Li Qingzhao: "My Jeweled mat feels like fall" (From Classical Chinese)

To the tune "A Cut of Plum"
By Li Qingzhao
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click here to hear me recite the original in modern Mandarin pronunciation

My jeweled mat feels like fall. Scents wilt from the once-red lotus flower.
With silken skirt drawn loose, I board
My magnolia boat alone with the hour...
Who is it that sends a gilded letter my way across the clouds?
News-bearing geese1 return with the season
When chills of moonlight are filling the tower2.

The wind-stripped flowers are blown away and the river just coldly runs.
The longing we bear is one and the same:
An idle grief in two places at once.
This feeling goes on and I just can't find it in me to put it out.
The second it falls from the brim of my brows
It climbs to the rim of my heart, and dawns.


1- The migratory wild goose is a traditional symbol of mutual yearning, and it was often portrayed as a bearer of lovers' messages.
2- Suggestive of the common trope of a woman waiting for her absent beloved atop a watchtower, scanning the countryside for any sign of his return.

The Original:

一剪梅
李清照

紅藕香殘玉簟秋。
輕解羅裳,
獨上蘭舟。
雲中誰寄錦書來?
雁字回時,
月滿西樓。

花自飄零水自流。
一種相思,
兩處閒愁。
此情無計可消除,
才下眉頭,
卻上心頭。

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