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Monday Poetry Reading: 木蘭辭

weather: partially sunny
outside: 19.7°C
mood: calm
木蘭辭 The Ballad of Mulan

The audio file contained herein is in Ogg Vorbis format which will play in Winamp.

479K 2:39


Transcribed by: [info]bride

The Ballad of Mulan

Click, click, and click click,
By the doorway Mulan weaves.
When all at once the shuttles cease,
A sigh is heard with solemn grief.
O my daughter who is on your mind?
O my daughter who is in your heart?
I have no one on my mind,
I have no one in my heart.
But last night I read the battle roll,
A roll consisting of twelve scrolls.
The Khan is drafting an army of awe,
My father's name on each beadroll.
Alas Father has no grown son,
Alas Mulan has no elder brother.
But I will buy a saddle and a horse,
And join the army in place of Father.
In the East Market she buys a steed,
From the West Market she buys a saddle.
From the South market she buys a bridle,
In the North Market she buys a long whip.
At dawn she bids her family farewell,
At dusk she camps by the Yellow River.
She no longer hears her parents calling,
Upon her pillow the waters whisper.
At dawn she departs the Yellow River,
At dusk she arrives at Black Mountain.
She no longer hears her parents calling,
But tarter horses wailing from Yen Mountain.
She gallops ten thousand miles,
For the war she has to honor.
She crosses lofty hills,
Like an eagle soaring over.
From northern gusts, through biting chills,
Echoes the watchman's clapper.
With wintry glow of icy hue,
Light glimmers on her armor.
Generals die in a hundred battles,
Our warrior's back, how ten years fly.
Upon her return she is summoned
To see the Emperor.
In the Hall of Light,
She receives the highest honor.
She is awarded a promotion to top rank.
The Emperor bestows hundreds of thousands in prizes.
The Khan asks her what she desires.
Mulan has no use for a minister's post,
Mulan has no other extravagant want.
I wish to borrow a swift footed mount,
To take me back to my home.
When Father and Mother hear she's coming,
They watch by the gate, bracing each other.
When Elder Sister hears she's coming,
She runs to her room and dabs on rouge powder.
When Little Brother hears she's coming,
He whets his knife, flashing like a light,
And prepares pig and sheep for dinner.
Let me push open the door to East Chamber,
Let me sit on my bed in West Recess.
So swiftly comes off the warrior's vesture,
And silently I put on my old-time dress.
Beside the window I dress up my hair,
In front of a mirror, I rouge my face.
And when i come out to meet my compeers,
They are perplexed and amazed.
'For twleve years,
We fought as comrades in arms,
The Mulan we knew was not a lady of charm.'
A male hare will kick and strike,
While females stare with bleary eyes.
If both are allowed to run free
Who can tell whether I am a he or a she?

I'm participating in the Monday Poetry Reading. It's not Monday yet, but I don't know if I'll have time to do this tomorrow.

I picked this poem because... well, I love the poem, for one. I always have. But, I also wanted to see if I could still remember all of it, by heart. And I did. =) It was like a reflex. Once I got going, I just rambled it all into the phone.

The Ballad of Mulan is a required study, recital and dictation piece in any Chinese Literature curriculum in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong for about third or fourth grade and most reputable Chinese schools overseas. It's very long and just barely do-able for a third/fourth grader. It's also a pretty tough read, as classical literature is apt to be. In Cantonese, it also has odd pronunciation exceptions.

It's not only a beautiful poem that captures so well the concepts of family, honour, excellence, humility, feminine charm and intrigue, but it represents something of a rite of passage to me. I was in my mid-teens when I got to it... later than most, but I think I appreciate it more than my friends who learned it at a younger age.

The phone post is in Cantonese because that's the way I learned it and that's the way it sounds most natural to me. =) Any takers for a Mandarin recital? Don't make me pick someone! =D

And I am purposely not acknowledging Disney. We're not talking about that.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 30th, 2005 04:37 am (UTC)
Wow. That's so pretty. I'm going to try it in Mandarin once I get it changed to the short form. I never got around to learning it in school.
May. 30th, 2005 03:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks =)

There's a short form?
May. 30th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC)
*doh* I meant in 简体字, as opposed to 繁体字.
May. 30th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC)
Oh... =)
May. 31st, 2005 02:54 am (UTC)
For some reason I can't download it right now but I'll try again tomorrow, I'd really like to hear it. GO CANTONESE.

On a totally unrelated topic, have you ever heard Nessun Dorma by Puccini? I think either Pavarotti or Andrea Bocelli used it as a finale piece at concerts. Sarah Brightman sang it too but I don't like her version as much although I do like hearing it done with a soprano voice. At any rate, one of my (female) friends is singing it for our grad recital on Sunday and holy cow it sounds awesome, it goes up to a Bb at the end.

I don't know why I'm telling you this. Probably because you're the only person I know on LJ who would appreciate it. :P
May. 31st, 2005 04:34 am (UTC)
I LOVE Nessun Dorma. I collect every Prince Calaf there ever was! =D I like Ben Heppner's and Placido Domingo's, never really been a fan of Pavarotti's voice.

And, yes, that last "Vincero!" is a doozy. If your friend can hit it, that's just amazing. =D
Jun. 1st, 2005 01:10 am (UTC)
Mm, I'd like to hear Ben Heppner singing Nessun Dorma. I can't seem to find an mp3 to download, unfortunately.

And yes, my friend can hit it. Can she EVER hit it. I mean, I could hit it too but it'd be pretty weak and strained sounding, but she belts it out like it's nothing.

When we get the recital CDs I'll see if I can rip the track and send it to you, it'll be worth listening to.
Jun. 1st, 2005 01:35 am (UTC)
Ooo, that would be great =) I've never heard a soprano voice singing it before.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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