A Song of Running-horse River in Farewell to General Feng of the Western Expedition
- Poetry of Cen Shen

《走马川行奉送封大夫出师西征》

- Last updated: 2023-12-28 21:51:24

A Song of Running-horse River in Farewell to General Feng of the Western Expedition by Cen Shen
中文原文

君不见走马川行雪海边,平沙莽莽黄入天。

轮台九月风夜吼,一川碎石大如斗,随风满地石乱走。

匈奴草黄马正肥,金山西见烟尘飞,汉家大将西出师。

将军金甲夜不脱,半夜军行戈相拨,风头如刀面如割。

马毛带雪汗气蒸,五花连钱旋作冰,幕中草檄砚水凝。

虏骑闻之应胆慑,料知短兵不敢接,车师西门伫献捷。


English Translation

Look how swift to the snowy sea races Running-Horse River! --

And sand, up from the desert, flies yellow into heaven.

This Ninth-month night is blowing cold at Wheel Tower,

And valleys, like peck measures, fill with the broken boulders

That downward, headlong, follow the wind.

...In spite of grey grasses, Tartar horses are plump;

West of the Hill of Gold, smoke and dust gather.

O General of the Chinese troops, start your campaign!

Keep your iron armour on all night long,

Send your soldiers forward with a clattering of weapons!

...While the sharp wind's point cuts the face like a knife,

And snowy sweat steams on the horses' backs,

Freezing a pattern of five-flower coins,

Your challenge from camp, from an inkstand of ice,

Has chilled the barbarian chieftain's heart.

You will have no more need of an actual battle! --

We await the news of victory, here at the western pass!

Seven-character-ancient-verse

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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