Tune: Green Jade Cup
One night’s east wind adorns a thousand trees with flowers
And blows down stars in showers.
Fine steeds and carved cabs spread fragrance en route,
Music vibrates from the flute,
The moon sheds its full light
While fish and dragon lanterns dance all night.
In gold-thread dress, with moth or willow ornaments,
Giggling, they melt into the throng with trails of scents.
But in the crowd once and again
I look for her in vain.
When all at once I turn my head,
I find her there where lantern light is dimly shed.
Tune: Prelude to the Melody of Water
On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival of 1076, I drank happily till dawn and wrote this in my cups while thinking of Zi-you(my brother)
Su Shi (Translated by Xu Yuan-zhong)
How long will the bright moon appear?
Wine-cup in hand, I ask the sky.
I do not know what time of year
It would be tonight in the palace on high.
Riding the wind, there I would fly.
Yet I fear the crystal palace would be
Far too high and cold for me.
I rise and dance, with my shadow I play.
On high as on earth, would it be as gay?
The moon goes round the mansion red
Though gauzed-draped windows soft to shed
Her light upon the sleepless bed.
Against man she should have no spite.
Why then when people part is she oft full and bright?
Men have sorrow and joy, they part or meet again;
The moon may be bright or dim, she may wax or wane.
There has been nothing perfect since the olden days.
So let us wish that man
Will live long as he can.
Though miles apart, we’ll share the beauty she displays.
Tune: Calming the Wave
On the 7th day of the 3rd month we were caught in rain on our way to the Sandy Lake. The umbrella had gone ahead, my companions were quite downhearted, but I took no notice. It soon cleared, and I wrote this.
Listen not to the rain beating against the trees.
Why don’t you slowly walk and chant at ease?
Better than a saddle I like sandals and cane.
In a straw cloak, spend my life in mist and rain.
Drunken, I am sobered by the vernal wind shrill.
And rather chill.
In front, I see the slanting sun atop the hill;
Turning my head, I see the dreary beaten track.
Let me go back!
Impervious to rain or shine, I’ll have my own will.
Su Shi wrote this lyric on his way back from the Sandy Lake, 15 kilometers to the east of Huangzhou where he had been banished since 1080.
Tune: “Water Dragon Chant”
After Zhang Zhi-fu’s lyric on willow catkins, using the same rhyming words.
They seem to be yet not be flowers,
None pity them when they fall down in showers.
By the roadside they roam;
I think they have no feeling to impact,
But they could have thoughts deep.
See grief benumb their tender heart,
Their wistful eyes near shot with sleep,
About to open, yet closed again.
They dream of going with the wind for long,
Long miles to find a tender-hearted man,
But are aroused by the orioles’ song.
I do not grieve the willow catkins flown away,
But that in Western Garden fallen red
Can’t be restored. When dawns the day
And rain is o’er, we cannot find their traces
But in a pond with duckweeds overspread.
Of Spring’s three graces,
Two have gone with the roadside dust;
One with the waves. But if you just
Take a close look, you will never
Find catkins but tear-drops of those who sever.
This poem written after Zhang Zhi-fu’ lyric is generally acknowledged to be the better than the original, for Su Shi personifies willow catkins as a lonely woman longing for her husband. The “orioles’ song” refer to the following Tang Poem;
Drive orioles off the tree
For their songs awake me
From dreaming of my dear
Far off on the frontier.
According to Su Shi’s own note, “It is said that when willow catkins fall into the water, they turn into duckweed.” This is of course the poet’s imagination.
Tune: “The Beautiful Lady Yu”
Written for Chen Xiang at the Scenic Hall
How far the lakes and hills of Southern land,
With plains extending as a golden strand!
How oft, wine-cup in hand, have you been here
To make us linger drunk though we appear?
By Sandy River Pond the new-lit lamps are bright.
Who sings the “the Water Melody” at night?
When I come back, the wind goes down, the bright moon paves
With emerald glass the river waves.
Su Shi (1037-1101) has been regarded by many as the greatest of Song poets. This poem was written for Chen Xiang, governor of Hangzhou, who feasted his subordinate officials in the Scenic Hall built on Mount Wu by the side of the West Lake before he was going to leave office in 1074.
湖山信是東南美， 一望彌千里。使君能得幾回來， 便使尊前醉倒且徘徊。
沙河塘裡燈初上， 水調誰家唱。夜闌風靜欲歸時， 惟有一江明月碧琉璃。
Tune: Immortal at the Magpie Bridge
Cloud float like works of art;
Stars shoot with grief at heart.
Across the Milky Way the Cowherd meets the Maid.
When autumn’s Golden Wind embraces Dew of Jade,
All the love scenes on earth, however many, fade.
Their tender love flows like a stream;
This happy date seems but a dream.
Can they bear a separate homeward way?
If love between both sides can last for aye,
Why need they stay together night and day?
Qin Guan( 1049-1100) was another follower of Su Shi. This lyric eclipsed all other love poems by verifying the old legend concerning the Cowherd and The Maid or the Weaver, two starts separated by the Milky Way, two were to meet across a magpie bridge once every year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month when the golden autumn wind embraced the dew impearled like jade.
Tune: Bells Ringing in the Rain
And drearily shill,
We stand face to face at an evening hour
Before the pavilion, after a sudden shower.
Can I care for drinking before we part?
At the city gate
Where we’re lingering late,
But the boat is waiting for me to depart.
Hand in hand, we gaze at each other’s tearful eyes
And burst into sobs with words congealed on our lips.
I’ll go my way
Far, far away
On miles and miles of misty waves where sail the ships,
Evening clouds hang low in boundless Southern skies.
Parting lovers would grieve as of old.
How could I stand this clear autumn day so cold!
Where shall I be found at day’s early break
From wine awake?
Moored by a riverbank planted with willow trees
Beneath the waning moon and in the morning breeze.
I’ll be gone for a year.
In vain would good times and fine scenes appear!
However gallant I am on my part.
To whom can I lay bare my heart?
This is a famous lyric depicting the sorrow of a pair of lovers bidding farewell before the pavilion at the city gate of the capital.
Tune: Butterflies Lingering over Flowers
Red flowers fade, green apricots still small
When swallows pass
Over blue water which surrounds the garden wall.
Most willow catkins have been blown away, alas!
But there is no place where grows not the sweet green grass.
Without the wall there’s a road; within there’s a swing.
Hears a fair maiden’s laughter in the garden ring.
As the ringing laughter dies away by and by,
For the enchantress the enchant’d can only sigh.
This lyric is supposed to have been written while the poet was banished to Hainan Island, southernmost part of the Song territory. The first stanza describes the departing spring and the second depicts the sorrow of a wayfarer far from home.
Tune: Manifold Little Hill
The autumn crickets chirped incessantly last night,
Breaking my dream home-bound,
‘Twas already mid-night.
I got up and alone in the yard walk’d around,
On window screen the moon shone bright,
There was no human sound.
My hair turns gray
For the glorious day,
In native hills bamboos and pines grow old.
O when can I see my household?
I would confide to my lute what I have in view,
But connoisseurs are few.
Who would be listening
Though I break my lute string?
This lyric reveals implicitly the general’s resentment against the capitulationists who would not sanction his resistance against the Jurchen invaders.
Tune: Screened by Southern Curtain
Emerald clouds above
And yellow leaves below,
O’er autumn-tinted waves, cold, green mists grow.
The sun slants o’er the hills, the waves blend with the sky,
Unfeeling grass grows sweet beyond the mountains high.
A homesick heart
Lost in thoughts deep,
Only sweet dreams each night can retain me in sleep.
Don’t lean alone on rails when the bright moon appears!
Wine in sad bowels would turn into nostalgic tears.
The poet’s feeling merging with the autumn scene became nostalgia just as wine in his sad bowels turned into homesick tears.
An Autumn Night
Silver Candle autumn light on cold picture screen,
She uses a fan to wave at the fireflies.
The steps feel cool as water in this evening,
Why not watch the two love stars meet in the sky.
Thoughts on a Tranquil Night
Before my bed a pool of light
Can it be hoar-frost on the ground?
Looking up, I find the moon bright;
Bowing, in homesickness I’m drowned.
Meng Hao ran
This spring morning in bed I’m lying,
Not to awake till birds are crying.
After one night of wind and showers,
How many are the fallen flowers!
Tune: The Moon Over the West River
Does the lade-side spring scene the same remain?
Three years have passed now that I come again.
Across the surface of the lake the east wind blows my boat,
The willow- branches wreathe by wreathe caress my face and coat.
I ‘m used to life both high and low,
My heart’s at ease where’er I go,
Water looks like the sky below Cold-Light (pavilion)
It’s ruffled only by the waterbirds in flight.
TUNE: Fairies by The River
— Yang Zhen (1488-1559)
— Translated by Frank C Yue
The Yangtze rolling waves keep disappearing towards the east;
Washing unto Time gallant souls of old, they never cease.
Right and wrong, success and failure — in a flash they’re all gone!
Yet, green hills are here still, and many a sundown (and dawn).
The fisher and wood-cutter friends, with hair blowing silver,
Take a rest on the sand-bar by the great rushing River.
Accustomed to the fair Autumn moon and gentle Spring breeze,
They’re happy to meet o’er a vase of unstrained wine at ease.
Of many a past or present mon’mental or small thing,
Amid hearty laughter and talks, they all simply take wing!