From the collection of poems edited by Giuliano Bertolucci, I want to introduce you to one of my favourite poets:
WRITTEN IN A VILLA SOUTH OF THE CAPITAL
去年 今 日 此 门 中 人 面 桃 花 相 映红 人 面 不 知 何 處 去 桃花 依 舊 笑 春風
Last year on this day in the middle of this door,
Her face as peach blossoms
were reflected in a rosy hue.
Now I can’t find that face
Where did she go.
While the peach blossoms as then smile in the spring wind.
Ts’ui Hu is one of the minor poets of the Tang Dynasty, famous for these verses and for the novel inspired by them.
The short story entitled “Many memories of the T’ai-ping era” tells how Ts’ui Hui on a spring day found himself strolling along the suburbs of Ch’ang-an. Tired and thirsty, he knocked on the door of a villa to ask for a drink.
A girl opened it, who invited him to come in and offered him a cup of tea. He was fascinated by the beauty of the girl, but not being able to stay long, he promised her that he would come back to visit her.
Unfortunately, his many work commitments prevented him from returning to visit her for almost a year.
When he finally returned to Ch’ang-an, he found the door of the villa bolted up and was unable to open it himself so, to leave proof of his visit, he wrote this poem on the left door knocker.
After a few days, he returned to the villa and this time to welcome him there was the father of the young woman, who accused him of causing the death of his daughter.
In fact, the girl in love with him had waited for him all year consuming himself in waiting. When she found the poem written on the door knocker, she fell into deep despair believing that now her beloved, not having found her at home, would never return to her. So she died in great pain and now her body lay on her bed waiting to be buried.
As in any romantic story, however, there is always a happy ending and this story is no exception. In fact, a gentle caress from her beloved was enough to awaken the beautiful young woman.
Although it is a little-known poem, I have always found it fascinating, perhaps because it recalls the story of the “sleeping beauty in the woods” very distantly. Like Princess Aurora, the protagonist of our short story also waits to be awakened by her prince.