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  • Julia Min

东栏梨花 The Blooming Pear Tree by East Fence

东栏梨花(和孔密州五绝之一)

原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

旧版英译:戈登.奥赛茵, 闵晓红, 黄海鹏(1990)

新版修改及赏析: 闵晓红(2023)


梨花淡白柳深青,

柳絮飞时花满城。

惆怅东栏一株雪,

人生看得几清明!


The Blooming Pear Tree by East Fence

-an echo poem to one of Kong Mizhou’s five poems


Chinese original by Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Dongpo')

old En. trans. by G. Osing, J. Min & H. Huang (1990)

Revision+ annot. by Julia Min (2023)


Snow white are the blossoming pears,

And liquid are the willows’ dark green.

The catkins are floating like snowing;

The town’s glowing with vibrant spring.


At the east fence I find a lonely man,

By a lonely tree like pure snow, sighing:

How few are such a view of Qingming!

How few can really see life’s meaning!



Appreciation:

Su Shi wrote this short poem in 1077 at the age of 41 in Suzhou. It’s a good example of the popular poetic form called ‘one stanza poem in 7-character’.


Like Housman’s “Loveliest of Trees”, Su Shi’s poem on pear blossoms strain the heart to breaking with the beauty of a vibrant spring, and the certainty of winter and of our aging. The elegance of this poem is the manner in which it moves from scenic clarity through the fusing of sensation and emotion to the final line, a pure lyrical expression. Adding more melancholy to the vibes is the mind reaction of the Chinese readers as the pear blossoms and the flying catkins in China represent separation between loved ones, a sense of loss and loneliness. You may find many Chinese poems use the flowers for the sentimental theme, which in turn has had an impact on all artistic works. And they shed flowers during Qingming Festival, a time of mourning over the departed friends and relatives.


Reference:

1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min, and Huang Haipeng, published by the People's Publication House Henan Province in 1990 (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红,黄海鹏) (“The Blossoming Pear by the East Fence” – “ Snow-white the blossoming pears and liquid the willow’s green./the catkins are snowing; the town glows with spring./I find myself, sadly, at the east fence by the one snowy tree/ That teaches how few in a lifetime Qing Mings there’ll be.”

2. “Loveliest of Trees” by A.E. Housman (1859 –1936): “Loveliest of trees, the cherry now/Is hung with bloom along the bough,/And stands about the woodland ride/Wearing white for Eastertide.//Now, of my threescore years and ten,/Twenty will not come again,/And take from seventy springs a score,/It only leaves me fifty more.//And since to look at things in bloom/Fifty springs are little room,/About the woodlands I will go/To see the cherry hung with snow.”

2. picture from Google

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