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Poetry

Púsāmán: To a Female Friend

By Qiu Jin
Translated from Chinese by Yilin Wang
In this wistful poem, Qing-dynasty poet Qiu Jin captures the pain of separation from loved ones. The poem appears in the newly published The Lantern and the Night Moths, edited and translated by Yilin Wang and out now from Invisible Publishing.
A gibbous moon shines over a river with reeds growing out of the shallows
Photo by Tania Malréchauffé on Unsplash

Take pity on the slice of moon beyond the curtains,
     shining not upon joyous gatherings, but rather, partings.

The wistful longings of clouds and trees extend on and on.
     The Xiāng River’s currents flow, heartless and cold.

A mountain in between us, the distance so vast.
     When will we finally reunite as we yearn to?

Holding an ink brush between my teeth, I mull over words,
     fretting late into the night as the water clock drips on.

 

Cold gusts of wind pierce and invade windows.
     Drawing the curtains closed, I wander down the corridor.

Moonlight seeps into this tall pavilion.
     The melancholy of longing, here and elsewhere.

To converse on matters lingering within one’s heart,
     imparted on the floral letter-papers of Huànhuā Brook.1

If you chance upon a plum blossom, flowering early
     amidst the snow, send a branch of it this way!

 


Note: Púsāmán 菩萨蛮 is a cípái 词牌 (poetic form).

1. In ancient China, writers and scholars often wrote letters on special types of hand-crafted letter writing paper. The female poet Xue Tao 薛涛, who lived during the Táng dynasty, invented a popular and highly prized type of paper known as “Huànhuā Brook-style paper” 浣花笺, which was so named because she made it using the water from Huànhuā Brook.


Read Yilin Wang’s essay about Qiu Jin, also excerpted from 
The Lantern and the Night Moths, on WWB.

Excerpted with permission from The Lantern and the Night Moths: Five Modern and Contemporary Chinese Poets, selected and translated by Yilin Wang (Invisible Publishing). 

English Chinese (Original)

Take pity on the slice of moon beyond the curtains,
     shining not upon joyous gatherings, but rather, partings.

The wistful longings of clouds and trees extend on and on.
     The Xiāng River’s currents flow, heartless and cold.

A mountain in between us, the distance so vast.
     When will we finally reunite as we yearn to?

Holding an ink brush between my teeth, I mull over words,
     fretting late into the night as the water clock drips on.

 

Cold gusts of wind pierce and invade windows.
     Drawing the curtains closed, I wander down the corridor.

Moonlight seeps into this tall pavilion.
     The melancholy of longing, here and elsewhere.

To converse on matters lingering within one’s heart,
     imparted on the floral letter-papers of Huànhuā Brook.1

If you chance upon a plum blossom, flowering early
     amidst the snow, send a branch of it this way!

 


Note: Púsāmán 菩萨蛮 is a cípái 词牌 (poetic form).

1. In ancient China, writers and scholars often wrote letters on special types of hand-crafted letter writing paper. The female poet Xue Tao 薛涛, who lived during the Táng dynasty, invented a popular and highly prized type of paper known as “Huànhuā Brook-style paper” 浣花笺, which was so named because she made it using the water from Huànhuā Brook.


Read Yilin Wang’s essay about Qiu Jin, also excerpted from 
The Lantern and the Night Moths, on WWB.

菩萨蛮 · 寄女伴

堪怜一片帘前月,不照欢娱照离别。
云树思悠悠,无情湘水流。
一山相隔远,欲见何由见?
含笔费商量,愁和更漏长。

寒风料峭侵窗户,垂帘懒向回廊步。
月色入高楼,相思两处愁。
聊得心上事,托付浣花纸。
若遇早梅开,一枝应寄来。

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