Song of maidens and a youth.

Collected by Wang Ming-ji.


The heading and the brief explanation supplied by Wang Ming-ji before each section of this song, make the general theme clear. However the poetic imagery employed needs a little more elucidation.

The expression "spread bundles of wheat" is a convention meaning "repertoire of songs". It is in fact a picture drawn from the wheat harvest. The "bundles" are large handfuls of stalks. Ten such handfuls make up a sheaf. When the crop had been harvested, the bundles were brought home and laid out in the sun. A note in the Miao text explains, "the guestís songs were numerous like bundles of wheat laid out to dry". In translating the first section, "bundles of wheat" has been expanded into "songs, like bundles of wheat", but in the second section the simple word "songs" has been used to avoid the mixed simile, permissible in Miao, but not in English, namely, "a flock of bundles of wheat scattering and disappearing behind the hill!"

In the third section the reference to a mushroom seems to mean, that though its roots are insignificant it none the less produces a plant, but the young man, despite much greater incentives, has failed to produce any songs. The fan is a reference to the underside of the mushroom.

The name the girls give themselves, translated "early maids", is a repudiation of the young manís aspersion that they had lingered so long over their evening meal that there was no time for songs.

The porcupines which got away were the songs which, for all their endeavours, the girls were unable to coax forth.

Literal Transcription

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