Subject:Re: Translation of an inscription
Posted By: rat Wed, Apr 05, 2017
This is exactly the sort of thing I wish was more common on this forum, so thank you for posting!
This is part of an undated album of floral paintings in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington. The full album can be seen here: https://learninglab.si.edu/resources/view/373057
A cropped version of this image appeared on the cover of the first edition of James Cahill's 1960 book on Chinese painting. Is the translation his? My sense of the first line is more along the lines of: "the multitude of stems and leaves all organize themselves (somehow); fresh and tender or dry and dessicated, they all strive to grow."
I wonder if that's meant as observation of society, and if so whether it reflects admiration of an order Xu perceived (Confucian perhaps?), or whether it is a personal comment by a painter who was mentally ill and felt detached from society. If so it seems relatively optimistic in tone given the tortured life Xu seems to have experienced.
But in fact your transcription and translation leave out the last clause of his poem: 是晴是雨凭人猜, which means something like "whether it's clear or rainy is up to us to decide." What do you make of that?
I imagine that someone studying Xu has narrowed down the period during which this could have been painted and looked at events in his life around that time for clues as to the meaning of the poems in this album, but of course we have no way of being certain of anything.
The full poem is: