Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On Love and Marriage: Western vs. Eastern

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931), famous Lebanon American poet and writer, wrote about marriage in his 1923 book The Prophet:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Six centuries earlier, a witty female Chinese poet and writer Guan DaoShen管道昇 (1262~1319) wrote the following famous poem when she was 40+ to her husband Zhao MengFu 趙孟頫,one of the greatest Chinese painters and calligraphers, about love and commitment. According to the legend, with this poem, she persuaded her husband not to acquire concubines which was a common practice of the time. Here it is with my English translation.

我儂詞 Sweetheart

你儂我儂, You and I,
忒煞情多, Deeply in loved so much so,
Fired till we glow.

把一塊泥, Take a gob of mud,
Make a doll of you,
And a doll of me.

Take the dolls, break them to lumps,
Knead them with water to make,
Another doll of you,
Another doll of me.

You are in me,
And I am in you.
In life we share one blanket,
In death one casket.

The contrast of the two poems and insight can not be more striking, don’t you think?

By the way, a well-known Chinese composer Lee BaoZhen 李抱忱(1907-1979) wrote, based on this poem, a wonderful song called You and I (你儂我儂). Here is a recent performance of it in a college event in Taiwan. Enjoy and talk to you soon!

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