Enjoying the Cool Evening After Taking a Bath 1

Su, Dong-po (1036 A.D.-1101 A.D.)

    A newborn swallow 2 flies into a beautiful house. There are no people around. It is quiet. The shade of the pagoda tree reverses its direction at noon. After taking a bath, she enjoys the cool air in the evening. As she plays with a white silk fan, her hand and the fan shine like jade. She grows tired and leans on a pillow. Suddenly, a sound awakens her while she sleeps soundly in solitude. She thinks there is someone knocking on her bedroom door. The heavenly song in her dream has flown away. The knock turns out to be only the wind stirring bamboo trees.

    After all the wild flowers have shriveled, the blossoms of pomegranate accompany your solitude 3, half-protruding red lace. She plucks a rich and gaudy blossom to examine carefully. It seems to contain layer upon layer of fragrant charm. She fears that the west wind will soon startle the blossoms to yellow. In front of flowers, she cannot bear to touch wine. It is as though she were waiting for you to come to visit them. Mingled with rouge, her tears are streaming down.

1 When Su was the mayor of Qian-tang City, the city hired official courtesans to entertain guests. One courtesan was called Xiu-lan (beautiful orchid). She was clever and articulate. One day the city held a party by a lake. All the courtesans arrived on time except Xiu-lan. The party manager sent people to urge her to come. It took quite a while for her to arrive. Su asked her why she was late. She replied, "After taking a bath, I felt very tired and fell asleep. Suddenly, I heard an urgent knock on my bedroom door. I got up and asked who was there. Then they urged me to hurry because I would be late to serve." Because she spoke truthfully, Su forgave her. However, Su's assistant, the party manager, was still angry and continued to interrogate her. In that season pomegranates were blooming luxuriantly. Xiu-lan plucked one blossom and gave it to her interrogator. The manager continued to become more furious. Therefore, Su wrote this poem as a song for them to listen to as they drank wine. The manager's anger immediately subsided.

2 The newborn swallow refers to the young girl, Xiu-lan.

3 Here "you" refers to the party manager.