A thing delicate, tiny,
Hidden and largely unseen,
Each autumn the cassia
blooms with unforgettable
Rooms, sequestered places where
Our love—fragile and doomed—
Dying breathed for us new lives.
(for MKL, on the 6th anniversary of our parting)
Tune: “Partridge Sky”
To the Cassia Flower
by Li Qingzhao
Fair Flower !
Dark, pale, light yellow in color,
Soft and gentle by nature.
Aloof and remote,
A subtle fragrance trails behind you.
What need for light green or deep crimson,
You choicest of flowers!
Let plum blossoms be envious,
Chrysanthemums be ashamed !
You are crowned Queen of Mid-autumn
At the Grand Exhibition of Flowers.
How unfeeling of the poet Qu Yuan ①
To be so cold towards you
As to deny you a place
In his masterpiece.
① An allusion to Li Sao (Encountering Sorrow), a chapter in Qu Yuan’s “The Elegies of Chu”, in which he listed many precious flowers and plants as symbolic of men of high virtue, but omitted to mention the cassia flower, presumably out of bias.
Lǐqīngzhào Zhègū tiān Guìhuā
àndàn qīng huángtǐ xìng róu, qíng shū jī yuǎn zhǐ xiāng liú. Héxū qiǎn bì shēn hóngsè, zì shì huā zhōng dì yīliú.
Méi dìng dù, jú yīng xiū, huà lán kāi suì guān zhōngqiū . Sāorén kě shā wúqíng sī, héshì dāngnián bùjiàn shōu .
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