Bitter Love

Bitter Love

Li Bai (701-762)
The beauty sits behind a jeweled screen,
Lamenting him with lovely, furled brows.
When all I see are cheeks stained wet with tears,
I wonder, where’s the one who broke his vows?

Yuàn Qíng
Lǐ Bái
Měi rén juǎn zhū lián
Shēn zuò cù é méi
Dàn jiàn lèi hén shī
Bù zhī xīn hèn shuí

Transliteration and Notes
Hatred Feeling
Beautiful person rolled-up gem curtain
Deep sit lament moth eyebrows
Only see tears trace wet
Not know heart hatred whom?
     “Hatred” can also be “blame” or “complain.” “Beautiful person” is a “beauty.” “Lament” is to wrinkle or knit one’s brows. “Moth eyebrows” is figurative for a beautiful woman, but could also be related to her knitting her eyebrows in lament. “Tears trace” are tear stains. “Not know” could either being not knowing or could be figurative for not admitting hardships.
     This poem paints a portrait of a beautiful woman lamenting her love. Although I translated the poem as a woman upset over a man breaking his vows, it does not necessarily mean that: the woman is upset over the absence of the man she loves, but he could be away for any number of reasons, including official duty or service in war.

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