Spring God is about to leave the Song capital
- to the tune of Yuanwangsun
written by Li Qingzhao ( 12th century)
translated by Julia Min
appreciation & notes by Julia Min
Spring God is about to leave the Song capital,
taking the vibes of romance wasted behind walls.
The doors to my chamber find grass grown long.
By dusk, all messenger geese are quiet and gone.
My wandering eye beholds within a restless gloom
stirred by his absent presence in our upstairs room.
Love appeals even more when it is so painful,
making it even harder to forget and let go.
Another year, another Cold Food Festival,
a forgotten swing and a forgotten road
are covered in the rain of falling pear blooms
in an empty home under the rising full-moon.
This is a good example of sentimental boudoir ci poems very popular among the gentle class in the Song dynasty. Many of the writers could be gentlemen who wrote there and then for entertainment on the occasion. The singing girls would sing them to the old tune as defined and played by the gentleman himself or a musician over Gu Qin, a 7-stringed musical board popular even today.
This ci structures around the immediate imagery of a twilight moment in the Song capital – a city of grand homes under the twilight full moon, an empty home with a wet swing in the rain of pear blossoms,… and a lady, alone leaning against the balustrade of her drawing room, gazing at the distance void of messenger geese, and her husband … The vision offers a perfect background for the other striking feature, i.e. the oxymoron, which is subtly manifested through the absent presence of her husband, and the full moon but an empty home with a sentimental lady in tears like the falling pear petals in the rain…
1. messenger geese: wild geese, flying away to the warmer south before the approaching colder seasons, are often used in Chinese literature as symbolic messengers that helps sending message of love and homesickness. Geese are regarded as loyal lovers as they always stay with the same mate and take care of the whole family rain or shine.
2. absent presence: an oxymoron used to empower the impact of an absent loved one ( her husband here) over us as he/she is with us in our hearts wherever we go.
3. upstairs room: most likely referring to her drawing room upstairs where she and her husband spent many happy days together. This is depicted in her other poems such as “A Chill Wind Woke Me Before Dawn”（《浪淘沙.帘外五更风》）.
4. full moon: a full moon usually associates with a reunion of lovers and families in China whereas it bears a sarcastic sensation here when she’s all by herself.
5. The falling pear blooms: pear blossoms are often used for an immediate imagery of lover’s tears at the time of departing. Pear flowers fall at the end of spring, hinting the end of spring years in one’s lifetime, or the end of a romantic season.