Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The cranes

The western wind has blown but a few days;
Yet the first leaf already flies from the bough.

On the drying paths I walk in my thin shoes;
In the first cold I have donned my quilted coat.

Through shallow ditches the floods are clearing away;
Through sparse bamboos trickles a slanting light.

In the early dusk, down an alley of green moss,
The garden-boy is leading the cranes home.

Po Chü-i (772-846) trans: A Waley


  1. I wondered what was meant by "leading the cranes home"? Are they easily tamed? I tried googling the problem, but was innundated with too many leading crane manufacturers to get very far quickly!

  2. Dominic, I think the boy is bringing the birds in out of the approaching bad weather. Perhaps he couldn't reach them before because of the floods. They must be easily tamed, like geese. Perhaps can catch fish with them. They might be on lines.

    Men often worked with birds in olden times. In rural China they probably still do. I've seen films of Chinese cormorants fishing with men.

    In Africa the Masai follow a bird which will find honey for them on condition they give it a piece of honeycomb when the have smoked out the bees. The bird has a special song it sings only to men.

    I have written a poem "the yellow crane" about the crane problem you describe :)

  3. On youtube there's a video: "crane eats largemouth bass whole"

  4. I think the crane is almost 'worshipped' in parts of rural China. There is something so beautiful about these Chinese poems - and I can't put my finger on what it is.

  5. Thanks Pat and John,

    Perhaps these Chinese poems have some ancient mystical quality, Pat?


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