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Observations placeholder

Shih Ching - Osprey's call



Type of Spiritual Experience


This is actually about ecstasy denied, but it seemed easier to classify it under the ecstasy heading.

I found these notes on the Internet and they are extremely helpful in understanding the deeper symbolism in this poem.


An osprey, or fish hawk, is a bird of prey, similar to a falcon.


1. What imagery or scenes from biological nature does the poet juxtapose with a scene from human society or human experience?
2. Why might the speaker begin his poem with the image of a male bird calling to a female bird?
3. Why is it significant that the water mallows in the paddy grow to the left and right, but never directly ahead? (I.e., what happens if the man picking the mallows leans too far to the left or the right?)
4. Why is the woman juxtaposed with the water mallow?
5. Why is it necessary to hearten the woman with song and music? How does that connect to the beginning of the poem?

A description of the experience

Translation number one - OSPREYS CRY

Cheereek! cheereek! ospreys cry
ospreys above their riverside nest.
That fine lady, exquisite mystery-
what a match for a worthy man.

The floating-heart’s ragged leaves
drift this current here and there.
That fine lady, exquisite mystery-
waking and sleeping I sought her,

sought her but never reached her,
waking and sleeping, all devoted
longing and longing on and on,
tossing and turning side to side.

The floating-heart’s ragged leaves,
from every side I gather them in,
and my fine lady, exquisite mystery-
with quiet CH'IN song I befriend her.

The floating-heart’s ragged leaves,
from every side I bring them in,
and my fine lady, exquisite mystery-
with drums and bells I delight her.

Translation two

Fair, fair,' cry the ospreys 
On the island in the river. 
Lovely is this noble lady, 
Fit bride for our lord. 

In patches grows the water mallow: 
To left and right one must seek it. 
Shy was this noble lady; 
Day and night he sought her. 

Sought her and could not get her; 
Day and night he grieved. 
Long thoughts, oh, long unhappy thoughts, 
Now on his back, now tossing on to his side. 

In patches grow the water mallow; 
To left and right one must gather it. 
Shy is this noble lady; 
With bells and drums we hearten her.

The source of the experience


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