Ouyang Xiu: Lapis philosophorum

John Bjarne Grover

This is the nearly 1000 year old chinese poet Ouyang Xiu's 10 poems which I conceptualize as being about the formation of a 'lapis philosophorum'. See below for an explanation

It's like a boat that lacks an oar - the western sea is good -
verdigris water drain curls round and round:
A sink is good if it can hold around
collected harmonies emerging in the flood.

Before the water dries up is the polished lapis there -
the boat adjusted to the sleeper's dream,
the motion of the dreamer's tears that stream
like naked prow in sand, like birds glide in the air.

In spring the heavy rainfall undergoes the west sea well
when hundred flowers in their beauty's poise
and butterflies of chaos and the bees of utmost noise
in daylight throw their web off that the warm desires tell:

The buds of gracious birdcry stretch the means out from the ends,
the halfway truth runs in divinest role
what mirrors around the scandals of a hole.
The bookspine breadth tells what the front page wends.

The artworks carry meaning - the western sea is deep -
excited you're concerned to multiply
the beauty that's contained when driven by
the certain drift in levelled waves called the intoxicated sleep.

Okay, you say, withdraw the thing, withdraw the submarine
the water cannot hide when clean and clear.
You see it once, then twice in logic sheer
and can't believe the water sank to give a God therein.

A multitude of steps take me to western sea so well -
corrections in registers changed a rose
like dew that curls around in water hose
under the willow as a sign the times can tell.

The harmonies dissolve the graphic traffic as before
and start to feel the spring of empty age
like fallen to the ground of curtained cage:
Two is a place returning drizzle at your door.

Questions show a chance of he who has her well,
searching: Would she
fake eye? She anxiously
turned round who watch in chewy juice vessel.

Who is she? Is she leaning on the place's balustrade?
Fragrant grass shoot up in the sun
like water far away - a smoking gun:
A drop of water blue show white herons fade.

The filters open up above where western lake is seen
as end of order multiplying greyed
that tells the way that some domesticate.
Green willow's no vermilion ring - no gold in the machine.

A traveller in the evening provokes a mutual shower
and wakes up to a strange peculiar noise -
on a line that turns the basin of the boys
to lifted stonehenge dialling every petal of a flower.

The lotus flower unfolds beyond the western sea so well
a plant for wine to come in time and season.
It will not wave its flag of banner's treason
but back and forth count pillar stone - green cover to its spell.

You paint a ship with boathook beam into this flower spot.
A smell will leave its golden curling tract
like mist and rain turn heavier and heavier in fact -
a slice of music-making blows inside the echo slot.

The heaven holds the water held in western sea that brings
a cloud of things, a cloud of lights:
Gulls are egrets in sleepy nights,
existence is adjusted to music of winds and strings.

The sign's a clear moon, clearly nights decline.
One slice of fine onyx
admires all who admires the phoenix.
Man is a boat where China is divine.

Dirt speck rubbed down, red dusk of west sea well,
rubbed down on artemisia (southernwood):
10 pictures smeared out flat - they're rather good -
a coastline uninhabited, a boat horizontal.

West-south, the moon above, the curtain cloud dissolves,
high balustrade, cool existential fill -
a lotus once called water nut, fragrant and still,
comes as a scroll in water - wine face devolves.

The flat and raw comes quickly up from west sea cage,
towards me comes streaming a vermilion scroll
that richly precious floats where breakers roll.
I lower my head towards Venus, 20 years of age.

Then up towards me there comes the eastern crane,
up along the city wall, in people's tear.
I scratch the orders up from every pair -
a sign that tells the form my mind contains.

These 10 poems by Ouyang Xiu, the most prominent chinese poet of the Song-dynasty (about a thousand years ago), are, in my view, very precisely about the socalled 'lapis philosophorum'. My translation is based on the empirical evidence from my work with the book 'Der Dornenstrauch' (2010-2015) - plus the norwegian 'Stillhetens Śndedrag' (2016) - in particular my poetic-semiotic studies in the years 2014-2016, including some material from 2006. The empirical evidence is basically 'ex nihilo' matter. The ten poems subdivide as follows - and probably form a cycle that feedbacks from #10 to #1:

1-3 = the philosopher's stone (the 1st 'lapis' - of 2014) = yellow metre
4-6 = the philosopher's bone (the 2nd 'lapis' - of 2016) = white metre
7-10 = 'Der Dornenstrauch' parts 1-2-3-4

1 - lapis philosophorum - the form of the world
2 - the cover of the book 'Der Dornenstrauch'
3 - the artworks' (graphics) meaningfulness
4 - philosopher's bone - by the graphics of the chinese signs
5 - philosopher's bone - by the sound of the chinese signs
6 - the potato peel filter that fell ex nihilo into my bathtub in 2006
7 - DDS part 1 - catalogue of mysteries in the lotus tuba
8 - DDS part 2 - the fundamental theorem in the linguistic forms
9 - DDS part 3 - the fundamental theorem obtains between scroll & graphics
10 - DDS part 4 - the scroll-derived graphics and the human semiotic constitution

(I refer also to this artwork of Eva Xiuxia Jing for the line 4 in poem 9 - the line in chinese really tells 'a coastline uninhabited - a boat's personality horizontal'. I have earlier recognized this landscape as relevant to my novel 'The Dreamer').

© John Bjarne Grover
On the web 16 may 2017