National Poetry Month: April 20th

April 20, 2010

Zhao Mengfu, a 14th century Chinese government official, was wondering how his wife, Guan Daosheng, might react to his thoughts about getting a concubine. A revered painter and poet, he wrote her this lyric poem:

I’m a scholar-official
and you are the official wife.
Haven’t you ever heard that scholar-official Wang had Peach Leaf and Peach Root,
Scholar-official Su had Morning Clouds and Evening Clouds?
Even if I marry a few beauties from Wu and Yue – it wouldn’t be too much
since you’re already over forty.
You’ll still control Spring in the Jade Hall.

Guan Daosheng (also known as Guan Zhongji), a highly esteemed painter, calligrapher, and poet in her own right, replied with “Love Poem”:

You and I
have too much passion
Where the passion is, is hot like fire
I knead a piece of clay into a you
and a me
then smash them
and mix them with water.
Again I knead it into a you
then a me.
There is you in my clay,
and me in your clay.
I’ll share your quilt while we live
and your coffin after death.

Legend has it that once he read her poem, Zhao Mengfu decided not to get a concubine.

Additional text from The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry: From Ancient to Contemporary, The Full 3,000 Year Tradition, edited by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping.

These poems were selected by Olivia M. (Reader’s Services)

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