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  • Gordon Osing and Julia Min

声声慢·寻寻觅觅 Where? Where should it go, the lonely soul?






凄凄惨惨戚戚。 乍暖还寒时候,

最难将息。 三杯两盏淡酒,

怎敌他、晚来风急? 雁过也,正伤心,

却是旧时相识。 满地黄花堆积。


如今有谁堪摘? 守著窗儿,

独自怎生得黑? 梧桐更兼细雨,

到黄昏、点点滴滴。 这次第,


Where? Where should it go, the lonely soul?

- to the Tune Shengshengman

written by Li Qingzhao ( 12th century)

trans by Gorden Osing & Julia Min

Where? Where should it go, the lonely soul?

Too dreary in miseries, in day dreaming!

Gone is the world's warmth, its cold

now holding my very being.

Would a few cups of wine soothe the wind

that also violates the heart of evening?

You flying geese in the rising air

were once our loved go-betweens.

With whom shall I pick the chrysanthemum

shrinking and withering, now all fallen?

Am I to spend forever tonight

at my window here, alone again,

watching at dusk, in the parasol trees,

the mists turning inexorably to rain?

No word is desolate enough

to imitate this joyless scene!


Some collections call this ci "Autumn Thoughts." It was apparently composed in August 1129 upon her husband’s sudden death, and her sorrows had become multiple, so far as she could tell, permanent. She was distraught and yet, perhaps, tried very hard to maintain her dignity in the act of composition.

What strikes Chinese readers most could be the original poem starting with four lines used purely the repetition of 7 words (14 words in total), resonated later with repetition (4 words) in the second stanza. “Repetition in word and phrase and in idea is the very essence of poetry,” Theodore Roethke writes in “Some Remarks on Rhythm” (1960). It’s one of the most intoxicating effect as it accrues expectation or desperation. Peter Sacks writes in The English Elegy (1987), “Repetition creates a sense of continuity, of an unbroken pattern such as one may oppose to the extreme discontinuity of death.”

In addition, interdental consonants are widely used from beginning to the end, with a total of 57 in this 97-word poem. Together, they creates the impression that she’s holding and pressing hard her deep sorrow over her husband’s death during the country’s turmoil which is like adding snow to a frosted ground. The artistic effect is multiplied through the application.

No poet ever before used 14 words in repetition in a poem, and rarely you could find a Chinese poem with so many interdental phonetic sounds. Many poets tried the techniques yet nobody is seen passing Li Qingzhao’s standards. She has again proved herself the greatest master of ci poetry. We, as the translators, pale in comparison for sure. We regret not being able to find a more perfect presentation of such arts in English language. Again, Lu Xun’s words are ringing in the ear: Poetry can’t be translated. So, we proceed, trying to fail interestingly but with promising prospects, or to succeed modestly at some seduction to cross-cultural interest.


1. flying geese:wild geese in the sky bear a symbolic meaning in Chinese culture, representing messengers for lovers and families to send their love and regards to each other.

2. parasol tree: the autumn tree hardly baring any leaves usually represents melancholy and loneliness in Chinese poetry.


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