Warm Wind Sends Rain Melting the Ice - to the Tune of Dielianhua 蝶恋花·暖雨晴风初破冻
Warm Wind Sends Rain Melting the Ice
- to the Tune of Dielianhua
Translated by Julia Min
Warm wind sends rain melting the ice,
green willow shoots by red plum blooms,
like a maiden’s blush with glowing eyes.
With whom shall I share this poem with wine?
In tears my makeup washed is now dry.
The new vest gown looks nice in golden lines.
My phoenix pin broke as I lean on my side.
The pretty hairdo feels heavy not sure why.
Ah, where’s my dream of butterflies?
Alone, I muddle wicks into sullied night.
Most likely written in her thirties when her husband was away after being assigned to a new post. The legendary idioms ‘nuǎn yǔ qíng fēng’ and ‘ liǔ yǎn méi sāi’ originate from here and have been quoted or used by poets and writers since then. Chinese literature has always shown tremendous favor for plum blossoms, a jady flower that braves the frost and snow but also a strong message of early spring. Budding in pair on the branch, the icy jade petals, white or pink or red, represent pure young love, like pink rose in English literature.
Willow has been another traditional subject, a symbol for the graceful young girl’s figure. The flower floating in the air is often used to hint an unsettled life experience. To associate willow shoots to a beauty’s eye appeared first in Su Dongpo’s ci poem “ In reply to Zhang Zhifu’s 'Ode on Catkin Willows'” ("Their twining flowers wound a heart whose tender eyes/Are trying to open, but close upon a dream ten thousand miles/Away, seeking her husband where he’s gone. Then oriole wakens!" – from our book Blooming Alone in Winter) As we all know our poet had a profound interest in Dongpo’s work. What refreshes creative minds here is that she was able to infuse the image with only two simple words, literally, ' willow eye'.
In the two short stanzas, Yi’an leads the readers into her scene, a vivid visionary artistic stage which begins with a romantic spring view contrasting her sentiments in the following lines. The volta or the turn of this poem stays on the couplet at the end of each stanza, the first one concluding her weary state during the day, followed by the return of a dreary night in the second couplet. The structure moves from outward sight to inward sentiment in the form of a monologue. The last two lines strikes me with an image so vivid that I could hear her sigh while cutting the wicks, an image born only after one’s life experience.
The Source Text in Chinese:
Pinying and Word -For-Word Translation:
dié liàn huā – to the tune of Dielianhua
nuǎn yǔ qíng fēng chū pò dòng – warm rain cosy wind start breaking the ice
liǔ yǎn méi sāi - willow-shaped eye, plum budding cheeks
yǐ juē chūn xīn dòng – already feel spring sensations
jiǔ yì shī qíng shuí yǔ gòng – this romantic poem and wine who can I share with
lèi róng cán fěn huā diàn zhòng - tears melted make-up, hair ornaments feel heavy
zhà shì jiá shān jīn lǚ féng – first try on vest gown made with golden threads
shān zhěn xiá yī – against hill-shaped pillow I leaned on my side
zhěn sǔn chāi tóu fèng – the pillow damaged my phoenix hairpin
dú bào nóng chóu wú hǎo mèng -alone in deep sorrow I have no good dream
yè lán yóu jiǎn dēng huā nòng – late at night I cut candles wicks as if playing
wú tóng –Chinese parasol tree, often used in Chinese literature symbolizing descent and pure love in spring and summer, while cold, bleak and lonely sentiments after the leaves fallen;
tuán chá – hard-pressed brick-tea, in the shape of one-serve small ball or of pan-cake, which people of Song would first crumble into tea powder before serving. Premium quality brick teas are usually in the name of Dragon or Phoenix.
ruì nǎo xiāng – Ambergris, a top quality incense, called Longxian Incense in China;
zhòng xuān -- A prodigy in the late Han dynasty ( around 200 BC), the best of The Seven Gentlemen of Jian’an. Here our lady poet must refers to his most famous work “ Up the Castle”, a piece in perfect rhythm and rhetoric to express his intense nostalgia for homeland.
dōng lí – from a famous poem by Tao Yuanming (365 – 427 AC), one of the best known poets of the Six Dynasties period. “ Picking chrysanthemum flowers by the east fence, my carefree mind sees only the Blue Mountain.”(translated by Julia Min). Chrysanthemum is highly regarded as one of the Four Gentlemen in plants, bearing the symbolic meaning of bravery spirit against frost and snow even though so tender and slim，a moral quality not lost in harsh times. Interesting to know that in English, a yellow chrysanthemum blossom in English signifies neglected love or sorrow.