Friday, April 5, 2013

To Sea!!!

For some time I have been thinking about what to do with this blog, which I first put together to hold my Melvillian reading journals and to serve as a place to post journal entries for a reading of Moby Dick that we did over at Librarything. Melville, of course, is a singular and recurring obsession for me, but during the year since we finished the reading, I have only made occassional posts here. After all, one can't spend all one's time reading Melville.

Prodded by my good friend Mac, it is time to broaden the blog, and to make this into a place to explore all my singular and recurring literary and historical obsessions. The first narrative chapter of Moby Dick, "Loomings", tells the story:
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
For me, sea today has moved east, and my current rivers of the oceans of stories are Chinese; now in the second year of learning Chinese, I have graduated to the point where I am fully capable of embarassing myself when ordering a cup of tea.

A reader of my Melville journals will know that Melville was a great explorer of world literature, and freely referenced the stories of all places in his work, whether cribbing from the Mahabharata, pondering the wonders of the Avesta, or dropping in bits of Egyptian or Norse mythology.  I have no doubt we'll come back to Melville unexpectedly along the way.  Until then, though, I offer my translation of Wang Wei's "Deer Park" as a little bit of wilderness to explore, far from the deep sea with its submerged pearls and looms:
Vacant mountain, no visible person,
Yet voices resound, echoes of man.
Brightness reflects into darkest woods,
Fractured light illumes climbing moss.

This is the Chinese:


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