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148. Song Yu Mourns Autumn
- Qiliang mode 2 : 2 4 5 6 1 2 3
Song Yu Bei Qiu
Song Yu mourns: Jiu Bian illustration
Song Yu was a well-known poet in the state of Chu during the third century BCE. He is commonly said to have been a nephew of Qu Yuan, but no reliable biographical information is available. Several poems in the Chu Ci are attributed to him. The set called Jiu Bian begins as follows (Hawkes' translation5),
In his preface David Hawkes says Jiu Bian begins as a
As the original afterword to the qin melody of 1525 makes clear, it follows the same ideas as the Chu Ci poem.
Laments on autumn were to become a common theme in Chinese poetry.6
The music detailed in Xilutang Qintong is notable for the way it repeats and develops several distintive phrases ending on the relative note re, but then usually reverts to la at the end of each section (though the whole melody ends on re). The modal characteristics are mentioned further below.
Original afterword 7
Song Yu of Chu had talent but lost his will; he was not in tune with his times. When he felt the autumn air he sighed in mourning. Later people accordingly applied this to the qin.
00.00 1. Sad is the autumn air (I.02)
00.39 2. I have left home and traveled far (II.03)
01.89 3. I only lament the chills of autumn (III.02)
02.06 4. Heaven's flooding brings autumn rain (IV.17)
02.40 5. Phoenixes soar high in the sky (V.10)
03.22 6. Frost, dew and grief mix as they descend together (VI.01)
03.52 7. In old age I am alone and homeless (VIII.16)
04.37 8. I fear the fields have become full of weeds (X.10)
05.16 (harmonic coda) I let my wandering soul soar into the clouds (XI.02)
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)
Song Yu Mourns Autumn (宋玉悲秋 Song Yu Bei Qiu)
7230.63 has only 宋玉 Song Yu, with details about him.
11088.35 悲秋 bei qiu refers to 九辯 Jiu Bian then two later poems, by 杜甫 Du Fu and 劉兼 Liu Jian. As for 悲 bei by itself, it might also be translated as "gets emotional about" - for this understanding of 悲 bei see also under Mozi Bei Ge as well as an article by Ronald Egan showing that bei can refer not just to the common meaning of sadness, but to the emotion one is feeling when something is so beautiful it brings tears to the eyes.
Qiliang Mode (涼調 Qiliang Diao)
For qiliang tuning, from standard tuning raise the 2nd and 5th strings. As discussed under Shenpin Qiliang Yi and Modality in early Ming qin tablature, the main tonal center in this mode is usually re, secondarily la. Here the main tonal center through most of the sections is re, but the sections usually end on la. The last section ends even more strongly on la, but then the harmonic coda is centered on re from beginning to end.
Tracing Song Yu Bei Qiu
Zha Guide 22/196/-- lists it in seven handbooks, but the latter six are unrelated melodies using standard tuning; the present melody can be found only here in 1525.
Standard Tuning Song Yu Bei Qiu
Zha Guide 22/196/-- lists seven melodies with this title but these comprise two musically unrelated pieces, the one from 1525 using qiliang tuning and six standard tuning ones published between 1689 and 1876. Added to these latter should be two related zhi mode melodies called Bei Qiu, published earlier but which the Guide lists separately. These eight melodies are then as follows:
None of these tablatures has any commentary other than the brief attributions mentioned here.
Nine Changes (九辨 Jiu Bian)
This poem from Chu Ci is translated as Nine Changes by David Hawkes (see Songs of the South, pp.207-219). Hawkes says Nine Arguments or Nine Disputes might seem a better translation; he chose Nine Changes as a title "borrowed from legend; and in the legend Jiu Bian has the sense of musical changes or 'modes'." Another translation is Nine Apologies (see Xu Yuanzhong, Poetry of the South; Changsha, Hunan Publishing Co., 1992). 2The original did not have sections indicated. Hawkes divides it into eleven, "following mainly the rhymes, the sense and my own intuition". Other editions may break it into nine or ten sections.
Translation by David Hawkes
As arranged in Hawkes, Songs of the South, Penguin, p.209, the first 10 lines are as follows:
Hawkes' translation sets out the poem in 257 lines. The original is not divided into sections but Hawkes divides it into 11 "following mainly the rhymes, the sense nd my own intuition". The complete text is easily found online.
For another qin setting of an autumn lament see Qiusheng Fu.
Original section titles
Not yet online, but see the Bai Yunli illustrations as well as the footnote below.
Aligning the section titles with Song Yu's poem
The poem/line reference numbers used here are based on the Penguin translation Songs of the South by David Hawkes, which divided it into 11 sections. The illustrations by 白雲立 Bai Yunli are based on a set of nine by the scholar artist 門應兆 Men Yingzhao (active during 1736-1795). Men's illustrations were originally published in 欽定補繪蕭雲從離騷全圖 Qinding Bu hui Xiao Yuncong Li Sao Quantu, The Imperially Ordered Complete Illustrations of Li Sao Supplementing the Sketches by Xiao Yuncong. See details under Chu Ci.
The original Chinese lines selected as titles are:
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