Don't Read Books
- Poetry of Yang Wanli

《书莫读》

- Last updated: 2024-04-11 19:53:34

Don't Read Books by Yang Wanli
中文原文

书诗莫吟。

读书两眼枯见骨,吟诗个字呕出心。

人言读书乐,人言吟诗好,

口吻长作秋虫声,只令君瘦令君老。

君瘦君老且勿论,傍人听之亦烦恼。

何如闭目坐斋房,下帘扫地自焚香。

听风听雨都有味,健来即行倦来睡。


English Translation

Don't read books

Don't chant poems

When you read books your eyeballs wither away

leaving the bare sockets

When you chant poems your heart leaks out slowly

with each word

People say reading books is enjoyable

People say chanting poems is fun

But if your lips constantly make a sound

like an insect chirping in autumn

you will only turn into a haggard old man

And even if you don't turn into a haggard old man

It's annoying for others to have to hear you

It's so much better

to close your eyes, sit in your study

lower the curtains, sweep the floor,

burn incense.

take a walk when you feel energetic,

and when you're tired go to sleep.

By Yang Wanli

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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