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Song Maocheng’s Matrixes of Mourning and Regret

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Through the many poems of loss and commemorative essays in the collected works of  Song Maocheng (1569-1620), we can discern three matrixes of association among the author and his deceased loved ones: (1) a patrilineal matrix in which the salient theme is the rupture or felt-failure of paternal and avuncular care and guidance of male children in the patriline; (2) a female-domestic matrix in which losses engendered feelings of guilt, either for partial responsibility in the deaths or for inability to properly recompense female care and self-sacrifice within the household; and (3) a female-sensual matrix in which the loss of feminine sympathy, comfort, and beauty—whether to death or to parting—dominate the aesthetic. 
 These three matrixes overlap in the wife’s roles as maternal perpetuator of the patriline, preserver of household harmony and resources, and loving, devoted spouse. The centrality of the wife’s role is reflected most strikingly in the long, moving “Elegy, with Preface” that Song wrote for his first wife, née Yang, who died in Song’s absence shortly after giving birth to his first son in the third year of their marriage. Despite remarriage and the acquisition of multiple concubines, Song also wrote several sets of poems in memory of his first wife, who entered his dreams for many years after her death.

Affiliations: 1: Indiana University, Bloomington


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