Song of River City
- Poetry of Su Shi


- Last updated: 2024-03-23 17:20:22

Song of River City by Su Shi







English Translation

Ten years, dead and living dim and draw apart.

I don’t try to remember,

But forgetting is hard.

Lonely grave a thousand miles off,

Cold thoughts, where can I talk them out?

Even if we met, you wouldn’t know me,

Dust on my face,

Hair like frost.

In a dream last night suddenly I was home.

By the window of the little room,

You were combing your hair and making up.

You turned and looked, not speaking,

Only lines of tears coursing down.

Year after year will it break my heart?

The moonlit grave,

The stubby pines.

This Chinese poem about love was written by Su Shi around 1075 and is about a dream he once had about his wife, Wang Fu, who he married in 1054 but unfortunately died just 11 years later. He loved and missed his wife so much that he composed this poem to express his feelings and longing for her.

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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