木兰花令. 沉水香消人悄悄Winter chill’s lingering on at early dawn
Winter chill’s lingering on at early dawn
- to the tune of‘Magnolia Season’
written by Li Qingzhao ( 12th Century)
translated by Julia Min
Winter chill’s lingering on at early dawn,
so quiet upstairs, the sweet incense all gone.
Spring is on ripples to River-mouth South,
though the snow looks calm on East Mount.
Her gold cup’s often full, wine pot often drawn.
When blinds are rolled, the sun’s sinking down.
The waterfront hill’s adjoined by golden clouds;
Her heart has left the rail rejoining him beyond.
This lyric ci of boudoir sentiment was written at a time of departure soon after the Chinese New Year when the spring season had just started though winter was still claiming the high ground. Her husband had to leave her for his post in another town. She had so wished they could enjoy the beautiful spring days together, instead she was by herself again standing by the balustrade of the upstairs drawing room. The view was so inviting but a chill rippled over her for her lonely days ahead. Her heart had left her to join her husband on the road beyond.
The structure of both stanza sees a yin-yang movement from indoor to outdoor with the 1st stanza on the physical things and the 2nd stanza on our poet’s sentiments, a seesaw rhythm for contrast as if to manifest her unsettled mind state.
1. upstairs: based on her other poems, our poet had a drawing room upstairs where she and her husband spent many happy hours together.