A LUTE SONG
Our host, providing abundant wine to make the night mellow,
Asks his guest from Yangzhou to play for us on the lute.
Toward the moon that whitens the city-wall, black crows are flying,
Frost is on ten thousand trees, and the wind blows through our clothes;
But a copper stove has added its light to that of flowery candles,
And the lute plays The Green Water, and then The Queen of Chu.
Once it has begun to play, there is no other sound:
A spell is on the banquet, while the stars grow thin….
But three hundred miles from here, in Huai, official duties await him,
And so it’s farewell, and the road again, under cloudy mountains.
ON HEARING DONG PLAY THE FLAGEOLET
A POEM TO PALACE-ATTENDANT FANG
When this melody for the flageolet was made by Lady Cai,
When long ago one by one she sang its eighteen stanzas,
Even the Tartars were shedding tears into the border grasses,
And the envoy of China was heart-broken, turning back home with his escort.
…Cold fires now of old battles are grey on ancient forts,
And the wilderness is shadowed with white new-flying snow.
…When the player first brushes the Shang string and the Jue and then the Yu,
Autumn-leaves in all four quarters are shaken with a murmur.
Dong, the master,
Must have been taught in heaven.
Demons come from the deep pine-wood and stealthily listen
To music slow, then quick, following his hand,
Now far away, now near again, according to his heart.
A hundred birds from an empty mountain scatter and return;
Three thousand miles of floating clouds darken and lighten;
A wildgoose fledgling, left behind, cries for its flock,
And a Tartar child for the mother he loves.
Then river waves are calmed
And birds are mute that were singing,
And Wuzu tribes are homesick for their distant land,
And out of the dust of Siberian steppes rises a plaintive sorrow.
…Suddenly the low sound leaps to a freer tune,
Like a long wind swaying a forest, a downpour brea king tiles,
A cascade through the air, flying over tree-tops.
…A wild deer calls to his fellows. He is running among the mansions
I find you alone under falling petals.
IN HER QUIET WINDOW
Too young to have learned what sorrow means,
Attired for spring, she climbs to her high chamber….
The new green of the street-willows is wounding her heart —
Just for a title she sent him to war.
A SONG OF THE SPRING PALACE
Last night, while a gust blew peach-petals open
And the moon shone high on the Palace Beyond Time,
The Emperor gave Pingyang, for her dancing,
Brocades against the cold spring-wind.
A SONG OF LIANGZHOU
They sing, they drain their cups of jade,
They strum on horseback their guitars.
…Why laugh when they fall asleep drunk on the sand ? —
How many soldiers ever come home?
A FAREWELL TO MENG HAORAN
ON HIS WAY TO YANGZHOU
You have left me behind, old friend, at the Yellow Crane Terrace,
On your way to visit Yangzhou in the misty month of flowers;
Your sail, a single shadow, becomes one with the blue sky,
Till now I see only the river, on its way to heaven.
THROUGH THE YANGZI GORGES
From the walls of Baidi high in the coloured dawn
To Jiangling by night-fall is three hundred miles,
Yet monkeys are still calling on both banks behind me
To my boat these ten thousand mountains away.
ON MEETING A MESSENGER TO THE CAPITAL
It’s a long way home, a long way east.
I am old and my sleeve is wet with tears.
We meet on horseback. I have no means of writing.
Tell them three words: “He is safe.”
ON MEETING LI GUINIAN DOWN THE RIVER
I met you often when you were visiting princes
And when you were playing in noblemen’s halls.
…Spring passes…. Far down the river now,
I find you alone under falling petals.
AT CHUZHOU ON THE WESTERN STREAM
Where tender grasses rim the stream
And deep boughs trill with mango-birds,
On the spring flood of last night’s rain
The ferry-boat moves as though someone were poling.
A NIGHT-MOORING NEAR MAPLE BRIDGE
While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;
Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;
And I hear, from beyond Suzhou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,
Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.
A SONG OF A PURE-HEARTED GIRL
Lakka-trees ripen two by two
And mandarin-ducks die side by side.
If a true-hearted girl will love only her husband,
In a life as faithfully lived as theirs,
What troubling wave can arrive to vex
A spirit like water in a timeless well?
A TRAVELLER’S SONG
The thread in the hands of a fond-hearted mother
Makes clothes for the body of her wayward boy;
Carefully she sews and thoroughly she mends,
Dreading the delays that will keep him late from home.
But how much love has the inch-long grass
For three spring months of the light of the sun?
ON A GATE-TOWER AT YUZHOU
Where, before me, are the ages that have gone?
And where, behind me, are the coming generations?
I think of heaven and earth, without limit, without end,
And I am all alone and my tears fall down.
AN OLD AIR
There once was a man, sent on military missions,
A wanderer, from youth, on the You and Yan frontiers.
Under the horses’ hoofs he would meet his foes
And, recklessly risking his seven-foot body,
Would slay whoever dared confront
Those moustaches that bristled like porcupinequills.
…There were dark clouds below
the hills, there were white clouds above them,
But before a man has served full time, how can he go back?
In eastern Liao a girl was waiting, a girl of fifteen years,
Deft with a guitar, expert in dance and song.
…She seems to be fluting, even now, a reed-song of home,
Filling every soldier’s eyes with homesick tears.
A FAREWELL TO MY FRIEND CHEN ZHANGFU
In the Fourth-month the south wind blows plains of yellow barley,
Date-flowers have not faded yet and lakka-leaves are long.
The green peak that we left at dawn we still can see at evening,
While our horses whinny on the road, eager to turn homeward.
…Chen, my friend, you have always been a great and good man,
With your dragon’s moustache, tiger’s eyebrows and your massive forehead.
In your bosom you have shelved away ten thousand volumes.
You have held your head high, never bowed it in the dust.
…After buying us wine and pledging us, here at the eastern gate,
And taking things as lightly as a wildgoose feather,
Flat you lie, tipsy, forgetting the white sun;
But now and then you open your eyes and gaze at a high lone cloud.
…The tide-head of the lone river joins the darkening sky.
The ferryman beaches his boat. It has grown too late to sail.
BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: SPRING
The lovely Lo Fo of the western land
Plucks mulberry leaves by the waterside.
Across the green boughs stretches out her white hand;
In golden sunshine her rosy robe is dyed.
“my silkworms are hungry, I cannot stay.
Tarry not with your five-horse cab, I pray.”
BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: SUMMER
On Mirror Lake outspread for miles and miles,
The lotus lilies in full blossom teem.
In fifth moon Xi Shi gathers them with smiles,
Watchers o’erwhelm the bank of Yuoye Stream.
Her boat turns back without waiting moonrise
To yoyal house amid amorous sighs.
A SONG OF AN AUTUMN MIDNIGHT
A slip of the moon hangs over the capital;
Ten thousand washing-mallets are pounding;
And the autumn wind is blowing my heart
For ever and ever toward the Jade Pass….
Oh, when will the Tartar troops be conquered,
And my husband come back from the long campaign!
BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: WINTER
The courier will depart next day, she’s told.
She sews a warrior’s gown all night.
Her fingers feel the needle cold.
How can she hold the scissors tight?
The work is done, she sends it far away.
When will it reach the town where warriors stay?
A SONG OF CHANGGAN
My hair had hardly covered my forehead.
I was picking flowers, paying by my door,
When you, my lover, on a bamboo horse,
Came trotting in circles and throwing green plums.
We lived near together on a lane in Ch’ang-kan,
Both of us young and happy-hearted.
…At fourteen I became your wife,
So bashful that I dared not smile,
And I lowered my head toward a dark corner
And would not turn to your thousand calls;
But at fifteen I straightened my brows and laughed,
Learning that no dust could ever seal our love,
That even unto death I would await you by my post
And would never lose heart in the tower of silent watching.
…Then when I was sixteen, you left on a long journey
Through the Gorges of Ch’u-t’ang, of rock and whirling water.
And then came the Fifth-month, more than I could bear,
And I tried to hear the monkeys in your lofty far-off sky.
Your footprints by our door, where I had watched you go,
Were hidden, every one of them, under green moss,
Hidden under moss too deep to sweep away.
And the first autumn wind added fallen leaves.
And now, in the Eighth-month, yellowing butterflies
Hover, two by two, in our west-garden grasses
And, because of all this, my heart is breaking
And I fear for my bright cheeks, lest they fade.
Dare ford the river boundary.
THE LEYOU TOMBS
With twilight shadows in my heart
I have driven up among the Leyou Tombs
To see the sun, for all his glory,
Buried by the coming night.
A NOTE LEFT FOR AN ABSENT ECLUSE
When I questioned your pupil, under a pine-tree,
My teacher, he answered, ” went for herbs,
But toward which corner of the mountain,
How can I tell, through all these clouds ?”
CROSSING THE HAN RIVER
Away from home, I was longing for news
Winter after winter, spring after spring.
Now, nearing my village, meeting people,
I dare not ask a single question.
A SPRING SIGH
Drive the orioles away,
All their music from the trees….
When she dreamed that she went to Liaoxi Camp
To join him there, they wakened her
GENERAL GE SHU
This constellation, with its seven high stars,
Is Ge Shu lifting his sword in the night:
And no more barbarians, nor their horses, nor cattle,
Dare ford the river boundary.
A SONG OF CHANGGAN I
“Tell me, where do you live? —
Near here, by the fishing-pool?
Let’s hold our boats together, let’s see
If we belong in the same town. ”
A SONG OF CHANGGAN II
“Yes, I live here, by the river;
I have sailed on it many and many a time.
Both of us born in Changgan, you and I!
Why haven’t we always known each other? ”
A SIGH FROM A STAIRCASE OF JADE
Her jade-white staircase is cold with dew;
Her silk soles are wet, she lingered there so long….
Behind her closed casement, why is she still waiting,
Watching through its crystal pane the glow of the autumn moon?
His golden arrow is tipped with hawk’s feathers,
His embroidered silk flag has a tail like a swallow.
One man, arising, gives a new order
To the answering shout of a thousand tents.
I decide that not my mother-in-law
FAREWELL TO A BUDDHIST MONK
Can drifting clouds and white storks
Be tenants in this world of ours? —
Or you still live on Wuzhou Mountain,
Now that people are coming here?
AN AUTUMN NIGHT MESSAGE TO QIU
As I walk in the cool of the autumn night,
Thinking of you, singing my poem,
I hear a mountain pine-cone fall….
You also seem to be awake.
ON HEARING HER PLAY THE HARP
Her hands of white jade by a window of snow
Are glimmering on a golden-fretted harp —
And to draw the quick eye of Chou Yu,
She touches a wrong note now and then.
On the third day, taking my place to cook,
Washing my hands to make the bridal soup,
I decide that not my mother-in-law
But my husband’s young sister shall have the fiat taste.
THE JADE DRESSING-TABLE
Last night my girdle came undone,
And this morning a luck-beetle flew over my bed.
So here are my paints and here are my powders —
And a welcome for my yoke again.
A hundred mountains and no bird,
A thousand paths without a footprint;
A little boat, a bamboo cloak,
An old man fishing in the cold river-snow.
THE SUMMER PALACE
In the faded old imperial palace,
Peonies are red, but no one comes to see them….
The ladies-in-waiting have grown white-haired
Debating the pomps of Emperor Xuanzong.
A SUGGESTION TO MY FRIEND LIU
There’s a gleam of green in an old bottle,
There’s a stir of red in the quiet stove,
There’s a feeling of snow in the dusk outside —
What about a cup of wine inside?
SHE SINGS AN OLD SONG
A lady of the palace these twenty years,
She has lived here a thousand miles from her home-
Yet ask her for this song and, with the first few words of it,
See how she tries to hold back her tears.
A NIGHT-MOORING ON THE JIANDE RIVER
While my little boat moves on its mooring of mist,
And daylight wanes, old memories begin….
How wide the world was, how close the trees to heaven,
And how clear in the water the nearness of the moon!
A SPRING MORNING
I awake light-hearted this morning of spring,
Everywhere round me the singing of birds —
But now I remember the night, the storm,
And I wonder how many blossoms were broken.
IN THE QUIET NIGHT
So bright a gleam on the foot of my bed —
Could there have been a frost already?
Lifting myself to look, I found that it was moonlight.
Sinking back again, I thought suddenly of home.
A BITTER LOVE
How beautiful she looks, opening the pearly casement,
And how quiet she leans, and how troubled her brow is!
You may see the tears now, bright on her cheek,
But not the man she so bitterly loves.
THE EIGHT-SIDED FORTRESS
The Three Kingdoms, divided, have been bound by his greatness.
The Eight-Sided Fortress is founded on his fame;
Beside the changing river, it stands stony as his grief
That he never conquered the Kingdom of Wu.
AT HERON LODGE
Mountains cover the white sun,
And oceans drain the golden river;
But you widen your view three hundred miles
By going up one flight of stairs.
ON PARTING WITH THE BUDDHIST PILGRIM LING CHE
From the temple, deep in its tender bamboos,
Comes the low sound of an evening bell,
While the hat of a pilgrim carries the sunset
Farther and farther down the green mountain.
Yet how it serves to ease my heart!
TO ONE UNNAMED IV
A faint phoenix-tail gauze, fragrant and doubled,
Lines your green canopy, closed for the night….
Will your shy face peer round a moon-shaped fan,
And your voice be heard hushing the rattle of my carriage?
It is quiet and quiet where your gold lamp dies,
How far can a pomegranate-blossom whisper?
…I will tether my horse to a river willow
And wait for the will of the southwest wind.
TO ONE UNNAMED V
There are many curtains in your care-free house,
Where rapture lasts the whole night long.
…What are the lives of angels but dreams
If they take no lovers into their rooms?
…Storms are ravishing the nut-horns,
Moon- dew sweetening cinnamon-leaves
I know well enough naught can come of this union,
Yet how it serves to ease my heart!
NEAR THE LIZHOU FERRY
The sun has set in the water’s clear void,
And little blue islands are one with the sky.
On the bank a horse neighs. A boat goes by.
People gather at a willow- clump and wait for the ferry.
Down by the sand-bushes sea-gulls are circling,
Over the wide river-lands flies an egret.
…Can you guess why I sail, like an ancient wise lover,
Through the misty Five Lakes, forgetting words?
THE TEMPLE OF SU WU
Though our envoy, Su Wu, is gone, body and soul,
This temple survives, these trees endure….
Wildgeese through the clouds are still calling to the moon there
And hill-sheep unshepherded graze along the border.
…Returning, he found his country changed
Since with youthful cap and sword he had left it.
His bitter adventures had won him no title….
Autumn-waves endlessly sob in the river.
A PALACE POEM
In twelve chambers the ladies, decked for the day,
Peer afar for their lord from their Fairy-View Lodge;
The golden toad guards the lock on the door-chain,
And the bronze-dragon water-clock drips through the morning
Till one of them, tilting a mirror, combs her cloud of hair
And chooses new scent and a change of silk raiment;
For she sees, between screen-panels, deep in the palace,
Eunuchs in court-dress preparing a bed.
And of even this bright flame of love,
TO ONE UNNAMED II
A misty rain comes blowing with a wind from the east,
And wheels faintly thunder beyond Hibiscus Pool.
…Round the golden-toad lock, incense is creeping;
The jade tiger tells, on its cord, of water being drawn
A great lady once, from behind a screen, favoured a poor youth;
A fairy queen brought a bridal mat once for the ease of a prince and then vanished.
…Must human hearts blossom in spring, like all other flowers?
And of even this bright flame of love, shall there be only ashes?
IN THE CAMP OF THE SKETCHING BRUSH
Monkeys and birds are still alert for your orders
And winds and clouds eager to shield your fortress.
…You were master of the brush, and a sagacious general,
But your Emperor, defeated, rode the prison-cart.
You were abler than even the greatest Zhou statesmen,
Yet less fortunate than the two Shu generals who were killed in action.
And, though at your birth-place a temple has been built to you,
You never finished singing your Song of the Holy Mountain
TO ONE UNNAMED III
Time was long before I met her, but is longer since we parted,
And the east wind has arisen and a hundred flowers are gone,
And the silk-worms of spring will weave until they die
And every night the candles will weep their wicks away.
Mornings in her mirror she sees her hair-cloud changing,
Yet she dares the chill of moonlight with her evening song.
…It is not so very far to her Enchanted Mountain
O blue-birds, be listening!-Bring me what she says!
I am lying in a white-lined coat while the spring approaches,
But am thinking only of the White Gate City where I cannot be.
…There are two red chambers fronting the cold, hidden by the rain,
And a lantern on a pearl screen swaying my lone heart homeward.
…The long road ahead will be full of new hardship,
With, late in the nights, brief intervals of dream.
Oh, to send you this message, this pair of jade earrings! —
I watch a lonely wildgoose in three thousand miles of cloud.
Has come and gone before I knew.
TO MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS ADRIFT
IN TROUBLED TIMES THIS POEM OF THE MOON
Since the disorders in Henan and the famine in Guannei, my brothers and sisters have been scattered. Looking at the moon, I express my thoughts in this poem, which I send to my eldest brother at Fuliang, my seventh brother at Yuqian, My fifteen brother at Wujiang and my younger brothers and sisters at Fuli and Xiagui.
My heritage lost through disorder and famine,
My brothers and sisters flung eastward and westward,
My fields and gardens wrecked by the war,
My own flesh and blood become scum of the street,
I moan to my shadow like a lone-wandering wildgoose,
I am torn from my root like a water-plant in autumn:
I gaze at the moon, and my tears run down
For hearts, in five places, all sick with one wish.
THE INLAID HARP
I wonder why my inlaid harp has fifty strings,
Each with its flower-like fret an interval of youth.
…The sage Chuangzi is day-dreaming, bewitched by butterflies,
The spring-heart of Emperor Wang is crying in a cuckoo,
Mermen weep their pearly tears down a moon-green sea,
Blue fields are breathing their jade to the sun….
And a moment that ought to have lasted for ever
Has come and gone before I knew.
TO ONE UNNAMED
The stars of last night and the wind of last night
Are west of the Painted Chamber and east of Cinnamon Hall.
…Though I have for my body no wings like those of the bright- coloured phoenix,
Yet I feel the harmonious heart-beat of the Sacred Unicorn.
Across the spring-wine, while it warms me, I prompt you how to bet
Where, group by group, we are throwing dice in the light of a crimson lamp;
Till the rolling of a drum, alas, calls me to my duties
And I mount my horse and ride away, like a water-plant cut adrift.
THE PALACE OF THE SUI EMPEROR
His Palace of Purple Spring has been taken by mist and cloud,
As he would have taken all Yangzhou to be his private domain
But for the seal of imperial jade being seized by the first Tang Emperor,
He would have bounded with his silken sails the limits of the world.
Fire-flies are gone now, have left the weathered grasses,
But still among the weeping-willows crows perch at twilight.
…If he meets, there underground, the Later Chen Emperor,
Do you think that they will mention a Song of Courtyard Flowers?
TO ONE UNNAMED I
You said you would come, but you did not, and you left me with no other trace
Than the moonlight on your tower at the fifth-watch bell.
I cry for you forever gone, I cannot waken yet,
I try to read your hurried note, I find the ink too pale.
…Blue burns your candle in its kingfisher-feather lantern
And a sweet breath steals from your hibiscus-broidered curtain.
But far beyond my reach is the Enchanted Mountain,
And you are on the other side, ten thousand peaks away.