The Nacreous Oughts

03 August 2008

    "In Imitation of a Thought"

He longs to meet with the girl of Zhang,
Reluctantly he sees off A Hou.
In vain he watches the "Small Hands Down" dance,
How can he bear to ask for a "Big Knife Ring" song?
This beauty is selected from a dogwood net,
She lives usually in an emerald house.
Cloud dresses do not provide warmth,
Moon fan does not cover her shyness.
What is the point of being able to dance on a man's palm?
Who says that a town toppler is free?
Courtesans of Chu compete to serve on pillows,
Empresses of Han together play hiding hooks.
She seeks a husband in a goat carriage,
And searches for a man in a phoenix-nest.
She practices calligraphy after the "Orchid Pavilion Preface,"
And sings a song called "Sorrows in Separation."
At night clothes beating is heard from the riverside,
In spring scissors cut out pomegranate skirts.
Ivory bed is surrounded by gauze curtains,
Rhino drapes are attached to the painted windows.
Bright mirrors are from the "Virtue-Longevity Hall,"
Colorful balls are from Chen Cang.
Sincerely she protects herself from "Scratcher Dance,"
In pretense she covers the reclining harp.
She washes her silken dress by peach flower pond,
And splashes her skirt at scented-grass isle.
Precious sword hangs from fish [handle],
Gold cup is encircled by a swallow [pattern].
Silver waterclock hastens the falling leaves,
Heartbreaking separation takes place at the grand party.
When will her angrily proud air dissipate?
From now on sadness of departure will linger in heart.
The sail is let down in gorges filled with crying monkeys,
Wine glasses are passing around in boat painted with colorful birds.
Strings are hastening, hearts are broken,
Candles are being trimmed, tears streaming down.
Who can wear the jade horse?
Gold, insect-shaped hairpins are no longer collected.
The Milky Way fills her intoxicated eyes,
Her pearl sounding throat is choked.
In dream she leaves with the river god Chuan Hou,
And waits for the coming of Shi You wind.
The orchid bush is covered by heavy dews,
Elm leaves are scattered around [like] dense stars.
No traces remain where the two fairies took out their pendants,
But in the waves there are the marks of their former trip.
In the past people wrote "Nineteen Ancient Poems,"
Silently she chants the one about the cow herd.

--Li Shangyin (tr Fusheng Wu)

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