Li Shangyin Poem: To the Cicada – 李商隐《蝉》











[1] 薄宦:这里指小的地方官。

[2] 梗犹泛:这里指转徙为官,没有安定之所。《战国策·齐策》载:桃梗人与西岸土人(用土做的木偶)辩论,桃梗人嘲笑土人经不住水淹,西岸土人则反驳说:“我被水淹没,最多还原成西岸的土;而你如果被水冲走,就不知道会被水带到哪里。”后来就用“泛梗”来表现一种转徙无定的生活状态。

[3] 故园芜已平:化用陶渊明《归去来兮辞》中的“田园将芜胡不归”。

[4] 君:这里指蝉。

[5] 清:这里指清贫。

To the Cicada

Li Shangyin

High, you can’t eat your fill;

In vain you wail and trill.

At dawn you hush your song;

The tree is green for long.

I drift as water flows;

And waste my garden grows.

Thank you for warning due,

I am as poor as you.

The poet compares himself to the poor, hungry cicada.


“To the Cicada” is a poem in five lines written by Li Shangyin, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. The first four lines capture the characteristics of the cicada’s song, highlighting its encounter and situation of “difficulty in satiation” and “hatred of the sound”, while using the cicada’s all-night mournful song to contrast with the tree’s relentless greenery. The last four lines are from the cicadas to themselves, thinking of their own lowly official position, wandering, barren fields and family poverty, which is really a lot of emotion. The poem uses the cicadas as a means of expressing one’s ambition and a sense of life and death, not only to write about one’s lack of talent and poverty, but also to express one’s own noble character. The poem uses the contrast between human and cicada, focusing on the similarities between the two, changing the imagery of autumn cicadas, which in poetry is only bleak and lacking in connotation, and giving them a new image.

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