Alone in Her Beauty
- Poetry of Du Fu

《佳人》

- Last updated: 2024-03-25 10:03:58

Alone in Her Beauty by Du Fu
中文原文

绝代有佳人,幽居在空谷。

自云良家子,零落依草木。

关中昔丧乱,兄弟遭杀戮。

官高何足论,不得收骨肉。

世情恶衰歇,万事随转烛。

夫婿轻薄儿,新人美如玉。

合昏尚知时,鸳鸯不独宿。

但见新人笑,那闻旧人哭。

在山泉水清,出山泉水浊。

侍婢卖珠回,牵萝补茅屋。

摘花不插发,采柏动盈掬。

天寒翠袖薄,日暮倚修竹。


English Translation

Who is lovelier than she?

Yet she lives alone in an empty valley.

She tells me she came from a good family

Which is humbled now into the dust.

...When trouble arose in the Kuan district,

Her brothers and close kin were killed.

What use were their high offices,

Not even shielding their own lives? --

The world has but scorn for adversity;

Hope goes out, like the light of a candle.

Her husband, with a vagrant heart,

Seeks a new face like a new piece of jade;

And when morning-glories furl at night

And mandarin-ducks lie side by side,

All he can see is the smile of the new love,

While the old love weeps unheard.

The brook was pure in its mountain source,

But away from the mountain its waters darken.

...Waiting for her maid to come from selling pearls

For straw to cover the roof again,

She picks a few flowers, no longer for her hair,

And lets pine-needles fall through her fingers,

And, forgetting her thin silk sleeve and the cold,

She leans in the sunset by a tall bamboo.

Five-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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