作者：林逋 （Author: Lin Bu, 10th century)
众芳摇落独暄妍 many fragrant sway fall alone warm beautiful
占尽风情向小园 occupy exhaust wind feeling toward small garden
疏影横斜水清浅 sparse shadow horizontal slanting water clear shallow
暗香浮动月黄昏 dim fragrant float move moon yellow dusk
霜禽欲下先偷眼 frost (white) bird about to go down first steal eye
粉蝶如知合断魂 pink butterfly if know should break soul
幸有微吟可相狎 luckily have tiny chant can each other intimate
不须檀板共金樽 not need hard wood clapper together gold goblet
This is the flower that shows us springtime beauty,
When the others have wobbled and fallen.
It’s the reason we love this small garden.
Its thin shadows slant across the clear, shallow water
Its hidden fragrance floats beneath the yellow moon.
A snow-white bird steals a look before landing.
If the pink butterflies knew it was here, their hearts should break.
Luckily, I can make these flowers my friends by softly chanting poems.
There’s no need for a golden chalice or a singing girl’s wooden clapper.
The poet Lin Bu was a famous recluse in the northern Song dynasty and lived a quiet life in a mountain by the West Lake during his later years. He was very fond of plums and cranes, and spent much time admiring them. Since he never married, he earned the reputation of “considering plums his wife and cranes his children,” which was not a compliment in a Confucian society, despite the fact that Lin Bu was a much admired poet. Lin Bu was highly admired in Japan where he came to be regarded as one of the poetic immortals. A famous Japanese painting of Bu hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art today.
Plum blossoms were very highly regarded in ancient Chinese culture and considered to be symbols of purity, courage, hope, longevity, and many other virtues, in part because they bloom very early in the year, often when there is still frost or snow on the ground. Even today, people say that its three stamens represent Sun Yat-sen’s three principles of the people and that its five petals represent the five branches of government.
We have included many color words in our translation, but it would be possible not to do so. “Yellow moon” frequently refers to dusk and could be translated as such. The “white” which describes a bird literally translates as frosty. The word for pink may also be a shortened version of a word for rouge. Some translations of this poem do not use the colors; we have chosen to use them both because we thought they painted a vivid image in a poem that takes place in a garden and because we suspect that Lin Bu deliberately chose to use yellow, gold, white, and pink since they are the colors of plum blossoms. As with so many translation choices, however, some of the original nuances have been lost. Our translation does not have dusk, frostiness, or a reference to such feminine allurements as rouge, all of which are hinted at in the original.
The second stanza of the poem is said to have originated from poetry first written by Jiang Wei, a poet living in an era slightly before Lin Bu. The poetic lines written by Jiang Wei are as follows (translated version): The bamboo’s shadows slant across the clear, shallow water; the cassia’s fragrance floats beneath the yellow moon. The first word in each of the two lines, namely, “bamboo” and “cassia” in the original was changed by Lin Bu into “sparse” and “hidden”. Lin Bu only changed two words in this stanza, both from noun to adjective, and he was able to demonstrate the beauty and fragrance of the plums. Today we could no longer find the complete version of Jiang Wei’s poem and only that couplet remains.