Yuan Zhen Poem: Dream and No Dream – 元稹《酬乐天频梦微之》








[1] 酬:应和;酬答。

[2] 微之:元稹,字微之。

[3] 山水万重:形容路途非常遥远。

Dream and No Dream

Yuan Zhen

Letters can’t pass over thousands of mountains and streams.

How much I thank you for you have sent me your dreams.

I’m sorry that in illness I can’t tell old friends from new;

I dream of indifferent people, but not you.

The poet who has not dreamed of his friend sends him as much friendship as his friend who has.


The poem “Dream and No Dream” is a seven-line poem written by Yuan Zhen, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. The poem was written around the 12th year of Yuanhe (817). At that time, Yuan Zhen was relegated to Tongzhou and Bai Juyi was relegated to Jiangzhou. The distance between them was thousands of miles, and there was no communication between them, so they only saw each other in their dreams. Bai Juyi dreamed of meeting Yuan Zhen many times and wrote a poem to tell him. This poem is a reply to Lotian’s “frequent dreams”.
The poem is a reply to Lotte’s “frequent dreams”. Friends who share the same interests and have deep friendship always want to meet often, and if they are separated, they want to communicate often. Bai Juyi repeatedly dreamed of Yuan Zhen and wrote a poem to tell him about it, which shows this common feeling of life, as written in the first two lines of the poem. However, when Yuan Zhen received this poem from Bai Juyi, he was sick. As a result of his illness, his mind was turned upside down. The close friend whom he often missed did not appear in his dream, but the “idle man” whom he had never thought of appeared in his dream again and again, which made him feel the sorrow of being isolated. The fact that we see each other in our dreams instead of actually seeing each other is already a cause for despair, not to mention that we never see each other in our dreams either. This is a deeper writing style. The first two lines belong to Bai and the last two lines belong to oneself, contrasting Bai’s frequent dreams of oneself with one’s own dreams of Bai due to illness, which are different and the same. The first two lines belong to Bai, and the second two lines belong to him. This is what makes this poem unique.
The poem is purely in white, with almost no coloring and scenery, but the characters are vivid and the mood is touching.

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