To One Unnamed I
- Poetry of Li Shangyin


- Last updated: 2024-03-22 22:21:35

To One Unnamed I by Li Shangyin

來是空言去絕蹤, 月斜樓上五更鐘。

夢為遠別啼難喚, 書被催成墨未濃。

蠟照半籠金翡翠, 麝熏微度繡芙蓉。

劉郎已恨蓬山遠, 更隔蓬山一萬重。

English Translation

You said you would come, but you did not, and you left me with no other trace

Than the moonlight on your tower at the fifth-watch bell.

I cry for you forever gone, I cannot waken yet,

I try to read your hurried note, I find the ink too pale.

...Blue burns your candle in its kingfisher-feather lantern

And a sweet breath steals from your hibiscus-broidered curtain.

But far beyond my reach is the Enchanted Mountain,

And you are on the other side, ten thousand peaks away.


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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