“Cypress boat” is a famous Chinese ancient poem. The speaker in the poem is a helpless lady pressured to remarry by her family and friends after her husband’s death.
Among the most striking things in the poem is how each stanza of the poem has been defined using powerful images that elicit interesting observation; the boat that is tossed on the sea is an imagery of the speaker’s remorseful and agitated heart in her attempt to resist the pressures. Another striking thing is the speaker’s helpless and remorse full tone as captured in most stanzas, like in the second stanza the speaker says “my heart is not a mirror, to reflect what others will”.
This tone has been largely displayed by the line in the last stanza where the woman says that sorrow clings unto her like unwashed clothes. It’s very evident how the speaker displays her agitated emotion; she is fretful, brooding, grieving and lamenting in an attempt to elaborate on her plight. Betrayal is also elaborated by the stanza where the lady turns to her brothers with pleas but they turn their back on her with anger.
Different lessons can be learned from this poem. The metaphor of the tossing boat can be applicable to all of us. Despite us being made of resilient and beautiful materials like cypress, most times we are buffeted about by a drifting loss. Those close to us like our families and friends seem to worsen the situation by turning our backs on us. We should respect women and give them the freedom to choose who to marry and when.
How Is Chinese Poetry Different From Western?
Chinese lyric poetry is different from Western lyric poetry in various ways. Chinese lyric poetry displays extensive use of imagery or metaphor and strong emotional attachment between the speaker and the subject of the poem compared to western lyric poetry. Rhyming lines in the stanzas of Chinese lyric poetry are not common compared to the numerous rhymes in major stanzas of a western lyric poem.
- Arthur Waley, The Book of Songs: The Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry, page 53, note 1)
- Howard Gaskin, Bettye S. Walsh, SUNY Press, 2001. – 237 p.