Poem – To Bi Siyao

Once stately figures in the art of rhyme,
Now sadly down at heels, our careers in ruin,
Regarded by our servants with disdain,
We are grown old and gray before our time.
Yet in your joyful, carefree company,
The most consoling thought occurs to me:
Though we are doomed to poverty and strife,
Our poems shall have a long and prosperous life.

Advertisements

Poem – Thoughts Of Li Po From The World’s End

Here at the world’s end the cold winds are beginning to blow. What messages
have you for me, my master? When will the poor wandering goose arrive? The
rivers and lakes are swollen with autumn’s waters. Art detests a too successful
life; and the hungry goblins await you with welcoming jaws. You had better have
a word with the ghost of that other wronged poet. Drop some verses into the
Mi-lo as an offering to him!

Poem – Twenty-Two Rhymes To Left-Prime-Minister Wei

Boys in fancy clothes never starve,
but Confucian scholars often find their lives in ruin.
Please listen to my explanation, Sir,
I, your humble student, ask permission to state my case.
When I was a younger Du Fu
I was honored as a national distinguished guest
and wore out ten thousand books in reading,
My brush was always inspired by gods,
my rhymed essays rivaled those of Yang Xiong,1
my poems were kin with those of Cao Zijian.2
Li Yong looked for a chance to meet me,
and even Wang Han3 wanted to be my neighbor.
I thought I was an outstanding person,
positioned at a key ferryboat route
and would assist an emperor like Yao or Shun,4
and make folk customs honest and simple again.
In the end this ambition withered.
I became a bard instead of a hermit,
and spent thirty years traveling on a donkey,
ate traveler’s rations in the luxury of the capital,
knocked on the door of the rich in the morning,
walked in the dust of fat horses in the evening,
ate leftover dishes and half-finished wine.
Wherever I went, I found misery hiding beneath.
When the emperor summoned me,
I was excited at this chance to stretch myself .
I saw blue sky but my wings just hung.
I was set back, had no scales to swim far.
I feel unworthy of your kindness,
and I know your sincerity:
in the presence of one hundred officials,
you read my best poems.
I am as happy as Gong Gong.5
Since it’s hard to imitate Confucius disciple Yuan Xian6
How can I feel unhappy about anything,
though my feet still drag as usual?
Now I plan to move east to the sea,
and leave the capital behind me in the west.
But I still feel attached to the Zhongnan Mountain,
and turn my head to look at the Wei River.
I think about my gratitude for one meal7
as I take departure from you, Prime Minister.
This white gull is lost in the waves.
Who can tame him in his journey of ten thousand miles?

Poem – Alone, Looking For Blossoms Along The River

The sorrow of riverside blossoms inexplicable,
And nowhere to complain — I’ve gone half crazy.
I look up our southern neighbor. But my friend in wine
Gone ten days drinking. I find only an empty bed.

A thick frenzy of blossoms shrouding the riverside,
I stroll, listing dangerously, in full fear of spring.
Poems, wine — even this profusely driven, I endure.
Arrangements for this old, white-haired man can wait.

A deep river, two or three houses in bamboo quiet,
And such goings on: red blossoms glaring with white!
Among spring’s vociferous glories, I too have my place:
With a lovely wine, bidding life’s affairs bon voyage.

Looking east to Shao, its smoke filled with blossoms,
I admire that stately Po-hua wineshop even more.
To empty golden wine cups, calling such beautiful
Dancing girls to embroidered mats — who could bear it?

East of the river, before Abbot Huang’s grave,
Spring is a frail splendor among gentle breezes.
In this crush of peach blossoms opening ownerless,
Shall I treasure light reds, or treasure them dark?

At Madame Huang’s house, blossoms fill the paths:
Thousands, tens of thousands haul the branches down.
And butterflies linger playfully — an unbroken
Dance floating to songs orioles sing at their ease.

I don’t so love blossoms I want to die. I’m afraid,
Once they are gone, of old age still more impetuous.
And they scatter gladly, by the branchful. Let’s talk
Things over, little buds —open delicately, sparingly.

Poem – Snow at Changsha

Out of the north the snow
Is assaulting Changsha:
Its clouds over Hunan go
(Where few snows are):
A myriad homes makes cold
Far borne on the gale
With scattered leaflets old
Where raindrops hail,
Not grown to flake-like flowers.

Empty of angels pale
Flaccid my purse.
Yet a silver pot may bail
Credit for wine.
No one to fetch it? Why then
I drain off the froth.
Must I wait again and again
Till the dizzy crows
Come home to their roosting bowers?

Poem – Newlywed’s Departure

Chinese vines climb up low hemp plants;
the tendrils cannot stretch very far.
To marry a daughter to a drafted man
is worse than abandoning her by roadside.
“I just did my hair up as a married woman,
haven’t even had time to warm the bed for you.
Marry in the evening and depart in the morning,
isn’t that too hurried!
You are not going very far,
just to guard the borders at Heyang,
but my status in the family is not yet official.
How can I greet my parents-in-laws?
When my parents brought me up,
they kept me in my room day and night.
When a daughter is married,
she has to stay even if she’s wed to a chicken or dog.
Now you are going to the place of death.
A heavy pain cramps my stomach.
I was determined to follow you wherever you went,
then realized that was not proper.
Please don’t be hampered by our new marriage;
try to be a good soldier.
When women get mixed up in an army,
I fear, the soldiers’ morale will falter.
I sigh, since I’m from a poor family
and it took so long to sew this silk dress.
I will never put this dress on again,
and I’m going to wash off my make-up while you watch.
Look at those birds flying up in the sky,
Big or small they stay in pairs,
but human life is full of mistakes and setbacks.
I will forever wait for your return.”

Poem – The Mocking Bird

What! Is the mocking bird come?
The Spring, he comes to say,
The Spring is here today.
All sounds, all words he knows.
His feathers preen how he will,
He is the same bird still.

Where flowers most thickly screen,
Difficult to be seen,
His varying notes deride
The topmost boughs between.
If out of time he chide.
Lo! slander at your side!