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Li Qingzhao

Chinese Poet

1084-1151


SELECTED POEMS

Narrated by Victoria Gordon

Download mp3 file: Selected Poems

This file is 3.1 MB; running time is 13 minutes
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A MORNING DREAM

 

This morning I dreamed I followed
Widely spaced bells, ringing in the wind,
And climbed through mists to rosy clouds.
I realized my destined affinity
With An Ch'i-sheng the ancient sage.
I met unexpectedly O Lu-hua
The heavenly maiden.

Together we saw lotus roots as big as boats.
Together we ate jujubes as huge as melons.
We were the guests of those on swaying lotus seats.
They spoke in splendid language,
Full of subtle meanings.
The argued with sharp words over paradoxes.
We drank tea brewed on living fire.

Although this might not help the Emperor to govern,
It is endless happiness.
The life of men could be like this.

Why did I have to return to my former home,
Wake up, dress, sit in meditation.
Cover my ears to shut out the disgusting racket.
My heart knows I can never see my dream come true.
At least I can remember
That world and sigh.

AUTUMN LOVE

 

Search. Search. Seek. Seek.
Cold. Cold. Clear. Clear.
Sorrow. Sorrow. Pain. Pain.
Hot flashes. Sudden chills.
Stabbing pains. Slow agonies.
I can find no peace.
I drink two cups, then three bowls,
Of clear wine until I can’t
Stand up against a gust of wind.
Wild geese fly over head.
They wrench my heart.
They were our friends in the old days.
Gold chrysanthemums litter
The ground, pile up, faded, dead.
This season I could not bear
To pick them. All alone,
Motionless at my window,
I watch the gathering shadows.
Fine rain sifts through the wu-t’ung trees,
And drips, drop by drop, through the dusk.
What can I ever do now?
How can I drive off this word —
Hopelessness?

A FRIEND SENDS HER PERFUMED CARRIAGE

 

A friend sends her perfumed carriage
And high-bred horses to fetch me.
I decline the invitation of
My old poetry and wine companion.

I remember the happy days in the lost capital.
We took our ease in the woman's quarters.
The Feast of Lanterns was elaborately celebrated -
Folded pendants, emerald hairpins, brocaded girdles,
New sashes - we competed
To see who was most smartly dressed.
Now I am withering away,
Wind-blown hair, frost temples.
I prefer to stay beyond the curtains,
And listen to talk and laughter
I can no longer share.

SORROW

 

I pine and peak
And questless seek
Groping and moping to linger and languish
Anon to wander and wonder, glare, stare and start
Flesh chill'd
Ghost thrilled
With grim dart
And keen canker of rankling anguish.

Sudden a gleam
Of fair weather felt
But fled as fast — and the ice-cold season stays.
How hard to have these days
In rest or respite, peace or truce.
Sip upon sip of tasteless wine
Is of slight use
To counter or quell
The fierce lash of the evening blast.

The wild geese — see —
Fly overhead
Ah, there's the grief
That's chief — grief beyond bearing,
Wild fowl far faring
In days of old you sped
Bearing my true love's tender thoughts to me.
Lo, how my lawn is rife with golden blooms
Of bunched chrysanthemums —
Weary their heads they bow.
Who cares to pluck them now?
While I the casement keep
Lone, waiting, waiting for night
And, as the shades fall
Upon broad leaves, sparse rain-drops drip.
Ah, such a plight
Of grief — grief unbearable, unthinkable.

SORROW OF DEPARTURE

 

Red lotus incense fades on
The jeweled curtain. Autumn
Comes again. Gently I open
My silk dress and float alone
On the orchid boat. Who can
Take a letter beyond the clouds?
Only the wild geese come back
And write their ideograms
On the sky under the full
Moon that floods the West Chamber.
Flowers, after their kind, flutter
And scatter. Water after
Its nature, when spilt, at last
Gathers again in one place.
Creatures of the same species
Long for each other. But we
Are far apart and I have
Grown learned in sorrow.
Nothing can make it dissolve
And go away. One moment,
It is on my eyebrows.
The next, it weighs on my heart.

THE DOUBLE NINTH FESTIVAL

 

Light mists and heavy clouds,
melancholy the long dreary day.

In the golden censer
the burning incense is dying away.

It is again time
for the lovely Double-Ninth Festival;

The coolness of midnight
penetrates my screen of sheer silk
and chills my pillow of jade.

After drinking wine at twilight
under the chrysanthemum hedge,

My sleeves are perfumed
by the fragrance of the plants.

Oh, I cannot say it is not endearing,

Only, when the west wind stirs the curtain,
I see that I am more gracile
than the yellow flowers.

THE SUN SETS IN MOLTEN GOLD

 

The sun sets in molten gold.
The evening clouds form a jade disk.
Where is he?
Dense white mist envelops the willows.
A sad flute plays “Falling Plum Blossoms.”
How many Spring days are left now?
This Feast of Lanterns should be joyful.
The weather is calm and lovely.
But who can tell if it
Will be followed by wind and rain?

TO THE TUNE OF

 

The fragrance of the pink lotus
fails, the jade mat hints of autumn.
Softly I unfasten my silk cloak,
Who is sending a letter from
among the clouds?
When the swan message returns,
the balcony is flooded with moonlight.



The blossoms drift on, the water flows.
There is the same yearning of the heart,
But it abides in two places.
There is no way to drive away this yearning:
Driven from the eyebrows,
It enters the heart.

TZ'U NO. 1

 

Fragrant grass beside the pond
green shade over the hall
a clear cold comes through
the window curtains
crescent moon beyond the golden bars
and a flute sounds
as if someone were coming
but alone on my mat with a cup
gazing sadly into nothingness
I want to call back
the blackberry flowers
that have fallen
though pear blossoms remain
for in that distant year
I came to love their fresh fragrance
scenting my sleeve
as we culled petals over the fire
when as far as the eye could see
were dragon boats on the river
graceful horses and gay carts
when I did not fear the mad winds
and violent rain
as we drank to good fortune
with warm blackberry wine
now I cannot conceive
how to retrieve that time.

TZ'U NO. 10 (EXILE)

Soft breezes, mild sunshine,
spring is still young.
The sudden change of the light
brightened my spirit.

But upon awakening from slumber,
I felt the chill air;
The plum flower withered in my hair.

Where can I call my native land?
Forget - I cannot, except in wine
when I drown my care.

Incense was lighted when I went to sleep;
Though the embers are now cold,
the warmth of wine still burns on.

TZ'U NO. 11

 

It was far into the night when, intoxicated,
I took off my ornaments;
The plum flower withered in my hair.

Recovered from tipsiness,
the lingering smell of wine
broke my fond dream
before my dreaming soul could find
my way home.

All is quiet.
The moon lingers,
And the emerald screen hangs low.
I caress the withered flower,
Fondle the fragrant petals,
Trying to bring back the lost time.

TZ'U NO. 12

The wind ceases; fallen flowers pile high.
Outside my screen, petals collect in heaps of red
and snow-white.

This reminds me that after the blooming
of the cherry-apple tree
It is time to lament the dying spring.

Singing and drinking have come to an end;
jade cups are empty;
Lamps are flickering.

Hardly able to bear the sorrows and regrets
of my dreams,
I hear the mournful cry of the cuckoo.

TZ'U NO. 13

Year by year, in the snow,
I have often gathered plum flowers,
intoxicated with their beauty.
Fondling them impudently
I got my robe wet with their lucid tears.

This year I have drifted to the corner
of the sea and the edge
of the horizon,
My temples have turned grey.

Judging by the gust of the evening wind,
It is unlikely I will again
enjoy the plum blossoms.

More information about Li Qingzhao from Wikipedia




More selections (48) in this category: Poetry

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