Response to Li Qingzhao’s “Drunk in the Shade of Flowers”

Long before honey bees flew
Magnolia trees grew
Offering up blooms
x     Moon-white waxy
For wayward beetles

The May holiday weekend
Petals opening
x     No less sweet for

No frailer than the flowers
Best not hide ourselves
From wind and rain—our
x     Seasons of love
Being just as brief

Our longings just as ancient

(Happy Birthday Sue Hughson)



Li Qīngzhào zuì huā yīn
Bó wù nóng yún chóu yǒng zhòu, ruì nǎo xiāo jīn shòu. Jiājié yòu chóngyáng , yù zhěn shā chú , bànyè liáng chū tòu.
Dōng lí bǎjiǔ huánghūn hòu, yǒu àn xiāng yíng xiù. Mò dào bù xiāohún, lián juǎn xīfēng, rén bǐ huánghuā shòu.

Li Qingzhao drunk/flower/shade
Thin/mist/dense/cloud/worry/forever/daytime, Auspicious/essence/disappear/gold/beast. Festival/again/double/yang. Jade/pillow/muslin/bed, middle/night/cold/begins/to penetrate.
East/fence/life/wine/evening/after, Have/gloomy/fragrance/fill/sleeve. Do not/say/not/wasting away/spirit, curtain/roll/west/wind, person (I)/compared to/yellow/flower/thin.

Tune: “Drunk in the Shade of Flowers”
Double Ninth Festival ①
by Li Qingzhao

Fine mist, thick clouds:
A day of sadness drags on.
The incense in the gilt animal-burner is running out.
Once more the festive day of Double Ninth returns,
And my mesh-curtained bed and jewelled pillows
Are just drenched in the chill of midnight.

Beside the east hedge I drink after dusk;
A subtle fragrance fills my sleeves.
Don’t say one is not pining away!
When the west wind blows the blinds aside,
I am frailer than the chrysanthemums.

① Legend says that the Ninth Day of the Ninth Month i n the lunar calendar was originally a day when people in ancient times went to the hills to escape natural calamities, each wearing a bag f i l l e d with dogwood. Later it became a f e s t i v a l for groups of friends or members of a family to go picnicking on the hills to enjoy the brisk air and mellow tints of autumn—a custom immortalized in one of the Tang poet Wang Wei’s quatrains, in whlch the famous line “On festive occasions one thinks doubly of absent dear ones” is often quoted to this day.

This poem was written not long a f t e r the poet married Zhao Mingcheng, when the latter had to leave home at short notice to take up a distant official post. Its vivid images are pregnant with implicit feelings which she leaves for the reader to imagine. The concluding three lines , famous for their lyric charm, are frequently quoted. It is said that when her husband received the poem, he was overcome with admiration and took pains to compose fifty poems to the same tune t o r i v a l and surpass hers, but without success.

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.

Here is all the ci/词 and responses to it on this blog.

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