A Song of Fair Women
- Poetry of Du Fu


- Last updated: 2024-04-24 13:43:40

A Song of Fair Women by Du Fu














English Translation

On the third day of the Third-month in the freshening weather

Many beauties take the air by the Changan waterfront,

Receptive, aloof, sweet-mannered, sincere,

With soft fine skin and well-balanced bone.

Their embroidered silk robes in the spring sun are gleaming --

With a mass of golden peacocks and silver unicorns.

And hanging far down from their temples

Are blue leaves of delicate kingfisher feathers.

And following behind them

Is a pearl-laden train, rhythmic with bearers.

Some of them are kindred to the Royal House --

The titled Princesses Guo and Qin.

Red camel-humps are brought them from jade broilers,

And sweet fish is ordered them on crystal trays.

Though their food-sticks of unicorn-horn are lifted languidly

And the finely wrought phoenix carving-knife is very little used,

Fleet horses from the Yellow Gate, stirring no dust,

Bring precious dishes constantly from the imperial kitchen.

...While a solemn sound of flutes and drums invokes gods and spirits,

Guests and courtiers gather, all of high rank;

And finally, riding slow, a dignified horseman

Dismounts at the pavilion on an embroidered rug.

In a snow of flying willow-cotton whitening the duckweed,

Bluebirds find their way with vermilion handkerchiefs --

But power can be as hot as flame and burn people's fingers.

Be wary of the Premier, watch for his frown.


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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