The year the geese don’t return
To skywrite our
Letters of love
Worry will descend silent
Onto our brows
Into our hearts
We’ll try and fail to recall
The scented sight
Of spring flowers
We’ll finally be as free
As falling leaves
And just as dead
Depth Charge: The response to Li Qingzhao’s lyrical lament on separation from a loved one with a poem of environmental apocalypse was obviously influenced by Episode 9 of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos in which he detailed the mass extinctions experienced on Earth and warned of climate change caused by our addiction to burning fossil fuels. So, thanks for that, Neil.
Tune: A Sprig of Plum Blossom
Sorrow of Separation
by Li Qingzhao
The lotus has wilted, only a faint perfume remains;
On the bamboo mat there to a touch of autumn chill.
Softly I take off my silk dress
And step on board my orchid skiff alone. 1
Who is sending me the letter of brocade
From beyond the clouds?
When the wild geese return 2
The moon w i l l be flooding the West Chamber.
Flowers fall and drift away,
Water glides on,
After their nature .
Our yearning is the sort
Both sides far apart endure—
A melancholy feeling there’s no resisting.
As soon as it leaves the eyebrows
It surges up in the breast. 3
1) A boat made from lily magnolia wood
2) Wild geese were thought to be bearers of letters, especially love messages, because of t h e i r
regular migrations from north to south and vice versa.
3) The original is a famous couplet that s e n e 8 as natural sequel to the foregoing three lines.
Translated by Jiaosheng Wang.
Li Qīngzhào yī jiǎn méi
Hóng ǒu xiāng cán yù diàn qiū, qīng jiě luō shang, dú shàng lán zhōu.
Yún zhōng shuí jì jǐn shū lái? Yàn zì huí shí, yuè mǎn xi lóu.
Huā zì piāolíng shuǐ zìliú, yī zhǒng xiāngsī, liǎng chù xián chóu.
Cǐ qíng wú jì kě xiāochú, cái xià méitóu, què shàng xīntóu.
Red/lotus/fragrant/stains/jade/mat/fall, gentle/undo/gauze/robe, alone/board/orchid/boat.
Cloud/midst/who/send/brocade/letter/arrive? Geese/letter/return/time, moon/floods/west/building.
Flower/itelf/falling (like autumn leaves)/water/itself/flows, one/type/feeling, two/places/stays/worry.
This/felling/without/plan/to eliminate, as soon as/descends on /brow, then/rises up in/heart-mind.
Here is all the ci/词 and responses to it on this blog.
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