An Elegy I
- Poetry of Yuan Zhen


- Last updated: 2024-05-09 11:34:42

An Elegy I by Yuan Zhen





English Translation

O youngest, best-loved daughter of Xie,

Who unluckily married this penniless scholar,

You patched my clothes from your own wicker basket,

And I coaxed off your hairpins of gold, to buy wine with;

For dinner we had to pick wild herbs --

And to use dry locust-leaves for our kindling.

...Today they are paying me a hundred thousand --

And all that I can bring to you is a temple sacrifice.


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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