The Sea (Fei Ming)

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The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:08 pm


废名

我独立在池岸,
望那一朵好花,
亭亭玉立
出水妙善——
“我将永远不爱海了。”
荷花微笑道:
“善男子,
花将长在你的海里。”

The Sea

I stand alone by the pond,
watching the flower, fair
fresh out of water
slim and graceful——
“I shall never love the sea.”
The lotus smiles and says:
“Good man,
the flower will forever live in your sea.”

Edit

I stand alone by the pond,
watching the flower, fair
fresh out of the water
slim and graceful——
“I shall never love the sea.”
The lotus smiles and says:
“Good man,
the flower will grow upon your sea.”
Last edited by Lake on Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Antcliff » Fri Nov 15, 2013 1:53 pm

Intriguing poem, Lake.

I am far from understanding it. But here is one reading. Someone is departing, to be a sailor, saying that they will never love the sea..as they love such things of the land as flowers. At which point the Lotus speaks up for the sea...saying, yes, but being at sea sustains the memory/appreciation of the value of land? Maybe? :D Or maybe not. This reading would not explain the flower would live "forever" in the sea. So I must sail on in pursuit of an interpretation.

Alternative. It may be that the Lotus is defending the sea by saying that it sustains forever, or at least for a long time, the life of the land. Maybe?

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby oggiesnr » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:50 pm

The first thought that came to my mind on reading this was a verse from an English Folk song -

The men of yon forest they ask it of me
"How many wild strawberries grow on the salt sea?"
And I answer them back back with a tear in my ee,
"How many ships sail in your forest?"

NB "ee" is a corrupt pronunciation of "eye"

Just why that should be my first thought (other than the twisted way my brain works) is open to conjecture but viewing the poem through this lens does give an alternative reading where a last line of -

Flowers will grow upon your sea

Gives the view that the sea (lotus?) acknowledges that the author is a landsman and will never be a seaman, ie the land is the author's sea.

This is just my first thought, I will return with more.

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:48 pm

Hi Seth and Steve,

Thank you for your interest and interpretation. I'll be back with the analysis of the poem.

In the meantime, I just want to say that this is a zen poem and I like Steve's rewrite of the last line.

Many thanks.
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby oggiesnr » Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:26 pm

I keep teasing away at this with little result so far :( However I am struck by the expansion by the author of the pond, by which he is stood, into the "sea".

I feel this must be significant but I'm not sure how.

By a different token (and I don't know when the poem was written), if you recall the pictures of boats on Lake Baikal left high and dry as the lake drained/was overused, you could almost translate this in modern terms as a comment of the degradation of water resources (which has also been a major problem in China).

It's a fascinating poem, thanks for bringing it up.

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Jackie » Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:42 pm

Lake, this makes me think of Wordsworth's field of daffodils. Later he can recall their beauty anywhere and his "heart with pleasure fills."

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby twoleftfeet » Sun Nov 17, 2013 5:39 pm

Hi, Lake

Is "fair" pretty or pale/whitish?

"fresh out of water" - this could be read as "having run out of (a supply of) water"
"fresh out of the water" - is the best I can come up with, atm.

The flowering of the lotus is a metaphor for the progress of one's spiritual awareness towards enlightenment.

There is a seeming contradiction between what N says and what the Lotus says, but I think the "sea" that N is referring to is the muddy water from which the lotus has emerged (i.e. samsara) while the Lotus is merely confirming that N has the
right priorities in his life, or "sea" and will continue to progress as long as he holds onto that view.

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Macavity » Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:35 am

hi Lake,
Enjoyed this. The openness invites a contemplation. If you use a word like 'grow' that would suggest a particular direction of thought.

cheers

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby twoleftfeet » Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:36 pm

Just a thought -
"flourish" rather than "live" in the final line?
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby oggiesnr » Mon Nov 18, 2013 4:31 pm

This probably twists the poem totally and unjustifiably but -

I stand alone at the water's edge
Hoping for a flower, fair
Fresh from the water
Graceful and slim -
"I shall never love the sea"
The lotus smiles and says
"Good man,
Flowers will grow upon your sea."


I've reversed the order in line four because I felt it sounded better to my ear but I could live with either. Line six I'm still unsure of.

And, yes, flourish would work in the last line.

Steve

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby twoleftfeet » Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:46 pm

I think "flowers" (plural) probably changes the meaning.
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:57 pm

Hi Seth,

I've been enjoying reading others' takes on this.
I can't say if someone's interpretation is wrong since this is how someone gets from reading it eventhough maybe it is not what's in the mind of the writer when he/she wrote it.

I think the paradox in the pome is the beauty. It brings to mind of Zen's teaching - "unspeakable". :(

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:12 pm

Hi Steve,

The verse you quoted does have a kind of resemblance, doesn't it?

I am curious about the pronounciation of "ee". Is it pronounced as 'E' or 'I' ?

The 'sea' is interpreted as the man's mind.

The plural form of flowers, as Geoff later posted
probably changes the meaning.


the flower refers to 'lotus'. But I'll take your 'grow upon your sea', which I think is closer to the meaning.
Sometimes, I didn't realize that my translation is kind of deviated from the original.

Thanks for letting me know your thought.

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:25 pm

Very nice reference, Jackie. I like it.
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:36 pm

Hi Geoff,

twoleftfeet wrote:Is "fair" pretty or pale/whitish?


Is pretty, nice. Are you thinking of another word?

twoleftfeet wrote:"fresh out of water" - this could be read as "having run out of (a supply of) water"
"fresh out of the water" - is the best I can come up with, atm.


Why you are always correct on the word usage? :) Now that you pointed it out, I totally agree.

twoleftfeet wrote:The flowering of the lotus is a metaphor for the progress of one's spiritual awareness towards enlightenment.


Nicely put. Lotus is symbolic of reaching the state of attentaining the way after practice.

I feel it is so hard for me to explain. :oops:

Thank you for all your input.

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby oggiesnr » Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:18 pm

Lake wrote:
I am curious about the pronounciation of "ee". Is it pronounced as 'E' or 'I' ?



It's "E" to rhyme with "sea"

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby twoleftfeet » Tue Nov 19, 2013 12:21 pm

Lake wrote:
twoleftfeet wrote:Is "fair" pretty or pale/whitish?


Is pretty, nice. Are you thinking of another word?
Lake


No, not really - it's just that "fair" can carry other secondary meanings with it, besides "pretty/attractive" .
Well, maybe I had in mind the meaning that I've underlined, and I was wondering whether it was implied.


From the Online Etymology Dictionary:-
fair (adj.)

Old English fæger "beautiful, lovely, pleasant," from Proto-Germanic *fagraz (cf. Old Saxon fagar, Old Norse fagr, Old High German fagar "beautiful," Gothic fagrs "fit"), perhaps from PIE *pek- "to make pretty" (cf. Lithuanian puošiu "I decorate").

The meaning in reference to weather (c.1200) preserves the original sense (opposed to foul).
Sense of "light-complexioned" (1550s) reflects tastes in beauty;
sense of "free from bias" (mid-14c.) evolved from another early meaning, "morally pure, unblemished" (late 12c.).
The sporting senses (fair ball, fair catch etc.) began in 1856.
Fair play is from 1590s; fair and square is from c.1600.
Fair-haired in the figurative sense of "darling, favorite" is from 1909.
First record of fair-weather friends is from 1736.
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby oggiesnr » Tue Nov 19, 2013 2:52 pm

Lake wrote:
The plural form of flowers, as Geoff later posted
probably changes the meaning.


the flower refers to 'lotus'. But I'll take your 'grow upon your sea', which I think is closer to the meaning.
Sometimes, I didn't realize that my translation is kind of deviated from the original.

Lake


Hi Lake,

Now I understand the symbolism better than obviously it should be "flower"

Thanks

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:09 pm

Macavity wrote: Enjoyed this. The openness invites a contemplation. If you use a word like 'grow' that would suggest a particular direction of thought.


Thank you mac for the contemplation comment.

Lake
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:24 pm

oggiesnr wrote:This probably twists the poem totally and unjustifiably but -

I stand alone at the water's edge
Hoping for a flower, fair
Fresh from the water
Graceful and slim -
"I shall never love the sea"
The lotus smiles and says
"Good man,
Flowers will grow upon your sea."


I see why you used the water's edge instead of the pond, to make it less confusing between the sea and the pond. Actually, the sea and the pond refer to the same thing, water. But a pond is where lotus grows. And "the sea" as I read from others' interpretation is 'mind', 'heart'. I'm still pondering on 'the flower' and 'flowers'. In the Chinese version, there is no ariticle, no plural form. I wonder if 'flower' (singular, without an article) would work?

I've reversed the order in line four because I felt it sounded better to my ear but I could live with either.


No objection.

And, yes, flourish would work in the last line.


For some reason, I would prefer a plain word.

Thanks also for telling me the "ee" sound, Steve

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:45 pm

twoleftfeet wrote:
No, not really - it's just that "fair" can carry other secondary meanings with it, besides "pretty/attractive" .
Well, maybe I had in mind the meaning that I've underlined, and I was wondering whether it was implied.


From the Online Etymology Dictionary:-
fair (adj.)

Old English fæger "beautiful, lovely, pleasant," from Proto-Germanic *fagraz (cf. Old Saxon fagar, Old Norse fagr, Old High German fagar "beautiful," Gothic fagrs "fit"), perhaps from PIE *pek- "to make pretty" (cf. Lithuanian puošiu "I decorate").

The meaning in reference to weather (c.1200) preserves the original sense (opposed to foul).
Sense of "light-complexioned" (1550s) reflects tastes in beauty;
sense of "free from bias" (mid-14c.) evolved from another early meaning, "morally pure, unblemished" (late 12c.).
The sporting senses (fair ball, fair catch etc.) began in 1856.
Fair play is from 1590s; fair and square is from c.1600.
Fair-haired in the figurative sense of "darling, favorite" is from 1909.
First record of fair-weather friends is from 1736.


Geoff, you've provided me with a lot of reading. :)

According to the buddhist scripture, lotus has four virtues: fragrant, pure, soft, lovely.

If 'fair' is placed before the flower, would it carry all these meanings?
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby twoleftfeet » Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:48 pm

Lake wrote:
Geoff, you've provided me with a lot of reading. :)

According to the buddhist scripture, lotus has four virtues: fragrant, pure, soft, lovely.

If 'fair' is placed before the flower, would it carry all these meanings?


Lake,

I'd say "fair flower" would suggest "lovely/attractive" and maybe also "pure/unblemished". I can't really say why.

Don't forget that "fair" can also imply "light/pale/white" as in "fair-skinned", which was my original query.
Personally if I wanted to imply "light/pale" I would place "fair" after "flower" . Again, I can't give you a reason, except
that -

"I watched... the flower - pale, fresh out of the water, slim and graceful" sounds better (to me) than

"I watched... the pale flower - fresh out of the water, slim and graceful".

Sorry that I'm not making much sense. :)

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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:45 pm

Thanks Geoff for all your explanations. :)

Are you familiar with this Zen Saying "Mountains are Mountains"?

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it's just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.

In short, the flower is not the flower, the sea is not the sea.
The flower and sea are the same, loving the flower is loving the sea.
The flower will grow upon your sea, in your mind - Zen in enlightenment.

:?
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby twoleftfeet » Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:34 pm

No, I hadn't come across that saying, Lake.

As I see it - we use words to make sense of the world, to differentiate among the "ten thousand things". This is unavoidable.
We end up with a billion pigeon-holes each with a label - "mountain", "tree".., but my "mountain" will have different meaning and emotional attachment to yours, at some level. So a mountain is not merely a mountain, but at the same time it IS a mountain.
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Re: The Sea (Fei Ming)

Postby Lake » Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:43 pm

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Geoff.

Enlightening.

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