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, May 1, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (1)—Lonesome Birds

Click here for the introduction to Round and Square's "Hurtin', Leavin'..." series.                                                     
[a] Lonesome flight
I am going to keep this post brief (for a change). It is the first in what promises to be a regular Sunday series on one of my favorite topics—the intellectual intersection between country-western music and East Asian poetry.  Today's post will be simple.  It consists of a quick juxtaposition of one of the best poems ever written by an American writer and one of the best ever written by a Chinese literatus.  They lived eighteen centuries apart, but were thinking of loneliness in surprisingly similar ways.

Future posts promise to have a great deal of song, lyric, and analysis.  I always like to start simply, though, and there are few better places to begin than here.  Sad birds. Echoes. Moon. All the stuff of cross-cultural misery is here, and we'll start exploring these topics in earnest in the coming weeks.

Hank Williams (1923-1953)
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"
[b] Old Hank
Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I'm so lonesome I could cry

I've never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry

Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves began to die?
That means he's lost the will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry

Ruan Ji (CE 210-263)
[c] Old Ruan
From "Lyrics of the Soul"
Late at night, unable to sleep,
I rise and play a tune on the qin.
The clear moon reflects upon billowing curtains,
While a light breeze sweeps against my robe's sashes.
A lonely goose calls from distant wilds,
Echoed by the cry of a woodland bird.
Circling above, what does it see?
Just me, alone, miserable and longing.

[1]阮籍。永懷八十二首。(其一)。Ruan Ji. Lyrics of the Soul. Poem 1. Translated (freely) by Robert André LaFleur

[d] Longing
Sunday, May 8th
Autumnal Longing
The loving breezes of summer give way to autumnal chill, and so it goes for nature and the human heart. We will examine autumnal images from two talented lyricists, George Strait and Du Fu, as we start down the path toward the scholarly study of Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin'.

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