<Prelude to Water Melody> Sent to Ziyou on Mid-autumn Festival
- Poetry of Su Shi


- Last updated: 2023-12-18 20:54:02

<Prelude to Water Melody> Sent to Ziyou on Mid-autumn Festival by Su Shi









English Translation

On the mid-autumn festival,I drank happily till dawn and wrote this in my cups while thinking of Ziyou.

When did the bright moon first appear?

Wine-cup in hand,I ask the blue sky.

I do not know what time of year It would be tonight in the palace on high.

Riding the wind,there I would fly,

But I'm afraid the crystalline palace would be 

Too high and too cold for me.

I rise and dance,with my shadow I play.

On high as on earth,would it be as gay?

The moon goes round the mansions red 

With gauze windows to shed 

Her light upon the sleepless bed.

Against man she should not have any spite.

Why then when people part is she oft full and bright?

Men have sorrow and joy,they part and meet again;

The moon may be bright or dim,she may wax or wane.

There has been nothing perfect since olden days.

So let us wish that man live as long as he can 

Though miles apart,we'll share the beauty she displays.

This is a famous Mid-Autumn lyric written for his brother Zi-you (1039-1112)when the poet was away from the imperial court. According to some commentators,"the palace on high"might allude to the imperial palace and therefore,after reading this lyric,Emperor Song Shen Zong said that Su Shi was loyal.

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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