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Profiles from China   By: (1884-1944)

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First Page:


Sketches in Free Verse of People and Things Seen in the Interior




To My Mother


PROEM The Hand

FROM THE INTERIOR Cormorants A Scholar The Story Teller The Well The Abandoned God The Bridge The Shop My Servant The Feast The Beggar Interlude The City Wall Woman Our Chinese Acquaintance The Spirit Wall The Most Sacred Mountain The Dandy New China: The Iron Works Spring Meditation Chinese New Year

ECHOES Crepuscule Festival of the Dragon Boats Kang Yi Poetics A Lament of Scarlet Cloud The Son of Heaven The Dream FĂȘng Shui

CHINA OF THE TOURISTS Reflections in a Ricksha The Camels The Connoisseur: An American Sunday in the British Empire: Hong Kong On the Canton River Boat The Altar of Heaven The Chair Ride The Sikh Policeman: a British Subject The Lady of Easy Virtue: an American In the Mixed Court: Shanghai


Profiles from China

The Hand

As you sit so, in the firelight, your hand is the color of new bronze. I cannot take my eyes from your hand; In it, as in a microcosm, the vast and shadowy Orient is made visible. Who shall read me your hand?

You are a large man, yet it is small and narrow, like the hand of a woman and the paw of a chimpanzee. It is supple and boneless as the hands wrought in pigment by a fashionable portrait painter. The tapering fingers bend backward. Between them burns a scented cigarette. You poise it with infinite daintiness, like a woman under the eyes of her lover. The long line of your curved nail is fastidiousness made flesh.

Very skilful is your hand. With a tiny brush it can feather lines of ineffable suggestion, glints of hidden beauty. With a little tool it can carve strange dreams in ivory and milky jade.

And cruel is your hand. With the same cold daintiness and skill it can devise exquisite tortures, eternities of incredible pain, that Torquemada never glimpsed. And voluptuous is your hand, nice in its sense of touch. Delicately it can caress a quivering skin, softly it can glide over golden thighs.... Bilitis had not such long nails.

Who can read me your hand? In the firelight the smoke curls up fantastically from the cigarette between your fingers which are the color of new bronze. The room is full of strange shadows. I am afraid of your hand....

From the Interior


The boats of your masters are black; They are filthy with the slimy filth of ages; like the canals on which they float they give forth an evil smell. On soiled perches you sit, swung out on either side over the scummy water you who should be savage and untamed, who should ride on the clean breath of the sea and beat your pinions in the strong storms of the sea. Yet you are not held. Tamely you sit and willingly, ten wretches to a boat, lurching and half asleep.

Around each throat is a ring of straw, a small ring, so that you may swallow only small things, such as your masters desire. Presently, when you reach the lake, you will dive. At the word of your masters the parted waters will close over you and in your ears will be the gurgling of yellow streams. Hungrily you will search in the darkened void, swiftly you will pounce on the silver shadow.... Then you will rise again, bearing in your beak the struggling prey, And your lousy lords, whose rings are upon your throats, will take from you the catch, giving in its place a puny wriggler which can pass the gates of straw. Such is your servitude.

Yet willingly you sit, lurching and half asleep. The boatmen shout one to another in nasal discords. Lazily you preen your great wings, eagle wings, built for the sky; And you yawn....

Faugh! The sight of you sickens me, divers in inland filth! You grow lousy like your lords, For you have forgotten the sea.


A Scholar

You sit, chanting the maxims of Confucius... Continue reading book >>

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