An old man in his seventies tries to remember his youthful days in Jiangnan and can’t.
[Note. In a narrow sense, Jiangnan is the area south of the Yangtze River (江, Jiang) that includes Hangzhou and Suzhou, near modern day Shanghai.]
Dreaming of Jiangnan
Sweet JiangnanBai Juyi (772–846)
A place I knew well.
At sunrise, the river flowers are redder than fire,
In spring, is the river is green or blue,
Why can’t I recall Jiangnan.
Jiāngnán hǎo, fēngjǐng jiù céng ān.
Rì chū jiāng huāhóng shèng huǒ, chūnlái jiāngshuǐ lǜ rú lán.
Néng bù yì Jiāngnán.
Notes on Translation
Bai Juyi wrote this poem in Luoyang, ten years after leaving Suzhou where he had been governor.
For three years, Bai Juyi served as the governor of southern Hangzhou and Suzhou. Ten years later, in Luoyang, he wrote this poem, 忆江南, Yì Jiāngnán. As in the United States, Jiangnan refers to a geographic region, south of the Yangtze River, which included Hangzhou and Suzhou, where Bai Juyi served as governor. 忆 yì has several translations including “recalling”, “remembering”, “memory of”. I substituted “dreaming”.
Jiangnan – literally, south of the Yangtze River; hao – as a verb, like or love.
Fengjing – landscape, area, place, jiu – old; ceng an – familiar with (once Bai Juyi was familiar with Jiangnan’s beautiful landscape.)
Richu – sunrise; jiang – river; huahong – red flowers; sheng – superior to; huo – fire
Chunlai – in Spring, when Spring comes; jiangshui – river’s water; lu ru lan – green and blue (the water color becomes a mixture of the green landscape and the blue sky. Literally, green like blue. )
Nengbu yi Jiangnan – nengbu – I can’t; yi – recall; poor old Bai Juyi, he can’t recall his happier days.