赠刘景文 To Liu Jingwen
原作: 苏轼（字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋）
旧版英译:戈登.奥赛茵, 闵晓红, 黄海鹏(1990)
To Liu Jingwen
Chinese original by Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Dongpo')
old En. trans. by G. Osing, J. Min & H. Huang (1990)
Revision+ analysis by Julia Min (2023)
It’s a new winter when the lotus shed no rain; -
Fading chrysanths still stand braving the frosty wind.
Let ur eye go: just nearby draws a year’s best scene,
Where oranges are golden, and tangerines green.
This poem was written in Hangzhou in 1090 by our 55- year-old poet for his stressed friend Liu Jingwen who was 58 years old then. It was said Su Shi appreciated his talent and moral qualities, so he highly recommended him to the Royal Court. It could be Jingwen’s old age that he only got a minor promotion. And he died just two years later with his life dream unfulfilled, a rather sad ending of a loyal family with his father died as a famous general who fought the Huns in the west borders and all his other siblings gone before him.
The landscape, represented here with the withered flowers and the trees laden with fruits, could be right there and then in front of the two friends, or more, while they were catching up at a pavilion by a pond, a meeting with food and drinks served and enriched with poems, paintings, and music, as being often the case with social gathering in the Song’s gentry class. The symbolic message is clearly revealed by carefully choosing lotus and Chrysanthemum which suggest purity, courage and noble spirit, while oranges and tangerines are often associated with good luck and prosperity. We can feel the poet’s optimistic vibes towards the ups and downs in life and his efforts to inspire his friend through hard times, encouraging him to maintain his pure and noble spirit like lotus and chrysanthemum. The gist of the poem connotes a deeper philosophical understanding that by changing your perspective, you may dramatically find a positive outlook even at a most stressful time.
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 Liu Jingwen”—“It’s new winter and the lotus sheds no rains; / Chrysanthemum brave the frost with withered blooms./So much the nearer draws another perfect scene,/Where oranges are yellow and the tangerine are green.”)
2. picture from Google