Saturday, June 29, 2002

burnt

I.

British Actor Deported. Steven Berkoff, the British actor, who was scheduled to perform his one-man "Shakespeare's Villains" this week in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Mich., was deported on Tuesday, apparently for a visa violation."It was a nightmare," Mr. Berkoff told The Grand Rapids Press from London. "I have never been prevented from working in America before." Mr. Berkoff was told he had stayed one day past the limit of his 1997 visa, his American agent, Joe Ajlouny, said. via


II.

. . . for the burning bird & her plight . . . though she never burns here . . .

Ch'ienniang was the daughter of Chang Yi, a public official in Hunan province. She had a cousin named Wang Chu, an intelligent and handsome youth. The two cousins had grown up together and since Chang Yi both loved and approved of the boy he said he would accept Wang Chu as his son-in-law. Both young people heard and marked the promise; she was an only child and spent all her time with her cousin; their love grew day by day and the day came when they were no longer children and their relations grew intimate. Unfortunately, her father, Chang Yi, was the only person around who did not notice. One day a young public official asked Chang Yi for his daughter's hand. The father, heedless or forgtful of his earlier promise, consented. Ch'ienniang, torn between love and filial piety, nearly died of grief; the young man fell into such despair that he resolved to leave the district rather than watch his mistress married to another man. He invented some pretext or other and told his uncle that he must go to the capital. When the uncle was unable to dissuade him, he supplied the youth with funds along with some presents and offered him a farewell banquet. In a desperate state, Wang Chu did not leave off moaning throughtout the feast and was more than ever determined to go away rather than persist in a hopeless love affair.

The youth embarked one afternoon; he had sailed only a few miles when night fell. He ordered his sailor to tie up so that they might rest. But Wang Chu could not fall asleep; some time around midnight he heard footsteps approaching. He got up and called out: "Who is it, walking about at this hour of the night?" "I, Ch'ienniang," came the reply. Surprised and overjoyed he brought her aboard. She told him that she had hoped and expected to be his wife, that her father had been unjust and that she could not resign herself to the separation. She had also feared that, finding himself alone in a strange land, he might have been driven to suicide. And so she had defied general disapproval and parental wrath and had now come to follow him wherever he might go. The happily re-united pair thereupon continued the journey on to Szechwan.

Five years of happiness passed, and she bore Wang Chu two children. But there was no news of Ch'ienniang's family and every day she thought of her father. It was the only cloud in their happy sky. She did not know whether or not her parents were still alive; and one night she confessed her anxiety to Wang Chu. Because she was an only daughter she felt guilty of a grave filial impiety, "You have the heart of a good daughter and I sill stand by you," Wand Chu told her. "Five years have passed and they will no longer be angry with us. Let us go home." Chienniang rejoiced and they made ready to go back with their children.


When the ship reached their native city, Wang Chu told Ch'ienniang: "We cannot tell in what state of mind we will find your parents. Let me go on alone to find out." At sight of the house, he could feel his heart pounding. Wang Chu saw his father-in-law, knelt down, made his obeisance, and begged his pardon. Chang Yi gazed upon him with amazement and said: "What are you talking about? For the past five years, Ch'ienniang has been lying in bed, in a coma. She has not gotten up once."

"But I have told you the truth," said Wang Chu. "She is well and awaits us on board the ship."

Chang Yi did not know what to think and sent two maids-in-waiting to see Ch'ienniang. They found her seated aboard ship, beautifully gowned and radiant; she asked them to convey her fondest greetings to her parents. Struck with wonder, the maids-in-waiting returned to the parental house, where Chang Yi's bewilderment increased. Meanwhile, the sick girl had heard the news, and now seemed freed of her ill. There was a new light in her eyes. She rose from her bed and dressed in front of her mirror. Smiling and without a word, she made her way towards the ship. At the same time, the girl on the ship began walking toward the house. The two met on the river-bank. There they embraced and the two bodies merged, so that only one Ch'einniang remained, as youthful and lovely as ever. Her parents were overjoyed, but they ordered the servants to keep quiet, to avoid commentaries.

For more than fory years Wang Chu and Chienniang live together in happiness.


(A tale from the T'ang Dynasty [618-906 A.D.]) found in Extrordinary Tales byBorges/Casares