Qin Taoyu - 'Talking girl'
John Bjarne Grover
Yesterday 3 july 2021 there were news from London telling that there was a blast and fire in the underground station Elephant and Castle in London. (But as I now look at the web, it is listed as old news - while yesterday it was reported as going on).
I left the news and sat down at my desk and pulled a book '300 Tang poems' out from the bookshelf, opened it on a coincidental place and started to read. It had opened by coincidence on #222 = Qin Taoyu's poem 'A poor girl'. Some years ago I had copied the 300 Tang poems from
and printed out a copy on my home laser printer and bound it in light grey elephant paper for private home use.
When I now looked at this poem, which I cannot recall that I had read earlier, I decided to take a closer look at the chinese and when looking over the chinese glosses, it occurred to me that I spotted an 'elephant' in line 2 - 'tuo liang mei' = 'uolimant-gei' - and, in the mirror point in line 7, is there a 'castle' ('[ni]an ya jin') there?
As I looked at these glosses in my Mathews chinese-english dictionary, I suddenly noticed that my name seemed to be contained in the signs listed by Mathews on the adjacent places, following immediately after the proper signs - for just this 'elephant'. All signs in Mathews are enumerated from 1 to 7773 and the three signs that looks a little like 'elephant' in line 2 of the poem are Mathews #6461, 3941, 4397 - and then the adjacent signs are (see also the table below)
poem sign 9 = Mathews #6462 = 'tuo' = A watchman's rattle
poem sign 10 = Mathews #3942 = 'liang' = To jump. Hurriedly, to walk crookedly
poem sign 11 = Mathews #4398 = 'mei' = Coal, charcoal
which looked like 'jump-jar-negr-[r]øver' etc. Looking at the mirror place towards the end of line 7, I believed that I spotted things which reminded me of the name of my houseletter in Oslo in the late 80's and early 90's - notably perhaps because her name, at least her personal name but perhaps even her family name, could have been the same as the first girl I got interested in, at the age 5-6 (around 1962-63) in Molde - Anne-Lise was her name and maybe the family name was something like Myklebust. I therefore speculated if this could have been the fire in London - the name of the early attraction to a female I experienced in my life. Mathews sign #1058 can also mean 'tendon', while 'tend on' looked like those news?
'A Nelly-semi-klebust' could perhaps have been suggestive of the idea of (jewish?) genetics in the underpants? Into Hungary? This morning there was also a cigarette end of type Marlboro Gold (I think it was) left on a stairway step to my home. (Something similar could have happened also in the autumn 1999, I think it was).
But I had just pulled a book out of the shelf and opened it coincidentally, so I dont know.
But this would not have been in this poem itself - it would have been in the immediately following glosses in the dictionary of Mathews only. That is a little special - but Mathews may perhaps have somewhat of a special status. If that be the case, then the rest of the poem could perhaps be read that way as well. I have translated the poem here - word by word - and listed the immediately following glosses from Mathews, including number in the dictionary.
I may have met this poem earlier as well.
The poem seems to be standardly translated 'A poor girl' but I would translate the title 'Talking girl' - cp. also my own Kinderhilfe #136 (to chinese radical 204 = 'embroidery'). I first list the poem in chinese signs which can be clicked with the cursor for a lookup of the meanings and etymologies - the text itself is quoted from the web page
See also this page
蓬 ⾨ 未 識 綺 羅 ⾹
擬 託 良 媒 益 ⾃ 傷
誰 愛 ⾵ 流 ⾼ 格 調
共 憐 時 世 儉 梳 妝
敢 將 十 指 誇 鍼 巧
不 把 雙 眉 ⾾ 畫 ⻑
苦 恨 年 年 壓 ⾦ 線
為 他 ⼈ 作 嫁 ⾐ 裳
Here is my word-by-word translation of Qin Taoyu's 'Talking girl':
Raspberries' doorway do not know the silken net fragrance
intends to ask a good decoy to increase the distress
that likes the breath to flow, a lofty reach to blend:
All sympathize the season of a frugal comb disguise.
Presume to hold 10 fingers' praise at needle's skilful art:
Do not lift eyebrows to provoke the picture staying long.
A sad desire year by year holds on the golden wire
to marry in the clothings of a wondrous apparance.
The 8 lines in the poem have 7 signs each, a total of 56 signs. The alternative reading of the sign in Mathews following just after the proper sign can be read from the following table - first I list the number of signs in the 8 lines and thereafter the corresponding signs with 'adjacent' meanings - since there normally are many signs under one pinyin syllable, the 'sound' of the following sign in Mathews will normally be the same as in the poem of Qin Taoyu - but the meanings are of course often very different:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 32 33 34 35
36 37 38 39 40 41 42
43 44 45 46 47 48 49
50 51 52 53 54 55 56
I here list the main meanings of the adjacent signs mentioned by Mathews - I think the book can be ordered through bookshops:
|# in poem||# in Mathews||Pinyin||Main meanings|
|Title||5273||pin||To receive commands. Disposition, natural endowment|
|Title||4777||nu||To bleed at the nose|
|1||5069||pi||To cause, to enable. That, so that, to the end that. To follow, to accord, to employ|
|2||4419||men||Sign of the plural|
|3||7115||wei||Flavour; taste; smell|
|4||5826||shi||To poison; to sting. Venomous. Troublesome; oppressive|
|5||519||qi||One-legged. Crippled, halt. A defect|
|8||4673||ni||Greasy, fat. Oily, smooth, glossy|
|9||6462||tuo||A watchman's rattle|
|10||3942||liang||To jump. Hurriedly, to walk crookedly|
|13||6961||zi||To stab; to stick on. To erect|
|14||5667||shang||To die young; to die|
|15||5924||shui||A jade tablet given to feudal princes on their investiture, as a sign of authority and rank. A keepsake. A happy omen. Auspicious, lucky|
|16||10||ai||A tone of disapproval. Warm, genial atmosphere|
|17||1891||feng||The maple tree. Also used for the plane tree, the sycamore and the tallow-tree.|
|18||4081||liu||A precious stone|
|19||3291||gao||Dry. Rotten, as wood; withered|
|20||3310||ge||The armpit; the arm. The side|
|21||6299||diao||General name for perch, etc|
|22||3710||gong||To supply, to contribute to|
|23||3997||lian||A lady's dressing-case. A bridal trousseau|
|24||5781||shi||To plant, to erect|
|25||5791||shi||To buy on credit, to borrow. To let on hire|
|26||849||jian||A double-edged sword|
|27||5861||shu||Distant. To separate|
|28||1452||zhuang||Form, appearance, shape|
|30||657||jiang||To exhort, to encourage. To commend. A prize or reward|
|31||5808||shi||A file of ten soldiers. Ten. sundry, miscellaneous|
|32||960||zhi||The fat of animals; lard; grease; ointment. Cosmetics; gums. Wealth|
|33||3531||kua||To straddle, to bestride. To encroach upon. To pass over. To surpass, to excel|
|35||744||qiao||High, stately; prouds|
|36||5380||bu||A hood or cowl|
|37||4830||ba||A kind of rake without teeth, used to smooth seedplots|
|39||4392||mei||To flatter; to fawn on. To love, to coax. Attractive. Fascinating, seductive|
|40||6485||dou||A hole; a drain; a sluice|
|41||2223||hua||To rive, to divide, to mark, to cut|
|43||3494||ku||The skeleton. Bones. The shoulder blade.|
|44||2096||hen||To pull, to drag, to stop|
|45||4712||nian||The draw lots; to pick out; to take in the fingers|
|46||4712||nian||The draw lots; to pick out; to take in the fingers|
|47||7232||ya||To pull up; to eradicate|
|48||1058||jin||The tendons; sinews or muscles. Nerves or veins|
|50||7060||wei||False; simulated; counterfeit|
|51||5962||ta||Joined, connected. Piled up, crowded together. Repeated, reiterated. Greedy|
|52||3098||ren||Man. Radical 10|
|53||6781||zuo||To be ashamed|
|54||597||jia||To sow grain. Sheaves of grain. Agricultural work|
|55||2990||yi||To follow, to comply with. To trust to, to depend on. To obey. To be near to. According to|
|56||5672||chang||To reward, to grant, to bestow, to give to an inferior. Rewards. To praise|
The pinyin transcription was made with the initial help of a converter on the web - I think I used this one - but they are of course checked against Mathews.
Source (in addition to the internet 'wiktionary'):
Mathews, R.H.: Chinese-English Dictionary. (A Chinese-English Dictionary Compiled for the China Inland Mission by R.H.Mathews, Shanghai: China Inland Mission and Presbyterian Mission Press, 1931). Revised american edition 1943. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
© John Bjarne Grover
On the web 4 july 2021