Full Moon – Du Fu

Above the tower — a lone, twice-sized moon.
On the cold river passing night-filled homes,
It scatters restless gold across the waves.
On mats, it shines richer than silken gauze.

Empty peaks, silence: among sparse stars,
Not yet flawed, it drifts. Pine and cinnamon
Spreading in my old garden . . . All light,
All ten thousand miles at once in its light!

A Foresaken Garden – Bai Juyi

I enter the court
Through the middle gate—
And my sleeve is wet with tears.

The flowers still grow
In the courtyard,
Though two springs have fled
Since last their master came.

The windows, porch, and bamboo screen
Are just as they always were,
But at the entrance to the house
Someone is missing—
You!

After Lunch – Bai Juyi

After eating lunch, I feel so sleepy.
Waking later, I sip two bowls of tea,

then notice shadows aslant, the sun
already low in the southwest again.

Joyful people resent fleeting days.
Sad ones can’t bear the slow yers.

It’s those with no joy and no sorrow—
they trust whatever this life brings.

Song Of The Palace – Bai Juyi

Tears utmost gauze cloth dream not succeed
Night deep before palace press song sound
Red cheek not old favour first cut
Slant lean on smoke cover sit arrive brightness
Her handkerchief all soaked in tears, she cannot dream,
In deepest night before the palace voices sing.
Her rosy cheeks aren’t old, but first love has been cut,
Leaning, wreathed in smoke, she sits until the dawn.

Poem – She Spins Silk

Far up river in Szechuan,
waters rise as spring winds roar.

How can I dare to meet her now,
to brave the dangerous gorge?

The grass grows green in the valley below
where silk worms silently spin.

Her hands work threads that never end,
dawn to dusk when the cuckoo sings.

Poem – The Old Dust

The living is a passing traveler;
The dead, a man come home.
One brief journey betwixt heaven and earth,
Then, alas! we are the same old dust of ten thousand ages.
The rabbit in the moon pounds the medicine in vain;
Fu-sang, the tree of immortality, has crumbled to kindling wood.
Man dies, his white bones are dumb without a word
When the green pines feel the coming of the spring.
Looking back, I sigh; looking before, I sigh again.
What is there to prize in the life’s vaporous glory?

Poem – Clearing At Dawn

The fields are chill, the sparse rain has stopped;
The colours of Spring teem on every side.
With leaping fish the blue pond is full;
With singing thrushes the green boughs droop.
The flowers of the field have dabbled their powdered cheeks;
The mountain grasses are bent level at the waist.
By the bamboo stream the last fragment of cloud
Blown by the wind slowly scatters away.

Poem – Drinking Alone

I take my wine jug out among the flowers
to drink alone, without friends.

I raise my cup to entice the moon.
That, and my shadow, makes us three.

But the moon doesn’t drink,
and my shadow silently follows.

I will travel with moon and shadow,
happy to the end of spring.

When I sing, the moon dances.
When I dance, my shadow dances, too.

We share life’s joys when sober.
Drunk, each goes a separate way.

Constant friends, although we wander,
we’ll meet again in the Milky Way.

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!

Poem – Dreaming of Li Po

After the separation of death one can eventually swallow back
one’s grief, but
the separation of the living is an endless, unappeasable anxiety.
From
pestilent Chiang-nan no news arrives of the poor exile. That my
old friend
should come into my dream shows how constantly he is in my
thoughts. I fear
that this is not the soul of a living man: the journey is so
immeasurably far.
When your soul left, the maple woods were green: on its return
the passes were
black with night. Lying now enmeshed in the net of the law,
how did you find
wings with which to fly here? The light of the sinking moon illumines
every
beam and rafter of my chamber, and I half expect it to light up your face.
The
water is deep, the waves are wide: don’t let the water-dragons get you.

All day long the floating clouds drift by, and still the wanderer
has not
arrived! For three nights running I have repeatedly dreamed of you.
Such
affectionate concern on your part shows your feelings for me!
Each time you
said goodbye you seemed so uneasy. It isn't easy to come',
you would say
bitterly;
The waters are so rough. I am afriad the boat will capsize!’.
Going
out of my door you scratched your white head as if your whole life’s ambition
had been frustrated.
The Capital is full of new officials, yet a man like this is so wretched!
Who is going to tell me that the `net is wide’ when this ageing man
remains in difficulties? Imperishable renown is cold comfort when you can only
enjoy it in the tomb!

Poem – Old Couple’s Departure

The four outskirts are not yet safe and quiet,
I am old, but have no peace.
All my sons and grandsons died in battle;
it’s no use to keep my body alone in one piece.
Throwing away my walking stick, I walk out the door.
The other soldiers are saddened, pitying me.
I’m lucky to still have all my teeth
but I regret the marrow has dried in my bones.
Wearing a soldier’s helmet and armor,
I salute my officers before departure.
My old wife is lying in the road weeping.
The year is late and her clothes thin.
Though I know at heart this is our death-farewell,
her shivering in cold still hurts me.
I know I will never come back,
yet hear her out when she says, “Eat more!”
The city wall around Earth Gate is very strong,
and the Xingyuan ferry is hard for the enemy to cross,
so the situation is different from the siege of Ye City,
and I will have some time before I die.
In life we part and we rejoin;
we have no choice, young or old.
I recall my young and strong days,
and walk about with long sighs.
War has spread through ten thousand countries
till beacon fires blaze from all the peaks.
So many corpses that grass and trees stink like fish,
rivers and plains dyed red with blood.
Which land is the happy land?
How can I linger here!
I abandon my thatched house
and feel my liver and lungs collapse.

Poem – Song of Lovely Woman

Third day, third month festival,
and the air fresh with spring;
beside Serpentine Lake in Chang’an,
many lovely women stroll.
Their appearance is elegant,
their thoughts lofty and refined,
their complexions delicate,
figures in perfect proportion.
Their embroidered silk gowns
glisten with spring light;
golden peacocks and beasts of silver
strut upon the fabric.
What is it that they wear
upon their heads?
Jeweled headbands with kingfisher feathers,
dangling to their hairlines.
And what is it that we see
upon their backs?
Pearl-studded overskirts
drawn tight at the waist.
Among them are kin of the Pepper-flower Chamber with its cloud-patterned curtains-
the Duchesses of Guo and Qin,
honored with the names of nations!

A great roast of purple camel hump
rises from a green cauldron,
and crystal plates gleam
with heaps of white-scaled fish.
But the rhinoceros horn chopsticks,
long-sated, are slow to descend,
and the belled knife-handles
dance vainly above the roast.
The flying steeds of the eunuchs
hardly stir the dust,
as they bear in eight exotic dishes
from the Imperial Kitchens.

Poem – The Pitiful Young Prince

Hooded crows fly at night
over the walls of Chang’an,
uttering harsh cries
above Welcoming Autumn Gate,
then head for people’s houses,
pecking at the lofty roofs,
roofs beneath which high officials
scurry to escape barbarians.
The golden whip is broken in two,
the nine horses are run to death,*
but it is still not possible
for all of royal blood to flee together…

In plain sight below his waist
a precious ornament of blue coral,
the pitiful prince stands weeping
at the corner of the road.
When I ask, he refuses to tell
either name or surname;
he only speaks of his desperation,
and begs to become my slave.
For a hundred days now
he has lain hidden in brambles;
there is no whole skin left
on his entire body.
But the sons and grandsons of Gao-zu
all have the same noses-
the dragon-seed, naturally,
differs from that of ordinary men.

Jackals and wolves in the city,
dragons lurking in the wilds,
the prince had better take care
of that thousand-tael body!*
I don’t dare talk long here
in plain view by the crossroads,
but for the sake of my prince
I will stay for a moment.
Last night the east wind
blew in the stench of blood,
and camels from the east
filled the former Capital.*
The Shuo-fang veterans
were known as skilled warriors,
they always seemed so fierce,
but now how foolish they look!
It is rumored that the Son of Heaven
has already abdicated,
but also that the Khan
is lending his support,
that the men of Hua gashed their faces
and begged to wipe out this disgrace.
Say nothing! Someone else
may be hiding and listening.
Alas, Prince, you must be careful,
stay on guard,
and may the spirits of the Five Tombs*
watch over you always.

Poem – No Sight

Li Bai, no sight of you for a long time,
It’s tragic that you pretend to be insane.
The whole world wants to kill you.
I alone treasure your talent.
Quick-minded, improvising thousands of poems,
you roam like a falling leaf for a cup of wine.
You studied here at Kuang Mountain
and it’s time to return, now that your hair is white.

Poem – By The Lake

The old fellow from Shao-ling weeps with stifled sobs as he walks furtively by the bends of the Sepentine on a day in spring.
In the waterside palaces the thousands of doors are locked. For whom have the willows and rushed put on their fresh greenery?

I remember how formerly, when the Emperor’s rainbow banner made its way into the South Park, everything in the park seemed to bloom with a brighter color. The First Lady of the Chao-yang Palace rode in the same carriage as her lord in
attendance at his side, while before the carriage rode maids of honour equipped with bows and arrows, their white horses champing at golden bits.
Leaning back, face skywards, they shot into the clouds; and the Lady laughed gaily when a bird fell to the ground transfixed by a well-aimed arrow.
Where are the bright eyes and the flashing smile now?
Tainted with blood-pollution, her wandering soul cannot make its way back.
The clear waters of the Wei flow eastwards, and Chien-ko is far away: between the one who has gone and the one who remains no communication is possible.
It is human to have feelings and shed tears for such things; but the grasses and flowers of the lakeside go on for ever, unmoved.
As evening falls, the city is full of the dust of foreign horseman. My way is towards the South City, but my gaze turns northward. (tr. Hawkes)

Poem – A Woman of Quality

Matchless in breeding and beauty,
a fine lady has taken refuge
in this forsaken valley.
She is of good family, she says,
but her fortune has withered away;
now she lives as the grass and trees.
When the heartlands fell to the rebels
her brothers were put to death;
birth and position availed nothing–
she was not even allowed
to bring home their bones for burial.
The world turns quickly against
those who have had their day–
fortune is a lamp-flame
flickering in the wind.
Her husband is a fickle fellow
who has a lovely new woman.
Even the vetch-tree is more constant,
folding its leaves every dusk,
and mandarin ducks
always sleep with their mates.
But he has eyes only
for his new woman’s smile,
and his ears are deaf
to his first wife’s weeping.
High in the mountains
spring water is clear as truth,
but when it reaches the lowlands
it is muddied with rumor.
Her serving-maid returns
from selling her pearls;
she drags a creeper over
to cover holes in the roof.
The flowers the lady picks
are not for her hair,
and the handfuls of cypress
are a bitter stay against hunger.
Her pretty blue sleeves
are too thin for the cold;
as evening falls
she leans on the tall bamboo.

Poem – Full Moon

Above the tower — a lone, twice-sized moon.
On the cold river passing night-filled homes,
It scatters restless gold across the waves.
On mats, it shines richer than silken gauze.

Empty peaks, silence: among sparse stars,
Not yet flawed, it drifts. Pine and cinnamon
Spreading in my old garden . . . All light,
All ten thousand miles at once in its light!

Sleeping on Horseback – Bai Juyi 

We had rode long and were still far from the inn;
My eyes grew dim; for a moment I fell asleep.

Under my right arm the whip still dangled;

In my left hand the reins for an instant slackened.

Suddenly I woke and turned to question my groom:

‘We have gone a hundred paces since you fell asleep.’

Body and spirit for a while had exchanged place;

Swift and slow had turned to their contraries.

For these few steps that my horse had carried me

Had taken in my dream countless aeons of time!

True indeed is that saying of Wise Men

‘A hundred years are but a moment of sleep.’ 

Resignation – Bai Juyi 

Don’t think of the past;
It only awakens painful regrets.

Don’t think of the future;

It paralyzes with uncertain longings.

Better by day to sit like a sack in your chair;

Better by night to lie like a stone in your bed.

When food comes-open your mouth.

When sleep comes-shut your eyes. 

Spring Sleep – Bai Juyi 

dy smooth and steady
Sunshine room door cloth not open

Still have young spring air taste

Often brief arrive sleep at come 

The pillow’s low, the quilt is warm, the body smooth and peaceful,

Sun shines on the door of the room, the curtain not yet open.

Still the youthful taste of spring remains in the air,

Often it will come to you even in your sleep. 

Keep Waiting – Bai Juyi 

White billows and huge waves block the river crossing;
Wherever I go, danger and difficulty; whatever I do, failure.

Just as in my worldly career I wander and lose the road,

So when I come to the river crossing, I am stopped by contrary winds.

Of fishes and prawns sodden in the rain, the smell fills my nostrils;

With the stings of insects that come with the fog, my whole body is sore.

I am growing old, time flies, and my short span runs out,

While I sit in a boat at Chiu-k’ou, wasting ten day

Winter Night – Bai Juyi

My house is poor; those that I love have left me;
My body is sick; I cannot join the feast.

There is not a living soul before my eyes

As I lie alone locked in my cottage room.

My broken lamp burns with a feeble flame;

My tattered curtains are crooked and do not meet.

‘Tsek, tsek’ on the door-step and window-sill

Again I hear the new snow fall.

As I grow older, gradually I sleep less;

I wake at midnight and sit up straight in bed.

If I had not learned the ‘art of sitting and forgetting,’

How could I bear this utter loneliness?

Stiff and stark my body cleaves to the earth;

Unimpeded my soul yields to Change.

So has it been for four hateful years,

Through one thousand and three hundred nights! 

Our Boat Starts at Night – Li Ching Chao 

Our boat starts at night 
from the beach of Yen Kuang.
Great ships sail only for profit 

Only small boats come here because of your fame. 

The passers-by are embarrassed by your virtue. 

So in the night we steal by the place where you used to fish. 

Last Night – Li Ching Chao

last 

night 

thin 

rain, 

gusty 

wind. 
Dense 

sleep 

doesn’t 

fade 

a wine 

hangover. 
I’m talking 

to her 

who 

rolled up 

the curtains. 
Are you 

blind! 

say. 
By now 

they’re 

fat 

green 

and skimpy 

red. 

Autumn Love – Li Ching Chao 

Search. Search. Seek. Seek. 
Cold. Cold. Clear. Clear. 

Sorrow. Sorrow. Pain. Pain. 

Hot flashes. Sudden chills. 

Stabbing pains. Slow agonies. 

I can find no peace. 

I drink two cups, then three bowls, 

Of clear wine until I can’t 

Stand up against a gust of wind. 

Wild geese fly over head. 

They wrench my heart. 

They were our friends in the old days. 

Gold chrysanthemums litter 

The ground, pile up, faded, dead. 

This season I could not bear 

To pick them. All alone, 

Motionless at my window, 

I watch the gathering shadows. 

Fine rain sifts through the wu-t’ung trees, 

And drips, drop by drop, through the dusk. 

What can I ever do now? 

How can I drive off this word — 

Hopelessness? 

As in A Dream – Li Ching Chao 

To the melody of “Ru Meng Lin”
Last night in the light rain as rough winds blew,

My drunken sleep left me no merrier.

I question one that raised the curtain, who

Replies: “The wild quince trees — are as they were.”

But no, but no!

Their rose is waning, and their green leaves grow. 

A Morning Dream – Li Ching Chao 

This morning I dreamed I followed
Widely spaced bells, ringing in the wind,

And climbed through mists to rosy clouds.

I realized my destined affinity

With An Ch’i-sheng the ancient sage.

I met unexpectedly O Lu-hua

The heavenly maiden.
Together we saw lotus roots as big as boats.

Together we ate jujubes as huge as melons.

We were the guests of those on swaying lotus seats.

They spoke in splendid language,

Full of subtle meanings.

The argued with sharp words over paradoxes.

We drank tea brewed on living fire.
Although this might not help the Emperor to govern,

It is endless happiness.

The life of men could be like this.
Why did I have to return to my former home,

Wake up, dress, sit in meditation.

Cover my ears to shut out the disgusting racket.

My heart knows I can never see my dream come true.

At least I can remember

That world and sigh.