a stranger who tells her (so goes the narrative) that it's time to step aside. Loretta is dumbfounded, but not in the way we ordinarily might think. She can't believe how dumb and unfounded this little plan seems to be. Listen to the whole story and check out the lyrics. They are not especially "deep," but they are memorable. 

You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man) 
[b] Roar RF
Artist: Loretta Lynn 
Songwriter: Loretta Lynn
        You've come to tell me something
You say I ought to know
That he don't love me any more

And I'll have to let him go

You say you're gonna take him
Oh, but I don't think you can
'Cause you ain't woman enough

To take my man

Women like you they're a dime a dozen
You can buy 'em anywhere
For you to get to him
I'd have to move over

And I'm gonna stand right here

It'll be over my dead body
So get out while you can
'Cause you ain't woman enough

To take my man


Sometimes a man's caught lookin'
At things that he don't need
He took a second look at you
But he's in love with me
Well, I don't know where that leaves you
Ah, but I know where I stand
And you ain't woman enough
To take my man

Women like you they're a dime a dozen
You can buy 'em anywhere
For you to get to him
I'd have to move over
And I'm gonna stand right here

It'll be over my dead body
So get out while you can
'Cause you ain't woman enough
To take my man
No, you ain't woman enough
To take my man
***  ***
[c] Confrontation RF
It'll be over her dead body...and it's time to leave. What I find fascinating about this song is its confident and dismissive tone during what ordinarily would be thought of as a worst-case relationship scenario. The rival shows up with the dreaded words—she has dropped a pitchfork into the tender hay of a fine relationship. Loretta Lynn doesn't focus on the rift (he did take "a second look," after all). She knows where she stands, though, and even more importantly knows where the man stands. She sizes up the competition, worries not about water under the bridge, and moves forward—with venom.

The gendered anger is the last point I wish to consider here. "You ain't woman enough..." What, exactly, does that mean? Does it imply that someone might, with a bit more "woman cred," be a real threat? Or does it mean that, supremely confident in her sense of self and worth, Loretta brooks no competition? The most interesting line of argument for me, though, is the appropriation of male pugilism in this particular struggle. On the one hand, the rhetorical power grab is pretty straightforward. "Man enough to x" is about as old as campfire arguments after mastodon hunts.

          Grog not Neanderthal enough lift my spear.
          Am too.
          Are not.
          I go paint in cave. Relieve frustration.

[d] Painted argumentation RF
This gendered argumentation has woven its adversarial path through Eurasia and beyond, to all of the continents and most every group of testosterone producers with opposable thumbs the world has ever known. Is that all this is about for Loretta Lynn? I don't think so. Lynn is just too gosh darned good a songwriter for the lyrics to hinge on a tired old line. On the other hand, she is such a gosh darned good songwriter that she will cast a nylon cord into the water that screams "tired old line"...and then catch some new fish with it. That's what I think is going on here. I think Loretta Lynn is playing with us, luring us into yin-yang familiarity (and reversal) before providing a strange and original portrait of relationship confidence.

That what Grogrob think.

Whether or not you buy it (I hope such an interpretation is not "a dime a dozen," in any case), we have a poem to conjure this week. In rather stark contrast to the last few Hurtin' posts, this one has not been easy. Let's just say that there are not very many poems detailing porch front confrontations between two rivals for a single (so to speak) man. Reverse the genders and there is plenty (all times, all places, all cultures—this one goes back to Grog and Gerta, too).

Gendered female fightin' words are to be found—and quite prominently at that—in the novel, The Plum in the Golden Vase, we have considered here several times during the last few months. I just want it to be known that this scenario does appear in East Asian literature (not a few Japanese narratives have a hints of this theme, too).

[e] Flower Mountain RL
Not so much in the poetic traditions, though, and that is what I would like to consider today. We are looking for juxtaposition, and it is in the full flowering of the Tang dynasty (618-906) poem (詩) that I wish to dwell. This particular poem, "The Girl From Flower Mountain," has all the elements of a fight on the porch between Chinese faiths. Its author, Han Yu (768-824), was a vociferous opponent of Buddhism and its "foreign" influences on China. This poem has a bit of a "you ain't Chinese/Han enough to take my indigenous religion" quality to it. Think through Loretta Lynn's lyrics and then read "The Girl From Flower Mountain." The juxtaposition will do you good, as we say back home. Photos e, f, and g are from my personal collection—taken on research trips to Flower Mountain (華山) in Shaanxi Province.

The Girl From Flower Mountain
Han Yu (768-824)
       On street corners east and west
            they teach the Buddhist sutras
       Banging bells, blowing horns
            rattling the court
       Much is made of sins and blessings
            to seduce and awe
       the listening crowd shoving
            —floating waterweeds pressed—
       A yellow-robed Taoist also
            preaches his texts,
       below his pulpit people are scarce
            like morning stars

       The girl from Flower Mountain
            (her family follows the tao)
       wants to dispel the strange teaching
            and return people to the immortal Spirit
       She washes makeup away, scrubs her face
            puts cap and mantle on,
       white neck, red cheeks
            long black eyebrows
       come then to climb the pulpit,
            explain the true mysteries
[f] Flower Mountain RL
       It's not allowed to open the bolt
            on the temple door
       yet unknown someone leaked
            leaked the news around,
       now crashing, a shaking
            like thundering lightning
       sweeping clean the Buddhist temples 
            empty of human tracks,
       thoroughbred horses block the street,
            strings of covered carriages,
       people inside fill the temple
            others sit outside,
       latecomers have no space,
            no way to hear
       They take out hairpins, pull off bracelets,
            undo jade pendants,
       heaped gold piled up jade
            gleaming a green light
       Worthies from the portals of Heaven
            convey the imperial command—
       The Inner Palace desires to learn
            the teachers face and form

       The Jade Emperor nods his head
            allows her return
       riding dragons mounting cranes
            she reaches the blue void
       Young lords of noble houses
             know little of the tao
       come circling a hundred turns
           with ceaseless feet
      Clouded windows misted belvederes
            these enraptured affairs
       double-folded kingfisher curtains
            deep golden screens
       The immortal ladder is hard to climb
            worldly ties are heavy
       idly they trust the blue birds
            to carry their youthful regards. 
                                  —Translated by Charles Hartman
[1]  Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo, Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry (Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974), 173-175.

Liu Wu-chi and Irving Yucheng Lo. Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974.
[g] True mystery RL
Sunday, March 11th
Don't Cheat In Our Hometown
We'll receive some excellent advice from Ricky Scaggs next week. Join us for the next painful installment on Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin'. 

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