The poet(s?) known as Cold Mountain 寒山
, but not starring Nicole Kidman
, seem to have been verbally mauled by somebody who was keeping up with the latest trends in poetic styles for his failure to follow the new rules. As everyone knows, ya gotta keep up with the latest fashions.
The "latest trends" were the more and more rule-bound "modern 近體" approach to poem crafting, with some pretty picky rules governing prosody
. These were laid out by Shen Yue 沈約
, the man who discovered that Chinese is a language with tones. Of course artists are generally able to achieve greater creativity expression within a framework of confining rules. Although sometimes they may intentionally break the rules for effect. It is an irony of the human mind that wide open freedom without boundaries constricts creativity, while a tight structural framework that would appear to fetter creativity actually have the opposite effect, as Douglas Hofstadter
explores at some length in his huge tome on translation, Le Ton beau de Marot
How the Cold Mountain poet responded when the criticism was still hanging in the air is unknown, but it is clear that the comment on his lack of technical prowess as a poet must have stung. This is why the Sanchon Hunjang concludes that we are not seeing an intentional bending of the rules in the case of the Cold Mountain poet. Otherwise it would have been easy to dismiss the criticism: "I meant to do that
," rather than stew. And stew. And stew. And then draft a reply to his tormentor, also in the form of a poem. And write it on a mountain rock or tree along with your other works for someone who comes along later to read and laugh with you at the audacity of that Mr. Wang:
有個王秀才; 有 There is 個 a 秀 super 才 talent[ed-guy surnamed] 王 Wang,
笑我詩多失. [He] 笑 laughed that 我 my 詩 poems 多 [have] many 失 mistakes.
雲不識蜂腰; [He] 雲 said1)
[I] 不 don't 識 know 蜂腰2)
the "wasp's waist,"
仍不會鶴膝. Moreover 仍 [I] 不 am not 會 able [to do] 鶴膝3)
the "crane's knee."
平側不解壓; The 平 level and 側 deflected [tones--I] 不 cannot 解 understand 壓 their pressures,
凡言取此出. 凡 In all cases 言 [my] words 取此出 just come out like this.
我笑你作詩; [Oh, Mr. Wang] 我 I 笑 Laugh at 詩 the poems 你 you 作 write:
如盲徒詠日! [They] 如 are like 盲徒 the blind詠 singing of 日 the sun!
Way to go Cold Mountain guy
, you showed Mr. Wang. How does it feel to be vindicated?※ Incidentally, 한산's use of vernacular as opposed to pure literary Chinese is an interesting point in this poem. Like he's intentionally pushing back even more against those rules in this reply.
1) 雲: Here we see a problem with machine translation between computer encoding schemes. This text clearly means to say "云 'says'" but some computer has translated the simplified mainland character 云, which serves double duty for 云 "to say" or "and so on" as well as 雲 "clouds" back into the traditional character cloud. It's easy to say (雲 or 云)=云, but going backwards doesn't work.
2), 3) As alluded to above, Shen Yue put together a system of no-no's in the form of a list of 8 evils to avoid in the composition of poetry, which he called the "eight ills 八病
." The ideas were borrowed from Buddhist chanting practices that were imported from India
. They consist of tone patterns that aren't supposed to sound pleasant. I suppose it's the equivalent introducing a few stresses in the middle of some trochaic verse that goes against the prevailing pattern. Wasp's waist and a crane's knee are names that he gave to two of these eight ills.