Monday, September 15, 2008

Clyde List Editorial: Hello China!

Woman with Children on Back Porch of Smock House If the Sherwood Historical Society wants to live forever, she needs to do what businesses do, and "think global." Making friends with Edogawa, Japan was a good start. We also have a person named "Jessica" who is anxious to build bridges with China. I discovered China already, without Jessica. It happened many many years ago when I was a college student. I hated school. To this day, if I "take a course" in something it means I would have been better off reading a book.

Ah, what a library full of books my college had. Four stories tall and four stories deep. I worked out a system. Every Friday I would toss my course materials aside and march into the library. I would pick a number. One to Four. I would rise that many stories and then I'd toss an imaginary coin and turn left or right as I Ieft the elevator. After another series of randomized steps and turns I would arrive somewhere deep inside the stacks. On the countdown, I would shove out either my left or right arm and grab whatever book my fingers touched. If the book was at all readable, I would check it out and take it home with me and read it.

That is how I discovered Li Po (701–762). Li Po (pronounced "Li Bai") was a man of many talents, including writing poetry. He was obscure enough not to have a course taught about him at my college (thank God), but famous enough to receive one full column in my trusty old Brittanica. His biography reads like a comedy. He used to make little boats out of his poems and cast them adrift on a stream. He could have been an important member of the Emperor's court except that he would not stop composing poems about the Empress's nose! And so he wound up kissing his reflection in a pool and forgot to hang on to the guard rail, and he drowned. And so (life is strange) I became a friend of Li Po, who died many centuries before I lived, by a channel no mortal could predict.

But only in translation. I have been searching for some thirty years for someone who can read Li Po to me in Chinese. Jessica says she has waited over a thousand years to perform this honor. Ooooh! The word 'inscrutable' comes to mind....!

10 comments:

Clyde List said...

--All this fellow needs is a lonesome banjo. He would have fit right in here on the far end of the Oregon Trail, when moonshine was Sherwood's most valuable cash crop.

Amidst the flowers a jug of wine,
I pour alone lacking companionship.
So raising the cup I invite the Moon,
Then turn to my shadow,
which makes three of us.
Because the Moon
does not know how to drink,
My shadow merely follows
the movement of my body.
The Moon has brought the shadow
to keep me company a while,
The practice of mirth
should keep pace with spring.
I start a song
and the Moon begins to reel,
I rise and dance
and the shadow moves grotesquely.
While I'm still conscious
let's rejoice with one another,
After I'm drunk
let each one go his way.

Lilly Morgen said...

So that is why the moon looked like a round orange pumpkin last night. I followed the moon home from 6-Corners. This morning he looked white as a ghost and very drained!

jaycee said...

Oh yes. You've got it babe! The Li Po Spirit! We Americans thought the rugged individualist, the Ronald Reagan type guy, the guy sitting all alone by his moonshine still yodeling a lonesome tune under the pale and eternal light of the Moon, could only be an American guy. How wrong we were! He is universal. Every culture must have an example to add! Oh yes world! Whatever continent you hale from. As soon as you read this blog, tell us about your "Li Po"!

Clyde said...

I see you're in your cups again, JayCee. You forget that moon shining wasn't just a guy thing. "Wake up, wake up, darling Corey. What makes you sleep so sound? The revenuers are a-coming, going to tear your still house down."

The best verse of the song is: "The last time I seen darling Corey, she was sitting by the banks of the sea with a .45 strapped around her body and a banjo on her knee." Now there's a gal Li Po could have composed songs with!

Clyde List said...

All this poeticizing inspired me to write a poem about Wilsonville. I'm hoping June Reynolds will include it in the play she's writing for their 1859-2009 celebration.

The Wilsonville Ferry

Safe across the Willamette,
The floating platform comes to rest,
Nervous fillies paw the deck
Like ravens bursting from the nest.

Native born and pilgrim folk
Some with oxen by the yoke
Climb aboard and have a smoke
And share the latest settler joke.

Children's eyes grow wider yet
Measuring the Willamette.
"How much wider will she get
At the Clackamas and Atfalit?
Oh let's cross beyond the bend!
Let the journey never end!"

Jessie answers with a grin
And puts his fiddle to his chin.
Hear him play a peppy tune
He got from Grampa Dan'l Boone.
"Aboard this ship you might get lucky,
And land back home in old Kentucky!"

Woah! The ferry's shoreline ropes
Quickly dash the children's hopes
But not their dreams.
    There's more, much more
Excitement on that other shore.

Safe across the Willamette,
The little vessel comes to rest
On her never ending quest
Binding Oregon East and West.

Lilly Morgen said...

Yes! I hear-tell that there is going to be a sesqui-centennial coming up this spring! What is the Sherwood Historical Society gonna do for that?

John Brown said...

I do that too. When I am at the McConnells or the Anderson's, I just go to their bookshelf and look at the books. I will read as much as possible while I am there and sometimes I'll even get a loan of a book. It beats the reading rooms in the big citys.

Sherwood said...

Say, you led an awfully interestin'life back there, Mr. Brown. Do you remember what it was like during the Civil War? Did anybody out here in Oregon care? What side were you cheering for? I hear your health wasn't too good-- or at least that's what you told Mr. Lincoln and his draft board.

Lilly Morgen said...

I just read a fascinating article in the Smithsonian magazine for Aug. 2008. (Yes, I know, I'm behind on my reading!) It refers to the renewed interest in preserving China's Great Wall.The 4,000 mile wall built over thousands of years was disdained as a waste of energy and lives, and yet there was a great danger. Mao took this disdain and ordered many miles of it torn down. Now there is a Chinese government agency trying to preserve it. There are no scholastic, Chinese "wall" historians, in fact none world-wide .

Clyde List said...

I posted this information about China 1/2 year ago. I know that this posting is being read by many people. No one has written a "Comment" for 1/2 year. Very strange. If you read this, please add a comment. It would make me very proud. Especially if you are Chinese. (Signed) the Webmaster, Clyde List

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