「急思廣溢」新解 What is Cang Tou Shi?

白雲詩社開張伊始,先是攝影師張炳乾很快找出一張很有「白雲」意味的攝影作品出來,然後美編田甜就出個題給詩社主力元曦說:寫首「白雲詩社」藏頭詩加到照片上去?

這點小活兒,簡直太難不倒咱家大詩人元曦了。一會兒功夫(其實我忘了到底有多久了),藏頭詩就出來了,浩浩蕩蕩的,跟她的一貫風格一樣:

白茫茫神遊太古
雲蒼蒼浩歌九天
詩成兮清風朗月
社結兮高會諸仙

詩配上圖,很快更新臉書照片,然後……

然後我的問題就來了:這藏頭詩是咱的「社詩」一樣,不翻成英文怎麼成?可是,藏頭詩翻成英文,還能「藏頭」嗎?我不敢想,心想,可能挺多就是把那四個字,每行嵌進去一個,是不是馬馬虎虎也算「藏頭」了呢?

於是我拍拍腦袋努力想,想了這麼個結果出來:

In Appreciation of The White Cloud Poetry Society

Within a vast white realm, our spirit traverses back to the origins of  time

Surrounded by an ocean of clouds, our poetic endeavors reach to the heavens

Upon completion of our writings, we find the breeze so cool, the moon so bright

As a society of poets, we aspire to catch a glimpse of life deep within the highest of mountains.

然後就覺得,可以了吧?好歹白雲詩社 (White Cloud Poetry Society)這四個字我都塞進去了?

於是起身去做早飯。一邊做一邊想:爲何不再試試,能不能把它整成一首真正的藏頭詩呢?

於是我就在腦子裏把那些詞搬來搬去的,搬到最後,嘿!真給我搬順了!就是這樣:

In Appreciation of The White Cloud Poetry Society

White realms vast, our hearts traversing back to the origins of  time

Cloud to oceans surrounding us, our poetic endeavors reaching to the heavens

Poetry now completed, we find a cool breeze with the moon so bright

Society of poets, we aspire to catch a glimpse of life upon the highest of mountains.

正要興奮的趕快把這個「成果」打到電腦上,突然聽到一陣異響,低頭一看:不好,一鍋南瓜粥全撲出來了!

當我把這張粥撲出來的照片發到小組平臺上給大家看時,元曦冷不丁來了句:「這就叫『急思廣溢』!」

大家一起哄笑,只有我弱弱地說:「還『急思』呢,我怎麼覺得自己那麼像苦香菱呢?」

 圖:郭慕熙工筆仕女畫《香菱覓句》Photo: A Chinese painting of Xiang Liang by Guo Muxi

圖:郭慕熙工筆仕女畫《香菱覓句》Photo: A Chinese painting of Xiang Liang by Guo Muxi

What is "Cang Tou Shi"? "Cang" is the Chinese word for "to hide", or "hidden". "Tou" means at the beginning. "Shi" is the Chinese word for poetry and poem. So "Cang Tou Shi" can be translated as "Hidden Word Poetry". It can be regarded as the Chinese version for acrostic. The difference is, while with "acrostic", certain letters in each line form a word or words, in  "Cang Tou Shi", every first word of the poem form a meaningful phrase, or a sentence. 

In Chinese language, there are no letters. Every single word/character stands alone and means something. So, putting every first word of each line of a poem together, they mean something else.

Well, now let's show everyone an example of Cang Tou Shi. 

The other day, Yuan Xi, a poet from the White Cloud Poetry Society, wrote a Cang Tou Shi to celebrate the creation of the society. When trying to translate it into English, I first thought, "How can I translate a Cang Tou Shi into English and still keep the interesting 'Cang Tou' form? I think I can only try to put the four words for White Cloud Poetry Society in each line at the most."

So I thought hard and came up with something like this:

In Appreciation of The White Cloud Poetry Society

Within a vast white realm, our spirit traverses back to the origins of  time

Surrounded by an ocean of clouds, our poetic endeavors reach to the heavens

Upon completion of our writings, we find the breeze so cool, the moon so bright

As a society of poets, we aspire to catch a glimpse of life deep within the highest of mountains.

I felt quite relieved and happy as I attempted to put the "White Cloud Poetry Society" in each line. So, I went on with cooking my breakfast. 

And then I thought to myself, "Why not try harder to make it a real Cang Tou Shi?"

So I moved these words around in each and every way in my mind, and really did it! So this is what you see on our website now:

In Appreciation of The White Cloud Poetry Society

White realms vast, our hearts traversing back to the origins of  time

Cloud to oceans surrounding us, our poetic endeavors reaching to the heavens

Poetry now completed, we find a cool breeze with the moon so bright

Society of poets, we aspire to catch a glimpse of life upon the highest of mountains.

I became so excited for having really worked it out, but only to find, alas! The pumpkin porridge I was cooking had spilled over and made a mess!

When sharing this story to Yuan Xi, she jokingly said, "Ha, this is what we call 'Think Fast, Spill Widely' in that idiom 'Ji Si Guang Yi'."

"Ji Si Guang Yi" is actually a very commonly used Chinese idiom meaning "to go gather everyone's thoughts and wisdom to benefit more people". 

So, by replacing two characters in that idiom with two other characters with exactly the same pronunciation, Yuan Xi made it into meaning "Think Fast, Spill Widely" to laugh about my situation. I think this is a very clever way of playing around with words. No wonder she is such an outstanding poet! While teasing me about spilling my porridge, she also praised my quick wit. 

And I said, "Oh, no, I felt more like a Xiang Ling!"

And who is Xiang Ling? Well, she is a character in perhaps THE greatest Chinese novel "Dream of the Red Chamber" in Chinese history. Although born into a good family, she was kidnapped as a child and sold to the Xue family and was often mistreated.

However, although she was a half-slave and half "concubine", she was known for her painstaking endeavors to learn how to compose poems, and to become a poet like all the other beautiful and talented girls at the Grand View Garden. She worked so hard that she often forgot about everything else, and often got teased by those clever ones.

Well, when racking my brain so hard to work out my first "Cang Tou Shi", I really did feel like being Xiang Ling for a moment, clumsy and but trying hard!