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LI BO (701-762)

DU FU (721-770)

"Fields and Gardens by the River Qi"
Couplets Two and Three

"Fields and Gardens by the River Qi," by Wang Wei

I dwell apart by the River Qi,
Where the Eastern wilds stretch far without hills.

The sun darkens beyond the mulberry trees;
The river glistens through the villages.

Shepherd boys depart, gazing back to their hamlets;
Hunting dogs return following their men.

When a man's at peace, what business does he have?
I shut fast my rustic door throughout the day.

[Translation by Paul Rouzer]

Paul Rouzer :: The two middle couplets, the second and the third couplet, elaborate on that particular scene, often giving details of landscapes and so forth. However, these particular couplets are written in parallel form.

The third line and the fourth line, for example, basically set off nouns against nouns within that couplet. Verbs against verbs, adjectives against adjectives. If you actually look at the poem, you see that for example, the "sun" of the third line is placed in a parallel position with the "river" of the fourth. "Darkens," the verb "darkens" on the third line is placed against "glistens" in the fourth. "Mulberry trees" on the third line is placed against "villages" in the fourth line.

This is not just a simple aesthetic structure. It's not simply a way of organizing images. For a talented reader of Chinese poetry, these parallel couplets add to the meaning of the poem by putting certain juxtapositions against each other.

For example, Wang Wei may be concerned here with the phenomenon of sunset where all the world begins to darken, with the way that the final beams of the setting sun illuminate the river near the villages.

He sees deeper meanings in those particular couplets and the way these words are juxtaposed. For example, the setting sun, which gradually darkens, may be casting beams of light across the river causing it to glisten; he may be juxtaposing the natural world, the world of the setting sun, with the world of human cultivation of the mulberry trees in the villages. Consequently, by placing these in juxtaposition, suggesting that the human world is merely part of the natural world.

In the third couplet he creates juxtapositions of "shepherd boys" on the one side, "hunting dogs" on the other. Thus contrasting the ordinary activities of the agrarian population with the activities of hunting. Thus illuminating two particular aspects of agrarian life.

All these particular juxtapositions are very important for reading parallel couplets. And a sensitive reader, even a reader reading Chinese poetry in English translation, should be aware of these juxtapositions and how they can add to the particular meaning.