The Bride of the First House (bride) wrote,
The Bride of the First House
bride

Untitled III - Li Shangyin

weather: mostly cloudy
outside: 18°C
mood: distracted

xiāng

jiàn

shí

nán

bié


nán
 

dōng

fēng



bǎi

huā

cán
 

chūn

cán

dào



fāng

jìn
 



chéng

huī

lèi

shǐ

gān
 
 

xiǎo

jìng

dàn

chóu

yún

bìn

gǎi
 


yín

yìng

jué

yuè

guāng

hán
 

péng

lái




duō

 

qīng

niǎo

yīn

qín

wéi

tàn

kàn
 
— 李商隱

'Twas long before I met her, but longer since we parted,
The east wind has arisen and a hundred flowers are gone.
The silk worms of spring will weave until they die,
And every night the candles will weep their wicks away.

In the mirror, each sorrowful dawn, she sees her tresses grey,
Yet she dares the chill of moonlight with her evening song.
It is not so very far to her Enchanted Mountain
O blue-birds, be listening. Bring me what she says.

                                                                  — Li Shangyin

*                    *                    *

I must've been 11 years old when I first heard this. It wasn't for Chinese school, so I picked it up like THAT. =) I've since found that Li Shangyin is one of my favorite T'ang poets. Li Bai has the most beautiful, symbolic, imagery- and connotation-rich verses. But Li Shangyin really captures sorrow and loneliness well. This particular poem is the third of several untitled verses.

A lot of these poems, like this one and The Ballad of Mulan, I only know in Cantonese because that's what I grew up with =) What makes Li Shangyin's Untitled III intriguing to me is that it was the first time I learned of the poetic pronunciation of , the verb "to die". In speech, it's pronounced "say" with a rising tone. But in recital, it's always pronounced "see" with a rising tone. You'd most likely be corrected if you said "say" in 《春蠶到絲方盡》 (the fourth character of line 3 in the first stanza). I was. And I was always corrected in The Ballad of Mulan《將軍百戰.

And I still don't understand why we make that distinction, but we do. Certainly, in some cases, it's done for assonance, but I get the feeling it's just supposed to sound better or euphemized. But however you say it, it means "to die" and everyone knows it. =S Maybe there's another reason I don't know about. There's no equivalent difference in Mandarin though.

Tags: literature
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