LI T'AI PO
(701 - 762)
To Tu Fu from Shantung
You ask how I spend my time--
I nestle against a treetrunk
and listen to autumn winds
in the pines all night and day.
Shantung wine can't get me drunk.
The local poets bore me.
My thoughts remain with you,
like the Wen River, endlessly flowing.
Clouds bring back to mind her dress, the flowers her face.
Winds of spring caress the rail where sparkling dew-drops cluster.
If you cannot see her by the jewelled mountain top,
Maybe on the moonlit Jasper Terrance you will meet her.
Far up river in Szechuan,
waters rise as spring winds roar.
How can I dare to meet her now,
to brave the dangerous gorge?
The grass grows green in the
where silk worms silently spin.
Her hands work threads that
dawn to dusk when the cuckoo sings.
Two swallows, and two swallows...
Always, the swallows fly in couples. When
They see a tower of jade, or a lacquered pavilion,
One never perches there without the other.
When they find a balustrade of marble
Or a gilded window, they never separate.
Once there were two swallows...
When the girder of cedar which sheltered
Their nest took fire, the two birds sought
Refuge in a palace of the king of Wu, but
The palace of the king of Wu burned down
And the male and the little ones
Burned too. When she returned,
The female sat contemplating the ruins.
This story saddens me infinitely.
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