Li Yu (937-978)

Angler  Garden  New Year  Drinking  Love-sickness  October: too much wind  In Prison  How Much Regret?  Reminiscence  The Past  Birthday  Life  Spring Shower 


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


Spring flowers and autumn leaves,

will they never end?

How many things have happened?

In this little tower, last night,

the east wind blew once more.

Can I bear to look back at the old country

in the bright moon?

The carved hand-rails and marble steps

must still be there,

But not my youthful cheeks.

How much sadness can I bear?

As much as an eastward-flowing river filled with

spring water.


The sorrow in your heart

is betrayed by a few grey hairs.

Life is like empty mountain ranges

Where snow awaits your visits;

Yet you make your solitary retreat

by the past in the wilderness.

Spring Shower

Outside the curtains the rain is pattering

As the season draws to its end.

My satin bed-cover cannot keep out

the chill at dawn.

In the dream, I forgot

that I was in exile,

And for a time there was joy.

Never lean against the balustrade in solitude.

O, my mountains and rivers -

It was so easy to part,

But the return proves to be so hard.

Spring, will you go with the falling petals

and drifting currents

To paradise? Let me remain a while.

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