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  • Julia Min

玉楼春·腊前先报东君信 A Spring Message has Touched the Winter Land


七娘子 . 清香浮动到黄昏

原作:李清照 / 无名氏(存疑)

英译:闵晓红


腊前先报东君信, 清似龙涎香得润。 黄轻不肯整齐开,

比着红梅仍更韵。(有版本为‘仍旧韵’)

纤枝瘦绿天生嫩,

可惜轻寒摧挫损。 刘郎只解误桃花,(闵疑‘误’为‘语’)

怅恨今年春又尽。



A Spring Message has Touched the Winter Land

- to the tune “The Jade Tower in Spring”

written by: Li Qingzhao / Anonymous

English translation: Julia Min


A Spring message has touched the winter land

with honeyed fragrance like ambergris scent.

Light yellow and tender petals translucent,

self-effacing but sweeter than plum blossoms.


The slim boughs to the thin flowers attend,

braving the frosty winter’s chasing wind.

Liu the poet knew only the peach blossoms;

For me, this withering ends the spring season.


Appreciation:

This is another riddle-like Ci poem about a flower blooming in winter. Have you figured it out?

The flower blooms alone on bare boughs from early December to March at the latest next year. Her waxy yellow petals with touches of crimson in the middle give a subtle perfume longer and sweeter than the red plum blossoms. It is indeed the Chinese wintersweet.

On the cultural level, however, wintersweet and the plum blossoms share similar symbolic meanings, only the plum blossoms more conveyed in Chinese literature.

After the highly appreciated qualities of wintersweet, the theme is emphasized further in the concluding lines with a contrast against other flowers. Wintersweet shows brave courage and proud spirit, blooming in dead winter, even earlier than the plum trees. The poet has no interest in the loud pink and clustered peach flowers that choose only the comfort zone. This could be read as a criticism against the luxurious life of the gentlemen class of the Song during the threat of invasion. The poet’s cultural taste and spiritual pursuit are well-pictured.


Notes:

1. This poem is listed under Li Qingzhao in some versions but others have it under ‘Anonymous’

2. “The Jade Tower in Spring”: In pinyin, the tune is called Yulouchun (玉楼春);

3. ‘Liu the poet’: referring to Liu Yuxi (815 AC) in the Tang dynasty when he wrote a famous poem about peach blossoms. The symbolic meaning of peach blossoms in China associates with romance,posterity,secluded lifestyle and female beauty.


Reference:

1.  李清照文集 作者:(北宋)李清照著,刘振鹏https://books.google.com.au/


 




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