Charm of a Maiden Singer-Memories of the Past at Red Cliff
- Poetry of Su Shi


- Last updated: 2024-03-23 14:22:31

Charm of a Maiden Singer-Memories of the Past at Red Cliff by Su Shi









English Translation

The Great River eastward flows,

With its waves are gone all those 

Gallant heroes of bygone years.

West of the ancient fortress appears

The Red Cliff.Here General Zhou won his early fame 

When the Three Kingdoms were all in flame.

Jagged rocks tower in the air,

Swashing waves beat on the shore,

Rolling up a thousand heaps of snow.

To match the hills and the river so fair,

How many heroes brave of yore 

Made a great show!

I fancy General Zhou at the height 

Of his success,with a plume fan in hand,

In a silk hood,so brave and bright,

Laughing and jesting with his bride so fair,

While enemy ships were destroyed as planned 

Like shadowy castles in the air.

Should their souls revisit this land,

Sentimental,his wife would laugh to say,

Younger than they,I have my hair all turned gray.

Life is but like a passing dream,

I'd drink to the moon which once saw them on the stream.

This is Su Shi's famous lyric written at Red Cliff where General Zhou Yu defeated the enemy advancing forces in A.D.208.

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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