Miao Yüeh on the Chinese lyric

november 27, 2012

“Stirring, heroic sentiments are appropriate to oratory, where the purpose is to rouse a crowd to immediate action. In regular verse, which is written to be intoned and enjoyed at leisure, to be mulled over several times, and in lyric verse, where sophistication, refinement and restraint are prized above all, passion and vehemence must be tempered with tenderness and deep sincerity. Passion is aroused by momentary moral indignation, whereas deep sincerity is the product of daily cultivation. Passion resembles the bravery of the common soldier, whereas deep sincerity is the higher courage that stems from love towards humanity. Since the days of old, the great exemplars of loyalty and chivalry, who in their love for motherland and people braved danger and remained unflinching to the end, always drew on the strength of their deep self-cultivation. They never relied solely on their exuberance and animal spirits. It is the achievement of the greatest literary creations that they are able by the skillful use of subtly beautiful language to express this deep inner sincerity. Literature that is noisy, self-publicizing, superficial and propagandist cannot be held in high esteem.”

(Miao Yüeh 繆越, “The Chinese Lyric 論詞”. Translated by John Minford. In Soong ed., Song Without Music: Chinese Tz’u Poetry, p. 41.)

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