Fragrance of Laurel Branch
· Thinking of Ancient times in Jin Ling
I climb the height
And stretch my sight:
Late autumn just begins its gloomy time.
The ancient capital looks sublime.
The limpid river, beltlike, flows a thousand miles;
Emerald peaks on peaks tower in piles.
In the declining sun sails come and go;
Against west wind wineshop streamers flutter high and low.
The painted boat
In cloud afloat,
Like stars in Silver River egrets fly.
What a picture before the eye!
The days gone by
Saw people in opulence vie.
Alas! Shame on shame came under the walls,
In palace halls.
Leaning on rails, in vain I utter sighs
Over ancient kingdoms’ fall and rise.
The running water saw the Six Dynasties pass,
But I see only chilly mist and withered grass.
Even now and again
The songstresses still sing
The song composed in vain
By a captive king.
The poet, deposed prime minister, sighs for the captive king of Chen (553-604)who loved only wine, woman and song.
The poem “Fragrance of Laurel Branch · Thinking of Ancient times in Jin Ling” is a lyric by Wang Anshi, a statesman and literary scholar of the Song Dynasty. This lyric expresses the author’s concern for the political affairs of the country and his worries about the imperial government at that time through his praise of the scenery of Jinling (present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu Province) and his sorrow for the rise and fall of history. The first section describes what the author saw when he visited the former capital of Jinling. The first section is about the view of the former capital of Jinling, including “Chengjiang River”, “Cuifeng”, “Returning Sail”, “Slanting Sun”, “Wine Flag” and “West Wind”. “The second section is about the author’s thoughts in Jinling. The next section is about the author’s thoughts in Jinling, with the word “Nian” as a twist, contrasting the present and the past, intertwining time and space, and expressing deep depression and heavy sighs about history and reality. The whole lyric is a blend of scenes and scenery, with a majestic and broad realm and a melancholy and mournful style, harmoniously blending the magnificent scenery and the historical content.