Groping for Fish
- Poetry of Xin Qiji


- Last updated: 2024-03-23 10:31:55

Groping for Fish by Xin Qiji












English Translation

In 1179,before I was transferred from Hubei to Hunan,Wang Cheng-zhi,a colleague of mine,feasted me in the Little Hill Pavilion and I wrote the following lyric.

How much more can Spring bear of wind and rain?

Too hastily,I fear,'twill leave again.

Lovers of Spring would fear to see the flowers red 

Budding too soon and fallen petals too wide spread 

O Spring,please stay!

I've heard it said that sweet grass far away 

Would stop you from seeing your backward way.

But I've not heard 

Spring say a word,

Only the busy spiders weave 

Webs all day by the painted eave 

To keep the willow-down from taking leave.

Could a disfavoured consort again to favour rise?

Could Beauty not be envied by green eyes?

Even if favour could be bought back again,

To whom of this unanswered love can she complain?

Do not dance then!

Have you not seen

Both plump and slender beauties turn to dust?

Bitterest grief is just 

That you can't do 

What you want to.

o!do not lean

On overhanging rails where the setting sun sees 

Heart-broken willow-trees!

In the first stanza the patriotic poet sighed for the departing spring,for he could not do what he wanted,that is,drive away Jurchen invaders from the occupied territory.In the second stanza he compared himself to a disfavoured Beauty and the capitulationists to the plump and slender dancers in favour.The willow-trees were heartbroken for they often saw people part.

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.

© 2024 Famous Chinese Poems in English