Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Chang’an Ballad

Chang’an Ballad

when my hair was scarcely fringed across my brows
I plucked blossoms, playing by the front gate;
you a boy astride a bamboo horse came by,
chasing me round the garden bed, flinging green plums:
together we dwelt in the midst of Chang’an,
two little ones without mistrust or misgivings;
at fourteen I became, my lord, your wife—
bashful, not yet ready to smile for you,
I lowered my head toward the dark wall;
a thousand times you called; not once did I turn—
at fifteen my eyes were opened:
I wished our ashes and dust to mingle at last;
always keeping faith, clinging to the post:
how could I climb on high to watch for my husband?
at sixteen, my lord, you traveled far away,
to the Qutang Gorge & the Yanyu Stone—
in the fifth month the reef is impassible;
the gibbons’ wailing rises to the heavens—
by the gate the hesitant footprints of your leaving
one by one overgrown by the green moss,
the moss so thick it can’t be swept away—
leaves fall in the early autumn wind:
September butterflies flit near;
in pairs they dart through the west garden grass—
seeing them I fall sick at heart;
I sit & fret, my youthful bloom fading—
soon or late, when you sail back through San Ba,
do write a letter home to tell me in time;
& I will go forth to meet you, no matter the distance,
even as far as Changfengsha

Jack Hayes
© 2016
based on Li Bai:
Cháng’àn Xíng

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:Tang Dynasty Tomb Painting: Public Domain

Notes & background on “Chang’an Ballad” will appear on Friday.

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