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王中立《感事》(其三)“Musing on Things (No. 3)” by Wang Zhongli (fl. 13th-14th century)


“Musing on Things (No. 3)” by Wang Zhongli (fl. 13th-14th century) [1]


長夜漫漫夢不,        In the long night dragging endlessly, dreams elude [me].

可堪凉月透疎。        How to bear the cold moon that shines through the sparse latticework!

唾壺敲碎無人語,        Knocking the spittoon into pieces, with no one to speak to, [2]

獨坐空堦看曉[3]   [I] sit alone on the empty steps, gazing upon the stars at dawn.


*From Song Gongchuan 宋公傳  (fl. 15th century) ed., Yuanshi tiyao 元詩體要, Wenyuange Siku Quanshu 文淵閣四庫全書 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987) edition, vol.1372, 14.12a:


[1] Little is known about this poet except for a few poems included in anthologies of Yuan dynasty poetry. 

[2] This line alludes to the anecdote about Wang Dun 王敦 (266-324) chanting a poem by Cao Cao 曹操 (155-220) to a beat on a spittoon and breaking its rim. As the poem by Cao Cao sings of a hero’s ambitions despite his old age, phrases like “knocking the spittoon”, “broken rim of the spittoon”, etc. are often associated with poetic chanting about ambitions, especially as a lament for unfulfilled dreams. By knocking the spittoon “into pieces”, the poet goes a step further than Wang Dun in the anecdote and thereby strengthens the melancholic tone.

[3] Red characters rhyme.

Two ceramic spittoons from the Eastern Jin (317-420) dynasty, both no more than 14 cm in height

Image credit: The Palace Museum, Beijing


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