Boating after Cold Food Day
- Poetry of Du Fu

《小寒食舟中作》

- Last updated: 2024-03-25 10:45:56

Boating after Cold Food Day by Du Fu
中文原文

佳辰强饮食犹寒,隐几萧条戴鹖冠。

春水船如天上坐,老年花似雾中看。

娟娟戏蝶过闲幔,片片轻鸥下急湍。

云白山青万余里,愁看直北是长安。


English Translation

I try to drink, but food’s still cold on festive day;

In hermit’s cap, at table, drear and bleak I stay.

My boat is drifting on above a mirrored sky,

The flowers look veiled in mist to wrinkled eye.

The listless curtains see butterflies dancing past;

Over the rapids gulls on gulls are skimming fast.

For miles and miles outspread cloud on cloud, hill on hill,

But the imperial town lies farther northward still.

* Cold food day, also known as Haishi Day or Hansik, is a traditional festival that takes place in China, South Korea, and Vietnam. The festival honors ancestors and commemorates the death of Jie Zitui, a Jin nobleman from the 7th century BC. The festival is celebrated on the 105th day after the December solstice, which is usually April 4 or 5, and ends on the 107th day after the December solstice, which is usually April 6 or 7. The festival's primary activity is a taboo against using fire.

The poem expresses the poet’s deep concern for the safety and security of the Tang dynasty even though he was in his twilight years in the rivers and lakes. The first couplet summarizes the author’s life story, the first couplet describes what the poet saw and felt in the boat, the neck couplet describes the scenery on the river in the boat, and the last couplet summarizes the poem’s thoughts and feelings. The language of the poem is natural and refined, and the style is pale and melancholy.

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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