Complete Poems Section 1

Mark’s Note: Some friends of mine have told me they didn’t even know the Chinese wrote poems! I can understand this. Much of Chinese poetry seems byzantine, or baroque, and understanding its writing , let alone nuances, tends to lose the reader much of the time.

Up to now, translators and interpreters of Chinese into English (in general) have done a disservice in how poorly the West understands China. I believe writers and translators of Chinese need to step back a little from trying to get all the right marks and capturing all the right tones and words, otherwise Chinese poetry will remain in an enclave for a rarefied few. I want as many (foreign) readers as possible to at least get a sense of these great poets, whom I love. I don’t much care, frankly, if there are several wrong notes as long as the feeling or emotion in the poem is captured. So if one is looking for a scholarly exegesis on each poem, this is not that place.

Philosophically, I look upon the interpretation/translation of LSY’s poems as akin to performing classical music. The pianist Alfred Cortot had bunches of wrong notes and memory slips in his performances of Chopin, but there was an unmistakable passion and feeling that was conveyed to the audience. These days, that romantic tradition has been lost in the perfect marimba notes of the modern pianist afraid to make one wrong note (in an hour long concert). I take the same approach to poems, and will not wait for 10 years to publish a perfect or near perfect version.

Also, please note that I expect to have the entire poems attached below later this month.

Therefore, I welcome helpful insights from people with more experience than me, and with your help, this work in progress can only get better. Otherwise, just have fun and enjoy!

Mark O. Ndesandjo

World’s End                                                                                                                .

春日在天涯,      chūn rì zài tiān yá
天涯日又斜。      tiān yá rì yòu xié
莺啼如有泪,      yīng tí rú yǒu lèi
为湿最高花。      wèi shī zuì gāo huā

At the end of the world, on a Spring day
When the sun sets,
Were the nightingale to sing, imagine its tears
Sprinkling the tallest flowers.

Midnight                                                                                                                      .

三更三点万家眠,  sān gēng sān diǎn wàn jiā mián
露欲为霜月堕烟。  lù yù wéi shuāng yuè duò yān
斗鼠上堂蝙蝠出,  dòu shǔ shàng táng biān fú chū
玉琴时动倚窗弦。  yù qín shí dòng yǐ chuāng xián

On the third night watch, ten thousand homes slumber
From the moon it seems a smoky frost tumbles.
On the roof mice emerge, and bats start to fly,
By the open window, the jade zither brushes forth a sigh.

Let Us Reflect On Dynasties And Families Of The Past                                  .

历鉴前朝国与家,  lì jiàn qián cháo guó yǔ jiā
成由勤俭败由奢。  chéng yóu qín jiǎn bài yóu shē
何须琥珀方为枕,  hé xū hǔ pò fāng wéi zhěn
岂得真珠始是车。  qǐ dé zhēn zhū shǐ shì chē
运去不逢青海马,  yǔn qù bù féng qīng hǎi mǎ
力穷难拔蜀山蛇。  lì qióng nán bá shǔ shān shé
几人曾预南薰曲    jǐ rén céng yù nán xūn qǔ
终古苍梧哭翠华。  zhōng gǔ cāng wú kū cuì huá

Let us reflect on dynasties and families of the past,
Made great through thrift, laid low by excess.
For all their amber pillows, it seems
Real talent, more than wagons of pearls, was the road to success
Fate was unkind to Qin Haima1.
Weakness was the downfall of the Empire of Shu.
How many would have treasured the Southern Xun songs,
Alas, Cang Wu2 wept at the emperor’s plight.

Farewell To My Wise Teacher                                                                        .

云鬓无端怨别离,  yún bìn wú duān yuàn bié lí
十年移易住山期。  shí nián yí yì zhù shān qī
东西南北皆垂泪,  dōng xī nán běi jiē chuí lèi
却是杨朱真本师。  què shì yáng zhū zhēn běn shī

When I had beautiful cloudy hair I left home for no particular reason,
I shifted from temple to temple for ten long seasons.
Whither East or West, North or South – rivers of tears came after.
In fact you, Yang Zhu, were my truest teacher.

Frosty Moon                                                                                                                .

初闻征雁已无蝉,  chū wén zhēng yàn yǐ wú chán
百尺楼南水接天。  bǎi chǐ lóu nán shuǐ jiē tiān
青女素娥俱耐冷,  qīng nǚ sù é jù nài lěng
月中霜里斗婵娟。  yuè zhōng shuāng lǐ dòu chán juān

As I hear the wild geese, the crickets are already silent,
Southwards, from the hundred chi high tower, the water blends with the sky.
The Frost Queen vies with Chang’E,
The moon both pure as jade and chaste as ice.

From Jingnan to Shangluo                                                                                         .

昔去真无奈,      xī qù zhēn wú nài
今还岂自知。      jīn huán qǐ zì zhī
青辞木奴橘,      qīng cí mù nú jú
紫见地仙芝。      zǐ jiàn dì xiān zhī
四海秋风阔,      sì hǎi qiū fēng kuò
千岩暮景迟。      qiān yán mù jǐng chí
向来忧际会,      xiàng lái yōu jì huì
犹有五湖期。      yóu yǒu wǔ hú qī

When I left you I had no choice,
These days, what does one really know?
The blue of the tangerine fades,
Everywhere, purple sesame covers mountain glades.
The Autumn wind blasts from each direction,
Thousands of rocky crags hold back the setting sun.
I’m ever anxious to meet again,
Just like at Five Lakes, those were the days!

Chang’E – Queen of the Moon                                                                                   .

云母屏风烛影深,  yún mǔ píng fēng zhú yǐng shēn
长河渐落晓星沉。  cháng hé jiān luò xiǎo xīng chén
嫦娥应悔偷灵药,  cháng é yìng huǐ tōu líng yào
碧海青天夜夜心。  bì hǎi qīng tiān yè yè xīn

Beyond the mica screen, candles cast shadows deep into the night
Stars fade, lost in the eternal ebb and flow of the Milky Way,
Chang’E should regret her theft of the magic pills,
A dark heart at one with the emerald sea and the blue sky.

Jasper Lake                                                                                                                            .

瑶池阿母绮窗开,  yáo chí ā mǔ qǐ chuāng kāi
黄竹歌声动地哀。  huáng zhú gē shēng dòng dì āi
八骏日行三万里,  bā jùn rì xíng sān wàn lǐ
穆王何事不重来。  mù wáng hé shì bù chóng lái

The Queen of Jasper Lake pulls back the damask curtains,
As the sad yellow bamboo melody shakes the earth.
Her lover’s eight great stallions travel thirty thousand miles daily,
Just how could King Mu not yet have returned?

Scholar Jia                                                                                                                  .

宣室求贤访逐臣,xuān shì qiú xián fǎng zhú chén
贾生才调更无伦。jiā shēng cái diào gèng wú lún
可怜夜半虚前席,kě lián yè bàn xū qián xí
不问苍生问鬼神。bù wèn cāng shēng wèn guǐ shén

Once banished, now summoned to the Imperial Hall,
Scholar Jia
 is an unparalleled example of talent on call,
A pity how the Emperor, on the edge of his midnight seat, absorbs his ideas.
Yet doesn’t ask about ordinary people, just superstitions and fears!3

Emperor Sui Gong                                                                                                      .

乘兴南游不戒严,  chéng xìng nán yóu bù jiè yán
九重谁省谏书函。  jiǔ chóng shuí xǐng jiàn shū hán
春风举国裁宫锦,  chūn fēng jǔ guó cái gōng jǐn
半作障泥半作帆。  bàn zuò zhàng ní bàn zuò fān

Grand, magnificent, the southern procession marches unfettered.
Back in the inner palace, who cares about the people’s entreaties?
Elegant affairs of state require the country snip silk brocades,
Half for sloshing through mud, half to make sails!

On The River                                                                                                               .

万里风来地,      wàn lǐ fēng lái dì
清江北望楼。      qīng jiāng běi wàng lóu
云通梁苑路,      yún tōng liáng yuàn lù
月带楚城秋。      yuè dài chǔ chéng qiū
刺字从漫灭,      cì zì cóng màn miè
归途尚阻修。      guī tú shàng zǔ xiū
前程更烟水,      qián chéng gèng yān shuǐ
吾道岂淹留。      wú dào qǐ yān liú

From 1000 miles away the wind arrives.
In the clear river, from the Northern watch,
As clouds stream through turrets, courtyards and streets,
The autumn moon has the city of Chu in her clutch.
My badges of shame stay the same,
Returning home is impossible.
The road ahead is shrouded in mist,
My destiny must be to remain!

Pleasure Trip To The West                                                                                          .

春梦乱不记,      chūn mèng luàn bù jì
春原登已重。      chūn yuǎn dēng yǐ chóng
青门弄烟柳,      qīng mén nòng yān liǔ
紫阁舞云松。      zǐ gé wǔ yún sōng
拂砚轻冰散,      fú yàn qīng bīng sǎn
开尊绿酎浓。      kāi zūn lù zhòu nóng

无悰托诗遣,      wú cóng tuō shī qiǎn
吟罢更无悰。      yín bà gēng wú cóng

My spring dreams are crazy and make no sense,,
Climbing the mountain is not easy,
Misty willows by the Great Blue Gate,
Clouds above the Purple Temple dance easy peasy.
I brush away the ice’s light layer.
Carefully pour the rich wine. What a failure
I am, though I prepare a poem for you,
What a failure I am, as the night passes by.

The Western Pavilion                                                                                                 

此夜西亭月正圆,  cǐ yè xī tíng yuè zhèng yuán
疏帘相伴宿风烟。  shū lián xiāng bàn sù fēng yān
梧桐莫更翻清露,  wú tóng mò gèng fān qīng lù
孤鹤从来不得眠。  gū hè cóng lái bù dé mián

Tonight the moon is full above the Western pavilion,
Thin curtains wave back and forth in the haze.
The Wu Tong tree sighs, breaking my reverie,
This lonely crane will never sleep.

Waking                                                                                                                                    .

拟杯当晓起,      nǐ bēi dāng xiǎo qǐ
呵镜可微寒。      hē jìng kě wēi hán
隔箔山櫻熟,      gé bó shān yīng shú
褰帷桂烛残。      qiān wéi guì zhú cán
书长为报晚,      shū cháng wéi bào wǎn
梦好更寻难。      mèng hǎo gēng xún nán
影响输双蝶,      yǐng xiǎng shū shuāng dié
偏过旧畹兰。      piān guò jiù wǎn lán

When I awoke, the mirror’s gilded surface turned my breath cold.
On painted screens, the mountain peaches turn ripe,
I lift the curtains, from snuffed candles drifts the lonely scent of cassia.
My epistle to you took too long to write,
That wonderful dream is now hard to recall.
Just the impression of two butterflies soaring,
While I was left alone in the old orchid grove.

World’s End                                                                                                                .

春日在天涯 chūn rì zài tiān yá
天涯日又斜 tiān yá rì yòu xié
莺啼如有泪 yīng tí rú yǒu lèi
为湿最高花 wèi shī zuì shī huā

Beneath the Spring sun I am at the World’s End,
At the World’s End
, slowly creep the daylight hours.
The warbler screams as if in pain,
Its tears soaking the highest flowers.

The Evening Brings Unsettled Thoughts                                                        

向晚意不适,      xiàng wǎn yì bù shì
驱车登古原。      qū chē dēng gǔ yuán
夕阳无限好,      xī yáng wú xiàn hǎo
只是近黄昏。      zhǐ shì jìn huáng hūn

Towards evening my thoughts are unsettled
As my cart climbs Guyuan summit
The briefest sunsets, just before the night falls,
Are, alas, the most perfect.

Poem Presented As A Gift                                                                                           .

东南日出照高楼,  dōng nán rì chū zhào gāo lóu
楼上离人唱石州。  lóu shàng lí rén chàng shí zhōu
总把春山扫眉黛,  zǒng bǎ chūn shān sǎo méi dài
不知供得几多愁?  bù zhī gōng dé jǐ duō chóu

From the South-east, Daylight reveals a tall tower
Before he leaves, she sings the Shi zhou songs to her lover.
Yet, with all that that makeup on her brow,
Who can count the worries that make her frown?4

Airy Evening                                                                                                               .

深居俯夹城,      shēn jū fǔ jiā chéng
春去夏犹清。      chūn qù xià yóu qīng
天意怜幽草,      tiān yì lián yōu cǎo
人间重晚晴。      rén jiān zhòng wǎn qíng
并添高阁迥,      bìng tiān gāo gé jiǒng
微注小窗明。      wēi zhù xiǎo chuāng míng
越鸟巢干后,      yuè  niǎo cháo gàn hòu
归飞体更轻。      guī fēi tǐ gèng qīng

Cramped houses bend before the city walls,
Spring has flown, the Summer is so clear.
Heaven smiles on grassy fields,
People look forward to the airy evening.
More lofty towers, of pavilions a multitude,
Radiant sunlight streams through narrow windows.
The Yue bird gathers to build its nest,
Then flies home so light and free.

Consider                                                                                                                                  .

为有云屏无限娇, wèi yǒu yún píng wú xiàn jiāo
凤城寒尽怕春宵。  fèng chéng hán jìn pà chūn xiāo
无端嫁得金龟婿,  wú duān jià dé jīn guī xù
辜负香衾事早朝    gū fù xiāng qīn shì zǎo cháo

Consider the wonderfully virtuous woman behind the floating veil,
as the winter wind, fearing spring, blasts the city’s lonely places.
Who cares if my marriage secured a wealthy husband,
Morning calls him away so soon, no matter how sweet our bed!

Song of the Southern Jiang                                                                             .

郎船安两桨,      láng chuán ān liǎng jiǎng
侬舸动双桡。      nóng gě dòng shuāng ráo
扫黛开宫额,      sǎo dài kāi gōng é
裁裙约楚腰。      cái qún yuē chǔ yāo
乖期方积思,      guāi qī fāng jī sì
临醉欲拼娇。      lín zuì yù pīn jiāo
莫以采菱唱,      mò yǐ cǎi líng chàng
欲羡秦台箫。      yù xiàn qín tái xiāo

My darling gently rows the boat,
I too move the oars of my skiff.
You remove your makeup, revealing a splendid, noble brow,
Your dress wraps your lithesome body like a bow.
In my mind’s eye, time passing gathers so many sensations,
How wonderful, in this dizzy show, it links them with your graces.
I’m your water-lily,
You’re my bamboo flute.

Tomorrow                                                                                                                               .

天上参旗过,      tiān shàng cān qí guò
人间烛焰销。      rén jiān zhú yàn xiāo
谁言整双履,      shuí yán zhěng shuāng lǚ
便是隔三桥。      biàn shì gé sān qiáo
知处黄金锁,      zhī chǔ huáng jīn suǒ
曾来碧绮寮。      céng lái bì qǐ liáo
凭栏明日意,      píng lán míng rì yì
池阔雨萧萧。      chí kuò yǔ xiāo xiāo

The Canxi stars glow in the sky above, candles fade in the world below.
Who dares to speak of us parting, or of three paths of destiny?
I constantly think of your bedroom’s golden lock, of your window’s blue shades.
I lean on the railing, thinking of tomorrow, hearing raindrops pitter pattering over the water.

By The Pond                                                                                                                .

玉管葭灰细细吹,yù guǎn jiā huī xì xì chuī
流莺上下燕参差。liú yīng shàng xià yàn cěn
日西千绕池边树,rì xī qiān rào chí biān shù
忆把枯条撼雪时。yì bǎ kū tiáo hàn xuě shí

Gently blow away the jade flute’s ash,
Let orioles dip and soar, while swallows flock.
By the pond, the sunset embraces one thousand trees,
As I remember when snow from dead branches dropped.

Back to the Fields                                                                                                      

行李逾南极,      xíng lǐ yú nán jí
旬时到旧乡。      xún shí dào jiù xiāng
楚芝应遍紫,      chǔ zhī yìng biàn zǐ
邓橘未全黄。      dèng jú wèi quán huáng
渠浊村舂急,      qú zhuó cūn chōng jí
旗高社酒香。      qí gāo shè jiǔ xiāng
故山归梦喜,      gù shān guī mèng xǐ
先入读书堂。      xiān rù dú shū táng

Packed to visit the southernmost parts,
In less than ten days I will be back home.
Vermillion Chu sesame will be everywhere
Yellow Deng tangerines are fast ripening.
The spring threshers pound away in the village gulleys
Lofty flags announce fragrant ritual wines.
The sight of the mountains of my home brings back happy dreams,
But first I’ll enter my study and read my books.

An Epistle From The North On a Wet Night                                                   .

君问归期未有期,  jūn wèn guī qī wèi yǒu qī
巴山夜雨涨秋池。  bā shān yè yǔ zhǎng qiū chí
何当共剪西窗烛,  hé dāng gòng jiǎn xī chuāng zhú
却话巴山夜雨时.   què huà bā shān yè yǔ shí

In vain, my love, you question me if and when I will return.
The evening drizzle fills Ba Mountain’s autumn lakes.
Would that we snuffed the candles, gazing towards the west,
Chatting instead of the Mountain’s nightly rain and all the rest.

Moonrise                                                                                                                                 .

Imagine a Midsummer Night’s Dream of magic mushrooms, fairies, spells, bizarre creatures and potions. Then imagine that this mystic scene takes place in the Middle Kingdom.

草下阴虫叶上霜,cǎo xià yīn chóng yè shàng shuāng
朱阑迢递压湖光。zhū lán tiáo dì yā hú guāng
兔寒蟾冷桂花百,tù hán chán lěng guì huā bǎi
此夜姮娥应断肠。cǐ yè héng é yīng duàn cháng

Crickets under the grass, frost on the leaves,
Vermilion balustrades glowing above than the lake.
Night brings lonely rabbits, three legged frogs, the cassia’s white flowers,
How the Moon Goddess grieves tonight!

A Second Poem Presented To One Who Passed The Imperial Examination.

一丈红蔷拥翠筠,  yī zhàng hóng qiáng yōng cuì yún
罗窗不识绕街尘。  luó chuāng bù shí rào jiē chén
峽中寻觅长逢雨,  xiá zhōng  xún mì cháng féng yǔ
月里依稀更有人。  yuè lǐ yī xī gēng yǒu rén
虚为借刀留远客,  xū wéi jiè dāo liú yuǎn kè
遥知小阁还斜照。  yáo zhī xiǎo gé hái xié zhào
枉掾书礼损文鳞,  wǎng yuàn shū lǐ sǔn wén lín
羡杀乌龙卧锦茵。  xiàn shā wū lóng wò jǐn yīn

Red roses crawl up the green bamboo,
Gauze windows hide the dust swirling in the street.
In the deep gorge I just see the rain,
Even the moon has more people!
Your gold knife seduces this stranger,
From afar the sunlight glances off these small pavilions.
Left behind are scattered letters and worthless fish scales.
How lucky are the pets of your boudoir and brocaded bed!

A Poem Happily Given To a Friend (First Poem)                                           .

东望花楼会不同,  dōng wàng huā lóu huì bù tóng
西来双燕信休通。  xī lái shuāng yàn xìn xiū tōng
仙人掌冷三霄露,  xiān rén zháng lěng sān xiāo lù
玉女窗虚五夜风。  yù nǚ chuāng xū wǔ yè fēng
翠袖自随回雪转,  cuì xiù zì suí huí xuě zhuǎn
烛房寻类外庭空。  zhú fáng xún lèi wài tíng kōng
殷勤莫使清香秀,  yīn qín mò shǐ qīng xiāng xiù
牢合金鱼锁桂丛。  láo hé jīn yú suǒ guì cóng

Lofty towers provide no places to meet, just westward views,
From the East, a pair of swallows bring us no news.
Immortal spirits reach down through Heaven’s three gates,
The Jade Goddess’ empty window bides the night wind, so late.
The snow blows back onto your emerald sleeve,
The chamber’s loneliness spreads deep into the empty night.
Your sweet fragrance wasted,
You hide in a room, your gold fish lock turned tight!

A Poem Happily Given To a Friend (Second Poem)                                      

迢递青门有几关,  tiáo dì qīng mén yǒu jǐ guān
柳梢楼阁见南山。  liǔ shāo lóu gé jiàn nán shān
明珠可贯须为佩,  míng zhū kě guàn xū wéi pèi
白璧堪裁而作环。  bái bì kān cái ér zuò huán
子夜休歌团扇掩,  zǐ yè xiū gē tuán shān yǎn
新正未破剪刀闲。  xīn zhēng wèi pò jiǎn dāo xián
猿啼鹤怨终年事,  yuán tí hè yuàn zhōng nián shì
未抵熏炉一夕间。  wèi dǐ xūn lú yī xī jiān

How many doors has the Qingmen Gate
Where willows, towers and pavilions face the Southern Heights.
Necklaces can be formed from pearls,
Bracelets from the purest jade!
At midnight one retreats behind round fans, no singing, as if to forget.
Spring is barely upon us and scissors are free, what joy might there be!
Apes howl all year and love-sick cranes complain,
While I long for just a moment with you, a quiet refrain.

At 10 You Dashed Off Poems In Jest                                                              

十岁裁诗走马成,  shí suì cái shī zǒu mǎ chéng
冷灰残烛动离情。  lěng huī cán zhú dòng lí qíng
桐花万里丹山路,  tóng huā wàn lǐ dān shān lù
雏凤清于老凤声。  chú fèng qīng yú lǎo fèng shēng

At 10 you dashed off poems in jest,
While cold ash lingered behind departing guests.
A thousand miles away, on the Tong trees of Red Mountain,
The voice of the young phoenix was clearer than that of the old.

Poem Without a Title 1                                                                               

相见时难别亦难,  xiāng jiàn shí nán bié yì nán
东风无力百花残。  dōng fēng wú lì bǎi huā cán
春蚕到死丝方尽,  chūn cán dào sǐ sī fāng jìn
蜡炬成灰泪始干。  là jù chéng huī lèi shǐ gān
晓镜但愁云鬓改,  xiǎo jìng dàn chóu yún bìn gǎi
夜吟应觉月光寒。  yè yín yīng jué  yuè guāng hán
蓬山此去无多路,  péng shān cǐ qù wú duō lù
青鸟殷勤为探看。  qīng niǎo yīn qín wèi tàn kān

It is so hard to be with you, so hard to leave you.
Even the East Wind is powerless,
As hundreds of flowers wither.
In Spring, the silkworm’s death morphs into silk,
And the melting candle’s smoky tears turn dry!
In the morning mirror, the hair on my brow is a gloomy cloud,
Night brings forth songs as cold as the moonlight.
Peng Mountain is now not so far,
Magic bird please find my love! Call softly where I can see you!

Poem Without a Title 2                                                                              

昨夜星辰昨夜风,  zuó yè xīng chén zuó yè fēng
画楼西畔桂堂东。  huà lóu xī pàn guì táng dōng
身无彩凤双飞翼,  shēn wú cǎi fèng shuāng fēi yì
心有灵犀一点通。  xīn yǒu líng xī yī diǎn tōng
隔座送钩春酒暖,  gé zuò sòng gōu chūn jiǔ nuǎn
分曹射覆蜡灯红。  fēn cáo shè fù là dēng hóng
嗟余听鼓应官去,  jiē yú tīng gǔ yìng guān qù
走马兰台类转蓬。  zǒu mǎ lán tái lèi zhuǎn péng

Yesterday evening, the night was wind, yesterday evening,I saw stars and constellations,
Westward lay the Painted Pavilion, Eastward the sweet scented Cassia Hall.
Our bodies seemed immaterial, just two brilliant, fluttering pairs of phoenix wings.
Our hearts were linked by a minute thread, from root to tip of the magic horn.
Seated, we played hook and drank warm spring wine,
While we guessed at riddles, scarlet beams shimmered in the candlelight.
Cha Cha! Alas for the drums  of the morning reveille.
I now ride between offices, a blossom scattered to the wind.

Poem Without a Title 3                                                                               

万里风波一叶舟,  wàn lǐ fēng bō yī yè zhōu
忆归初罢更夷犹。  yì guī chū bà gèng yí yóu
碧江地没元相引,  bì jiāng dì mò yuán xiāng yǐn
黄鹤沙边亦少留。  huáng hè shā biān yì shǎo liú
益德冤魂终极主,  yì dé yuān hún zhōng jí zhǔ
阿童高义镇横秋。  ā tóng gāo yì zhèn héng qiū
人生岂得长无谓,  rén shēng qǐ dé cháng wú wèi
怀古思乡共白头。  huái gǔ sī xiāng gòng bái tóu

10,000 miles of wind and waves rock my boat,
I think back to where I started, anxiously.
Everywhere on the emerald Bi river I feel sucked in,
This yellow crane leaves faint prints on the sand.
Good deeds must in the end be rewarded,
Just as the great general Atong prevailed over the bitter Autumn.
Men, in their vanity, always strive for more,
Thinking of home and what is past, as their heads turn white!

Poem Without a Title 4                                                                                         

待得郎来月已低,  dāi dé láng lái yuè yǐ dī
寒暄不道醉如泥。  hán xuān bù dào zuì rú ní
五更又欲向何处,  wǔ gēng yòu yù xiàng hé chù
骑马出门乌夜啼。  qí mǎ chū mén wū yè tí

The moon is low in the sky and he hasn’t yet returned.
My husband, wallowing in beer, is an impolite sight.
Better go elsewhere rather than return so late!
Ride your horse out the gate, as the crow shrieks in the night!

Poem Without a Title 5                                                                              

八岁偷照镜,      bā suì tōu zhào jìng
长眉已能画。      cháng méi yǐ néng huà
十岁去踏青,      shí suì qù  tà qīng
芙蓉作裙衩。      fú róng zuò qún chǎ
十二学弹筝,      shí èr xué tán zhēng
银甲不曾卸。      yín jiǎ  bù céng xiè
十四藏六亲,      shí sì cáng  liù qīn
悬知犹未嫁。      xuán zhī yóu wèi jià
十五泣春风,      shí wǔ qì chūn fēng
北面秋千下。      běi miàn qiū qiān xià

At eight you stole a look at yourself in the mirror, your long eyebrows were a lovely picture.
At ten you would run in the grass, the hibiscus masking the slit of your chunpu.
Twelve was a time to study the zither, when your silver plectrum seemed always in motion
Then at fourteen you were hidden by your kin, as you worried about marriage.
At fifteen the spring breeze brought sadness and tears, impossible to hide as you played on the swing.

Poem Without a Title 6                                                                                           

凤尾香罗薄几重?  fèng wěi xiāng luó bó jǐ chóng
碧文圆顶夜深缝。  bì wén yuán dǐng yè shēn féng
扇裁月魄羞难掩,   shān cái yuè pò xiū nán yǎn
车去雷声语未通。  chē qù léi shēng yǔ wèi tōng
曾是寂寥金烬暗,  céng shì jì liáo jīn jìn àn
断无消息石榴红。  duàn wú xiāo xī shí liú hóng
斑骓只系垂杨岸,  bān zhuī zhǐ jì chuí yáng àn
何处西南待好风?  hé chù xī nán dài hǎo fēng

How many layers of silk are printed with the phoenix tail?
The blue weaved dome blends into night.
Your moonlike fan fails to hide your blushing face.
The carriage, thundering, gives speech no place.
There was a time you sat alone by the flickering candle,
Sad, without word of weddings or pomegranate wine.
Like a dappled mare tethered to the poplar on the river bank,
How can a man wait as all these beautiful south west beauties pass him by?

Poem Without a Title 7                                                                              

户外重阴暗不开,  hù wài zhòng yīn àn bù kāi
含羞迎夜复临台。  hán xiū yíng yè fù lín tái
潇湘浪上有烟簟,  xiāo xiāng làng shàng yǒu yān diàn
安得好风吹汝来。  ān dé háo fēng chuī rǔ lái

Outside, just ceaseless gloom,
Modestly, I welcome night onto my terrace.
Mottled Xiaoxiang bamboo drifts over the waves like smoke
How peaceful is the wind that blows you to me.

Poem Without a Title 8                                                                               

幽人不倦赏,      yōu rén bù juàn shǎng
秋暑贵招邀。      qiū shǔ guì zhāo yāo
竹碧转怅望,      zhú bì zhuǎn chàng wàng
池清尤寂寥。      chí qīng yóu jì liáo
露花终裛湿,      lù huā zhōng yì shī
风蝶强娇饶。      fēng dié qiǎng jiāo ráo
此地如携手,      cǐ dì rú xié shǒu
兼君不自聊。      jiān jūn bù zì liáo

The hermit enjoys his endless rewards,the heat of Autumn makes one courteous,
Green bamboo spreads its gloomy thoughts, the clear water is particularly desolate.
Flowers are finally moist with dew, butterflies float on gusts of wind.
Let us walk here hand in hand, for folks fine as us need not be alone.

Poem Without a Title 9                                                                               

近听名阿侯,      jìn tīng míng ā hóu
住处小江流。      zhù chù xiǎo jiāng liú
腰细不胜舞,      yāo xì bù shèng wǔ
眉长唯是愁。      méi cháng wěi shì chóu
黃金堪作屋,      huáng jīn kān zuò wū
何不作重楼?      hé bù zuò chóng lóu

I recently heard of a woman called Aho,
Who lived where the little Jiang flows.
Her waist was so slender that dancing made it ache,
Her beautiful long brow was a stranger to frowns.
Some high official’s room has become her prison,
It’s too bad she couldn’t have done better!

Poem Without a Title 10                                                                          

照梁初有情,      zhào liáng chū yǒu qíng
出水旧知名。      chū shuǐ jiù zhī míng
裙衩芙蓉小,      qún chǎ fú róng xiǎo
衩茸翡翠轻。      chǎ róng fěi cuì qīng
锦长书郑重,      jǐn cháng shū zhèng zhòng
眉细恨分明。      méi xì hèn fēn míng
莫近弹棋局,       mò jìn tán qí jú
中心最不平。      zhōng xīn zuì bù píng

The light above the rafters sparkles like jade, the water flower emerges.
The lotus on the slit of your gown is so delicate, the soft jadite cap sits lightly on your head.
Such heavy brocade, such serious letters, your fine brow hates the subtleties of it all.
Don’t play too much chess, your heart really isn’t into it!

Poem Without a Title 11                                                                                        

白道萦回入暮霞,  bái dào yíng huí rù mù xiá
斑骓嘶断七香车。  bān zhuī sī duàn qī xiāng chē
春风自共何人笑,  chūn fēng zì gòng hé rén xiào
枉破阳城千万家。  wǎng pò yáng chéng qiān wàn jiā

The whitened path blends into rosy clouds,
Sounds of horses and splendid dashing chariots.
Spring’s vernal pleasures bring out the fun in me,
Yet, city of millions, don’t laugh, I’m alone, you see.

Poem  Without a Title 12                                                                                      

来是空言去绝踪,  lái shì kōng yán qù jué zōng
月斜楼上五更种。  yuè xié lóu shàng wǔ gēng zhǒng
梦为远别啼难唤,  mèng wéi yuǎn bié tí nán huàn
书被催成墨末浓。  shū bèi cuī chéng mò mò nóng
蜡照半笼金翡翠,  là zhào bàn lóng jīn fěi cuì
麝熏微度绣芙蓉。  shè xūn wēi dù xiù fú róng
刘郎已恨蓬山远,  liú láng yǐ hèn péng shān yuǎn
更隔蓬山一万重。  gēng gé péng shān yī wàn zhòng

Arrive is just an empty word, you leave without a trace,
Throughout the fifth watch, moonlight falls on the building’s face.
You’re in my dreams, where from afar you barely heed my plaint,
So hastily I write, even the thick ink grows faint.
Candles light up just half this kingfisher gilded quilt,
Brocaded bed curtains betray a slight scent of musk, how I’ve aged!
No doubt Liu Lang hated distant Fairy Hill,
Ten thousand mountains more keep me from the place I love.

Poem Without a Title 13                                                                         

飒飒东风细雨来,sà sà dōng fēng xì yǔ lái
芙蓉塘外有轻雷。fú róng táng wài yǒu qīng léi
金蟾啮销烧香入,jīn chán niè xiāo shāo xiāng rù
玉虎牵丝汲井回。yù hǔ qiān sī jí jǐng huí
贾氏窥帘韩掾少,jiǎ shì kuī lián hán yuàn shǎo
宓妃留枕魏王才。mì fēi liú zhěn wèi wáng cái
春心莫共花争发,chūn xīn mò gòng huā zhēng fā
一寸相思一寸灰。yī cùn xiāng sī yī cùn huī

Sa! Sa! The West Wind brings a scattering rain, a rattling thunder
Beyond the hibiscus on the bank’s far side.
The stove’s golden frog fails to lock out the scent of incense,
While my jade tiger gently draws water from your well.
Lady Jia peeks through the drapes at young Secretary Han,
Princess Mi Fei prepares her pillow for brilliant Prince Wei.
So many flowers cannot dispel love’s pleasure and pain,
For each inch of love, an inch of ashes. Alas no gain!

Poem Without a Title  14                                                                

含情春腕晚,hán qíng chūn wàn wǎn
暂见夜阑干。zàn jiàn yè lán gàn
楼响将登怯,lóu xiǎng jiāng dēng qiè
帘烘欲过难。lián hōng yù guò nán
多羞钗上燕,duō xiū chāi shàng yàn
真愧镜中鸾。zhēn kuì jìng zhōng luán
归去横塘晓,guī qù héng táng xiǎo
华星送宝鞍。huā xīng sòng bǎo ān

This spring evening, I softly sigh,
Barely glancing at the sweeping sky.
I ascend the echoing chamber, seeking you,
Hearing the din behind the curtains, I fall back, fearing you!
Too bashful would I be, under your hair’s swallow-shaped pin,
Too humbled would I be, before the phoenix in your mirror.
Heading back, it’s already dawn over Hengtang’s pleasure quarter,
My saddle glistens, as though sprinkled with stars, in no special order.

Poem Without a Title 15                                                                          

何处哀筝随急管,  hé chǔ āi zhēng suí jí guǎn
樱花永巷垂杨岸。  yīng huā yǒng xiàng chuí yáng àn
东家老女嫁不售,  dōng jiā lǎo nǚ jià bù shòu
白日当天三月半。  bái rì dàng tiān sān yuè bàn
溧阳公主年十四,  lì yáng gōng zhǔ nián shí sì
清明暖后同墙看。  qīng míng nuǎn hòu tóng qiáng kàn
归来展转到五更,  guī lái zhǎn zhuǎn dào wǔ gēng
梁间燕子闻长叹。  liáng jiān yàn zi wén cháng tàn

How freely the mournful zither plays
By the deep water, cherry blossoms and willows spread.
To the East, my lady neighbor has never wed,
Middle age is here, spring has fled.
Princess Liyang5 was just fourteen years old,
After All Souls6 , on warm days, she made men amorous and bold.
Back home, the lady tosses and turns as the night flies by,
Only sparrows in the rafters hear sigh upon sigh.

Poem Without a Title 16                                                                           

闻道阊门萼绿华,wén dào chāng mén è lǜ huá
昔年相望抵天涯。xī nián xiāng wàng dǐ tiān yá
岂知一夜秦楼客,qǐ zhī yī yè qín lóu kè
偷看吴王苑內花。tōu kàn wú wáng yuàn nèi huā

Towards Chang’men, it is said, where lived Liu Hua,
For years I gazed, as though from the ends of the earth afar.
I wish I had just one night in the Chin Tower
To steal a glance at King Wu’s inner courtyard of flowers.7

Poem Without a Title 17                                                                          

重帷深下莫愁堂,  zhòng wéi shēn xià mò chóu táng
卧后清宵细细长。  wò hòu qīng xiāo xì xì cháng
神女生涯原是梦,  shén nǚ shēng yá yuán shì mèng
小姑居处本无郎。  xiǎo gū jū chǔ běn wú láng
风波不信菱枝弱,  fēng bō bù xìn líng zhī ruò
月露谁教桂叶香?  yuè lòu shuí jiào guì yè xiāng
直道相思了无益,  zhí dào xiāng sī liǎo wú yì
未妨惆怅是清狂。  wèi fáng chóu chàng shì qīng kuáng

Heavy drapes encompass Miss Placid’s chamber
Behind the room, across the quiet night a long line sweeps
The goddess lives, deep in my dreams,
Not a groom in sight, where the little maid abides.
Rippling water, do not underestimate the water chestnut!
Ravishing moon, who teaches the cassia to leave such a scent?
Perhaps the path to love is a fruitless one,
Avoiding heartbreak clearly has a crazy bent!8

Poem Without a Title 18                                                                         

长眉画了绣帘开,  cháng méi huà le xiù lián kāi
碧玉行收白玉台。  bì yù xíng shōu bái yù tái
为问翠钗钗上凤,  wéi wèn cuì chāi chāi shàng fèng
不知香颈为谁回。  bù zhī xiāng gěng  wéi shuí huí

You paint your slender face and part the splendid curtains,
Maidservant Jade prepares your white jade desk.
Even the phoenix atop your green hair clasp,
Doesn’t know towards whom your fragrant neck turns.

Poem Without a Title 19                                                                          

紫府仙人号宝灯,  zǐ fǔ xiān rén hào bǎo dēng
云浆末饮结成冰。  yún jiāng mò yǐn jié chéng bīng
如何雪月交光夜,  rú hé xuě yuè jiāo guāng yè
便在瑶台十二层。  biàn zài yáo tái shí èr céng

How surreal your vermillion chamber’s precious light,
My cloudy liquor9, abandoned, turns into ice.
And the frosty moon reveals the night’s kael,
Atop even your jade tower’s distant twelfth flight10.

Poem Without a Title 20 11                                                                          

锦瑟无端五十弦,  jǐn sè  wú duān  wǔ shí xián
一弦一柱思华年。  yī xián yī zhù sī huá nián
庄生晓梦迷蝴蝶,  zhuāng shēng xiǎo mèng mí hú dié
望帝春心托杜鹃    wàng dì chūn xīn tuō  dù juān
沧海月明珠有泪,  cāng hǎi yuè  míng zhū yǒu lèi
蓝田日暖玉生烟。  lán tián rì nuǎn yù shēng yān
此情可待成追忆,  cǐ qíng kě dāi chéng zhuī yì
只是当时已惘然。  zhǐ shì dāng shí yǐ wǎng rán

No matter that the zither has fifty strings,
Each string, each bridge, a year gone by,
Zhuangzi’s morning dreams, mystic, magic butterflies,
The Emperor’s thirst for love, to a cuckoo entrust.
Above the azure sea, the bright moon, a pearly tear, touched
As the day warms, by jade mist rising from Indigo fields.
Emotions return, forgotten memories,
Vague, all places forever lost.12

Poem Without a Title 21 13                                                                         

寿阳公主嫁时妆,shòu yáng gōng zhǔ jià shí zhuāng
八字宫眉捧额黄。bā zì gōng méi pěng é huáng
见我佯羞频照影,jiàn wǒ yáng xiū pín zhào yǐng
不知身属冶游郎。bù zhī shēn shǔ yě yóu láng

Princess Shou Yang’s marriage makeup is bold,
Noble slanted eyebrows touch a forehead sparkling with gold,
Seeing me,she pretends to blush, as usual just for show!
Regarding this whoring rascal, how little does she know!

 

***

Notes:
1.  An eminent scholar of the kingdom of Jun

2.  Burial place of the Shu Emperor

3.  “According to “The Biography of Jia Yi” in the Han Shu, Jia Yi was banished from the court of Emperor Wen of Han but was later recalled. In the Audience Hall, the main hall of the Weiyang Palace where Jia was summoned, the Emperor asked him about the gods and spirits. Since Jia Yi talked so Iong on the subject and his stories interested the Emperor so much, the meeting went on until rnidnight and the Emperor moved his sitting mat forward.” ( from THE ART OF ALLUSION IN LI SHANGYIN by Li Zeng, University of Toronto)

4. 雨 (Rain)

5.  According to myth, Princess Liang was a young beauty promised by her father to an invading warlord. Peace ensued, but her husband, a brutal leader, died two years later. As tribute, parts of his body were delivered to the warring kingdoms.

6.  The Pure Brightness Holiday (清明节) is a time to commemorate one’s ancesters and is typically in early April. After the festival, the temperature often rises, along with rainfall and much plowing and sowing. It is thus a time of sadness as well as happiness.

7.  Liu Hua (also known as Green-calyx Blossom) was a goddess who taught her earthly lover the art of being immortal.

8.  According to James J.Y. Liu, there is an ancient song about a beautiful girl called mò chóu (lterally ‘No worries’): Where does No Worries live?/ She lives west of the Rocky City./ A light boat rowed by two oars/Brings No Worries here fast. The goddess and little maid refer to the amorous Goddess of Wu and an abandoned girl in the classic song “Song of the Little Maid by the Green Creek” respectively (Where the door opens on the white water/A little way from the bridge/That’s the house of the Little Maid/Who lives alone without a lover)

9.  In Tang Dynasty poetry, clouds and rain are often associated with erotic and intimate relations. This type of allusion goes back as far as the Book of Songs, where  an attractive woman appears to the protagonist as a sheet of rain or cloud of morning mist.

10.  Some scholars refer to twelve jasper terraces by the K’un-lun Mountain, home of the Queen Mother of the West.

11.  The poem included here is also known as The Ornamented Zither. It is actually one of Untitled Poems with this commonly used name taken from the first two characters 锦瑟.

12.  According to legend, the 25 stringed zither originally had 50 strings. When the White Maid goddess refused to play for her husband, he angrily broke it into two pieces.

13.  The poem included here is also known as The Ornamented Zither. It is actually one of Untitled Poems with this commonly used name taken from the first two characters 锦瑟.