Jueju: The Last Rose

Here’s the final form of the Lushi that I wrote for the Rose competition at Tournament of Foxes last year. I won’t go into a great deal of explication, as I’m currently mid-read on a book that was a serendipitous bookstore find, The Art of Chinese Poetry, that will be informing some┬ámodification on my attempts at a method of writing “faithful” (insofar as one can in a non-tonal language) original jueju/lushi in English. It corrects a couple important fallacies in the scholarship I was drawing on, though does confirm a lot of other points as well, so I won’t have to scrap everything, just rework it a bit.

The Last Roses

For the last time, I meet you in the rose garden.

Though seasons pass, quickly for all men,

To next spring, is a journey of ten thousand li,*

For these roses, will not bloom again

Anyways, on to the poem itself. I’m actually pretty pleased with this poem, as I was able to adhere to the strict formal rules while at the same times creating the thought/mood/affect that I wanted. The theme was roses, so of course I set the scene in a rose garden, used a traditional rhyme scheme of AABA, and followed the rules I’d laid out in an earlier post to build a five character (character meaning “major concept word” in this sense) line. I also followed the two character/ceasura/three character format, which looks a bit odd to my no doubt Western eyes, but reads nicely. Chinese formal poems like this tend to be square on the page, where the trend for English poems is to flow downwards. Hence:

The Last Roses

For the last time,

I meet you in the rose garden.

Though seasons pass,

quickly for all men,

To next spring,

is a journey of ten thousand li,

For these roses,

will not bloom again

^ has a more “appealing” layout that looks entirely different, and radically altered page flow, but reads exactly the same aloud. It conveys a mood that is more fluid and less formal. The above layout is (to me at least) reminiscent of how Pound poems look on the page, in that respect.

*a li is a unit of measurement that at various points in history has ranged from 1/3 km to 1/2 km. The unit “ten thousand” is often colloquially used in Chinese to indicate a number too large for measurement. Therefore, used in this sense, the phrase “ten thousand li” refers to an impassable or impossible distance. For example, a folk tale may state that a hero travels ten thousand li to reach a mythical land.