Saturday, February 26, 2005

"O Bloody Times"

Montse Kunda Palden (1408-1475?)

Little is known to Westerners about the life of Kunda Palden except that he was a lineage holder in one of the Kagyu sects. His handwritten biography is considered an interesting document, according to E. Gene Smith, who found his literary style, "graceful and his verse demonstrates a mastery of the idiom of folk poetry." Smith includes the full translation of a song about the 1434 civil war among the tribes of Utang as an example of his "exquisite poetic style." (Smith 50)

* * *

In the Tiger year (1434) when I was twenty- seven.
The phag mo gry pa troubeld times erupted.
The levies of the armies of Dbu and Gtsang
In a large sense divided Dol and Gzhung in two.
The route of March for both the great Army
And the Gtsang Army came through Ba ri rsang.

All the houses and homesteads were put to the torch;
The farming settlements were turned into cattle enclosures.
All the subservient were slaughtered on the knife;
Ordinary folk were turned into beggars.

The powerful slew and were slain by the sword;
The weak perished upon the knife of hunger;
Villager was thrashing villager. At such a time,
Ties of father and son and brother and brother were of no consequence.

Back and forth raged bitter feuds and defil ing vendettas.
No wergeld was extracted for the slaughter of men;
No pursuit was organized to follow the looted property.
Time passed in looting, banditry, and murder.

Who cared whoever wandered and strayed?
The pasturage dried up, the fields be came drying
Whatever small fortune there had been in the sun
in the center
At that time was bleeding out.

When I think of the suffering experienced
By sentient creatures at that time,
Even now the memory of it almost makes me weep.

Translated by E. Gene Smith

Oh pitious spectacle, O Bloody Times
While Lion won the battle for their den
Poor harmless lambs abide the enmity
Weep wretched man; I'll aid the tear for tear
And let our hearts and eyes, like civil war,
Be blind with tears and break o'er charged with grief.

from Henry IV, Wm Shakespeare