Friday, August 15, 2014

Honey With Poems In It



Flüssiges Gold by Maja Dumat

Today's poem was written by Su Shi more than nine hundred years ago. The Mountain Songs Chinese poetry website explains that Su Shi was friends with a monk poet named Zhongshu: "Before becoming a monk, Zhongshu...had taken a wife. However, he found it impossible to stay at home, and one day his angry wife poisoned his meat. Zhongshu nearly died but cured himself by eating honey, which he continued to do for the rest of his life. Furthermore, doctors warned him that if he even touched meat again, the poison would reactivate and he would be dead. On hearing this, Zhongshu decided that he might as well become a monk." Su Shi wrote a number of poems for Zhongshu, including "Song of the Honey-eating Old Man from Anzhou."

Song of the Honey-eating Old Man from Anzhou
by Su Shi, 1036-1101

The old fellow of Anzhou has a mind as resolute as iron
But still manages to retain the tongue of a child.
He will not touch the five grains, but eats only honey:
Smiling, he points to the bees and calls them his "donors"!
The honey he eats contains a poetry men do not understand:
But the myriad flowers and grasses vie to transport it.
The old fellow sips and savors and then spits out poems,
Poems designed to entice the ill "children" of the world.
When the children taste his poems, it is like tasting honey,
And that honey is a cure for the hundred ills.
Just when they are madly rushing about grasping at straws,
Smiling, they read his poems and all their cares vanish!
Master Dongpo has always treated others with fairness
But still there are some who like him and some who don't!
Like a tea that some find bitter and other sweet,
And unlike honey, which tastes sweet to everyone.
So, Sir, I am sending you a round cake of Double Dragon tea:
Which, if held up to a mirror, will reflect the two dragons.
Though Wu during the sixth month is as hot as boiling water,
This old man's mind is as cool as the Double Dragon Well!

Translated by Beata Grant

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The Poetry Friday round-up is at My Juicy Little Universe.

12 comments:

Mary Lee said...

I can imagine meditating to this: "Honey in...honey out..."

Wisdom.

Tara Smith said...

Just the thought of this:

Poems designed to entice the ill "children" of the world.
When the children taste his poems, it is like tasting honey,
And that honey is a cure for the hundred ills.

makes me hopeful and happy.

LInda Baie said...

Beautiful to have this connection to so long ago, Tabatha, and to this man writing poetry to help children (and perhaps himself!). Thank you for the backstory too.

Bridget Magee said...

I love the idea of bees as "donors"! Honey as a poetry elixir. Thanks for sharing this peek into the past. = )

Linda said...

My favorite lines:
"The old fellow sips and savors and then spits out poems,
Poems designed to entice the ill "children" of the world."

Love this! Thank you for sharing it today!

Diane Mayr said...

"The honey he eats contains a poetry men do not understand"

There are some things people just need to enjoy without necessarily understanding. That's why some poems we can listen to for the language, but danged if they make any sense!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

"When the children taste his poems, it is like tasting honey,
And that honey is a cure for the hundred ills.
Just when they are madly rushing about grasping at straws,
Smiling, they read his poems and all their cares vanish!"

This is the same point that David Budbill makes in his poem over at Karen's blog, isn't it? (And maybe me in mine, too.) Save the bees!!!

Karen Edmisten said...

I LOVE this line:
"The honey he eats contains a poetry men do not understand" -- so great.

Karen Edmisten said...

Heidi, I agree about the common thread....

Violet N. said...

Tabatha, where do you find these treasures? This has so many great lines that apply to many things.

Favorite bits:

"The honey he eats contains a poetry men do not understand:
But the myriad flowers and grasses vie to transport it.
The old fellow sips and savors and then spits out poems,"

and


"But still there are some who like him and some who don't!
Like a tea that some find bitter and other sweet,"

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

I may just have to take up beekeeping after reading this...if only to sip and savor Zhongshu's poetic soul.

Carol Varsalona said...

Ah! Poetry is to be sipped, savored and offered as a sweet potion to happiness. Thank you for sharing.