阳关曲·中秋月 The Clouds at Dusk are all Cleared
The Clouds at Dusk have All Cleared Up
- to the tune of Yangguan
written by Su Dongpo（11th century）
translated by Julia Min (2022)
The clouds at dusk have all cleared up, and here,
you and me under the blue and cool empyrean.
The Milky Way, so quiet, slowly appears,
pulling the full and bright moon high and near.
This night of this life will be over soon;
Where might we be to see the moon next year?
This poem moves from natural scenery to the sentiments inside the poet’s mind – a common practice in poetry. The source text is one four-line stanza, while the English version is restructured and settled at six lines.
The poem was composed in 1077 when finally the two brothers ( Su Shi and Su Zhe) joined together for the Moon Festival after being apart for 8 years. The previous Moon Festival saw the birth of his masterpiece “When was the Moon ever so Bright”. You could imagine the joy they shared when they quietly sat there in the garden as in childhood, maybe together with other friends, waiting for the dusk clouds cleared for a blue sky. And then, the stars appeared one by one, and then the whole milky way, and next, the full moon rising from the distance, getting brighter as it drew nearer overhead.
The Moon Festival is celebrated after the golden harvest in China, a time when you have done most of your work and now getting ready to settle for the winter, for family reunions, for weddings and friends gatherings, and finally for the Chinese New Year.
Actually the moon has been one of the most depicted subjects in Chinese artistic world with a diversity of sentiments – romance, loneliness, homesickness, yearnings for family reunion, gentle nature, pure spirit… Chinese gentlemen and gentleladies would on this day write poems and riddles for social meetings. The most popular ones are from the Song dynasty where ci lyrics were written to a popular musical tune and sung by the singing girls right there and then, somewhat similar to a western garden party, adding romantic vibes to the festival celebration. Food on the table was not the most important thing as in today. Mooncakes were served with flower tea, oranges, tangerines, nuts, and other seasonal delicacies. Together on the scene, or in the big hall, or in the drawing room in the upstair pavilion, with sweet incense smoking from the burners, you would see the gentry class playing the Guqin music, doing paintings, writing calligraphy, composing a new lyric to resonate the poem by another guest there… The whole scenario makes you feel that’s what an art club should be like, should there be one in this contemporary world.
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) (“Mid-Autumn Moon: Evening shadows gathered in, a bright chill spills over the land./The Milky Way is silent and the jade plate spins./This night - this life - we don't have the food things for long./And new year's moon-- who knows? -- if we'll see her together again.”)
2. pictures from 潘望京书法