Tales of Three Women (2)

Loneliness
(From the Chinese of Liu Fang-ping, 742-779 AD)

The day is past, and twilight steals across the darkened window screen.
Within the lady’s gilded home she dabs her teardrops all alone.
The empty courtyard lies all still. Attendant to the passing spring
the pale pear-blossoms fail and fall. She knows that no-one, now, will call.


Tears
(From the Chinese of Li Bai, 701-762 AD)

The beauty at the window lifts high the beaded blinds.
Her brows are drawn and troubled. She cannot turn aside
the tears that well and tumble, and glisten on her cheeks.
Nor can we know the person who causes her such grief.

Note: This poem is said to stem from an incident which Li Bai witnessed personally.


Waiting
(From the Chinese of Yao Yue-hua, 600 x 900AD)

I set out silver candlesticks
and cups of clear wine,
and I stood there and waited
for a long, long time.

I passed out the gate
and in the gate
till the sky was growing light.

The moon had set;
the stars grew few.
In the end, he didn’t arrive.

From the misty willows
came wingbeats.
And a magpie took to flight.

Note: The magpie is, in Chinese symbolism, considered a bird of good omen; in popular parlance its name, hsi-ch’iao, means ‘joy-bringing bird’. Two magpies symbolize male-female harmony, and the wish ‘May you meet each other in joy’ of a marriage or other love relationship. In the poem, the flight of a single magpie emphasizes the sad reality of the situation; a possible corollary might be seen in the western jingle ‘One for sorrow’… etc.

From ‘Translations of Classical Chinese Poetry’

2 thoughts on “Tales of Three Women (2)

    1. Thank you, Jacydo. It’s astonishing that personal, touching poetry like this was being written in China – and there are thousands of examples – when northern Europe had only its Heroic Age’s ‘Beowulf’, stc., to offer.

      Like

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