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SORROWS OF THE WILD GEESE by HUANG E

SORROWS OF THE WILD GEESE by HUANG E

These are my modern English translations of poems by the Chinese poet Huang E (1498–1569), also known as Huang Xiumei. She has been called the most outstanding female poet of the Ming Dynasty, and her husband Yang Shen its most outstanding male poet. 


Sent to My Husband
by Huang E
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The wild geese never fly beyond Hengyang ...
how then can my brocaded words reach Yongchang?
Like wilted willow flowers I am ill-fated indeed;
in that far-off foreign land you feel similar despair.
“Oh, to go home, to go home!” you implore the calendar.
“Oh, if only it would rain, if only it would rain!” I complain to the heavens.
One hears hopeful rumors that you might soon be freed ...
but when will the Golden Cock rise in Yelang?

A star called the Golden Cock was a symbol of amnesty to the ancient Chinese. Yongchang was a hot, humid region of Yunnan to the south of Hengyang, and was presumably too hot and too far to the south for geese to fly there.


Luo Jiang's Second Complaint
by Huang E
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The green hills vanished,
pedestrians passed by
disappearing beyond curves.

The geese grew silent, the horseshoes timid.

Winter is the most annoying season!

A lone goose vanished into the heavens,
the trees whispered conspiracies in Pingwu,
and people huddling behind buildings shivered.


Bitter Rain, an Aria of the Yellow Oriole
by Huang E
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

These ceaseless rains make the spring shiver:
even the flowers and trees look cold!
The roads turn to mud;
the river's eyes are tired and weep into in a few bays;
the mountain clouds accumulate like dirty dishes,
and the end of the world seems imminent, if jejune.

I find it impossible to send books:
the geese are ruthless and refuse to fly south to Yunnan!


Broken-Hearted Poem
by Huang E
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My tears cascade into the inkwell;
my broken heart remains at a loss for words;
ever since we held hands and said farewell,
I have been too listless to paint my eyebrows;
no medicine can cure my night-sweats,
no wealth repurchase our lost youth;
and how can I persuade that damned bird singing in the far hills
to tell a traveler south of the Yangtze to return home?

Keywords/Tags: translation, Chinese, China, Ming Dynasty, sorrow, wild, geese, marriage, separation, woman, women, wife, marriage, poets, writing

Copyright © Michael Burch

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