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, June 26, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (9)—Too Cold

The last few days in Wisconsin have been cold days in June. I, of course, mean that the weather was unseasonably chilly. This week's country lyrics take that basic idea and move it to another level—one that is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever engaged in social interactions of any kind, especially intimate ones. Take a listen and a read.

Trivia question: what is the exact date referred to in the audio "pre-song" in the link below, just as ol' Mark Chesnutt is driving up to the bar? The answer can be found at the end of this post.

       Too Cold at Home
           —Mark Chesnutt
           (Bobby Harden) 

           Well it sure feels good to come in here, and just pull up a seat
           A frosty mug of a cool one helps to beat the heat
           These old dog days of summer, Lord I'll be glad when they're gone
           It's too hot to fish, and too hot for golf
           And too cold at home

          Well that baseball game on TV takes me back to when I was a kid
          We proudly wore those uniforms, just like the Dodgers did
          Yeah we won a few and lost a few, and for me it still goes on
          It's too hot to fish, and too hot for golf
          And too cold at home 

          Well I only planned on one or two, I might stay for three
          If that good looking thing in the corner keeps smiling back at me
          It's so easy not to care about what's right or what's wrong
          It's too hot to fish, too hot for golf
          And too cold at home 


          It's too hot to fish, and too hot for golf
          And too cold at home

        Is it Cold in Here?
            —Joe Diffie
 (Danny Morrison;Kerry Kurt Phillips;Joe Diffie)

There's something wrong
Lord I'm feeling a chill
That runs through my heart
Like a torch cuts through steel
You haven't said a word
Are you feeling it too
Is it cold in here
Or is it just you?

Did I leave the door wide open
And let the chill just kill that old desire?
Should I put my arms around you
Or put another log on the fire?
Is it my imagination
Or did the temperature just drop
A notch or two?
Is it cold in here
Or is it just you?

There's no warmth at all
When I try to hold you near
You stare into space
As if I wasn't here
Did our love just die
Or is it just about to?
Is it cold in here
Or is it just you?


Oh is it cold in here
Or is it just you?
[b] Ripples  RF
This week's East Asian poem comes with a twist. It will be our first Japanese verse, and comes in the rich context of the Tales of Ise, a tenth-century compendium of stories and poems that is one of the most memorable and distinguished classics in the Japanese tradition. I have already referred to the Tales on Round and Square in an "Endings" post several months ago, and it is always a pleasure to return to one of my favorite books. Although I enjoy translating, I think it would be far better to let Helen Craig McCullough's fine rendering of the passage stand on its own this week.

As always, remember that the East Asian poems are meant to be juxtaposed with the country lyrics, not echo them. I say it every week, and will continue to do so. Juxtaposition often creates interpretive fireworks that are resonant and lasting. Trying to find cross-cultural "echoes" of themes often mires us in a cultural kind of "common denominator" pursuit that gets us nowhere. Enjoy the contrast the Tales of Ise give to the "too cold" images above.

Tales of Ise
Once when a Grand Empress was living on Gojou Avenue in the eastern sector of the capital, a certain woman occupied the western wing of her house. Quite without premeditation, a man fell in love with the woman and began to visit her. Around the Tenth of the First Month, the woman moved away without a word. The man learned where she had gone, but it was not a place for ordinary people to frequent, and he could do nothing but lament the wretchedness of life. In the First Month of the following year, when the plum trees were in full bloom, poignant memories drew him back to her old apartments. He sat and looked, he stood and looked, but it was hopeless to try to recapture the past. He burst into tears, flung himself on the floor of the bare room, and lay prostrate until the moon sank low in the sky. He composed this poem with the preceding year in his thoughts.

               tsuki ya aranu                                                   Is this not the moon?
          haru ya mukashi no                                          And is this not the springtime
               haru naranu                                                      the springtime of old?
          wa ga mi hitotsu wa                                          Only this body of mine,
          moto no mi ni shite                                            the same body as before...

He went home at dawn, still shedding tears.[1]

[1] Helen Craig McCullough, Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 41.

McCullough, Helen Craig. Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990.

Trivia answer: June 12, 1990 (Ryan pitched the no-hitter the evening of June 11, 1990.
Sunday, July 3rd
Kentucky Rain
Elvis is on a quest to find his loved one in the cold Kentucky rain.

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