Monday, March 08, 2010

O bright wind, you cannot read, why do you turn my pages?

I have been hunting again for the source of these lines:

I can say only this
That I can nothing say.

Cannot find it. Google draws a blank, the quotations websites also. Last one I looked at came up with thousands of instances of the word "say". Duh.

I am sure it was one of the Metaphysical Poets. Not Donne...not George Herbert...not Traherne.

Who got in trouble with the authorities?

I'd better give up looking. Last Google took a few seconds, and vague Google searches take a lot of energy.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure someone wrote it, and it wasn't me. A poet in the throes of censorship. Like a super-injunction, except with one of those, you can't even say it exists.  Anyway, he said it, and it stayed said.

I had a patient once who confided important one fact to me. I am sure that for him or her to reveal that fact to his or her family would be therapeutic, but I am blocked.

It is a miserable thing to censor someone. It is an exercise of mental power. An attempt to control the mind of another.

The stupid thing is that censorship never works, and it always makes things worse. Like repression.
Whatever has happened, censorship compounds it. People can tell when censorship is about, they can read between the lines.  Families can tell when a member has something on their mind and are not talking about it.

Death is a big taboo in our culture. Many people die surrounded with a wall of deceit. "You'll be all right Grampa, be out of here is a cou[le of days!"  "Like hell I will, you liar. I'm dying, and everyone is pretending I'm not".

O bright wind, you cannot read, why do you turn my pages?

Another great poet wrote that. Not Li Po or Du Fu. Whoever it was, the word for Bright is Ming, and the Ming Emperor took his head off for writing those words.

But it was worth it, because his poetry lives on, and the only thing anyone can say about that Emperor is that he took off the head of one of the best poets in China.


Kaihsu Tai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaihsu Tai said...

Dear Richard, you have forced me to respond. The second quote:

Qīng fēng bú shìzì, hébì luàn fān shū?
O thou clear breeze who are illiterate, what use is it for thee to randomly turn the pages?

This is often attributed to 徐駿 Xú Jùn, elected to the imperial academy 翰林院 as an associate 庶吉士 in 1713; executed 1730 for writing stuff like this. (See the Wikipedia article linked above; the web also has alternative versions of the poem and the rumour/story.) He was of the Manchu Qīng (‘clear’) Dynasty, not the Míng (‘bright’).

While I have your attention, check out this specimen of Chinese indigenous ecosocialism from Zhèng Bǎnqiáo, a contemporary of Xú Jùn.

Kaihsu Tai said...

(In the earlier post, for my translation of the quoted poem, change ‘are’ to ‘art’.)

As for the first quote, Andrew Marvell might be your man? Putting the whole quote in straight double quotation marks into our favourite search engine turned out the only result: ‘The Abidjan 2006 Toxicity Incident: a Scientific Approach’ by a certain Richard Lawson, draft dated Sunday 25 October 2009.

DocRichard said...

Your scholarship impresses me more each time I read you!

I confess i find the link to Xu Jun a little difficult to read, as my understanding of Chinese characters is limited to "Horse", "Gate" and "House. But Xu Jun is The Man, and a part of his consciousness lives on, like all poets, whenever his words are understood.

Yes, Andrew Marvell is another candidate for the censorship line, but I could not find it on his Google list.

Maybe it's been censored...

Thanks again.


DocRichard said...

"I can say only this,
that I can nothing say"
- in the end, it doesn't matter who wrote it, because it it true, and that is all that matters.

DocRichard said...

You found me out, with your Google search. I have to confess that this is a reprise of the earlier blog.