Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Garden Images in the Media - Part 5: Gol Bī Goldūn by Googoosh (1974)

If one studies Persian - as I have been doing for the past year as part of my graduate studies - one will sooner or later encounter Googoosh, the ultimate all-time star of Persian-language pop music and Iranian celebrity par excellence, at least if one goes by the veneration accorded to her by large parts of the Iranian diaspora. Among her many golden oldies is a lovely song titled Gol Bī Goldūn or "Flower Without Vase/Flowerpot" whose lyrics, while ultimately about failed love and betrayal, are structured entirely around horticultural imagery. The relationship between the heartbroken 'I' and the former lover to whom she (or he? - Persian has no grammatical gender, so it is really just the gender of the singer that suggests a feminine voice here) speaks is imagined as that of the lowly, utilitarian flowerpot to the glamorous flower that temporarily takes up residence within it.

می گفتی بی تو ہیچم
با من بمان ہمیشہ
 نباشی من می میرم
گل بی گلدان نمی شود

چہ اشتباہی کردم
حرف تو باور کردم

یک روز سرد پائیز
گلدان تو شکستی
مثل عروس گلہا
تو گلخانہ نشستی

بہار می آید دوبارہ
باز ہم ترا می آورند
مثل گل زینتی
تو  گلخانہ می کارند

باز ہم بہ گلدانت می گوئی
با من بمان ہمیشہ
می گوئی کہ بی تو می میرم
گل بی گلدان نمی شود

چہ اشتباہی می کند
حرف تو  باور می کند

While in transcribing the lyrics in Persian script I followed standard orthography as far as I have been taught, in the transliteration I have tried to reflect the colloquial pronunciation Googoosh uses in singing them; letters elided entirely are in parentheses:

Mī goftī bī to hīcham
Bā man bemūn hamīshe
Nabāshī man mī mīram
Gol bī goldūn nemī she
Che eshtebāhī kardam
Harf-e to bāvar kardam

Yek rūz-e sard-e pāīz
Goldūn-e to shekastī
Mesl-e ‘arūs-e golhā
To golkhūne neshastī

Bahār mī (ā)yad dobāre
Bāz ham toro mī (ā)ran(d)
Mesl-e gol-e zīnatī
To golkhūne mī kāran(d)

Bāz ham be goldūnet mī gūī
Bā man bemūn hamīshe
Mī gūī ke bī to mī mīram
Gol bī goldūn nemī she

Che eshtebāhī mī kone
Harf-e to bāvar mī kone

And here, finally, is my translation of the whole thing:

You were saying, “Without you I am nothing.
Stay with me forever,
If you are not around I will die
Flower without flowerpot, it cannot be.”

What a mistake I made;
I believed your talk.

One cold fall day
You broke your flowerpot;
Like the bride of flowers
You sat down in the greenhouse.

Spring will come again,
They will bring you again,
Like some ornamental flower
They cultivate you in the greenhouse.

Again you will say to your flowerpot,
“Stay with me forever,”
You will say that “without you I will die;
Flower without flowerpot, it cannot be.”

What a mistake he/she will make,
 He/she will believe your talk.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Houseplants New and Old

My parents came to visit me last weekend, and they brought with them a number of my houseplants from last year, which I had taken home to Michigan to summer there while I was traveling and the apartment was rented out to a subletter. So now I am once again on my way to a window sill jungle:

My flourishing Anthurium scandens and assorted other plants

Crown-of-thorn (Euphorbia milii), infant parlour palms (Chamaedorea elegans), and a pink-leaved Syngonium podophyllum

Of course, I had also already begun to accumulate some new plants prior to my parents visit. Chief among these new additions is a cane  or angel wing begonia (Begonia sp.). After producing masses of male flowers and shedding them before they even really opened, it is now unfolding a much smaller number of its somewhat strange-looking female flowers:

Female flowers of my new cane begonia

There is still some space, so logically the collection will keep growing...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Summer Travels 2012 - Part 2: The Master of Nets Garden in Suzhou, China

Things have been really busy here with the beginning of the new semester, so unfortunately this blog has been giving short shrift for the past weeks. As things settle back into a more predictable routine I hope I will do better in days to come. Getting back to my summer adventures, the second of Suzhou's numerous well-known gardens that we visited is the Wǎngshī Yuán 网师园 or Master of Nets Garden. Much smaller than the Garden of the Humble Administrator, this property is even more elegant and intimate and was also much less busy with visitors.

 An entrance hall

The garden is designed as a series of courtyards and enclosed gardens interwoven with the halls and pavilions that make up the house. As a result, it seems much lager than it actually is and offers many pretty views as well as a staggering amount of detail.

Flowing, almost imperceptible transitions between inside and outside... Note the continuation of the cracked ice pattern of the door screens in the paving design

 View across the main pond

Rockery and plantings along one edge of the pond

Picture-book view...

Zigzag bridge!

Like the rest of Suzhou's gardens, this property is generally considered a product of the illustrious Ming Dynasty. However, the first record of the site being developed as a garden estate actually stems from the earlier Song Dynasty and its current appearance was reportedly developed mainly by a series of owners during the later Qing Dynasty. 

In the section of the garden devoted to herbaceous peonies

A diminutive "cave"

A covered walk

More fantastic rocks

The garden's most iconic cluster of buildings

The Master of Nets Garden is further notable as being the model for the Astor Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Installed by Chinese craftsmen in 1980, partially as a symbol and celebration of improving relations between China and the US, this centerpiece of the museum's exhibits of Asian art aims to recreate a Ming Dynasty garden courtyard and is closely based on the Late Spring Studio Courtyard at the Master of Nets Garden.

Section of the Late Spring Studio Courtyard that inspired the Astor Court at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art

Coincidentally, the MET also currently has an exhibition entitled "Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats" which "explores the rich interactions between pictorial and garden arts in China across more than one thousand years". You can check the website for more details here. The exhibition runs until January 6, so if you happen to be in New York City during that time, go and check it out!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012