浣溪沙·小院闲窗春色深 The Garden Holds Spring with her Last Blooms
The Garden Holds Spring with her Last Blooms
- To the tune of Huanxisha
Translated by Julia Min
The garden holds Spring with her last blooms
by the windows ignored, all blinds unrolled.
At dusk in her boudoir, gloomy and subdued,
a lady plays on the qin, not sure for whom.
The sun sinks behind hills under the blue,
painting the misty clouds with golden hues.
A blind breeze plays around some raindrops,
oblivious to the falling of pear blooms.
This is a piece of boudoir sentiment in the 12th century. Li Qingzhao is generally recognized as the author though some scholars reckon this ci of a different source. It was indeed quite popular in the Tang and Song that gentlemen wrote in the tone of a lady. I would choose to believe Yi’an wrote it describing her sentiments on the vanishing of spring days which is symbolic of her youth, a lonely night at the time of her creation.
The poem was created with everyday vocabulary but each also tinged with symbolic meanings e.g. ‘windows ignored’ ,’blinds unrolled’, ‘speechless’, ‘twilight’ at dusk’, and ‘the falling of pear blossoms’. The stage sequence follows her personal experience starting from her garden by her chamber windows, and then moves inside. Next she went upstairs where she had a view of the distance, and back again to her garden. It’s a typical pattern in Chinese poetry -- from near to far and back to near in concluding lines – blended with physical objects /views followed with conscious sentiment, a formal closure in the last line / couplet in the final stanza. The whole poem presents a charming moment of ying-yang balance, an essential philosophy in Chinese literature. However its beauty is not lost for common readers who don’t know its structure of creation, just as a flower could be favoured without an understanding of its biological properties, hence why the Song poetry is still so much loved by both the mass today as well as the intellectual world.
The first association coming to my mind is Emily Bronte’s “ The Night is Darkening Round Me”, which streams in my ears with her rhymes and vibes......
1. chūn sè shēn：blooming spring is done with its highest period;
2. chòng lián wèi juàn：blinds unrolled, hinting she can’t bear to see Spring leaving,
3. symbolic of her young days are going away, a sentiment even stronger with her husband
4. far away on official duties;
5. yǐng chén chén: her bedroom gets gloomy with unrolled curtains at dusk;
6. yǐ lóu: most likely referring to the drawing room upstairs where she and her husbands have spent many happy days together;
7. báo mù: misty dusk / twilight;
8. qīng yīn: light misty weather with some thin clouds in sky, hinting autumn is near. ( Spring clouds are tiered and thick with more moist whereas autumn clouds are high and thin due to drier weather.)
Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:
huàn xī shā – the musical tune of this song;
xiǎo yuàn xián chuāng chūn sè shēn–small yard idle windows spring high;
chòng lián wèi juàn yǐng chén chén –layers of curtains not rolled gloomy;
yǐ lóu wú yǔ lǐ yáo qín – sitting in the drawing room, I play the qin;
yuǎn xiù chū yún cuī báo mù –distant hills send clouds chasing the mist at dusk;
xì fēng chuī yǔ nòng qīng yīn – gentle breeze blows rain plays twilight;
lí huā yù xiè kǒng nán jìn – pear blossoms will fade I’m afraid you can’t stop it;