“The Lonely Wife

The mist is thick. On the wide river, the water-plants float smoothly.

No letters come; none go.

There is only the moon, shining through the clouds of a hard, jade-green sky,

Looking down at us so far divided, so anxiously apart.

All day, going about my affairs, I suffer and grieve, and press the thought of you closely to my heart.

My eyebrows are locked in sorrow, I cannot separate them.

Nightly, nightly, I keep ready half the quilt,

And wait for the return of that divine dream which is my Lord.


Beneath the quilt of the Fire Bird, on the bed of the silver-crested Love Pheasant,

Nightly, nightly I drowse alone.

The red candles in the silver candlesticks melt, and the wax runs from them,

As the tears of your so unworthy one escape and continue constantly to flow.

A flower face endures but a short season,

Yet still he drifts along the river Hsiao and the river Hsiang.

As I toss on my pillow, I hear the cold, nostalgic sound of the water-clock:

Shêng! Shêng! it drips, cutting my heart in two.


I rise at dawn. In the Hall of Pictures

They come and tell me that the snow-flowers are falling.

The reed-blind is rolled high, and I gaze at the beautiful, glittering, premeval snow,

Whitening the distance, confusing the stone steps and the courtyard.

The air is filled with its shining, it blows far out like the smoke of a furnace.

The grass-blades are cold and white, white, like jade girdle pendants.

Surely the Immortals in Heaven must be crazy with wine to cause such disorder,

Seizing the white clouds, crumpling them up, destroying them.


Translated from the Chinese of Li T'ai-po by Florence Ayscough. English Version by Amy Lowell