From previously about the 11th-century Song dynasty poetess 李清照 Li Qingzhao mentioned here, and especially regarding her ‘magnificent treatise to Melancholy’, the famous poem: 聲聲慢 Sound Sound Slow; here are some interpretations and renditions of these iconic verses Li Qingzhao wrote upon the death of her husband.
Kunqu operatic rendition of 聲聲慢 Sound Sound Slow:
Sound sound slow by Li Qingzhao
Searching searching seeking seeking, cold cold desolate desolate,
dismal dismal wretched wretched sorrowful sorrowful.
Even at the warmest still there is a chill,
It is most difficult to get to rest.
Three cups or two thimbles of light wine, how to ward off, this swift evening wind?
Wild geese fly by, whilst I was most anguished, yet they are old acquaintances (memories).
All over the ground yellow chrysanthemums fall and pile up, withered and broken (yellowing and ageing), who shall deign to pluck them now (comfort an ageing and broken-hearted me now)?
Waiting by the window, alone how am I able to get through the darkness?
The drizzling rain falls lightly upon the parasol trees, till the dusk, dropping dripping (pitter patter).
These feelings, how can a single word, “Melancholy” describe it all.
Li Qingzhao, in this her treatise to Melancholy, did away with subtleties and the classical Chinese poetic technique of 双声叠韵 or subtle syllabic alliteration of words (usually by skillfully pairing up the head or tail sound/韵头韵尾 of different Chinese words), by opening her poem starkly (and in your face raw emotion) and simply with the seven pairs of repeating words, echoing her numbing sorrow so exquisitely.
Rarely has a verse shoot so straight and true to the heart.
And a more straight-up recital and delivery:
The great thing about beautiful classical verse and prose is how they provide inspiration for later generations of artists. One example of a more recent and enchanting piece of work from a young talent inspired in part by Li Qingzhao’s 聲聲慢/Sound sound slow, coming next…