On the Novel Honglou meng
Such deep feeling,
To break her heart for him,
To die for him.
She awakens in the Red Chamber and doesn’t see anyone.
The shadows of the curtains blowing in the wind startle her awake,
In vain fresh grief pours like water.
Because there is karma from a previous life,
She throws this life away in a stream of tears of longing.
Let it be called out–
“Frowner” is her name.
Outside Xiaoxiang guan, how much of spring is left?
Set against traces of moss, a mass of fallen blossoms
Dotted with red, a touch of purple.
Drifting, the east wind pities her sad fate,
How her heart cherishes flowers!
Take a crow-beak hoe and deeply bury the flowers.
As she returns to her fairy land, the world of dust is silent.
How does one know whether this resentment can end or not?
I fear that as of old
Her dark eyebrows will be locked in sorrow.
Translation from Ellen Widmer, Beauty and the Book, 146-47.
Listen to Li Kan read the poem in Chinese.
Notes on the poem
Second stanza Xiaoxiang guan is the name of Daiyu’s residence. Hawkes translates it as “Naiad’s House.” This stanza invokes the scene in which Daiyu buries fallen blossoms so that they will not get stained. The last lines of each stanza invoke Daiyu’s physical appearance: Because her eyebrows are perpetually knotted, she is given the nickname “Frowner,” as we are told in the last line of the first stanza. The last line of the second stanza 鎖蛾翠, which Widmer translates as “Her dark eyebrows are locked in sorrow” invokes her name–the Dai 黛 in Daiyu means dark eyebrows.