The Inlaid Harp
- Poetry of Li Shangyin


- Last updated: 2024-05-09 11:46:12

The Inlaid Harp by Li Shangyin





English Translation

I wonder why my inlaid harp has fifty strings,

Each with its flower-like fret an interval of youth.

...The sage Chuangzi is day-dreaming, bewitched by butterflies,

The spring-heart of Emperor Wang is crying in a cuckoo,

Mermen weep their pearly tears down a moon-green sea,

Blue fields are breathing their jade to the sun....

And a moment that ought to have lasted for ever

Has come and gone before I knew.


· PreAn Elegy III
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.

© 2024 Famous Chinese Poems in English