Presented in a Farewell to Secretary Fu by Pao Chao

The nimble swan plays in the river pool;
The lonely goose comes to roost on the island sand bar.
For a while by chance the two of us were close,
In thought and feeling together without a break.
Wind and rain blew us apart, east and west;
Once parted we drifted for ten thousand leagues.
I pursue my memories of the times we stayed together,
Your voice and appearance fill my mind and ears.
As the sun falls, the river isles grow cold;
Mournful clouds rise and enfold the heavens.
These short wings cannot soar aloft;
And hesitate here amid the mist and fog.

translated by Daniel Bryant

Written in Imitation of the Song Called “Hard Traveling” by Pao Chao


Scribing lines as it goes, water poured on flat ground
runs east or west or north or south as it flows:
human life is also fated. Why then sigh
as you go forward, or melancholy, sit?
Pour wine to fete thyself, raise up the cup
and do not deign to sing “Hard Traveling.”
Heart-and-mind; they are not wood-and-stone. . .
How might one not bear pain? And if I know
fear as I stagger on, I’ll never deign to speak it.


Sir, don’t you see? The grass along the riverbank?
In the winter it withers, come spring it springs again
to line all pathways.
Today, the sun is set, completely gone, already.
Tomorrow morning won’t it rise again?
But when in time shall my way be just so. . .
Once gone, I’m gone forever, banished to the Yellow Springs, below.
In human life the woes are many and the satisfactions few:
so seize the moment when you’re in your prime.
If one of us achieve a noble aim, the rest may take joy in it.
But best keep cash for wine on the bedside table.
Whether my deeds be scribed on bamboo and silk
is surely beyond my knowing.
Life or death, honor or shame? These I leave to High Heaven.

translated by J.P. Seaton

“The Weary Road” Two Sections: Section 2 by Pao Chao

Have you not seen the grasses on the riverbank?
They wither and die in winter, overspread the road in spring.
Have you not seen the sun above the city wall?
It grows dim, sinks, and disappears;
The next day it will come out again.
Now, at what time in my life can I be like this?
Once gone, I’ll forever perish in the Yellow Spring!
Life is full of bitterness and scant in joy;
To be high-sprited belongs to the prime of life.
There’ll always be money at my bedside to buy wine.
To be immortalized in bamboo or silk is not what I want:
Life or death, honor or debasement, I leave to heaven.

translated by Irving Y. Lo

“The Weary Road” Two Sections: Section One by Pao Chao

Water spilled on level ground
Runs east, west, south or north, and whichever way it pleases.
A man’s life is also governed by fate,
Then why must we always sigh as we journey and grieve as we sit?
Drink your wine to please yourself;
Raise your cup and forswear singing “The Weary Road.”
But since a man’s heart isn’t wood or stone,
How could it be without feeling?
Thus I weep, I hesitate, I dare not speak.

translated by Irving Y. Lo