Prologue to Lessons of Change

Prologue to Lessons of Change

for King Wen, circa 1151-1143 B.C.E. – with seven mind-bending kowtows

There where you had no occasion for play
    There in your confined Ming I space
Where change wrought no change
                                              in your fate
But for those plagued by your linear grouping games

Where before the fall from your embroidered gardens
   the lavender embossed bowl to dip your fingers in
       the enamelled daïs that spurned the kowtows
            the cloistered summer watering palace
                the decorative duck pond
                     the turtle and dove court
where dainty demure mincing concubines
    under dispassionate eunuch eyes
         stroked and tickled the mandolin strings of their Lord’s heart
Where time sailed through Flying Dutchman seas
    at the serene centre of Qian’s mundane realm

Even what drops from the sky may hit the ocean bed
   and so stamped under in your tyrant’s dungeons
       with your retinue and court
Where each faked their fate in psychotic delusions
   simulating as it were
The neurotico-schizophrenic passage in another dimension
There where you bought a little time
Time enough to fashion a play
               A game of change
A game that never really changes
Even if your son the Duke of Chou
And the Master expositor Kung
      paved your broken and unbroken lines in words
  from which no man may return

Where the longest dialogue you began
  becomes seems a polyalogue among some
          or all
Who have gone beyond the hexagram wall
And those who await the inexorable call
Where speech is ambiguous
                          to say the least
In eight by eight cyclic situations
Though someone YOU maybe ME seems to be saying
Take heed ! all this’s a mess
The Truth
Might not it be hidden in the lines
       and in the lines alone
and not in the words

Take them down one by one
And build them up again
Note the beginning and the end
And the correspondances of change
Put the judgments of my son
And the wordy attributions to Kung
Especially those from the young Wang Bi
On either side of the hexagram
What is claimed for the Superior Man
Is within the reach of every clan
Measure the lines in or out of tune
The trigrams from whence
The inner ones note hence
Think on them but once
Or only now and then
                  for the nonce
This’s all I have to say
Though others may make much of the Way
Think not on what I have said
More than it takes to put paid

                                  O ! Great Royal Sage !
Are there not behind these lines
   Three or four bearded lords, nay sages
Who drive terror into those who gaze
   Day and night into their wizened faces !

© T. Wignesan, May 20, 1987 (rev. 2011, from the collection: Lessons of Change, 1987)

Leave a comment