- Poetry of Bai Juyi


- Last updated: 2024-04-12 22:32:26

Grasses by Bai Juyi






English Translation

Boundless grasses over the plain

Come and go with every season;

Wildfire never quite consumes them --

They are tall once more in the spring wind.

Sweet they press on the old high- road

And reach the crumbling city-gate....

O Prince of Friends, you are gone again....

I hear them sighing after you.


The story of perseverance shines through this particular poem. Each winter, it withers, but each spring, it grows back in stronger force than before, growing to such an extent that it fills the entire plain. Bai Juyi’s use of repetition of 离 (typically means “away”, but in this case, signifies the lush vegetation) emphasizes the abundance of the grass on the plain, and his repetitive use of 一 (one) signifies the perseverance of the grass one year after another. 

Even when there is a wildfire, it cannot burn down all the grass because by the time spring comes, the grass experiences its revival. In my opinion, each blade of grass symbolizes a human being; humans who live in a community develop and become stronger together. Even when hardships, namely the wildfire in this poem, come, humans rely on one another for support to rise back up and face their struggles. 

In the end, human civilization will flourish if individuals learn to interact and support each other.

Why Chinese poems is so special?
The most distinctive features of Chinese poetry are: concision- many poems are only four lines, and few are much longer than eight; ambiguity- number, tense and parts of speech are often undetermined, creating particularly rich interpretative possibilities; and structure- most poems follow quite strict formal patterns which have beauty in themselves as well as highlighting meaningful contrasts.
How to read a Chinese poem?
Like an English poem, but more so. Everything is there for a reason, so try to find that reason. Think about all the possible connotations, and be aware of the different possibilities of number and tense. Look for contrasts: within lines, between the lines of each couplet and between successive couplets. Above all, don't worry about what the poet meant- find your meaning.

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