The Red Cockatoo – Po Chu-I – Comments

The Red Cockatoo

Sent as a present from Annam –
A red cockatoo,
Coloured like the peach-tree blossom,
Speaking with the speech of men.
And they did with it what is always done
To the learned and the eloquent:
They took a cage with stout bars
And shut it up inside.

Po Chu-I (772 -846)
Translated by Arthur Waley

Annam – the southernmost province of China

This eight line Chinese poem is divided into two distinct components each of four lines. I would prefer to see a blank line between the change to give sufficient pause. A distinct image is taken and presented to the reader. A present from a foreign land, a spectacular bird visually and red being so appropriate to the theme of the poem. And a bird that relates to mankind – speaking with the speech of men –this line is the link to second part.

The outcome of the gift is stated – what happens to the bird, what happens to the words of the learned and the eloquent. Mankind suppresses and the gift is caged and is not appreciated and freedom lost. This simple poem makes a powerful statement so often defining the unfortunate plight of mankind but hopefully not what is always done. I am reminded on what happened to Nelson Mandela.

Some information on Po Chu-I – apparently he tested the accessibility of his work by ensuring it was understood when presented to an old country woman … see the following …

and another Blog Site on this poem …

Your word in my ear ...

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