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Chinese poem illustration: 小雅 采薇/ Xiaoya – Cai Wei by Anonymous

小雅 采薇1

Full video also available at Bilibili: 小雅 采薇1 and 小雅 采薇2

Wei(薇) is generally explained as vicia sepium, which I do not think it is the case. From the composition of this Chinese character, it must be referring some grass with tiny flower or tiny leaves. The word of picking up this grass(采薇) has a very clear connection with hermit in Chinese literature, while it is hard to tell if this metaphor was employed in this poem.

This poem is about a war with the nomad invaders from north(猃狁), it doesn’t talk much about the war itself but the life of the poet/soldiers and their families back home, the sadness of separating from each other, the huge worry toward their family members: are they still alive? could they feed themselves?

This poem laid the cornerstone of the later poetry genre: Trip of Duty Poetry(羁旅行役诗) and Thinking of Home and People Poetry(思乡怀人诗).

小雅 采薇2

Part1 is about the life in the battlefield with huge worries for his home. Part 2 is about the glorious troop marching homeward bound, yet ended with even more untold sadness when closer to his home.

The sentence “昔我往矣,杨柳依依。今我来思,雨雪霏霏。 ” is praised through the history as one of the most touching and beautiful sentences among Book of Songs.

小雅 采薇
佚名

采薇采薇,薇亦作止。
曰归曰归,岁亦莫止。
靡室靡家,猃狁之故。
不遑启居,猃狁之故。

采薇采薇,薇亦柔止。
曰归曰归,心亦忧止。
忧心烈烈,载饥载渴。
我戍未定,靡使归聘。

采薇采薇,薇亦刚止。
曰归曰归,岁亦阳止。
王事靡盬,不遑启处。
忧心孔疚,我行不来!

彼尔维何?维常之华。
彼路斯何?君子之车。
戎车既驾,四牡业业。
岂敢定居?一月三捷。

驾彼四牡,四牡骙骙。
君子所依,小人所腓。
四牡翼翼,象弭鱼服。
岂不日戒?猃狁孔棘!

昔我往矣,杨柳依依。
今我来思,雨雪霏霏。
行道迟迟,载渴载饥。
我心伤悲,莫知我哀!

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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