The Muses Hide in Melodies

by on Tuesday, 04 September 2012 3515 hits Comments
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Translated from the Chinese by Conor Stuart

Everyone, whether to a greater extent or a lesser, has a few melodies or a few lines of poetry which come to mind easily, without a deliberate effort to chase them out; they slip out at just the right moment, nurturing us.

A poem or a song, in context, can become a lover, or a confidante, you understand them, they understand you, and nothing can come between you.

Six lovers of poetry, six songs each with its own story, each revealing a different aspect of life. Then, may we think, is poetry so much farther removed from our laughter or our tears than song?

Moments Musicaux - Yuqiao, 'Persevere and keep on living'.

What are the ‘moments’ that the French term ‘moments musicaux’ refers to? It’s like a piece of seawood tightly knotted on a skewer being suddenly whipped off the skewer, a moment that’s extremely hard to come by.

When I listened to the opera Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell, there was an aria towards the end called ‘When I am laid in earth’, whenever Susan Graham sang the words ‘remember me’, it was like a skewer piercing my knotted heart was suddenly ripped out and my chest was released, blood dribbling from the wound. Despite the pain of the bleeding wound, the feeling of release in my chest was soothing, the moments musicaux are as bitter-sweet as Sappho once described eros.

Once I was out window shopping, and I heard a song playing on the speakers, it sounded like the typical pop music song, so I didn’t take much notice, it was quite noisy where I was, so I couldn’t really hear the lyrics. To my surprise, a little while later, the music was suddenly turned up, and everyone seemed to go quiet as if by some sort of common consensus, the line ‘learning how to persevere’ was crystal clear, it was as if the bicycle jammed in the river spirit’s body, in Spirited Away had suddenly come loose, letting forth a tide of rubbish into Yubaba’s baths. I hurried over to ask the owner what the song was called, and only then found out that it was Stephanie Sun’s ‘My Love'

Or readers in Mainland China can listen here

Song: My Love

Performed by Stephanie Sun

Lyrics: Xiaohan

Music: Lin Yixin


Winding along mountain roads, already tired now

To stay or go, how can I choose

The pretty shell I picked up last year

My heart doesn’t understand how rare this is

I thought living simply, could soothe the beating of my heart

But I forgot what I was running from

My Love is clearly still there, only looking back do I understand

We should go find the happiness we once had, not just think back fondly on the past

On the coast

I wait for the tide to change to bring you back

The way you walk, your smile

The true love I unwittingly missed


Is this the benevolent plan of the heavens

To make our hearts stronger To bring us closer

True love

My Love is clearly still there, only looking back do I understand

We should go find the happiness we once had, not just think back fondly on the past

On the coast

I wait for the tide to change I learn to persevere

I don’t fear getting hurt now, I don’t fear my expectations

Only when you love unwittingly is it real love

The way you walk, your smile

Only when you love unwittingly is it real love


Anyi, 32 year old office worker ﹣ White Collar Depression finds it’s voice in fantasy

In my office building I like the landings between the stairs the most. Normally everyone uses the elevator, the area between the stairs is used to smoke, to eat, to tune out, to chat, or to hide. Work starts at 8.30, but normally I get there ten minutes early to sit and eat between the stairs. Even in summer the landings were out of the sun and quite cool. While we’re working the fire alarm sounds from time to time, but most people continue sitting without reacting, waiting for the secretary to rack her brains trying to work out if it was really a fire or not.

‘Why isn’t it a real fire?’ I would think every time. If it really went up in flames, maybe I would get a day off work. If the fire burned quickly, consuming the documents, the computers, the filing cabinets, then there would be nothing to do the next day, the only thing we’d have to do is flee from the fire using the stairs.

In the process of this there would be a ghostly band singing: I don’t want to work, I despise work, I hate work, Why do I have to work… The rhythm of this song was clear and it’s melody was dull, it matched, by chance, the sound of footsteps, the stairway extended endlessly upwards in line with their song, making it impossible to get to the end. The ghostly sounds faded gradually in the dense smoke, in the end, we too were devoured by the flames… Isn’t that a horrible ending?

Unfortunately the fire alarms are always a false alarm, nothing has really happened, we never get any holidays for it. So I put on my headphones and listen to this song ‘Our company wants to lay three hundred people off'.

Readers in Mainland China can listen here.


Song: Our company wants to lay three hundred people off

Performed by Nicole

Music and Lyrics by Lin A.P


The tide of lay-offs is coming again

I hear this time its going to be 300 cases

but the staff’s state of mind has already changed

Now they’re worried if they’re not on the list

Or worried that the lay-offs are just a rumour

The employees are scared they won’t be able to cash in on their dreams

They all want to escape the demonic corporate grip

They don’t want to stay here much longer

They want to leave and get a month’s compensation for their trouble

In the job three years but the salary is only raised to 10000 dollars per month

The company is buzzing

Every day to the early hours

In all the nooks and crannies of the stairs

there is a four piece band

like ghosts

but the song is moving

the chorus

goes like this:

‘I want you to lay me off

I want you to lay me off

But you always lay off the wrong person

The people you lay off are all good

I want you to lay me off

I want you to lay me off

But you always lay off the wrong person

I’m the one in the company who should really be laid off


Xiao yi The worst kind of love story in which boys and girls don’t hold hands

The girl always remembered, when with a certain ambivalence she faced her 17th birthday, the boy bought a cake for her as a prank, insisting on wishing her happy birthday at the school gate in the morning to make her feel awkward. Their bodies couldn’t have been held further apart when they hugged in parting, but it didn’t stop one of her instructors from interrogating her at length when he saw them at the gate.

Many years later, he’d already become a captivating woman, the stories of his on and off relationships with those men were the all related in the girl’s company. The two of them, inseperable since puberty, were always confused for lovers. I remember when I first met them, I guessed that the girl might have once thought there could be something more between them. Just like the 2005 hit‘A Boy Like You’ by unconventional and talented lyricist Huang Weiwen from Hong Kong, Fiona Sit, not yet 25 years old sang with such frankness, as if pushing a boy for an answer as to why, why she could only ever be like a sister to him?

Fiona Sit version

Viewers in Mainland China listen here

The girl and the boy drift back into my line of sight again, I hear them talking about their plans to go swim, the girl wants to to introduce her new boyfriend to him. In an instant I remembered that there was another version of the song by Chet Lam and Miriam Yeung, the two of them give off a sisterly air to the performance, but they tease each other about other possibilities, at the end wishing happiness for each other.

Looking at the two of them as they depart, perhaps along the way they’ve clashed or mistrusted one another, but without doubt, the present is the happiest ending for the story.

Chet Lam and Miriam Yeung version

Viewers in Mainland listen here

Song: A Boy Like You


Performed by Fiona Sit/Chet Lam, Miriam Yeung

Lyrics by Wyman Wong

Music by Jone Chui


The boys who take me out normally give flowers

There’s no-one like you who plants them himself

But boys like you, won’t take me for a bride

Boys, can they be as tender as you?

Can they understand when I get sentimental?

But do boys like you, only love your own kind?

What if, at this moment, you and I just be honest

Think about it, picking someone is just about who you’re most suited to

You’ll say it’s about fate

You and I are actually pretty close, but the guy will always be closer

Good friends or sisters don’t talk about love

They don’t hold hands They don’t kiss

But they can accompany you for life

I ask you, who you’ll see home at the end of the night

I believe it would be me

but I know in my heart that boys like you

don’t want to start a love affair with girls

We talk and laugh, talking about TV shows and fashion

Even if we miss out on the happy-ever-after

But stumbling along together, we can still help one another

Inviting each other out to pass the lonely nights together

The winter chill comes, so why do you hug him first

Then it’s only when you look back that you think of shielding me from the snow

You’re portioning off a little bit of the sweetness to me

If you had never met him

Would our friendship have turned into love?

Could you get into the moment with your eyes closed?

It’s like the worst love story in the world

I’m the one for you

Even though what’s between us now is more or less like love,

there’s still no way to be more romantic than brother and sister

We go on dates together, drink tea and chat

You say our relationship is better than the one you have with him,

whiling away the days together

Why is he the one who takes the throne

But I’m the one who’s always there for you





Last modified on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 17:34
Jiahe Lin (林佳禾)

撰述/Writer at 經典雜誌
人籟論辯月刊 前編輯

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