He Qifang: Dusk ~ 何其芳·《黄昏》with English Translations




He Qifang


The sound of horses’ hooves, lonely and melancholy, draws near and scatters on the pitch-black road like tiny white flower-buds. I stand still. A black, old-fashioned carriage, without a soul on board, slowly passes by. I suspect it carries dusk, casting its dark shadow along the road; and then it draws away, and disappears.


The street is even more desolate than before. Twilight descends, gently closing in; as if from silver-grey homing wings it drops a certain lassitude into my heart. Proudly throwing back my shoulders, I heave a long, mournful sigh.


A well-preserved palace wall stretches before me. Does it enclose dreams of ancient, ruined splendour, or the moans of imprisoned spirits: more than once I implored it with my eyes, and it answered my question thus:


– Twilight hunter, what is it that you seek?


The frenzied wild beast seeks the strong man’s knife, the graceful soaring bird seeks a cage, the youthful unfettered heart seeks baneful eyes. And I?


I once had golden joys which deeply moved me, as when the March night air drifted into my dreams and drifted out again. When I awoke, I saw the first dewdrops of love, shining and pure, soundlessly falling to earth. I have also had spells of quiet solitude, under the dark window, before the all-night brazier; I closed the door tightly, yet they still escaped. Can I forget melancholy as easily as joy?


As the darkening sky descends, the pavilion on the small mountain peak stands out rounder and higher above the forest green; from it came the disappointment of my hopes. In the far-off, distant past, when I still had beside me a beloved, quiet companion, we wandered at the foot of this mountain peak, and on a sudden impulse, we made a vow that one fine morning we would climb this mountain. But afterwards, also on an impulse, we abandoned the idea. This pitch-black street, since those soft footsteps are no more, every day seems more desolate, and I, now disappointed and despondent, let the pavilion hoard forever those untasted joys. I dare not climb alone the path which my imagination clothed with such delight.

(Bonnie S. McDougall 译)

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