Wang Wei Poems: A Petty Officer – 王维《漆园》

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A Petty Officer

A petty officer could not be proud,

He cannot do important jobs with ease.

Rendering service like a floating cloud,

He brings fresh showers for the thirsting trees.


《漆园》是唐代诗人王维所作的一首五言绝句。 前两句借庄子典故以自喻,表白自己的隐居,也决无傲世之意。末两句含蓄地透露人生态度:言树“婆娑”,是以树喻人;言人“婆娑”,是以树伴人。此诗看似评论庄子,其实是诗人借庄子自喻。诗人在辋川过着半官半隐的生活,他双追求辟世辞喧、恬淡隐逸的生活情趣,那“偶寄一微官,婆娑数株树”的处世态度,正是诗人心理的写照。此诗用典贴切,蕴藉有致,彼有特色,且与诗人的思想感情、环境经历融为一体,以致分不清是咏古人还是写自己,深蕴哲理,耐人寻味。

“A Petty Officer” is a five-line poem written by Wang Wei, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. The first two lines draw on Zhuangzi’s allusions to himself, expressing his own seclusion, and in no way his intention to be proud of the world. The last two stanzas implicitly reveal his attitude towards life: the tree is “hovering” as a metaphor for man; the man is “hovering” as a companion to the tree. This poem seems to be a commentary on Zhuangzi, but in fact the poet is using Zhuangzi as a metaphor for himself. The poet is living a half-official, half-hidden life in Rim River, and he is pursuing a quiet and secluded life, which is a reflection of the poet’s psychological attitude of “occasionally sending a small official, hovering over several trees”. The poem is characterized by its apt use of allusions, its implication, and its integration with the poet’s thoughts and feelings and his environmental experiences, so that it is not clear whether the poet is singing about the ancients or writing about himself, which is deeply philosophical and intriguing.

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