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On Chao's Two Poems [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2015-4-6 11:54:19 |Display all floors
by Xinyan Zhong


Russel Compared Life to a River


Russel compared life to a river
narrow at first, running wider and wider
until it merges in the sea
I tell my students I somehow disagree
though most of them like this analogy

I share the story of my son's childhood
who was friendly to everybody
old and young, poor and rich
as if we were all but one family


He would go up to a rubbish collector
addressing him grandpa with his toy
or he would go down to a beggar
greeting her auntie with his pocket money

I was again and again impressed
by his kind, open and broad heart
Compared with a child
people of my age are just shabby--
we are always on watch
and have made this world strange

My students begin to nod their heads
and they have also realized
human hearts become more and more narrow
more and more closed
as they have grown and grown
and known and known...


Before I start my comments about this poem, I should say that I really appreciate Russell’s analogy of life. But after reading it I feel convinced by Chao. Reflecting carefully and deeply upon these two contrary analogies, I have come  up with my own conclusions that both Russell and Chao are such perceptive writers that their thoughts are reasonable. Actually they have reflected upon different aspects of mankind’s living. Russell said that life is like a river, narrow at first running wider and wider, until it merges in the sea. I agree to that because we are actually born with nothing else but ourselves. Our life at the very beginning is narrow. We don’t have any thinking ability, experience, emotions, relationships, and whatever we’ll possess later in our life. Life at this stage is empty but totally brand-new. But the people we meet and then get along with, every big decision we’ve made, everything we get or lose, every moment’s emotion we inspire and every reflection upon ourselves will decide where we should go. During those salad days we may care those things which we would call them “trifles” when we are old enough to look back upon our life tracks. This is what we call “growing up”. It is a wonderful process that we may possess more and more in knowledge and materials. We gradually grow up physically and mentally until we perish, disppearing into the unknown void. So what Russell talked about could be called the “mind” rather than the heart.

Now let me turn to Chao’s points of views. “Human hearts become more and more narrow/ more and more closed/ as they have grown and grown/ and known and known...” I do appreciate this- Chao has mentioned his son "who was ever friendly to everybody/ the old and the young, the poor and the rich/ whoever they are. It is prejudice and the fixed mode of thinking we’ve been taught and infused with that makes our heart limited. The prejudice comes from the class identification and consciousness which are inevitable in the capitalist society. As for the fixed mode of thinking, it is well known that children’s imaginations are always considered as the most boundless but the worldly education and cultivation given to them  has restricted its development during their growing up and the devaluation of self-awareness which means they are trying to be the same as others , otherwise they’ll be considered as outsiders. The word “outsider” I use, I simply mean  that not only the education system but the whole social framework embracing us welcomes the “insiders” but is hostile to those “outsiders” because rules and laws are fixed to regulate us rather than release us. It can be concluded that “Common fame is seldom to blame.” From the analysis above I’ve concluded that what Chao was concerned with is people’s heart.

Dutiful Children

at midnight
their past parents
appeared in their dreams
they got up
cracked some fireworks
or burnt some ghost money
made of cheap paper
then returned to sleep
again with relief
as if their parents
were satisfied


It is a really simple but ironic poem especially its title named “Dutiful Children”. Dutiful means doing everything that you are expected to do. But it raises a question that are cracking some fireworks or burning some ghost money which is made of cheap paper the way to show one’s obedience or piety to their parents? Should these children really be described as “dutiful”? I don’t know whether it is a tradition in western countries but I know it is in China. Every Tomb-Sweeping Day Chinese families will worship their ancestors or the passed relatives. When I was still a little girl, I was taken to the ancestors’ tombs where I would not like to go in order to pay tributes to them. The polluted air caused by the fire crackers and the long-lasting process was always making me feel sick. I like the last part of the poem “then returned to sleep/ again with relief/ as if their parents were satisfied.” It makes a strong contrast with the description in the first part where I can see now these “dutiful” children do this only to make themselves feel released rather than pay a devout tribute to their parents. Through this poem I can feel that various ceremonies in human society actually show its vulnerability and hypocrisy, as we need symbols and marks to keep the memory alive and seek comforts from those that would not exist. It is no use at all. The real tribute is memorizing by your own heart instead of hosting lots of ceremonies. And what is important is to cherish and value those still alive. It is what makes the dead “feel” delighted and comforted.




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