Li Yu's Ci - English Translation

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01     Washing Sand in the Stream
The morning sun has already risen, 
    fully thirty feet high. 
Golden tripods, one after another, are filled
    with incense animals.
The red brocade carpet
    rufles with every step. 

The lovely one dances tip-toe,     her golden hairpin slippen out;
Nauseated by wine, she often plucks     flower buds to smell, While from the other palace is heard dimly
    the music of fifes and drums.

tr. Lu Wu-chi


07 A Casket of Pearls Evening toilet newly done, She applies softly a bit of dark rouge to her lips, Revealing slightly her lilac tongue. A melody of clear song Temporarily induces the cherry lips to part.

Her silken sleeves are stained with the scarlet dregs Of fragrant wine, which tints the deep goblet. Leaning aslant on the embroidered bed, her chars indescribable, She chews until pulpy the red flossy silk And laughingly spits it out at her lover.

tr. Lu Wu-chi

30 Happy at Meeting Without words, I mount alone the western chamber; The moon like a hook, The wu-tong tree solitary, A clear Autumn locked up in the deep courtyard. Cut - still unservered; A sorrow of parting - A strange taste that lingers in the heart.

tr. Lu Wu-chi

10 Angler Foamy tides, like snow-drifts, lingering; A battalion of plum trees silently blooming; A bottle of wine And a fishing line; Who in this world is my equal? The oar rips apart the spring water On which the leaf-like boat is floating. A tiny hook dangles At the end of a silk cord. The islet is covered with blossoms And my jug is full of wine. Upon these thousand acres of waves there is freedom. Chinese
17 Garden The garden, deep and serene; The hall, vacant and small. Now and then, washerwomen's pounding mingles with the wind. In this eternal night, only a sleepless man hears the intermittent noises Stealthily brought to curtains by the moonlight. Chinese
25 New Year Wind returns to this small court as lichens turn green. Her eyes and willow leaves make a sequence in spring. Leaning against the balustrade she remains long in silence. The new moon and the crackers are tediously the same as the past. The feast and the music have not yet ceased. In the pond, ice is beginning to melt. In the bright candlelight and the faint scent, and deeply hidden in the painted room, My temples, overladen with thoughts, are white like frost. Chinese
To the tune of The Beauty of Yu

April's blossom and autumn's moon,
will they never end?
Of what once was, how much's gone past!
Yesterday, an east wind stirred the night,
in bright moonshine I dared not to look back,
                  a heartbreaking sight.

Carved railings, jade walkways
they should still be the same,
only the bloom on the faces bleached away. (*)
How much sorrowness there's dwelling in me?
Like a river, fed by spring rain, flushing to sea.

[translation based upon an earlier version of Wai-lim Yip, "Chinese Poetry", 1976]

(*) the literal translation of this verse is: "only the red faces have changed", in which the "red faces" could also refer to emperors.

29 Drinking Last night, the wind and rain - Those autumnal sounds struck against the curtains and screens. The candle wept, the clepsydra dipped and I leaned against the head-rest. I rose, but found no peace. All mundane affairs should be thrown into the rier. Life is just a nightmare. The only safe path is down into the cellar. Any other route is not worth the fare. Chinese
06 Love-sickness Her hair: tied up with a ribbon And fixed with a jade pin; Her flowing robes, soft and thin; Between her adorned brows a shallow furrow. October: too much wind Accompanied by rain Beating on two or three palm trees. A helpless man in an endless night. Chinese
24 In Prison A rule of forty years; A kingdom of a thousand miles; The princely pavilions that rose to lofty heights; And the jade trees and bushes intertwined in a misty net - All these had never known the clash of arms. Now, captured and enslaved, My limbs grow frail and my temples grey. I shall never forget the hurried departure from the ancestral altar When the court musicians were playing a song of farewell And my eyes, imbued with tears, gazed at my maids. Chinese
27 How Much Regret? How much regret, In a dream last night? I wandered back to my hunting lodge, as in the past: The chariots ran on like a stream And the horses galloped like flying dragons. The blossoms, the moonlight and teh gentle wind were the joy of spring. Chinese 27b How many tears On my face and cheeks? I should not tell the secret in my heart, Nor should you play the phoenix flute while our eyes are still wet. For that would be too much to endure. Chinese
28 Reminiscence The red of the spring orchard has faded. Far too soon! The blame is often laid on chilling rain at dawn and the wind at dusk. The rouged tears That intoxicate and hold in thrall - When will they fall again? As a river drifts towards the east So painful life passes to its bitter end. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Past The beauty of the scenery cannot sweeten my bitter memories. In the courtyard, moss spreads over the steps despite the autumn wind. My bed curtains hang down for days, Since no one comes. The golden sword has long been buried And my ambitions have withered like weeds. In the cool and still sky the moon opens like a flower. The shadows of my old palaces Must now be aimlessly falling across the moats. Chinese --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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