行香子·天与秋光 To My Soul Autumn Falls - to the Tune of Xingxiangzi
To My Soul Autumn Falls
- to the Tune of Xingxiangzi
translated by Julia Min
To my soul Autumn falls
like frost to mums by the walls.
It’s nearly Double Ninth Festival,
new wine and new clothes.
A windy gust,
a rainy night,
a shiver chill,
the little race subsides.
My home quivers at dusk,
my grief pillow never dry.
Love is swift, forgetting a lost fight.
The moon is still full and bright.
The endless chirping of crickets,
the endless dripping of water-clock,
the endless pounding of winter clothes,
my rosy dream’s out of sight.
Yi’an wrote this poem later in her life after she migrated to the south due to the fall of Northern Song Dynasty to the Jin. This period witnessed a dramatic shift in her personal life in alignment with the declining fate of the dynasty. As the temporary Court settled in Lin’An without any promise of reclaiming homeland in northern territory, our lady’s hope of return started to subside. In Chinese literature, the four seasons and four directions all bear cultural meanings. Autumn represents the fall towards cold dark winter, an emotional shift from blooming to decay, from youth to old age.
The first stanza unrolls in front of readers a late autumn day scene when people tried to prepare for the Double Ninth festival with new clothes and new wine though it’s windy, wet and cold. This foreshadows the subject in the second stanza where a solitary migrant, lost in despair, shivers at dusk that ushers in another sleepless night. A full and bright moon in Chinese culture is a symbol of happy family reunion, used here to contrast her loneliness in a strange land. All her happy days are now gone with the wind. The only place for reunion is in her dream after wine.
Repetition of phrases and reduplication of words are both embraced here for a stronger artistic impact of despair for herself and for her country. Both forms contribute to a typical feature in her poetic landscape especially in her later poems, an influence likely from Su Dongpo and Ou Yangxiu. Similar usage is seen in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Burns, and in“ Fall, Leaves, Fall ” by Emily Bronte.
The Source Text in Chinese:
Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:
xíng xiāng zǐ - the music name for this song;
tiān yǔ qiū guāng - the sky is clear in autumn.
zhuǎn zhuǎn qíng shāng - I start to get sentimental.
tàn jīn yīng zhī jìn chóng yáng – the sight of chrysanthemums reminds us the Double Ninth Festival is drawing near.
báo yī chū shì – I tried on some light clothes,
lǜ yǐ chū cháng –tasted newly opened wine which is not filtered yet thus I can still see the foams roaming on the surface like green ants.
jiàn yī fān fēng – here comes autumn wind,
yī fān yǔ – followed by some showers
yī fān liáng – and a sense of cold chill.
huáng hūn yuàn luò – at dusk my courtyard
qī qī huáng huáng – is a miserable place.
jiǔ xǐng shí wǎng shì chóu cháng – when awake from wine, I feel the nostalgic heart hurts,
nà kān yǒng yè – not to mention the coming weary and dreary night.
míng yuè kōng chuáng – the moon is bright, my bed sees no company,
wén zhēn shēng dǎo – listening to the pounding of winter clothes,
qióng shēng xì – the weakening chirping of crickets,
lòu shēng chǎng – the endless dripping of water clock in my room.