Li Shangyin Poem: Written on a Rainy Night to My Wife in the North – 李商隐《夜雨寄北》









[1] 夜雨寄北:又题作“夜雨寄内”。

[2] 巴山:四川大巴山的简称,这里指四川一带。

[3] 何当:何时。

[4] 却话:再说。

Written on a Rainy Night to My Wife in the North

Li Shangyin

You ask me when I can return, but I don’t know;

It rains in western hills and autumn pools overflow.

When can we trim by window side the candlelight

And talk about the western hills in rainy night?

This poet answers his wife’s question first by a picture and then by another question.


“Written on a Rainy Night to My Wife in the North” is a poem by Li Shangyin, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. It is a poem written in the form of a reply to his wife (or friend) in Chang’an while he was living in a foreign country, Ba Shu. The first two lines of the poem are devoted to a question-and-answer session and a description of the immediate environment, illustrating the loneliness and deep longing for each other. The second two lines envision the joy of reunion in the future and contrast with the loneliness of this night. The poem is written in an impromptu manner, showing the twists and turns of the author’s emotions in a moment. The language is simple, and there is no trace of embellishment in the wording and phrasing. Unlike most of Li Shangyin’s poems, which are characterized by flamboyant rhetoric, elaborate allusions, and long symbolic and suggestive style, this poem is simple and natural, and also has the artistic characteristic of “deep inspiration but euphemistic in wording”. The poem has a new and ingenious conception, with a good deal of ups and downs, shallow words and deep meaning, short words and long sentiments, and the power of ambiguity, which has attracted countless readers over the centuries and has never been tired of reading.

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