CicadasYu Shinan (558-638)
He dangles down to drink the clear light dew,
Exuding sound through the green leaf brush;
And flowing far and wide, his voice flies on
Without the need of wind from autumn’s rush.
Chuí suí yǐn qīng lù
Liú xiǎng chū shū tóng
Jū gāo shēng zì yuǎn
Fēi shì jiè qiū fēng
Transliteration and Notes
Droop soothe drink clear dew
Flow sound emit tepid Pawlonia-tree
Live high tone self remote
Not does rely-on autumn wind
Cicadas symbolizes someone who is pure and of high status. They live on dew and sit high up in trees. They can also symbolize rebirth and immortality. The character for “soothe” can also be the pendant on the cap of scholar-officials that dangles down; thus the poet is comparing the character of the cicada to that of a scholar. “High tone” can mean “loudly.” “Rely-on” can also mean “sleeping mat.” I.e., the cicada does not need the wind to take it places.
Yu Shinan was a government official, poet, Confucian scholar, and calligrapher of the early Tang Dynasty. He was perhaps more famous for his calligraphy than for his poetry and wrote a number of books on his technique.