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SELECTIONS BY LI HOUZHU

by Li Yu (937 - 978, Southern Tang Dynasty)

English translation: Zhi Yue and Siew-Hsiang Chow

SONG OF ZIYE
English translation: John Balcom

How can we escape the sorrows and regrets of life?
I alone am overwhelmed by love without end.
To my old country I return again in a dream,
When I awaken, tears are streaming from my eyes.

Who will ascend the high tower with me?
To look upon the fine autumn vista as I remember it long ago.
The past has turned to emptiness,
As if everything were a dream.


THE BEAUTIFUL LADY YU
English translation: Miao Guang and Zhi Yue

When will the spring blossoms and
the autumn moon ever wilt or wane?

How much knowledge of the past
can one ever gain?

Last night’s east wind
swept across my attic once again,

Under this bright moonlight,
unbearable it is to recall my lost reign.

Suppose the carved balustrades,
and the stairs of jade still remain,

With only faces of beauty
no longer the same.

When asked how much sorrow I can take,
Like that river of spring, east to the sea it emanates.

── from Zunqian Ji (The Banquet Collection)


BLACK FOREST NIGHT

Tune: The Joy of Meeting

English translation: John Balcom

The flowers of the forest lose their spring red─
Much too soon!

Unbearable, cold rain in the morning and
wind in the evening.

Tears run rouge red,
Kept here, intoxicated.
When will we meet again?
Life is full of regrets as the river flows east.

── from Nantang Erzhu Ci (Poetry of the Two Kings of the Southern Tang Dynasty)