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  • Gordon Osing and Julia Min

玉楼春. 红酥肯放琼苞碎 No sooner the jade buds are turned to rosy lips


玉楼春. 红酥肯放琼苞碎

原作:李清照 (宋) 英译:戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红


红酥肯放琼苞碎。

探著南枝开遍未。

不知酝藉几多香,

但见包藏无限意。


道人憔悴春窗底。

闷损阑干愁不倚。

要来小酌便来休,

未必明朝风不起。

No sooner the jade buds are turned to rosy lips

- to the Tune of Yulouchun

written by Li Qingzhao ( 1084-1155?)

translated by Gordon Osing & Julia Min


No sooner the jade buds are turned to rosy lips,

I fear already the south blooms were fading;

one needn't care how rich are their perfumes

to discover all of a soul's glowing yearnings.


They say someone in my favorite window grows pale,

whose hand drags along the balustrade of her distress;

come to her soon, while the thirst declines not the least;

tomorrow, who knows, if the blossoms fall to gales.


For appreciation:

In some editions, this ci is titled "The Plum Tree". According to Another Collection of Li Qing-zhao, this ci was composed sometime between 1108 and 1127, placing it in what is regarded as her second period of work. As carefully as she can, considering her distress in loneliness, Li Qing-zhao projects her anxieties into the days and hours of peak fragrance of the plum tree blossoms outside her window. Arguably, she could be asking her husband / lover to join her for a cosy moment with the plum trees while they are still in full bloom.


Again, she made the theme implicit for you to figure it out for yourself, the same way Song’s paintings works with the readers for a complete performance of the art, as shown in our introduation ‘A Message from the Translators’. It’s a fun game being played for a thousand years now in the artistic world of China. Many flowers have been enriched in meanings in Chinese culture owing to poets like Li Qingzhao, including plum blossoms, chrysanthemum, peony, Osmanthus, lotus flowers, crabapple blooms, bramble rose, etc.


Notes:

1. jade buds: the buds of the plum tree; ‘jade’, in Chinese culture, bears the sense of gentle, pure and ideal nature.

2. south branches: those that bloom first. We may refer to "The south branches wither while the north ones are still blooming " from Chinese folklore, perhaps an allusion to the life of eros and the life of the heart.



Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:

yù lóu chūn . hóng sū kěn fàng qióng bāo suì


hóng sū kěn fàng qióng bāo suì 。

tàn zhe nán zhī kāi biàn wèi 。

bú zhī yùn jiè jǐ duō xiāng ,

dàn jiàn bāo cáng wú xiàn yì 。


dào rén qiáo cuì chūn chuāng dǐ 。

mèn sǔn lán gàn chóu bú yǐ 。

yào lái xiǎo zhuó biàn lái xiū ,

wèi bì míng zháo fēng bú qǐ 。




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