Longing, in springtime
(translated by William P. Coleman)
The northern grasses are just bright green threads;
but on eastern mulberries, green branches hang down.
Days when the lord is first eager to come back —
those are a wife’s heartbreak times.
The wind of desire and I no longer know each other;
what right has he to enter my silk gauze curtains?
I found the Chinese text and an English translation of this poem — along with the word-by-word literal translation I used to create this one — and very helpful notes — on pp. 95-7 of Whincup, Greg. The Heart of Chinese Poetry. Garden City: Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1987. ISBN 0-385-23967-X.
The grammar of Chinese allows poets to leave interpretive choices open, and it’s an unattainable ideal of translating to bring out possibilities without closing others. I try to use my sense of English to at least intrigue you. If I’ve succeeded, it’s best — even if you don’t know Chinese, which I don’t either — to follow up at the source I cite above and see the original word-by-word translation from which I worked. It’ll be richer than what I’ve given you. To understand the poem best, try to construct your own translation.
More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
Home page for my Li Bai translations.