Water Dragon Chant-On Riverside Tower at Jiankang
- Poetry of Xin Qiji


- Last updated: 2024-03-23 10:32:43

Water Dragon Chant-On Riverside Tower at Jiankang by Xin Qiji









English Translation

The Southern sky for miles and miles in autumn dye,

And boundless autumn water spread to meet the sky,

I gaze on far-off Northern hills 

Like spiral shells or hair decor of jade 

Which grief or hatred overfills.

Leaning at sunset on balustrade 

And hearing a lonely swan's song,

A wanderer on Southern land,

I look at my precious sword long 

And pound all the railings with my hand,

But nobody knows why 

I climb the tower high.

Don't say for food 

The perch is good.

When the west winds blow,

Why don't I homeward go?

I'd be ashamed to see the patriot,

Should I retire to seek for land and cot.

I sigh for passing years I can't retain,

In driving wind and blinding rain 

Even an old tree grieves.

To whom then may I say 

To wipe my tears away

With her pink handkerchief or her green sleeves?

Xin Qiji(1140-1207)was regarded as the greatest lyric poet of the Southern Song Dynasty and a patriotic poet par excellence.At the age of 22,he fought against the Jurchen invaders overrunning his native land in the North.This lyric was written in 1167 when the poct,coming to the South,served as a petty official in Jiankang(present-day Nanjing).One autumn day,ascending the Riverside Tower on the Westem City Gate and seeing the hills on the Northern shore,he sighed for he could not wield his sword to fight against the foe and recapture the lost land in the North.

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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