“Fallen faded petals” by Li Ch’ing-chao

Fallen faded petals the color of my rouge. . .
One year, another spring,
willow catkins lightly fly, bamboo shoots become bamboo
and alone and sad I face the garden’s new-sent green.
But though he’s not done roaming, that time must be near.
In a clear dream of last year come from a thousand miles
cloudy city, winding streams, ice on the ponds
for a while I gazed on my friend.

translated by James Cryer

Tune: “Pure Serene Music” by Li Ch’ing-chao

Year after year in the snow
we’d pick plum blossoms while we drank,
Pulling at the petals to no good purpose,
drenching our clothes with pure white tears.

This year I’m at the end of the world,
strand by strand my hair turns grey.
Judging by the force of the evening wind
plum blossoms will be hard to come by.

translated by Eugene Eoyang

Thoughts from the Women’s Quarters by Li Ch’ing-chao

On her face, hibiscus lovely, an incipient smile.
Poised in flight, the jeweled duck’s beak. Incense wreathed
eyes alight, beneath the quilt she suspects
his frivolity hides a more expressive depth;
folds his elegant letter,
places it next her secret heart.
When the moon has gone,
the flowers in shadow,
I will come again.

translated by James Cryer

because Paol Soren asked: Sorrow of Departure to the Tune “Cutting a Flowering Plum Branch” by Li Ch’ing-chao

Red lotus incense fades on
The jeweled curtain. Autumn
Comes again. Gently I open
My silk dress and float alone
On the orchid boat. Who can
Take a letter beyond the clouds?
Only the wild geese come back
And write their ideograms
On the sky under the full
Moon that floods the West Chamber.
Flowers, after their kind, flutter
And scatter. Water after
Its nature, when spilt, at last
Gathers again in one place.
Creatures of the same species
Long for each other. But we
Are far apart and I have
Grown learned in sorrow.
Nothing can make it dissolve
And go away. One moment
It is on my eyebrows.
The next, it weighs on my heart.

translated by Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung

New Year’s Eve by Hsin Ch’i-chi

In the east wind last night a thousand trees burst forth
showered down
a rain of stars
jeweled horses and carriages and incense filled the road
the tremulous sound of a phoenix flute
the transforming glow of a jade vase
all night lanterns swayed
and she of the moth eyebrows and flower-decked hair
of laughter that beguiles and the subtlest of perfumes
whom I have searched for in crowds a hundred times
as I turned my head
she was there
where the lantern light was faint

translated by Red Pine

to the Tune: Happy Events Approaching by Chu Tun-ju

Shaking my head, I left the world of red dust,
No longer caring when to be sober, when drunk.
My livelihood–the green grass cloak and the straw hat;
I’m used to wearing frost and braving snow.

When night falls, the wind settles and the fishing line lies idle.
Above and below is the new moon.
For a thousand miles, water and sky are the same color.
Watch the single wild goose appear and disappear!

translated by James J.Y. Liu