An Old War-Song
- Poetry of Li Qi


- Last updated: 2024-04-22 14:54:24

An Old War-Song by Li Qi







English Translation

Through the bright day up the mountain, we scan the sky for a war-torch;

At yellow dusk we water our horses in the boundaryriver;

And when the throb of watch-drums hangs in the sandy wind,

We hear the guitar of the Chinese Princess telling her endless woe....

Three thousand miles without a town, nothing but camps,

Till the heavy sky joins the wide desert in snow.

With their plaintive calls, barbarian wildgeese fly from night to night,

And children of the Tartars have many tears to shed;

But we hear that the Jade Pass is still under siege,

And soon we stake our lives upon our light warchariots.

Each year we bury in the desert bones unnumbered,

Yet we only watch for grape-vines coming into China.


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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