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Lecture4 Indirectness and Directness
---Two Different Versifications of Chinese Poetry and English Poetry
委婉与直率-- 中英两种不同的诗法

Begin with a Comparison
Between a Chinese poem and an English Poem:

玉阶生白露,夜久侵罗袜。 却下水晶帘,玲珑望秋月。

The Jewel Stair’s Grievance
The jeweled steps are already quite white with dew, It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings, And I let down the crystal curtain And watch the moon through the clear autumn.

The Hidden Meaning
Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he has no excuse on account of weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely whitened the stairs, but has soaked her stockings. The poem is especially prized because she utters no direct reproach.

She Walks in Beauty
She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes; Thus mellow’d to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
1.climes: climate 2.aspect: look or appearance

One shade the more, one ray the less, Had half impair’d the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress, Or softly lightens o’er her face; Where thoughts serenely sweet express How pure, how dear their dwelling –place. 3.raven tress: black hair 4.their dwelling place: the soul or the mind

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win, the tints that glow But tell of days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with all below, A heart whose love is innocent. 4.eloquent: movingly expressive 5.tints: glowing,delicate color 6.goodness: good conduct and virtue

她在美的光辉中行走,宛如 没有云翳、星空灿烂的黑夜; 一切明与暗最美好的色素 全聚集在她的明眸和容颜, 融为一种柔光,赏心悦目, 比那节日的光彩更加愉悦。

增加或减少一分明与暗 就会损害这难以名状的美态; 美在她每一根头发上荡波, 或在她脸上幽幽泛彩, 恬静的思想亲切地向人们表述 她的灵府深处何等纯洁、可爱。

那脸颊, 那眉额,如此娴静 如此温馨,但又脉脉传情, 那迷人的微笑,那泛光的色彩, 都诉说着她度过的美的岁月。 一个胸怀, 安于世上的一切, 一颗真心,充溢着无邪的爱。

1.Chinese Circularity and Western Linearity

Chinese culturally circular tradition Western culturally linear tradition

I.C-E Difference in Terms of Dancing
Chinese National Dance Curves, grace Looking earthwards Walking and running Complicated hand movement Western Ballet Lines, strength Looking skywards Hopping and bouncing Simple hand movement

中国民族舞蹈 曲线美,拧倾曲圆, 眷恋大地,走跑为主, 手形复杂,。

西方芭蕾 直线美,开绷直流,


II.C-E Difference in Terms of Architecture

Curves and circles Closeness to the earth Integration with Nature

Lines and pinnacles Scraping the sky Separation from Nature

中国古典建筑 多曲线美 飞檐反宇 亲近大地 天人合一

西方建筑 多直线美 平顶尖拱 向往天空 天人分离



Conclusion 1
These two conspicuous different cultural traditions, to some degree, explain the two different poetry versifications : Chinese indirectness English directness

2.Chinese Suggestiveness and English Narrativeness

I.Chinese Suggestiveness

I) Latent The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, 1first book of literary criticism in the Chinese language (Liu Xie) 2 latent the layered significance that lies beyond the text the latent is fully accomplished in complex and multiple concepts.

From the definition and interpretation, we find that what Liu Xie means by latent is the layered significance and multiple concepts conceived in one given poem or even in a single line. Since the meanings of the poem are layered and multiple, the poem takes on the feature of fuzziness, Consciously or unconsciously, lots of poems are created by the rule of latent. Apparently , directness can not achieve such a success. Indirectness is often the poets' preference.

II) Reserve
The Twenty-Four Categories of Poetry it does not inhere in any single word, yet the utmost flair is attained Ouyang xiu pointed out that the perfect effect of writing is to hold inexhaustible thought in reserve, thought that appears beyond the words. Only then is it perfect Yan Yu expressed the same idea by saying the words are exhausted, but the meaning is never exhausted.

The above arguments show that reserve refers to indirect expression as well as hidden meanings between the lines. In terms of meaning, reserve emphasizes “inexhaustible meaning” held between the lines or “inexhaustible thought” beyond the words which can be understood from different angles. Such a meaning calls for readers’ understanding, reasoning and judgment and its interpretations, more often than not, vary from person to person.

Reserve is more than the beauty of inexhaustible meaning; it is also presented in the beauty of indirect expression.

II. English Narrativeness
Epic overwhelming Emphasis on the structure of stories, characters,conflicts

Conclusion 2
Suggestiveness guides Chinese poets to compose poetry in an indirect way which endows Chinese poetry with suggestiveness, wholeness and pervasiveness. Narrativeness calls on poets to tell directly

3.Chinese Parataxical Language English Hypotaxical Language

I.Chinese Parataxical Language
Lin Yutang once said, Poetry should be crisp, and the Chinese language is crisp. Poetry should work by suggestion, and the Chinese language is full of contractions which say more than what the words mean. Poetry should express ideas by concrete imagery, and the Chinese language revels in word-imagery.


日暮苍山远, 天寒白屋贫。 柴门闻犬吠, 风雪夜归人。

Seeking Shelter in Lotus Hill on a Snowy Night

At sunset hillside village still seems far; Barren and cold the thatched cottages are. At wicket gate, a dog is heard to bark; With wind and snow I come when night is dark.
---by X.Y.Z.

II. English Hypotaxical Language
tree-like sentence structure with different parts connected like branches and subbranches to the trunk line Trunk line: S + V + (O) Branches and sub-branches : Adverbials and attributes Hypotactic, connectives, explicit cohesion (显性联接)

The parataxical language contributes to the conciseness of Chinese poetry. Grammatical rules play a less important role in the lines of poetry. More often than not, the pronouns are omitted. Thus the meanings can not be read directly. They are both-and related.

The hypotaxical language contributes to the completeness of English poetry. Grammatical rules play an important role in the lines of poetry. More often than not, the pronouns are employed. Thus the meanings can be read directly.

4.Chinese Groups of Image English Bare Image or Single Image I. Chinese Imagery physical object : concrete things allusion : ancient anecdotes such as allegories and fantasies, etc., real or imaginary, Group of images



欲去牵郎衣 “郎今到何处” 不恨归来迟 莫向临邛去

Leave Me Not
You wish to go, and yet your robe I hold. Where are you going-tell me, dear today? Your late returning does not anger me, But that another steal your heart away.

II. English Bare Image or Single Image
More adjectives More excitement Less image Single image

Conclusion 4
From the above, we can find that image consists of vehicle and tenor, and when poets entrust their tenors, or say, their intentions to vehicles, image takes the duty as a medium to which poets can naturally resort to express their feelings in a roundabout way. In addition, owing to the fact that one vehicle usually has more than one tenor, one image allows of multiple interpretations.

This effect is achieved when physical objects combine their tenors to form images by means of comparison and stirring, or when allusions are in use. Therefore, classical Chinese poetry is not only indirectly created but appreciated through image ;while English poetry use less image, but uses more adjectives and direct expression.

General Conclusion
Chinese Indirectness English Directness

Poetry for chanting
Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That can not fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow. ___ Langston Hughes