TO THE TUNE OF CAISANGZI
The Double Ninth
Man ages all too easily, but not nature;
The Double Ninth comes every year.
And on this Double Ninth
Yellow chrysanthemums on the battlefield smell exceedingly sweet.
Every year autumn winds blow hard.
Autumn scenery is wholly unlike spring
And yet better:
See the frosty sky and freezing water stretching endlessly far.
THE DOUBLE NINTH
Tune: “PICKING MULBERRIES”
Nature does not grow old as fast as man;
Each year the Double Ninth comes round.
And now the Double Ninth comes round.
How sweet are yellow flowers on the battleground!
See autumn reign with heavy winds once every year,
Far more sublime,
The boundless sky and waters blend with endless rime.
The Double Ninth (1)
– to the melody of Cai Sang Zi
Mortals are apt to age, while Heaven remains ever livelong,
There are as many returns of the Double Ninth as years are long.
Now the Double Ninth pays us another call,
The aroma of battlefield xanthic florets smells exceptionally strong.
Each year brings with it a round of still gale in fall;
From vernal charms this is a far cry,
Yet outshining these vernal charms in all.
Attired in a myriad-li rime are the far-flung rivers and sky.
(1)“Double Ninth” refers to a traditional Chinese festival on the “ninth of Ninth Month” in lunar calendar.
THE DOUBLE NINTH (1)
to the tune of Mulberry-Picking Song
Man ages too easily but heaven never gets old, (2)
Double Ninth comes yearly in the same mould.
This year’s Double Ninth would tell
The yellow flowers (3) on the battlefield (4) sweeter smell. (5)
Every year in autumn the wind blows with might,
How different from the spring sight!
Yet in splendour the autumn could the spring defy
With its frosty and boundless water and sky. (6)
(1) The Double Ninth: September 9 in the Chinese lunar calendar. The numeral 9 was worshiped by the Chinese ancients as a Yang figure, i.e. a masculine or positive figure. “September” is the ninth month of the year, thus “September 9” embraces double 9’s — the ninth month and the ninth date. The Double Ninth is a traditional festival day on which people usually ascend a height to enjoy the sight of chrysanthemum. The Double Ninth in 1929 was October 11 in the Gregorian calendar; up to that day, the Red Army led by Mao Zedong had wiped out the local warlords of Tingjiang in the south of Fujian Province and occupied Shanghang. Meanwhile, in the rural revolutionary bases, the agrarian revolution was carried out with great enthusiasm; this meant the overthrow of the landlords and the distribution of land among the peasant.
(2) Man ages too easily but heaven never gets old: 1) Man’s age is shown by his physiological change yet heaven’s age bears no discernible traces because its change occurs very slowly; 2)That man must get is a natural law; man dies but the universe exists for ever; 3) a possible allusion to a line of the poem “Ode to the Golden Bronze Immortal Who Takes Leave of the Palaces of the Han Dynasty” by Li He (790-816), a Tang poet, “Should heaven be sentimental, old would it be.” The story is told in Stories of the Three Kingdoms (Chapter 105) by Luo Guangzhong (?1330-?1400). The allusion is also interested in Mao Zedong’s another poem “The People’s Liberation Army Captures Nanking” (lines 7-8).
(3) The yellow flowers: the chrysanthemum flowers.
(4) the battlefield: the city of Shanghang was just occupied by the Red Army in September of the year.
(5) sweeter smell: smell sweeter than usual; believed to suggest a touch of revolutionary optimism.
(6) Mao’s preference of autumn to spring is often explained by many scholars as 1) autumn is a harvest season; 2) autumn is a time when transient things must be killed; 3) autumn is a symbol of revolution.
THE DOULBE NINTH
– to the tune of Cai Sang Zi
Man ages all too easily, not Nature:
Year by year the Double Ninth returns.
On this Double Ninth,
The yellow blooms on the battlefield smell sweeter.
Each year the autumn wind blows fierce,
Unlike spring’s splendour,
Yet surpassing spring’s splendour,
See the endless expanse of frosty sky and water.