Farewell Again, Cambridge 再别康桥 is one of the most memorable poems and a school curriculum component in modern-day China. Written in 1928, its author Xu Zhimo 徐志摩 is a pioneer in China’s modern poetry movement and this poem is considered his very best work. Having studied at Cambridge and toured Europe in 1920s, Xu was heavily influenced by English and French romantic poetry. His literary talent, his eventful love life and his untimely death in an air crash, at age 34, have been a subject of interest and discussion for generations till today. A marble stone with the last two lines of this famous poem lies at the Backs of King’s College, Cambridge.
Click on the video below to enjoy a recital from one of the most recognised Western personalities in China. Mark Rowswell, aka Dashan 大山, is a Canadian who has studied and worked in China since 1988. Speaking Mandarin like a native, Dashan is a domestic celebrity for his performances in Chinese style stand-up comedy or xiangsheng 相声 as well as various television shows. He is a friend of WiC’s and was one of the earliest Red Stars featured in this publication (see WiC issue 6).
For more on Dashan, visit his official site at www.dashan.com
Softly, softly, I take my leave,
just as silent as I came;
I wave a sighing goodbye
to the many-hued clouds in the western sky.
The golden willows on the riverbanks
are young brides in the setting sun;
their bright reflections in the rippling surface
gently sway in my aching heart.
The green grass on the smooth mud
beckons tenderly from the depths.
In the soft embrace of the river Cam,
a single reed is all I long to be.
In the shade of the elm trees, a pool lies,
less a pool of water than a pool of rainbowed sky;
Crushed and dusted among the duckweeds,
there lies the sediment of my once beautiful dreams.
What is it to chase dreams? It is to push a long pole through the water
towards clearer, greener prospects;
it is to ferry a boatload of starlight,
and to sing within the brilliance of it all.
But I cannot sing,
For quiet is the highest form of farewell;
As even the crickets stop chirping,
solemnity reigns in this night’s Cambridge.
Quietly I take my leave,
just as quietly as I came;
I wave my sleeve in farewell,
Not taking a single wisp of cloud with me.
(Translation by Heather Skye Irvine and Mei Zhang)