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卜算子. 缺月挂疏桐 A Waning Moon Descended the Parasol Tree

卜算子. 缺月挂疏桐


原作:苏东坡 (11世纪)










A Waning Moon Descended the Parasol Tree

(composed at Dinghui Monastery,Huangzhou)

- to the tune of Busuanzi

written by Su Dongpo(11th century)

translated by Julia Min (2022)

A waning moon descended the parasol tree

near a wanderer in the dark -- just the old me.

The night smiled serenely as water clock stopped

and a goose arrived seeking for his flock of geese.

He winged up the air, turning head back to check,

only to find regrets in a barren world retrieved.

No company, no home on cold branches to rest,

he’d surrender to the unblemished sandy beach.

For appreciation:

Composed in 1082 during his first career downturn after being banished from the Royal Court to this remote little town Huangzhou (in today’s Hubei Province) on the north bank of the Yangtze River. He arrived here in 1080 with his family and had to live in a small house by Dinghui Monastery, still under the watch of the town’s magistrate. Without any income from government, he had to plough the fields for food like the local farmers – a challenge that would weigh on his tolerance and endurance, but trained him to become not only a most resistant and gracious mind, but also a great poet, calligrapher, and a painter. Huangzhou had indeed witnessed most of his greatest works loved for a thousand years onward.

The poem features a few metaphorical touches. A waning moon implies a decline in life. A parasol tree is symbol of decent and noble qualities as it is the only tree the king of birds, the phoenix in China, would rest upon. And here the leafless parasol tree in winter represents a miserable time of a noble being. The goose is simply a personification of the poet himself. Chinese has always taken the flying wild geese as a bird with noble qualities of loyalty, trust and devoted love for family. The concluding lines are perceived as his courage to face the challenge for not drifting away with the social current.


1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min and Huang Haipeng,published by the People's Publication House Henan Province in 1991 (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红,黄海鹏) (“A waning moon hung in the Decembered limbs of the parasol tree,/The top of the hourglass is empty, and people are deeply asleep./Who’ll see the loneliness of my coming and going/In the mists, faint as that shadow of a swan.//Startled into the air, looking back startled?/But no one cares about the disdains of such an one./Who would not take shelter in all the frozen branches,/Wants no chances but choosing rest in wintered sand.”)

2. pictures from百度百科)



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