Sentiments on the New Year’s Eve in the Year Gui-si (1773)
Laughter pours from a thousand homes, as the water clock drips and drips—
One learns grief and anxieties in secret, from matters beyond oneself.
Silent and alone, I stand on the market bridge unknown to anyone;
A single star bright as the moon, I watch for a long, long time.
Tune: Che-ku t’ien
Title: New Year’s Eve in the Year Keng-tzu
A cup of wine as clear as water
reflects my temples going white.
With such a cup, away from home
one easily grows old.
The prickly points of my drunken guts
are as terrible as a row of spears.
The poetry brush, icy and frosted,
sadly cannot bloom.
I throw away the pillow and sit up.
I roll up the book and sigh.
I don’t mind
the screaming of the last roosting crow.
The red of candle wax flowers
changes the world where people live.
The green of mountain shining
brings back the home I dream of.
Li Chi and Michael Patrick O’Connor
Caught in Snow
Heavy snow on New Year’s Eve kept me at Weizhou. New Year’s Day dawned clear and I resumed my journey, only to run into snow again.
Snow detained me on New Year’s Eve,
Clear skies speed me on my way on New Year’s Day;
The east wind scatters the fumes of last night’s wine
As I jog along on my lean nag, half dreaming still
In the brilliant morning sunlight,
While a few last snowflakes whirl.
I dismount to drink in the open,
Lacking nothing now but someone to share my wine;
But at dusk clouds gather fast,
The whole air is thick with snow,
Flakes cling like goose feathers to my horse’s mane,
And I marvel to find myself riding a white phoenix.
Three years of drought in the east
Emptied cottage after cottage, whole households fled;
Old peasants cast aside their ploughs and sighed,
Swallowing tears which stung their famished guts.
The snow is late this spring,
But it is not too late to snow spring wheat;
Why complain, then, of the hardships of the journey?
Rather let me sing of your good harvest to come.
Composed on New Year’s Eve
Alone in an inn by a cold lamp I stay awake;
One might wonder what is troubling this traveller’s heart of mine.
A thousand li away my people must be thinking of me;
Grey-haired already, I shall be a year older overnight.
On Duty at Court on New Year’s Eve
On New Year’s Eve, I should go home early.
But am by official duties detained.
With tears in my eyes I hold my brush,
And feel sorry for those in chains.
The poor are trying to make their living,
But fall into the clutches of the law.
I, too, cling to an official job,
And carry on against my wish for rest.
What difference is there between myself
And those more ignorant than I?
Who can set them free for the time being?
Silently I bow my head in shame.
Returning to the South Mountain at the Year’s End
No more petitions will I submit at the north palace gate,
Because on South Mountain my humble hut for me does wait.
As I’m talentless, His Majesty bears me not in mind;
And sickly too, my old friends leave me alone and behind.
My hoary hair urges me on to my declining years;
New Year’s Eve is compelled me to flee as the green spring nears.
I can’t fall asleep, for my heart turns ever with sorrow;
Through the pine needles the pale moon shines on the window hollow.