Response to Li Qingzhao’s“A Long Melancholy Tune”

White lilacs effulgent in the warm night,
x         Searching, seeking
Crabapple petals pink falling at dawn,
x         Seeking, searching,
This is Montreal in May,
x         Blooming, blossoming,
What comes of it?
x         Thickening, growing,
Pleasures transient,
x         Hardening, stiffening,
As all caresses felt,
Perfumes unseen must be.
x         (The breeze though gentle
x         still strips the flowers bare.)
Each year the buds returning,
Haven’t we met before?

White lilacs effulgent in the warm night,
x        Thickening, growing,
Crabapple petals pink falling at dawn,
x         Hardening, stiffening,
I could gather them all up
x         Blooming, blossoming,
But who would I give them to?
x         Seeking, searching,
Best to accept their random beauty,
x         Searching, seeking
Move on,
As together we wither away,
x         This is Montreal in May.

x         How can one small word
x         —spring—
x        Contain this all?


Depth charge: This poem might more appropriately be called a reaction rather than a response. I have decided to progress through the original book of Li Qingzhao’s book from beginning to end. This means that I may be writing a response in a season quite different from the original. In this case, I am writing in the full blush of spring and the original poem was set in the cold twilight of autumn, and I was simply not possessed of the energy it would to take to be dreary in the Montreal in May. Instead, I have maintained some techniques from the original while completely altering the tone.

A Long Melancholy Tune (Autumn Sorrow)
by Li Qingzhao

Searching, seeking.
Seeking, searching:
What comes of it but
Coldness and desolation,
A world of dreariness and misery
And stabbing pain!
As soon as one feels a bit of warmth
A sense of chill returns:
A time so hard to have a quiet rest.
What avail two or three cups of tasteless wine
Against a violent evening wind?
Wild geese wing past at this of all hours,
And it suddenly dawns on me
That I’ve met them before.

Golden chrysanthemums in drifts—
How I’d have loved to pick them,
But now, for whom? On the ground they lie strewn,
Faded, neglected.
There’s nothing for it but to stay at the window,
Motionless, alone.
How the day drags before dusk descends!
Fine rain falling on the leaves of parasol-trees—
Drip, drip, drop, drop, in the deepening twilight.
To convey all the melancholy feelings
Born of these scenes
Can the one word “sorrow” suffice?

Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.



Lǐ Qīngzhào shēng shēng màn
Xún xúnmì mì, lěng lěngqīngqīng, qī qīcǎn cǎn qī qī. Zhà nuǎn huán hán shíhòu, zuì nán jiāng xí. Sān bēi liǎng zhǎn dàn jiǔ, zěn dí tā, wǎn lái fēng jí? Yànguò yě, zhèng shāngxīn, què shì jiùshí xiāngshí.
Mǎn dì huánghuā duījī, qiáocuì sǔn, rújīn yǒu shuí kān zhāi? Shǒuzhe chuāng er, dúzì zěnshēng dé hēi! Wútóng gèng jiān xì yǔ, dào huánghūn, diǎn diǎndī dī. Zhè cìdì, zěn yīgè chóu zì liǎo dé!

Li Qingzhao Sound sound slow
search/to look for/seek, cold/desolate/clear, intense cold/miserable/cruel, sorrowful. At first/warm/return/cold/times, most/difficult/to take/rest. Three/cups/two/small cups/insipid/wine, how/withstand/it, evening/comes/wind/pressing? Wild geese/passing/are/truly/broken-hearted/nevertheless/in former times/acquainted.
Fill/ground/yellow/flowers/pile/heap-up/withered/decrease/nowadays/have/who/may/pick? Watch/ing/window/noun-marker, why/must/darken? Wu/tong (trees)/even more/double/fine/rain/at/dusk, bit-by-bit. This/sequence, how/one/single/sorrow/word/comprehend/able.

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

To read Songs about Sex, Death & Cicadas by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”

To read  as close as the clouds by Andrew Grimes Griffin, just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the linke and select “Save link as…”

To read the chapbook Happy Birthday Hanafuda by Andrew Grimes Griffin just click on the link. To download a pdf, right click on the link and select “Save link as…”


One thought on “Response to Li Qingzhao’s“A Long Melancholy Tune”

  1. Pingback: 《声声慢》·李清照

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