Li Yu English Translations

Click on the title of each poem for the text in Chinese characters, pinyin and literal translation.

A Heavenly Woman's Imprisoned in the Palace
Li Yu

A heavenly woman's imprisoned in the palace at Penglai Hill,
All are silent as she sleeps by day in the painted hall.
Her glossy hair is spread like cloud on the pillow,
Her embroidered clothes bear a wondrous fragrance.
I secretly come and slide the pearl lock back,
She's startled from her dream behind the silver screen.
Her smiling face is overflowing with bliss,
We gaze at each other with unbounded love.

Beneath the Moon, Before the Steps
Li Yu

Beneath the moon, before the steps, all cherry blossom has fallen,
Enwreathed in smoke, she looks sorrowful lying in bed.
She feels the same regret today as one long year ago.
Both braids like cloud in disarray, her face is wan and sallow,
The crimson corset wet from wiping tears.
But what's the reason why she suffers so?
She lies in a drunken dream before the window.

How Can a Man Escape Life's Sorrow and Regret?
Li Yu

How can a man escape life's sorrow and regret?
What limit is there to my solitary grief?
I returned to my homeland in a dream,
As I awakened, I shed two tears.
Who now will climb up those high towers,
I remember those clear autumn scenes.
Those past events have lost their meaning,
They disappear as in a dream.

How Many Tears
Li Yu

Criss-cross your cheeks and run across your face!
Don't try to speak when worry makes you weep,
Nor play the flute when it will bring your tears,
Or surely then your heart will break.

I Climb the Western Tower In Silence
Li Yu

I climb the western tower in silence, the moon like a sickle.
Clear autumn is locked in the deep courtyard, where a wutong tree stands lonely.
Sorrowful parting has cut, but not severed our ties; my mind is still wild.
Separation is just like a taste in head and heart.

Last Night the Wind and Rain Together Blew
Li Yu

Last night the wind and rain together blew,
The wall-curtains rustled in their autumn song.
The candle died, the water-clock was exhausted,
I rose and sat, but could not be at peace.
Man's affairs are like the flow of floodwater,
A life is just like floating in a dream.
I should more often go drunken through the country,
For otherwise I could not bear to live.

Light Mist Envelopes the Dim Moon
Li Yu

Light mist envelopes the dim moon and bright flowers,
A perfect night to go to her darling's side.
In stocking soles, she treads the fragrant steps,
And carries in one hand her gold threaded shoes.
They meet by the south side of the painted hall,
And trembling fall into each other's arms.
"It's hard for me to creep out like a servant,
To teach my darling the recklessness of love."

My Idle Dreams Roam Far
Li Yu

My idle dreams roam far,
To the southern land where spring is fragrant.
Wind and strings play on a boat on the river's clear surface,
The city is full of catkins flying like light dust.
People are occupied admiring the flowers.
My idle dreams roam far,
To the southern land where autumn is clear.
For a thousand li over rivers and hills cold colours stretch far,
Deep in flowering reeds, a solitary boat is moored.
Beneath the bright moon, a flute plays in the tower.

Oh When Will Autumn Moon and Spring Flowers End
Li Yu

Oh when will autumn moon and spring flowers end?
How many past events I've known.
The east wind buffeted my room again last night,
I cannot bear to remember the bright moon of the old country.
The marble steps and carved balustrades must still be there,
The people's rosy cheeks are all that's changed.
How much sorrow can one man have to bear?
As much as a river of spring water flowing east.

Outside the Curtains the Rain is Murmuring
Li Yu

Outside the curtains the rain is murmering,
And spring is waning,
Silk bedding cannot resist the fifth watch cold.
While in my dream, I forget I am a guest,
And covet pleasure!
I should not lean alone on these railings,
The land is unlimited;
It's easy to part- to meet again is hard.
Spring's gone like blossom fallen on flowing water,
My paradise too!

The East Wind Blows Over the Water
Li Yu

The east wind blows over the water, the sun sits by the hill,
Though spring has come, the idleness persists.
Fallen blossom is scattered amid wine and tinkling pendants by the rail,
She listens to playing and singing in a drunken daze.
The pendants are now silent, her evening wear undone,
For what man's sake is she to dress her hair?
Her fair appearance too will pass as time slips by,
At dusk, she leans alone upon the railing.

The Wind Returns; My Little Courtyard is Green and Overgrown
Li Yu

The wind returns; my little courtyard is green and overgrown,
The willows seem to have grown again this spring.
I lean for a long time on the railings; alone, without a word,
The sound of bamboo and the new moon are just like in days gone by.
The playing and singing have not yet ceased; the wine cups remain,
The ice on top of the pool begins to melt.
Bright candles and a faint fragrance are deep in the painted hall,
It's hard to think I must allow my temples all to turn white.