Wednesday, January 3

Reading of a Late Tang Poem

A Japanese prose interpretation of Li Shangyin’s “The Inlaid Harp” [Jin se], by Takahashi Kazumi.
    いま、ここに、奏すべきその人をうしない、空しく残された錦模様の大琴がある。昔、伏羲氏は、その音調のあまりの悲しさゆえに、五十絃の瑟を壊したというが、はからずも、この錦瑟はそれに一致する五十絃のものである。その数多い一線一線の絃、それを支える一つ一つのことじに、私の華華しかった日日の記憶がかかっている。たとえ絃は絶ち得ても、こわせないだろう愛の思いが。
    昔、荘子は蝶になった夢を見て、その自由さに、暁の夢が醒めてのち、自分が夢か、蝶が夢なのかを、疑ったという。夢のようだった愛の生活は、醒めざるを得ぬ今も、独りとり残された我が身の方を却って疑わせる。また昔、望帝は、肉朽ちて後も、春めくその思いを杜鵑〔ホトトギス〕に托したという。愛の執着は、そのように、昼夜も分たず哀鳴する鳥の声となって残るのだ。
    思う、昔。あなたがこの錦模様の瑟を爪弾いた時、私はその音色を聴き分けるよき鑑賞者だった。奏するあなたの心が海の彼方に向う時、私はすぐさま、月の煌煌と照る滄海を思い、あなたの思いが山にある時、また直ちに、その音は玉山に暖かく日の射すようだと指摘したものだった。だが今は、月夜に思い浮べる滄海にも、かの人魚の涙珠のように、面影はひたすら涙をのみしたたらせ、白昼の夢にその姿を追えば、かの紫玉の如く、抱くより先に烟と化して燃えうせる。
    だが、思い廻らせば――この失意、朦朧としてあやめ知れぬ私の思いは、今、追憶をなすこの時間において、始めてそうなったのだろうか。そうではない。何故なら、いま見定め難きものは、昔においても見定め難く、あの当時からして、はやすでに私たちの現実が朦朧としていたのだったから。

    Now, here is a brocade-patterned harp that lost he who was meant to play it and lies abandoned. It is said that long ago, Fu Xi once destroyed a fifty-string harp because its sound was so sad, and strangely enough this inlaid harp has fifty strings as well. Along each of these many strings, and the frets that support them, lie the memories of my glorious youth. Though these strings may break, they cannot perish, these memories of love.
    Long ago, it’s said that Zhuangzi dreamed he had become a butterfly, such was the freedom he felt that, when he had awakened, he did not know whether he or the butterfly was the dream. Those dreamlike days of love, even now when I must awaken from them, make me rather doubt the truth of my life now, left behind alone. So too, it is said that long ago the Emperor Wang, even after his flesh had rotted away, consigned his vernal thoughts to the cuckoo. The obsessions of love in this way remained behind as the voice of a bird weeping day and night.
    I think of long ago. When you plucked upon this brocade-patterned harp, I was a keen audience for its sounds. When, playing, your thoughts traveled beyond the seas, I immediately thought of the ocean glimmering under the bright moon; when your heart was in the mountains, I knew at once that the music was the warm sunlight on Jade Mountain. But now, even in the blue sea that comes to mind this moonlit night, your image only makes me drip tears like mermaids’ pearls, and when I chase you in my daydreams, like Zi Yu you turn to smoke before we can embrace.
    But I wonder: my despair, these thoughts of mine so dim and indistinct, have they only become this way now in my memory? No. For, these things now so difficult to pin down were no different long ago; already in that time our reality was swathed in haze.

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