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  • Gordon Osing and Julia Min

鹧鸪天·暗淡轻黄体性柔 An Ode to the Golden Blossoms


鹧鸪天·暗淡轻黄体性柔

原作:李清照 英译:戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红


暗淡轻黄体性柔,

情疏迹远只香留。

何须浅碧轻红色,

自是花中第一流。


梅定妒,菊应羞,

画阑开处冠中秋。

骚人可煞无情思,

何事当年不见收。


An Ode to the Golden Blossoms

- to the tune ‘A Sky of Francolins’ (Zhegutian )

written by Li Qingzhao translated by Gordon Osing & Julia Min

Pale, softest yellow and delicate her form is,

or desolate, but far away her fine fragrance drifts.

She needs no loud red on common green boughs

to be found her blossoms blessed with the best.


Now let plum blooms envy, and chrysanths confess.

The carved rails display autumn’s highest praise.

Qu Yuan must have lost the taste to appreciate.

How come in Li Sao she’s not even possessed?


Retrieved from Google

Appreciation:

This ci is thought to have come from Li Qingzhao's early period (1108-1127), before she fled south. It is sometimes called an "Ode to Osmanthus Flowers." The great Chu State poet Qu Yuan had written a treatise on the virtues of each blossom in the flower Pantheon, forgetting to include the Osmanthus golden blossoms. Here the poet uses the osmanthus to suggest the unrecognized and the unappreciated, which could be her own creations, and, indeed, herself, too fine a lady to offer the world some loud address. Although she was already very well received but still not included in the State’s Official collection, simply because she was a woman. This also explains why today we have such a small number of her poems left.


As an ode lyric, she didn’t follow the conventional way of focusing on the beauty only, but shifting the readers’ attention to the comparison with the tone of a critic. The other hit among flower poems is her choice to describe the quality of Osmanthus flower without naming it in the whole poem. If we haven’t added it in the title but used the first line as the title as often the case with Ci poems, the whole poem would read like a riddle again, like her other poem on peony flower ( ‘’Tis the Last Flower of Spring Days – to the tune of Qingqingchaoman). I could imagine it is not just her personal style but more a humorous sensation among the gentle society entertainment occasions. I’m all for it for the fun, not wasting her effort. Riddle game was very popular in ancient China, still so today during festive season celebrations.


The plum blossom, that occurs in late February or early March, when Winter is still upon the land, represents thus endurance, honor in adversity and lonely courage, as in the famous poem “The Plum Blossoms” by Su Shi (Su Tong-po). Chrysanthemums, that bloom at the end of the Summer and into the Autumn, represent spirit growing beautiful and expressing love of life as the Winter draws near.


Notes:

"sao ren": Qu Yuan(340—278 BC)founder of Romanticism in Poetry. He wrote the longest lyric Li Sao in ancient China. It covers many flowers in terms of the qualities each suggested to the Confucian gentlemen.


Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:

zhè gū tiān ·àn dàn qīng huáng tǐ xìng róu


àn dàn qīng huáng tǐ xìng róu ,

qíng shū jì yuǎn zhī xiāng liú 。

hé xū qiǎn bì qīng hóng sè ,

zì shì huā zhōng dì yī liú 。


méi dìng dù ,jú yīng xiū ,

huà lán kāi chù guàn zhōng qiū 。

sāo rén kě shà wú qíng sī ,

hé shì dāng nián bú jiàn shōu 。



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