钗头凤 Phoenix Hairpin
作者：陆游 (Author: Lu You, 12th century)
红酥手，黄縢酒， red soft hand, yellow sealed wine
满城春色宫墙柳。full of city spring color Palace wall willow
东风恶，欢情薄。 east wind vicious, happy feeling thin
一怀愁绪， one bosom sad feeling,
几年离索。 several year parting live all alone
错、错、错。 wrong wrong wrong
春如旧，人空瘦， spring similar to past, people in vain thin
泪痕红浥鲛绡透。 tear trace red sorrowful raw silk thoroughly
桃花落，闲池阁。 peach flower fall, idle pond pavilion
山盟虽在， mountain pledge although exist,
锦书难托。 brocade letter difficult entrust
莫、莫、莫！ no no no
钗头凤 Phoenix Hairpin (Reply Poem)
作者：唐婉 (Author: Tang Wan, 12th century)
世情薄，人情恶， world feeling thin, people feeling vicious
雨送黄昏花易落。 rain send yellow dusk flower easy fall
晓风干，泪痕残， morning wind dry, tear trace incomplete
欲笺心事， desire to write heart affair,
独语斜阑。 alone talk slant railing
难，难，难！ difficult difficult difficult
人成各，今非昨， people become individual, today not yesterday.
病魂常似秋千索。 sick soul constantly similar to autumn thousand rope
角声寒，夜阑珊， horn sound cold, night about to end
怕人寻问， afraid people seek ask,
咽泪装欢。 swallow tear pretend happy
瞒，瞒，瞒！ conceal conceal conceal
Lu You’s poem:
Rosy soft hands, good wine with a yellow seal
The city filled with the beauty of spring,
Palace walls lined with willows.
A bitter east wind, and our happiness is cut short.
My mind steeped in sorrow and gloom, years of loneliness
This is wrong, wrong, wrong
Springtime has not changed,
But the futility of our lives has withered her.
She wears rouge ― it’s wet from crying.
She carries a silk handkerchief made by mermaids.
It’s soaked with tears.
Peach blossoms fall, lie idle
On the pond and pavilion.
We still have our sacred promise
But even a love letter is hard to send.
We have nothing, nothing, nothing
Translation of the reply poem by Tang Wan:
The world feels almost nothing,
Yet a single person can feel such hatred.
Flowers fall easily in the evening rain.
The morning wind is dry,
But traces of my tears remain.
I want to write all that’s in my heart,
But I talk to the slanting railing instead.
My life is so difficult, difficult, difficult.
Now each of us is alone,
And today is nothing like yesterday.
My painful soul swings back and forth like a heavy rope.
The horns at dawn sound cold, and the night will end soon.
I’m afraid people will ask why I’m sad.
I pretend to be happy, smiling instead of crying,
My life is all hiding, hiding, hiding.
Lu You was a famous poet of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 to 1279). At the age of 20, he married a young lady from an upper class family named Tang Wan who was also talented in poetry and literature. The couple fell deeply in love with each other, and the marriage was a happy one. However, Lu You’s mother disliked Tang Wan and forced the couple to divorce. Tang Wan later married again to a nobleman of royal descent named Zhao Shicheng.
A couple years later, Lu You paid a visit to Shen Garden, a tourist spot that is still popular today, and accidentally ran into Tang Wan and her husband. Lu wrote this poem on the wall of Shen Garden expressing his deep sorrow of being forced to break up with Tang. After Tang Wan read Lu’s poem, she wrote down another one under the same title as a reply. In Lu’s poem, the “bitter east wind” is a metaphor implying the interference from Lu’s mom into their marriage. In Tang’s reply poem, the “hatred” towards the break-up couple probably refers to the same thing. During Lu and Tang’s era, filial piety is strictly observed and it is almost impossible for Lu to disobey his mother, and their grievance over separation is reflected in these two poems.
we also attach another version of the translation for Tang Wan’s reply poem (from The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry). We encourage readers to read other translations and comment on the choices we made in our translation: http://illsandthrillsoflove.blogspot.com/2010/11/reply-to-phoenix-hairpin-to-tune-of.html
1 thought on “Phoenix Hairpin (钗头凤) — Translations of Lu You’s poem and Tang Wan’s reply poem”
怕人寻问， 咽泪装欢 is still a common motif used in modern pop songs. When I read it I sense a preemptive action in her description of the disguised happiness. Though it is very similar, there’s s subtle difference to me in “I am afraid of A therefore I do B” versus “I do B to avoid or prevent A”. The former sounds more submissive and reactive and it is possible that A happened before and she did B to stop it. The latter sounds like someone who’s trying to be in control and proactive. A may never have actually happened.