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THE COLD-FOOD FESTIVAL
by Su Shi (1036 - 1101, Song Dynasty)
English translation: Miao Guang

Ever since my arrival in Huangzhou,
Three Cold-Food Festivals* have come and gone;
Despite my intention to cherish each Spring,
Yet the passing Spring allows no such dream.
This year, there is once again bitter rain,
Two months of miserable autumn-like days;
Smelling the scents of crab-apple flowers in bed,
By muddy soil the blushing snow is stained.
Being stolen out in the dark,
Obviously it was midnight’s strong men;
What difference is from an ill young man,
Upon recovery, the hairs have already gone grey.
The spring river about to flood my place,
With the drenching rain not ready to cease;
My small hut is like a fishing boat,
Amid the fog and water it is afloat.
In the empty kitchen I cook cold vegetables,
Burning damp reeds beneath a broken stove;
How was I to know it was Cold-Food Festival Day?
From the paper-money ravens collect.
The emperor’s gate is nine-layers deep,
While tombs are ten-thousand miles away;
I would cry over having come upon the road’s end,
But, like dead ashes, my heart’ll never kindle again.


RETURNING TO LINGAO IN THE NIGHT
Tune: Immortal by the River

Drunken again after waking from that evening drink on the eastern hill; by the time of my return, it already seemed like the third watch of the night. The thunder of my houseboy’s snore told me that no one would come to answer my knock at the door. All I could do was to lean against my cane and listen to the river flow.

Having long resented not being the master of this body of mine, when will I ever put an end to all these endless pursuits?

In the still of the night, the breeze stops, and the surface of the water frees itself of ripples. Let me vanish along with this boat, into the ocean, for the rest of my life I shall float.

── from Dongpo Ci (Poetry by Su Shi)

* A traditional Chinese holiday celebrated in the spring for three consecutive days starting the day before the Qingming Festival.