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Poetry: Ode of Good Wife

Ode of Good Wife
By Tang Poet Zhang Ji (768-830)
Translated by Laijon Liu 20090613

You know I have husband,
So you give me a pair of pearl.
I thank your touching thoughts,
So I tie them on my red coat.
My family dwells on tall building,
And they rest within the high walls;
My husband holds his sharp spear,
And guarding in the palace light.

I understand your heart clearly,
As reading the sun and the moon.
But I’ve sworn to serve my husband,
To be with him in life and death.
And now I must return these pearls,
They are bright as my falling tears.
I only have one thing to regret:
Why didn’t we meet before my marriage?

This poem is written in simple words, but talks about the controversial topic of love and marriage of society. From its surface that readers may think that poet praises the wife’s choice, but think again, the poet also feels pity about the wife’s condition that she choose to repay her husband to be with him, but refrain from thinking of her love that she really has feeling for. She knows how her family receives the benefit of her marriage, because her husband serves in palace. She is not materialistic at all, but she knows her husband loves her, so she has to hold her true will of pursuing for true love or someone she feels for. Yes, she is a good wife, for she put herself on the altar of love, yet she can’t just privately build another relationship with the man who gift her “a pair of pearl”.62 Chinese characters that shoots a love movie, and he does not give his readers his answer, but only to raise a question. Not only that, this is a political poem, that the poet composes this poem to refuse a minister’s invitation to join the new political party in the Tang court, Chinese poet often use woman and man’ relationship for metaphor of political and social relationship (Like Contemporary Singer Cui Jian’s song ‘Have Nothing To My Name’) , as officials to emperor, students to teacher… but even we just read the poem from its surface, still it brings the same question of principal of loyalty and friendship.

节 妇 吟
张 籍

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