Bai Juyi English Translations
Click on the title of each poem for the text in Chinese characters, pinyin and literal translation.
A Visit to Qiantang Lake
Gushan Temple is to the north, Jiating pavilion west,
The water's surface now is calm, the bottom of the clouds low.
In several places, the first orioles are fighting in warm trees,
By every house new swallows peck at spring mud.
Disordered flowers have grown almost enough to confuse the eye,
Bright grass is able now to hide the hooves of horses.
I most love the east of the lake, I cannot come often enough
Within the shade of green poplars on White Sand Embankment.
Feelings on Watching the Moon
The times are hard: a year of famine has emptied the fields,
My brothers live abroad- scattered west and east.
Now fields and gardens are scarcely seen after the fighting,
Family members wander, scattered on the road.
Attached to shadows, like geese ten thousand li apart,
Or roots uplifted into September's autumn air.
We look together at the bright moon, and then the tears should fall,
This night, our wish for home can make five places one.
The grass is spreading out across the plain,
Each year, it dies, then flourishes again.
It's burnt but not destroyed by prairie fires,
When spring winds blow they bring it back to life.
Afar, its scent invades the ancient road,
Its emerald green overruns the ruined town.
Again I see my noble friend depart,
I find I'm crowded full of parting's feelings.
Invitation to Mr Liu
Green lees of beer that's newly brewed,
A little stove of red clay burns.
As evening comes, the sky's about to snow,
Can you drink one cup with me?
I was surprised my quilt and pillow were cold,
I see that now the window's bright again.
Deep in the night, I know the snow is thick,
I sometimes hear the sound as bamboo snaps.
Peach Blossom at Dalin Temple
Across the world this June, the petals all have fallen,
But the mountain temple's peach blossom has just begun to bloom.
I regretted so much that spring had gone without a trace,
I didn't know that it had only moved up here.
Those who speak do not know, those who know are silent,
I heard this saying from the old gentleman.
If the old gentleman was one who knew the way,
Why did he feel able to write five thousand words?
Regret for Peony Flowers
I'm saddened by the peonies before the steps, so red,
As evening came I found that only two remained.
Once morning's winds have blown, they surely won't survive,
At night I gaze by lamplight, to cherish the fading red.
Rembering South of the River
South of the river is good,
Long ago, I knew the landscape well.
At sunrise, the river's flowers are red like fire,
In spring, the river's water's green as lilies.
How could I not remember south of the river?
Returning Late on the Road from Pingquan on a Winter's Day
The mountain road is hard to travel, the sun now slanting down,
In a misty village, a crow lands on a frosted tree.
I'll not arrive before night falls, but that should not concern me,
Once I've drunk three warm cups, I'll feel as if at home.
Sleeping on a Night of Autumn Rain
It's cold this night in autumn's third month,
Peacefully within, a lone old man.
He lies down late, the lamp already gone out,
And beautifully sleeps amid the sound of rain.
The ash inside the vessel still warm from the fire,
Its fragrance increases the warmth of quilt and covers.
When dawn comes, clear and cold, he does not rise,
The red frosted leaves cover the steps.
Song of Sunset on the River
A strip of water's spread in the setting sun,
Half the river's emerald, half is red.
I love the third night of the ninth month,
The dew is like pearl; the moon like a bow.
Song of the Palace
Her handkerchief all soaked in tears, she cannot dream,
In deepest night before the palace voices sing.
Her rosy cheeks aren't old, but first love has been cut,
Leaning, wreathed in smoke, she sits until the dawn.
The pillow's low, the quilt is warm, the body smooth and peaceful,
Sun shines on the door of the room, the curtain not yet open.
Still the youthful taste of spring remains in the air,
Often it will come to you even in your sleep.
On the Lake (1)
Two monks sit facing, playing chess on the mountain,
The bamboo shadow on the board is dark and clear.
Not a person sees the bamboo's shadow,
One sometimes hears the pieces being moved.
On the Lake (2)
A little child paddles a little boat,
Drifting about, and picking white lotuses.
He does not know how to hide his tracks,
And duckweed's opened up along his path.
The Bloom is not a Bloom
The bloom is not a bloom, the mist not mist,
At midnight she comes, and goes again at dawn.
She comes like a spring dream- how long will she stay?
She goes like morning cloud, without a trace.