Universal Translator

Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poetry. Show all posts

Monday, 3 April 2017

A Celebration Feast of Blue Willow

Bertil Wreting/Fototeket/Nationalmuseum, Sweden

The Legend of Blue Willow

Long ago in China, there lived a very wealthy mandarin. He had a beautiful daughter named Koong Shee. The beautiful, young girl was the promised bride of Ta-Jin, a very old but wealthy merchant. The young girl however, fell in love with her father's secretary, a young man named Chang. Koong Shee and Chang would meet in secret beneath a large Willow tree and dream of their future together. Koong Shee was of noble descent and Chang was a mere commoner. So the young couple, no matter how great their love, would never be allowed to wed.
When the girl's father found out about their secret meetings, he was furious. He banished Chang and forbade his daughter from ever seeing Chang again. Koong Shee would sit beneath the Willow tree that had once been a place of joy and would quietly weep. Her heart was filled with pain. Not only had she lost Chang but Ta-Jin was a wicked man and a very difficult person to please. Koong Shee longed to see her handsome, young Chang and her thoughts would fill with the happiness they shared while sitting in this very same spot together.
As the day of the wedding drew near, Chang returned. He sent a message with Koong Shee's maid to meet him by the Willow tree. As Chang approached, he saw his beautiful Koong Shee sitting beneath the tree. Chang rushed to her side and once more held Koong Shee in his arms. They were so very much in love and did not want to be separated ever again. Chang and Koong Shee finally decided to elope and get married without her fathers permission. As they were starting to leave together, Koong Shee's father saw them and chased after the pair. The young couple raced across the bridge to a waiting boat and sailed away.
A storm developed and the boat sank at sea. Suddenly from out of the storm flew two snow white doves. Seeing the young couple's love for one another, the gods transformed Koong Shee and Chang into two beautiful white doves. These two doves have lived on forever and can still be seen today flying high above the Willow Tree where Koong Shee and Chang first pledged their love.

The Willow Legend
from the International Willow Collectors 1993 pamphlet

Long ago in China, in a magnificent pavilion surrounded by fruit trees, lived a Mandarin, his daughter Koong-shee and his young secretary, Chang. Chang and Koong-shee fell in love, but Chang was only a commoner, and she the daughter of a noble. Still, their love grew, and they met beneath a willow tree in the garden. But the Mandarin discovered their secret. Enraged, he banished Chang, and imprisoned Koong-shee by circling the pavilion with a zig-zag fence. Then he promised her hand to the Ta-Jin, a noble man far older than she.
Not long afterward, the Ta-Jin arrived in pomp and the wedding feast began. Wine flowed freely. When all grew sleepy with the wine, Chang crept into the pavilion, and he and Koong-shee fled through the hushed rooms, carrying a casket of her jewels. But just as they reached the outer door the Mandarin awoke, and in a drunken rage pursued them across the little bridge that spans the river. Koong-shee carried her distaff, a symbol of virginity; Chang carried the jewels; and the Mandarin followed, brandishing a whip. But the lovers escaped the Mandarin, hiding in the small pavilion at the far side of the bridge.
Here lived Koong-shee's maid and her husband, the Mandarin's gardener. They hated the tyrant, and welcomed the lovers in their home. But the Mandarin discovered them, and Chang and Koong-shee were forced to flee once more. They poled a tiny boat down the Yang-Tze until they came to a small island. Here, they thought they would be safe. Selling the casket of jewels, they bought the island, and built a lovely pavilion on it. Chang tilled the land until it blossomed with every kind of fruit and vegetable. So successful were his agricultural ventures, Chang wrote a book about how to cultivate the land. This book became so well known throughout China that even the Ta-Jin heard of it. Guessing who the author was, he sent his soldiers to the island, determined to avenge himself on the man who had stolen his bride-to-be.
The Ta-Jin's soldier came upon Chang as he was working his fields and slew him. Koong-shee, who had watched the entire scene from afar, rushed into their pavilion and set it afire, determined to be with Chang in death as she had been in life. The gods, looking down on the tragedy, took pity on the lovers and transformed them into a pair of earthly but immortal lovebirds. Until this day, we can see the faithful Chang and Koong-shee, flying high over the willow tree. Their story lives forever on the Willow-pattern plate.

The Willow Pattern Plate

by Horace Hutchinson, Westminster Gazette, Jan 1, 1912

Betty in her kitchen broke a willow pattern plate.
I spoke to her severely, but I spoke a moment late
To save those little people from a very dreadful fate
Whose fortune's told in blue upon the willow pattern plate.
Two blue little people come running, together
Across a blue bridge, in the sunshiny weather,
They run from a garden, where stands a blue tree
Above the house of a wealthy Chinese.
The one is maiden, the other her lover

A blue weeping willow hang half the bridge over.
Behind, in pursuit, comes papa with a whip,
But they're over the bridge, and aboard the blue ship
That her lover has moored by the strand of the sea

With a shove off the shore, from his wrath they are free.
Now deep in the water their oars they are plying,
While high in the heaven the blue doves are flying.
To his blue island home her lover with waft her,
And there they will happily live ever after.
This is the story of the willow pattern plate,
So please be very careful-though it's only one and eight

And remember that you have in hand a very precious freight
When you carry from the kitchen a willow pattern plate.

The Legend of the Plate

Author Unknown

My Willow ware plate has a story, Pictorial, painted in blue
From the land of the tea and the tea plant
And the little brown man with the queue.
What ever the food you serve, daughter
Romance enters into the feast,
If you only pay heed to the legend,
On the old china ware plate from the East.
Koong Shee was a mandarin's daughter
And Chang was her lover, ah me,
For surely her father's accountant
Might never wed pretty Koong Shee
So Chang was expelled from the compound,
The lovers' alliance to break,
And pretty Koong Shee was imprisoned
In a little blue house by the lake.
The doughty old mandarin reasoned
It was time that his daughter should wed,
And the groom of his choice should banish
That silly romance from her head.
For years had great artists been stitching
In symbols the dress she should wear,
Her headband of scarlet lay waiting,
She should ride in a gold wedding chair.
He was busily plotting and planning,
When a message was brought him one day,
Young Chang had invaded the palace,
And taken his sweetheart away.
They were over the bridge when he saw them,
They were passing the big willow tree,
And a boat at the edge of the water
Stood waiting for Chang and Koong Shee.
The furious mandarin followed
The Groom with revenge in his eyes,
But the little boat danced on the water
And traveled away with the prize.
But vengeance pursued to their shelter
And burned the pagoda, they say
From out of the flames rose the lovers
A pair of doves winging away.
They flew toward the western heavens
The pretty Koong Shee and her Chang
Or so says the famous old legend
From the land of the Yangtze Kiang,
I wouldn't be one to deny it,
For the little blue dove and her mate
Forever are flying together
Across my Willow ware plate.

An Old Stafford-shire Rhyme

Two pigeons flying high,
Chinese vessels sailing by,
Weeping willows hanging o'er,
Bridge with three men, if not four,
Chinese temple, there it stands,
Seems to take up all the land.
Apple tree with apples on,
A pretty fence to end my song. 

Blue Willow china, c. late 1800s, various manufactures, Lahaina Heritage Museum

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Sugar Rush (poem)

photo by Elisa Azzali CC by 2.0

I wish funnel clouds were funnel cakes,
And thunderstorms blueberry pies.
I wish rain were made of sweet iced tea,
Lemon drops would be the sun.

I wish clouds were only fluffy cakes
Near mountains made of fudge,
Encircling an ice cream desert
With an oasis of butter rum.

Trees made full of gingersnaps
Pouring hot chocolate for fun.
Oh, for a world of spun sugar -
I couldn’t eat just one.

But the world’s not made of sugar
So chew a piece of gum
Keep the sugar in my dreams
Or I’ll just weigh a ton.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

"Teach Yourself." (poem)

My maternal grandmother (we called her Nanny) was a smart lady without a complete formal education; she only went to the fourth grade in a very rural Alabama schoolhouse.  Besides the experiences that life gave her, she read books bought at second-hand shops to educate herself.  This included the set of encyclopedias that she read for enjoyment each evening (I do that too!).   She thought there was nothing limiting you from learning something new - the sky is the limit!

Mary sits in her chair.
She’s worked all day.
She stretches to the shelf,
Grabs an encyclopedia,
Begins to read.
A fourth-grade education,
Then the cotton fields.
A bakery worker
And then a housekeeper.
She smiles as she reads.
Her eye follows her finger,
Her finger leads the words.
The nation of Finland,
The lifecycle of a fly,
Flowers of the Amazon,
The French Revolution.
She stops to think.
She gives herself a gift,
No one can take it away.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

"Symphony of Night" (poem)

Only the Lord knows their numbers,
I’d guess in the thousands.
From my porch, it’s like a million
frogs, bugs, and birds.
You may believe it a cacophony.
But each takes its solo,
Then mixes with others.
Sounds overlap sounds.
Millions of years of practice
 to perfect it,
the natural symphony
of night.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

"My Southern Food Memories, 1979" (poem)

file photo courtesy of Evan-Amos

Hoop cheese, Vi-enna sausages,
and saltine crackers
Eaten on the back of a pickup truck;
RC cola and peanuts,
Pawpaw’s treat at the feed store;
Eating a big Twix ‘n Tween burger
goin’ to Aunt Sue’s.
Fried cornbread, fried Spam and
a pot of black-eyed peas
Mama made in her kitchen.
Fried catfish with hushpuppies
Fryin’ at church on  Saturday.
Granny’s big breakfast with
grits, eggs, and sausage,
and Pawpaw asking
 for sawmill gravy on biscuits
the size of a cat’s head.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

"Great Uncle Clarence in the Springtime" (poem)

Great Uncle Clarence sits on the porch,
The evening sun has set the sky a’fire.
He rocks back in his chair.
“The pecan tree’s a’leafin’ out,
time to put tomatoes in the ground,”
He swats at a spring mosquito.
“The dogwood’s a’bloomin’ too, time for my bath.”
Aunt Minnie smiles, first time since fall.

Friday, 11 April 2014

"A Spring Evening"

 The woodpecker barks,
This knothole is his.
The cardinal calls her mate,
He’s fighting with his twin.
Sparrows chirp frantically
 in the magnolia tree.
The oak tree is budding,
And yellow pine dust
Floats in the air,
The early moon shines silver
in the evening gold of the sun.
A spring day is ending.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

"The Earth"

The great oak rises from the regal earth,
Its huge branches reaching, twisting and turning toward the sky like slow lightening. 
Ancient lightening from the earth bursting forth,
A slow green spark lit by the earth herself.
Through the eons, the steady earth goes gently with seasonal rhythm.
And hard rock melts into tears of sand,
While the sky moves with wild abandon; its wind, its lightening and storms,
A warrior in a constant war whose battles change daily;
The earth, an aged queen,
Repeats herself, quietly retelling her story forever.

Friday, 29 November 2013

"Behind the Mounds: 'The Children of the Sun God' "

Moundville Archaeological Park is located in Moundville, Alabama. The Moundville archaeological site, occupied from around A.D. 1000 until A.D. 1450, was a large settlement of Mississippian culture on the Black Warrior River in west-central Alabama. The community took the form of a three hundred-acre village, containing twenty-six earthen mounds, built on a bluff overlooking the river.

The book Behind the Mounds by Lona Mae Wilson, published in 1963, tells the story of the Mounds as well as presenting other fascinating material about the them such as the poem below. 

 In April 1935, with the cooperation of the Hale County Schools, University of Alabama, and CCC Camp #444, the Hale County Historical Society presented on Mound B, the pageant, “Children of the Sun God”. (Below is the prologue to the pageant, which may be read in full in Behind the Mounds).

Moundville Archaeological Park, as seen from one of the largest mounds

 The Children of the Sun God
By Clara Powers and Sue Ellen Moore

  In the remote past so far distant
  That time itself seems without reckoning
  Great Hordes of people left their Northern
Asiatic shores
  To seek new homes across the strait
  We now call Bering.
  Their purpose must remain unknown:
  Possibly a warmer climate: perhaps more
fertile soil,
  Perchance to seek the “Fair God.”
  Sufficient it is for us
  That they came.

  Nor did the trek end on Alaskan
  Now, slow, aloof, remote
  The walls of the purple, blue
  Rockies darken their path.
  From afar the streams
  Flow south and east
  Making confluence with he great
Mississippi –
  “Father of waters” the Indians
  Have called him.
  The forest abode
  Rank beyond rank, unaltered, under
the sky.

  There was in this land no road,
  Nor path, nor trail
  Save where the bronzed moccasin
  Sought shelter frail.
  The forest kept
  Its secrets hidden behind a
rampart of dense trees
  Unhewn by axemen,
  Still in the rains of April, loud in
  The Autumn Breeze,
  By river, plain, or hill.
  Forth from that region they went
  To sun-set faced:
  They rode past marsh and plain
  Through forest of pine, somber
with rain;
  Through groves of oaks up-rooted
  By storms;
  Through swamp and over prairie,
  On and on.
  League after league, day upon
endless day
  Through more lofty mountains where
  The deer
  Browsed in the dreary dawn till
  The hills
Rolled off at last, --they saw
  An empty plain
  A pale, wild river snaking
  Over its heart
  Wide fields of burnt earth linking
  Sky to sky
  And here they rested by the Ohio.

  Year after year, the clouds sailed
  Up from the South
  To signal the winter’s going; through
  The blue skies
  The cardinal flitted northward year
  On year.
  Walking with thunder-shoes the
  Rains remote
  Came storming from the Gulf
  Athwart the trees.
  Under that various striving called life
  These people lived and moved
  And had their being—
  Birth, wooing, warring, death—
  All in their time.

  The rain across the corn! The
  Burial Mound
  Piled high; the joy, the grief,
  The hope, the fear!
  So it went, year on changeless
  Then suddenly as the winter
  Once more changed
  Its face, and over the somber maze
  Of branches,
  There drifted tender lace of greening
  A loud, clear call to journey
  Far to South
  Was felt by those stout hearts.
  Courage was theirs and undying faith
  That kindles other’s courage, makes
  It new.

  Out of the night they came
  Out of the North
  “Paddle to paddle spoke”
  Into the heart of the South
  Trailing the lilies past
  From the wild Ohioan lees
  To where magnolia swamps
  Lift to the balmy sky
  Their challiced buds of green.
  Here they paused
  On Warrior’s sunny shores
  To build these Mounds—
  Homes they were—and temples
  Their worship to fulfill.