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Category: Poems by – 曹雪芹 (1715-1763)
Futile Frown* Cao Xueqin (~1715-1763)
Trans. by YK Chan 陈耀国
一个是阆苑仙葩，One is a fairyland fresh flower;
一个是美玉无瑕。the other, a flawless jadestone empower’d.
若说没奇缘， If not for mysterious destiny,
今生偏又遇着他；how in this life we again meet each other;
若说有奇缘， If destiny really acts mysteriously,
如何心事终虚化？How’s that our wishes come to naught ever?
一个枉自嗟呀， One sighs in futility;
一个空劳牵挂。 one uselessly harbors anxiety.
一个是水中月， One is a moon mirrored in water,
一个是镜中花。 one is a flower seen in the mirror.
想眼中能有多少泪珠儿，How many pearly tears from the eye
怎经得秋流到冬尽， throughout autumn till winter’s end,
春流到夏！ or throughout spring till summer’s
Music composed by Wang Liping 王立平 (1941- ) for a Chinese TV series of Dream of Red Mansions
Originally sung by Chen Li 陈力 (soprano):
Guzheng arrangement古筝曲: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvupUuXW5cY
* As the lyrics of one of the songs narrated in Chapter 5 of Cao’s Dream of Red Mansions. The songs set the fate of the twelve belles as narrated in the following chapters of the novel. (Ref: http://baike.baidu.com/view/50556.htm)
Song of the Red Bean* Cao Xueqin (1715 — 1763/1724 — 1764)
Translated by YK Chan (December 2009); revised June 2013
My bleeding heart and tears of desperation drip endlessly like red beans dropping;
Yet, forever blooming spring willows and flowers are in full view at this picturesque dwelling.
Tossing and turning after dusk for that storm strikes at the lace-screen window,
I forget not at all recent and past sorrow.
Swallowing not delicious rice and fine wine, they choke down my throat;
Looking into infinity the ornate mirror reflects only my meagerness and despair.
My frown can’t be unlocked; I endure the long dark night not.
Ah! It’s just like a green mountain that’s only vaguely veiled in fog,
Or a meandering emerald stream that can’t be block’d!
*The ‘red bean’, 红豆 hongdou, here really is the jequirity bean, which is produced by the leguminous jequirity plant (Abrus precatorius, cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrus_precatorius) and used often in Chinese poetry as a love token—相思豆 xiangsi dou, the love bean, e.g. 王维 (701-761) Wang Wei’s poem 相思 Xiangsi.
Xiangsi 相思 denotes a special yearning for a loved one, from whom the lover is separated. Cao’s 红豆詞 HongDou Ci (Song of the Red Bean) is from his famed Dream of Red Mansions. It was written as a poem for the protagonist, 贾宝玉 Jia Baoyu, to sing after he was separated from his lover, 林黛玉 Lin Daiyu. It appears in Chapter 28 of this classic novel.
Music composed by Liu XueAn 刘雪庵 (1905-1985)
José Carreras (tenor) performance:
花谢花飞花满天 Flowers fall wandering flying all over the sky
红消香断有谁怜 Red colours fade and fragrance ceases no one can deny
游丝软系飘春榭 Floating gossamers softly enter her scented bower
落絮轻沾扑绣帘 Willowdowns waltz attaching to broidery blinds