North of the Yellow River
- Poetry of Wang Anshi


- Last updated: 2024-04-03 12:09:09

North of the Yellow River by Wang Anshi







English Translation

Hard the lot of the people who live north of the river

On the borders of the Khitans and the Tanguts;

Each household brings up its children to farm and weave

But officials present the fruits to the barbarians.

In this year of great drought a thousand li lie waste,

Yet the magistrates press conscripts to work on the river;

Leading their old and young by the hand they flee south

Where the harvest was good—but the people there too have no food.

Grief afflicts heaven and earth, makes dark the day,

Even passersby turn pale.

If only you could have lived in the reign of Zhenguan

When grain cost but a few cash a peck and there was no war!

By Wang Anshi

· PreA Small Pond
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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