Lin Yining: Thinking of My Father, Yudu ~ 林以宁·《忆父禹都》 with English Translations










Thinking of My Father, Yudu

Lin Yining

At dawn I climb a hundred-foot tower

To look out at the central massif in the distance.

At the edge of the sky are white clouds

That day and night leave and return as they will.

Going or coming, they remain remote and aloof;

I lean out to them, but cannot catch and hold them.

Who said giving birth to daughters is good?

Child and adult, I have rarely seen my parent’s face.

Is it right not to care for one’s parents?

Yet how can I serve him in his later years?

I want to ask him, “Have you rested well?”

But we’ve been far apart so long.

I want to see that his food is nourishing,

But truly it is impossible.(1)

Walking back by way of South Rise, (2)

My steps are halting but my tears come rushing.

(1). The opening of the poem echoes poem 110 of the Book of Odes, in which a soldier son is worried about his father: “I climb that tree-covered hill / and look out toward my father.” In this context, white clouds connote thoughts of parents who are far away.

(2). South Rise, Nan’gai, a place name, is also the title of a song in the Book of Odes, one of the six songs for which the text is lost. According to the Han dynasty commentary, the song was about filial sons who spoke to each other about their responsibility to their parents.

(Maureen Robertson 译)

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