“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

To The Tune, Plum Blossoms Fall And Scatter by Li Ch’ing Chao

The perfume of the red water lilies
Dies away. The Autumn air
Penetrates the pearl jade curtain.
Torches gleam on the orchid boats.
Who has sent me a message
Of love from the clouds? It is
The time when the wild swans
Return. The moonlight floods the women’s
Quarters. Flowers, after their
Nature, whirl away in the wind.
Split water, after its nature
Flows together at the lowest point.
Those who are of one being
Can never stop thinking of each other.
But, ah, my dear, we are apart,
And I have become used to sorrow.
This love–nothing can ever
Make it fade or disappear.
For a moment it was on my eyebrows,
Now it is heavy in my heart.

translated by Kenneth Rexroth

Spring Ends by Li Ch’ing-chao

The wind stops.
Nothing is left of Spring but fragrant dust.
Although it is late in the day,
I have been too exhausted to comb my hair.
Our furniture is just the same,
But he no longer exists.
I am unable to do anything at all,
Before I can speak my tears choke me.
I hear that Spring at Two Rivers
Is still beautiful.
I had hoped to take a boat there,
But I am afraid my little boat
Is too small to ever reach Two Rivers,
Laden with my heavy heart.

translated by Kenneth Rexroth & Ling Chung