Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Great Summons

---Chu Yuan (褚淵) (435-482)
"When Chu Yuan had been exiled from the Court for nine years, he became so despondent that he feared his soul would part from his body and he would die. It was then that he made the poem called " The Great Summons," calling upon his soul not to leave him:

"In those dark caves where Winter lurketh
Hide not, my Soul! 0 Soul come back again! 0, do not stray!

0 Soul come back again and go not east or west, or north
or south!

For to the East a mighty water drowneth Earth's other shore;
Tossed on its waves and heaving with its tides
The hornless Dragon of the Ocean rideth: Clouds gather low and fogs enfold the sea
And gleaming ice drifts past.

0 Soul go not to the East,
To the silent Valley of Sunrise!

0 Soul go not to the South
Where mile on mile the earth is burnt away
And poisonous serpents slither through the flames;
Where on precipitous paths or in deep woods
Tigers and leopards prowl,
And water-scorpions wait;
Where the king-python rears his giant head.

0 Soul, go not to the South
Where the three-footed tortoise spits disease!

0 Soul go not to the West
Where level wastes of sand stretch on and on;
And demons rage, swine-headed, hairy-skinned,
With bulging eyes;
Who in wild laughter gnash projecting fangs.

0 Soul go not to the West
Where many perils wait!

0 Soul go not to the North,
To the Lame Dragon's frozen peaks;
Where trees and grasses dare not grow;
Where a river runs too wide to cross
And too deep to plumb,
And the sky is white with snow
And the cold cuts and kills.

0 Soul seek not to fill
The treacherous voids of the north!

0 Soul come back to idleness and peace.
In quietude enjoy
The lands of Ching and Ch'u.
There work your will and follow your desire
Till sorrow is forgot,
And carelessness shall bring you length of days.

0 Soul come back to joys beyond all telling!
Where thirty cubits high at harvest-time
The corn is stacked;
Where pies are cooked of millet and bearded-maize.
Guests watch the steaming bowls
And sniff the pungency of peppered herbs.
The cunning cook adds slices of bird-flesh,
Pigeon and yellow-heron and black-crane.
They taste the badger-stew.

0 Soul come back to where the good are praised!
Like the sun shining over the four seas
Shall be the reputation of our King;
His deeds, matched only in Heaven, shall repair
The wrongs endured by every tribe of men,—
Northward to Yu and southward to Annam,
To the Sheep's Gut Mountain and the Eastern Seas.

0 Soul come back to where the wise are sought!
Behold the glorious virtues of our King
Triumphant, terrible;
Behold with solemn faces in the Hall
The Three Grand Ministers walk up and down,—
None chosen for the post save landed-lords

0 Soul come back to where men honour still
The name of the Three Kings."

Note: I have abridged this prose poem for my own satisfaction: the complete version can be viewed/ downloaded at:
More Translations From The Chinese