by Feng Zhi | trans. Emily Goedde
Half a month of steady rain
All you have known since birth
is dank and gloom.
Until the day the clouds suddenly disperse
and sunlight soaks the rooms.
I see you in your mother’s mouth
being carried into the sun
to let your lengths,
for the first time, receive light and warmth.
When the sun has set,
she carries you back again. You will not
remember, but this first curtain lifted
will fill your future yelps;
in the deep night, you will bark out light.
Sonnet 23: A few newly born puppies.
From very far away, in the arts and in time, one can reply […] with music by Wagner, the instant that Tristan, to Isolde’s voice, cries out:
What, am I hearing light?—
Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening (trans. Charlotte Mandel)
Feng Zhi (馮至 1905-1993) was a Chinese poet, novelist and essayist as well as highly-acclaimed translator and scholar of German literature, who specialized in Nietzsche, Schiller, Rilke and Goethe. For his work with the German Language, he was awarded the Goethe Medal in 1983. This poem was the 27th and final sonnet from his collection, entitled simply Sonnets 十四行集 from which Sonnets 27 sonnets written in 1941 while he lived in Kunming, China, which was frequently bombed by the Japanese Airforce.
Emily Goedde has a PhD from the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan and an MFA in literary translation from the University of Iowa. She is a literary translator and teaches at the Community College of Philadelphia.