Today's Beautiful Gem: `The Gods' by Mao
translated by Willis Barnstone and Ko Ching-Po.
"I lost my proud poplar and you your willow.
As poplar and willow they soar straight up into the ninth heaven
and ask the prisoner of the moon, Wu Kang, what is there.
He offers them wine from the cassia tree.
"The lonely lady on the moon, Chang O, spreads her vast sleeves
and dances for these good souls in the unending sky.
Down on earth a sudden report of the tiger's defeat.
Tears fly down from a great upturned bowl of rain."
Note: Like it or not, one of the leaders of destiny in this century, Mao Tse-tung, (Gandhi, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Hitler, who others in your opinion?) is also a poet in the classic Chinese mould. An English translation may never do justice to a Chinese poem. But that is the only road open to us unless we have a mastery of the Chinese language. It seems the above poem is addressed to his wife and his teacher. The husband of his teacher died in a battle and his wife was beheaded by a KMT General. The Chinese character for poplar and Yang (his wife's name) are the same; the same for willow and Liu, the husband of his teacher. Thus poplar and willow refer to Yang and Liu. According to a Chinese legend, Wu Kang committed some crimes and as a punishment he has to cut a tree which grows immediately after each blow of the axe. Thus it is a never-ending work. The wine from cassia tree is an elixir for the immortals. Thus the dead persons reached immortality. Chang O is a lonely moon goddess. By the way, I am NOT knowledgeable in Chinese even though Chinese poetry has always impressed me for its tender and subtle feelings and ideas.
Om s'aantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao