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  • Julia Min

贺新郎.乳燕飞华屋 When the Young Swallow Winged up the Grand Mansion


原作: 苏轼(11世纪北宋)

英译旧版: 戈登.奥赛茵, 闵晓红, 黄海鹏(1990)

英版修改: 闵晓红(2023)



















When the Young Swallow Winged up the Grand Mansion

- to the tune of “The First Flight of the Young Swallow”

written by: Su Shi (1084)

1st En. trans. by: G. Osing, J. Min & H. Huang (1990)

En. revision by: Julia Min (2023)

When the young swallow winged up the grand mansion,

No one was home to see,

filling its own noon-shadow, the parasol tree.

A lady emerged from her bath in the cool of the evening.

Her hand is idle if busy at a round fan of fine silk,

both seemingly jade, both in quiet motion.

Even at this,

she slowly wearies, reclines, and entered a sweet dream.

But who’s that, knocking outside her brocade curtain.

Nothing more than the bamboo trees shaking in the wind.

When all the flashy petals and stamens vanished with Spring,

No one here to comfort your loneliness, only

The pomegranates, half-crowned, red scarf folds within.

A closer look at any of the bright branches,

each bloom is loaded with yearning sentiments,

Fearing too they fell off if startled by autumn wind.

Even at this,

She’d hold on until your appearance

To drink a toast to her beauty with tears, knowing also,

This is her last crowning moment of blossoming.


The Pomegranate tree in China represents passion and fertility, peace and prosperity. In this sentimental ci poem, Su Shi wrote in the tone of the beautiful lady whose melancholy grows with the passing of her spring days in loneliness. This could be written during an intellectual entertainment where the local singing girls and musicians (called musical courtesans at the time) would be called to sing the ci lyric composed there and then by the attending gentlemen. Ci poems, like the English lyrics, are meant for singing but confined to a specific tune chosen by the poet. Chinese gentlemen society had been very fond of this game ever since the Tang Dynasty. It’s often referred to as “composing new ci to old tunes”. The Song dynasty saw a booming period where the number of tunes reached hundreds. It was common practice that the gentlemen would often express themselves in the tone of the singing girls to suit their performing at the centre of the hall. The surface themes usually presents a lonely beauty, flowers and her sentiments, whereas the deep connotations, if captured, often reveal the writers’ private sentiments about their official career, family life or hot topics of the time. This poem is a good example of such a dual-theme creation.

The first stanza ushers in a lady who had a cosy and rosy dream, possibly a reunion with her mate. Then the scene is stopped short and shifted in the 2nd stanza to a pomegranate tree blooming perhaps in her inner garden among the dense greenery. It was summer and most flowers withered after their cluttered spring race of flashy shows. The red blossoms painted here are just a further association of the lady’s spiritual quality, her unique taste and strength in seeking true love and loyalty. Her yearnings become stronger as autumn is approaching with west wind, a growing fear of not being able to meet her love before her prime days are over.

The hidden theme could well be Su Shi’s increased disappointment at the Royal Court during a downturn period which could be his banishment in Huizhou. According to Chen Gu in his book on famous people of the Song, Dongpo’s concubine Zhaoyun had a nickname “Liuhua” (i.e. Pomegranate Flower). She was the only one following him to Huizhou (a very desolate place then) after he had a new banishment at an age of 58 in 1094. Not only was she gifted for singing but also praised for her strength as a loyal life company. Su Shi valued her dearly as a soul mate. She was perhaps the only comfort for Su Shi other than poetry, but not for long. The severe climate and living condition of Huizhou took her away two years later. She was only 34. … …


1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min and Huang Haipeng,published by the People's Publication House Henan Province in 1990 (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红,黄海鹏) ("“To the Tune of Hexinglang” -- When the young swallow winged over the grand mansion,/No one was home to see, filling its own noon-shadow, the parasol tree. /Now from her bath at evening’s cool a lady comes./Her hand is idle if busy as her white, round silken fan, both seeming jade. /Even at this she gradually wearies, reclines, and passes into sleep. /But who’s that, at the outside curtain, knocking at her gate?/Nothing more than the wind shaking the bamboo together. //The red scarf folds of the half-bloomed pomegranate/Could comfort, Lady, your still loneliness./Look closely at any of her bright branches;/In each bloom’s fragrance is enfolded the heart of a girl,/Fearing only the dry winds of Autumn, that startle, leaving her green./If I delay until you come to this /I’ll not have heart to toast your weathered flower./Then two will weep together, hour by hour.")

2. 百度百科网站: 南宋陈鹄耆旧续闻》录陆辰州语,说晁以道在看到东坡真迹后转告陆辰州说:苏轼有妾名朝云、榴花。朝云客死岭南,惟榴花独存,故苏词下阕专说榴花,并有“待浮花浪蕊都尽,伴君幽独”之语。

3. picture from Google;



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