Poems with English Translations: Tune: The Magpie on a Branch – 《鹊踏枝·叵耐灵鹊多谩语》

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鹊踏枝

[唐]无名氏

叵耐[1]灵鹊[2]多谩语[3],

送喜何曾有凭据。

几度飞来活捉取,

锁上金笼[4]休共语[5]。

比拟[6]好心来送喜,

谁知锁我在金笼里。

欲他征夫[7]早归来,

腾身[8]却放我向青云里。

[1]叵(pǒ)耐:不可忍耐,可恨。

[2]灵鹊:相传是能够传报喜讯的鹊,又称喜鹊。

[3]谩语:欺骗的语言,这里指谎话。

[4]金笼:坚固而又精美的鸟笼。

[5]休共语:不要和他说话。

[6]比拟:打算,准备。

[7]征夫:出远门的人。这里是指关锁灵鹊的人的丈夫。

[8]腾身:跃身而起。

Tune: The Magpie on a Branch

Anonymous

How can I bear to hear the chattering magpie

Announce the happy news on which I can’t rely?

So thus I catch it alive when it flies to me again

And shut it in a cage where lonely’twill remain.

——With good intent I brought her a happy message.

Who would expect she’d shut me in a golden cage?

I wish her husband would come back soon so that I

Might be set free and take my flight to the blue sky.

This is a popular song written by an unknown poet of the Tang Dynasty (618—907) and un-earthed in one of the chapels in the Thousand Buddha Caves at Dunhuang, Gansu, in 1900. Unlike a literary lyric in which everything is seen through the eye of the persona, this song presents two distinct points of view by using a dialogue between a woman who waits in vain for the return of her husband, and a magpie who is supposed to announce the expected arrival.

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