舟夜书所见 On a Boat at Night Writing About What I Saw
查慎行 (Author: Zha Shenxing, 17th century)
月黑见渔灯， moon dark appear fisherman lantern
孤光一点萤。 alone light one spot firefly
微微风簇浪， tiny tiny wind pile up/make wave
散作满河星。 scatter become filled with river star
Tonight, the moon is dark
A fisherman’s lantern appears.
Its lonely gleam like a firefly.
But when a breeze makes the water ripple
The light scatters
Until the river fills with stars.
This poem is written by Zha Shenxing, a Qing Dynasty poet known for portraying natural scenery. It is said that the style of his poems was heavily influenced by Su Shi and Lu You, two famous Song Dynasty poets. The first and the second couplet of this poem form an interesting comparison: In the first couplet, the images are quiet and still, with the gleam from the fisherman’s lantern like a firefly. By contrast, in the second couplet, the images become dynamic when a breeze makes the water ripple. We translated the second couplet with simple languages and took the liberty of adding “the light scatters” to make the meaning clear.