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.
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