Alone, in silence, up the west tower I go
- Poetry of Li Yu


- Last updated: 2023-12-28 22:05:56

Alone, in silence, up the west tower I go by Li Yu





English Translation

Alone, in silence, up the west tower I go:

The moon is like a sickle; 

That desolate tree of the phoenix, this clear, cool autumn, locked deep in the courtyard below.

O threads I can’t cut through,

In a tangle I can’t undo!

Such is my parting sorrow---

A taste that tastes so odd, so strange that my heart,  ne’er ever before did know.

This is one of the best lyrics describing the sorrow of separation. We can find that after an implicit description of his loneliness in the first stanza,the poet utters three short lines mirroring the intensity of his sorrow and then the final line revealing the relaxation of his feeling.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)

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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