Passing the Seven-league Shallows (Song of Pilgrimage)
- Poetry of Su Shi


- Last updated: 2024-03-23 17:14:36

Passing the Seven-league Shallows (Song of Pilgrimage) by Su Shi









English Translation

A leaf-like boat goes light,

At dripping oars wild geese take fright.

Under a sky serene

Clear shadows float on calm waves green.

Among the mirrored water grass fish play

And egrets dot the riverbank mist-gray.

Thus I go past

The sandy brook flowing fast,

The frosted brook cold,

The moonlit brook bright to behold.

Hill upon hill is a picturesque scene;

Bend after bend looks like a screen.

I recall those far-away years;

The hermit wasted his life till he grew old;

The emperor shared the same dream with his peers,

Then as now, their fame was left out in the cold.

Only the distant hills outspread

Till they're unseen,

The cloud-crowned hills look dishevelled

And dawn-lit hills so green.

The place where Yan Guang fished as a hermit because he wished to refusc the offer of a high post from his former schoolmate, who became the first emperor Of the Eastern Han dynasty.

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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