Wu Zao 吴藻: "Reading the Dream of the Red Chamber" 讀紅樓夢(乳燕飛)

 

Wu Zao 吴藻 (1799 – 1862) is one of the best-known ci poets of the Qing dynasty. 

 

"Ru yan fei:  Reading Dream of the Red Chamber"

 

  Of what use was the wish to patch up the sky

  When one’s soul could be consumed in red chamber’s depths?

  Kingfisher-wrapped and perfume-enclosed.

Foolish girl and silly boy, I fear, will never wake up--

Daily, bitterly, sowing their seeds of love.

    Which one of them, I ask

    Is the true seed of love?

Stubborn Stone has sentience but a sylph has woe;

Their three lifetimes reap but spun-thread sorrow, waxen tears.

    With one stroke thus concludes

    The dream of Supreme Void.

 

Though murmurs fall futile on greenish moss,

   They cling and cling like

   The jade pin atop her head,

   The small phoenix on wutong blossoms,

“Yellow earth,” “gauze windows”--these the words of doom,

Dissolve with pain a beauty’s heart.

    Where could I mourn

    An old grave of buried fragrance?

Flowers fall, flowers bloom, but the person is gone;

    Weeping in the wind of spring.

    I have tears to match the flowers’ pain.

    Flowers stand mute, but my tears flow.

       

 

Translation by Anthony Yu, in Chang and Saussy, 611-12.

 

讀紅樓夢(乳燕飛):
欲補天何用?
盡銷魂,紅樓深處,
翠圍香擁。
騃女癡兒愁不醒,
日日苦將情種。
問誰個是真情種。
頑石有靈仙有恨。
衹蠶絲燭淚三生共。
勾卻了。太虛夢。
 
喁喁語向蒼苔空。
似依依,
玉釵頭上,
桐花小鳳。
黃土茜紗成語讖,
消得美人心痛。
何處弔埋香故塚?
花洛花開人不見,
哭春風有淚和花慟,
花不語,淚如涌。

 

Notes on the poem: Jade pin玉釵 is a reference to Baochai 寶釵; the word here for pin is “chai,” the second syllable of Baochai’s name.

Li Kan reads Wu Zao poem

Ann Waltner reads Anthony Yu translation of Wu Zao poem

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