Rúmèng lìng by Li Qingzhao

Contributors to the Poetry Pavilion and I chose seven poems to recite as part of an inaugural Poetry Slam event at the Chine New Year Party, 2022. The two poems below are by Li Qingzhao (1084-ca. 1155). She was born in Jinan, in present-day Shandong Province into a highly cultured, highly literate family. Her mother was a noted poet. Li Qingzhao married the scholar-official, Zhao Mingcheng, when she was 18 and together they enjoyed books, poetry, calligraphy, and the study of ancient bronzes. She endured the fall of the Southern Song and the death of her husband. Most of Li Qingzhao’s poems are ci 詞 poems. In this style of poetry, verses are written to fit pre-existing musical tunes. As in the two examples below, the lines are often of different lengths.



 

如夢令 李清照

Rúmèng lìng Li Qingzhao

To the tune of ‘As if in a dream’ by Li Qingzhao

常記溪亭日暮。

Cháng jì xī tíng rì mù.


I often remember sunset in a river pavilion.

沈醉不知歸路。

Chén zuì bù zhī guī lù.


Sunk in drunkenness, we didn’t know the way back.

興盡晚回舟

Xīng jìn wǎn huí zhōu

The excitement over, we returned late to the boat

誤入藕花深處。

Wù rù ǒu huā shēn chǔ.

But by mistake entered a place deep in lotus flowers.


爭渡。

Zhēng dù.

Struggling to get through,

爭渡。

Zhēng dù.

Struggling to get through,

驚起一灘鷗鷺。

Jīng qǐ yī tān ōu lù.

We startled a sandbar of egrets into flight.

Rúmèng lìng by Li Qingzhao
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蓮池白鷺図 ( Lily Pond with Egrets, ca., 1852) detail. Egrets in a Lotus Pond by 山本梅逸筆(Yamamoto Baiitsu, Japanese, 1783–1856). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City


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如夢令 李清照

Rúmèng lìng Li Qingzhao

To the tune of ‘As if in a dream’ by Li Qingzhao

昨夜雨疏風驟。

Zuó yè yǔ shū fēng zhòu.

Last night the rain was sparse and the wind strong.

濃睡不消殘酒,

Nóngshuì bù xiāo cán jiǔ.

Deep sleep did not dispel the traces of the wine.

試問捲簾人

Shì wèn juǎn lián rén,

​I tried asking the person who rolled up the blinds

却道海棠依舊。

Què dào hǎitáng yī jiù.

and they said the crab-apple blossoms were as of old.

​知否?

Zhīfǒu?

Do you know?

知否?

Zhīfǒu?

Do you know?

應是綠肥紅瘦

Yīng shì lǜ féi hóng shòu.


​The greens must be plump, and the reds must be slender.


海棠禽兔( Begonia, Bird and Rabbit, ca. 1759, detail) by 华嵒 Hua Yan (1682-1756) Qing Dynasty. Palace Museum, Beijing, China



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