- Poetry of Yu Qian


- Last updated: 2024-06-20 09:52:37

Coal by Yu Qian





English Translation

Crack up primeval rock and soil,

There glistening black gold we find;

Preserved in such fine sunny warmth

In Nature's breast deep and kind.

A little fire oft makes one feel

What Spring's expansive breaths incite,

And a burning furnace could break up

The densest darkness of the night.

Bronze tripods and wine-vessels1 're shaped

By its vital power and energy,

And melt iron retains on it

Its posthumous felicity.

So long as all God's children be

Relieved from hunger, free from cold,

It cares not if, from wooded mountains

It comes to vast sufferings untold.

Bronze tripods and wine-vessels (the ding and the yi) were symbols of state power in feudal China.

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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