Bai Juyi

(772–846 / Taiyuan, Shanxi)

Song Of Unending Sorrow. - Poem by Bai Juyi

China's Emperor, craving beauty that might shake an empire,
Was on the throne for many years, searching, never finding,
Till a little child of the Yang clan, hardly even grown,
Bred in an inner chamber, with no one knowing her,
But with graces granted by heaven and not to be concealed,
At last one day was chosen for the imperial household.
If she but turned her head and smiled, there were cast a hundred spells,
And the powder and paint of the Six Palaces faded into nothing.
...It was early spring. They bathed her in the FlowerPure Pool,
Which warmed and smoothed the creamy-tinted crystal of her skin,
And, because of her languor, a maid was lifting her
When first the Emperor noticed her and chose her for his bride.
The cloud of her hair, petal of her cheek, gold ripples of her crown when she moved,
Were sheltered on spring evenings by warm hibiscus curtains;
But nights of spring were short and the sun arose too soon,
And the Emperor, from that time forth, forsook his early hearings
And lavished all his time on her with feasts and revelry,
His mistress of the spring, his despot of the night.
There were other ladies in his court, three thousand of rare beauty,
But his favours to three thousand were concentered in one body.
By the time she was dressed in her Golden Chamber, it would be almost evening;
And when tables were cleared in the Tower of Jade, she would loiter, slow with wine.
Her sisters and her brothers all were given titles;
And, because she so illumined and glorified her clan,
She brought to every father, every mother through the empire,
Happiness when a girl was born rather than a boy.
...High rose Li Palace, entering blue clouds,
And far and wide the breezes carried magical notes
Of soft song and slow dance, of string and bamboo music.
The Emperor's eyes could never gaze on her enough-
Till war-drums, booming from Yuyang, shocked the whole earth
And broke the tunes of The Rainbow Skirt and the Feathered Coat.
The Forbidden City, the nine-tiered palace, loomed in the dust
From thousands of horses and chariots headed southwest.
The imperial flag opened the way, now moving and now pausing- -
But thirty miles from the capital, beyond the western gate,
The men of the army stopped, not one of them would stir
Till under their horses' hoofs they might trample those moth- eyebrows....
Flowery hairpins fell to the ground, no one picked them up,
And a green and white jade hair-tassel and a yellowgold hair- bird.
The Emperor could not save her, he could only cover his face.
And later when he turned to look, the place of blood and tears
Was hidden in a yellow dust blown by a cold wind.
... At the cleft of the Dagger-Tower Trail they crisscrossed through a cloud-line
Under Omei Mountain. The last few came.
Flags and banners lost their colour in the fading sunlight....
But as waters of Shu are always green and its mountains always blue,
So changeless was His Majesty's love and deeper than the days.
He stared at the desolate moon from his temporary palace.
He heard bell-notes in the evening rain, cutting at his breast.
And when heaven and earth resumed their round and the dragon car faced home,
The Emperor clung to the spot and would not turn away
From the soil along the Mawei slope, under which was buried
That memory, that anguish. Where was her jade-white face?
Ruler and lords, when eyes would meet, wept upon their coats
As they rode, with loose rein, slowly eastward, back to the capital.
...The pools, the gardens, the palace, all were just as before,
The Lake Taiye hibiscus, the Weiyang Palace willows;
But a petal was like her face and a willow-leaf her eyebrow --
And what could he do but cry whenever he looked at them?
...Peach-trees and plum-trees blossomed, in the winds of spring;
Lakka-foliage fell to the ground, after autumn rains;
The Western and Southern Palaces were littered with late grasses,
And the steps were mounded with red leaves that no one swept away.
Her Pear-Garden Players became white-haired
And the eunuchs thin-eyebrowed in her Court of PepperTrees;
Over the throne flew fire-flies, while he brooded in the twilight.
He would lengthen the lamp-wick to its end and still could never sleep.
Bell and drum would slowly toll the dragging nighthours
And the River of Stars grow sharp in the sky, just before dawn,
And the porcelain mandarin-ducks on the roof grow thick with morning frost
And his covers of kingfisher-blue feel lonelier and colder
With the distance between life and death year after year;
And yet no beloved spirit ever visited his dreams.
...At Lingqiong lived a Taoist priest who was a guest of heaven,
Able to summon spirits by his concentrated mind.
And people were so moved by the Emperor's constant brooding
That they besought the Taoist priest to see if he could find her.
He opened his way in space and clove the ether like lightning,
Up to heaven, under the earth, looking everywhere.
Above, he searched the Green Void, below, the Yellow Spring;
But he failed, in either place, to find the one he looked for.
And then he heard accounts of an enchanted isle at sea,
A part of the intangible and incorporeal world,
With pavilions and fine towers in the five-coloured air,
And of exquisite immortals moving to and fro,
And of one among them-whom they called The Ever True-
With a face of snow and flowers resembling hers he sought.
So he went to the West Hall's gate of gold and knocked at the jasper door
And asked a girl, called Morsel-of-Jade, to tell The Doubly- Perfect.
And the lady, at news of an envoy from the Emperor of China,
Was startled out of dreams in her nine-flowered, canopy.
She pushed aside her pillow, dressed, shook away sleep,
And opened the pearly shade and then the silver screen.
Her cloudy hair-dress hung on one side because of her great haste,
And her flower-cap was loose when she came along the terrace,
While a light wind filled her cloak and fluttered with her motion
As though she danced The Rainbow Skirt and the Feathered Coat.
And the tear-drops drifting down her sad white face
Were like a rain in spring on the blossom of the pear.
But love glowed deep within her eyes when she bade him thank her liege,
Whose form and voice had been strange to her ever since their parting --
Since happiness had ended at the Court of the Bright Sun,
And moons and dawns had become long in Fairy-Mountain Palace.
But when she turned her face and looked down toward the earth
And tried to see the capital, there were only fog and dust.
So she took out, with emotion, the pledges he had given
And, through his envoy, sent him back a shell box and gold hairpin,
But kept one branch of the hairpin and one side of the box,
Breaking the gold of the hairpin, breaking the shell of the box;
"Our souls belong together," she said, " like this gold and this shell --
Somewhere, sometime, on earth or in heaven, we shall surely
And she sent him, by his messenger, a sentence reminding him
Of vows which had been known only to their two hearts:
"On the seventh day of the Seventh-month, in the Palace of Long Life,
We told each other secretly in the quiet midnight world
That we wished to fly in heaven, two birds with the wings of one,
And to grow together on the earth, two branches of one tree."
Earth endures, heaven endures; some time both shall end,
While this unending sorrow goes on and on for ever.


Comments about Song Of Unending Sorrow. by Bai Juyi

  • Xing Hua (1/16/2016 11:03:00 PM)

    长恨歌
    汉皇重色思倾国,御宇多年求不得。杨家有女初长成,养在深闺人未识。

    天生丽质难自弃,一朝选在君王侧。回眸一笑百媚生,六宫粉黛无颜色。

    春寒赐浴华清池,温泉水滑洗凝脂。侍儿扶起娇无力,始是新承恩泽时。

    云鬓花颜金步摇,芙蓉帐暖度春宵。春宵苦短日高起,从此君王不早朝。

    承欢侍宴无闲暇,春从春游夜专夜。后宫佳丽三千人,三千宠爱在一身。

    金屋妆成娇侍夜,玉楼宴罢醉和春。姊妹弟兄皆列土,可怜光彩生门户。

    遂令天下父母心,不重生男重生女。骊宫高处入青云,仙乐风飘处处闻。

    缓歌谩舞凝丝竹,尽日君王看不足。渔阳鼙鼓动地来,惊破霓裳羽衣曲。

    九重城阙烟尘生,千乘万骑西南行。翠华摇摇行复止,西出都门百余里。

    六军不发无奈何,宛转蛾眉马前死。花钿委地无人收,翠翘金雀玉搔头。

    君王掩面救不得,回看血泪相和流。黄埃散漫风萧索,云栈萦纡登剑阁。

    峨嵋山下少人行,旌旗无光日色薄。蜀江水碧蜀山青,圣主朝朝暮暮情。

    行宫见月伤心色,夜雨闻铃肠断声。天旋地转回龙驭,到此踌躇不能去。

    马嵬坡下泥土中,不见玉颜空死处。君臣相顾尽沾衣,东望都门信马归。

    归来池苑皆依旧,太液芙蓉未央柳。芙蓉如面柳如眉,对此如何不泪垂。

    春风桃李花开日,秋雨梧桐叶落时。西宫南内多秋草,落叶满阶红不扫。

    梨园弟子白发新,椒房阿监青娥老。夕殿萤飞思悄然,孤灯挑尽未成眠。

    迟迟钟鼓初长夜,耿耿星河欲曙天。鸳鸯瓦冷霜华重,翡翠衾寒谁与共。

    悠悠生死别经年,魂魄不曾来入梦。临邛道士鸿都客,能以精诚致魂魄。

    为感君王辗转思,遂教方士殷勤觅。排空驭气奔如电,升天入地求之遍。

    上穷碧落下黄泉,两处茫茫皆不见。忽闻海上有仙山,山在虚无缥渺间。

    楼阁玲珑五云起,其中绰约多仙子。中有一人字太真,雪肤花貌参差是。

    金阙西厢叩玉扃,转教小玉报双成。闻道汉家天子使,九华帐里梦魂惊。

    揽衣推枕起徘徊,珠箔银屏迤逦开。云鬓半偏新睡觉,花冠不整下堂来。

    风吹仙袂飘飘举,犹似霓裳羽衣舞。玉容寂寞泪阑干,梨花一枝春带雨。

    含情凝睇谢君王,一别音容两渺茫。昭阳殿里恩爱绝,蓬莱宫中日月长。

    回头下望人寰处,不见长安见尘雾。惟将旧物表深情,钿合金钗寄将去。

    钗留一股合一扇,钗擘黄金合分钿。但教心似金钿坚,天上人间会相见。

    临别殷勤重寄词,词中有誓两心知。七月七日长生殿,夜半无人私语时。

    在天愿作比翼鸟,在地愿为连理枝。天长地久有时尽,此恨绵绵无绝期。 (Report) Reply

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    0 person did not like.
  • Kim Barney (1/16/2016 3:36:00 PM)

    Thanks to Susan Williams for her informative comment.
    Enjoyable poem. (Report) Reply

  • Susan Williams Susan Williams (1/16/2016 2:58:00 PM)

    Yang Guifei (719—56) was a famously beautiful concubine during the Tang dynasty (618-906) . She was the concubine of the Tang emperor Xuanzong [685-762) .
    Of humble origins, she is said to have won the favor and passion of the emperor to the extent that he eventually began to neglect state affairs. She adopted An Lu-shan, a general of Turkic origin, as her son and helped him win power at court. A power struggle over control of the central government between An Lu-shan and Yang’s brother led to An’s rebellion in 755. Fleeing the capital before the rebels captured it, angry royal guards, who blamed Yang Guifei and her brother for the rebellion, forced Xuanzong to order their execution. The emperor soon abdicated.Yang Guifei’s story and her tragic end have been a favorite theme for Chinese poets and writers. http: //www.princeton.edu/~caddeau/A21/YangGuifei.html][
    It is said that he wrote his poems in a deliberately plain style which may be so but I found them very rich in ornamental description and lush in sensual passages but not, I agree, hard to read. Legend has it that he read his poems out loud to an elderly peasant woman and if she didn't understand a line he would change it.
    There are some enchanting dramatic and musical productions of this poem on youtube that last anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour. (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis Edward Kofi Louis (1/16/2016 2:58:00 PM)

    Life is like that; with sad notes at times. Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

  • Ratnakar Mandlik (1/16/2016 6:10:00 AM)

    Awesome story of a rarest beauty and a Chinese emperor and the sorrow inflicted on them at the end of their love life. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • Mohammed Asim Nehal Mohammed Asim Nehal (1/16/2016 12:36:00 AM)

    Somewhere, sometime, on earth or in heaven, we shall surely
    And she sent him, by his messenger, a sentence reminding him
    Of vows which had been known only to their two hearts: (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: spring, heaven, sorrow, hair, rainbow, green, happiness, girl, together, fog, rain, sleep, beauty, fairy, song, wind, car, autumn, city, dance



Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004



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