Fallen Flowers by Li Shang-yin

From the tall pavilion the guests have all departed;
In the little garden flowers helter-skelter fly.
They fall at random on the winding path,
And travel far, setting off the setting sun.
Heartbroken, I cannot bear to sweep them away;
Gazing hard, I watch them till few are left.
Their fragrant heart, following spring, dies;
What they have earned are tears that wet one’s clothes.

translated by James J. Y. Liu

from Chamber Music by Li Shang-yin: a lament for his wife

I remember the spring of the year before last—
You said nothing but were full of sadness.
Now I have returned but you are gone!
The ornamented zither has lasted longer than you.
To-day, a pine at the bottom of the valley;
To-morrow, a po tree on the top of the hill!
I shall grieve till heaven and earth turn round,
Till we no longer recognize each other face to face!

translated by James J. Y. Liu

Ch’ang-o by Li Shang-yin

Against the screen of “mother-of-clouds” the candle throws its deep shadow;
The Long River gradually sinks, the morning star sets.
Ch’ang-o should regret having stolen the elixir:
The green sea—the blue sky—her heart every night!

translated by James J. Y. Liu

Lamenting Revenue Manager Liu Fen by Li Shang-yin

Dwelling apart, the star-signs changed,
hope lost, the living divided from the dead.
The last cinnamon dries in the apple jug,
old rue grows cold on the bookslips.
River winds keen, blowing wild geese,
mountain trees’ sunset glow, bearing cicades.
I shout once, my head turns a thousand times,
but Heaven is high and will not hear me.

translatedby Stephen Owen

Drinking Alone in a Small Garden by Li Shang-yin

Who could have knit the willow’s belts?
The flower buds are unwilling to open yet.
Only a pair of dancing butterflies are left;
Not a single person has come here.
I half unfold the dragon-whisker mat,
And lightly pour into the horse-brain cup.
Every year the arrival of spring is uncertain;
I have been deceived by the early blooming plum!

translated by James J.Y. Liu

Yüeh-yang Tower by Li Shang-yin

Wishing to disperse for once the sorrows of a lifetime,
I mount the Yüeh-yang Tower above the Tung-t’ing lake.
Over ten thousand miles I could have sailed in high spirits,
But alas, there are dragons who know how to upset the boat!

traslated by James J.Y. Liu