I ascend the west tower alone and remain silent. The moon looks like a hook
2. The deep yard with lonesome phoenix trees locks in the refreshing
autumn. Great shears cannot cut off my sorrow from separating. The harder I try
to tidy up my tangled thoughts, the more chaotic they become. It is a quite
different flavor in my mind.
When the wind returns to this small yard, the turnips in the garden turn
green. The shoots of the willow trees show that Spring continues. Leaning
against the banister, I remain silent and alone. The sound of bamboo and the
crescent moon are still fresh in my mind as in years past. As the wind pipes
continues to sing and the wine pot and cups are still on the table, the ice on
the surface of the pool starts to melt 3. The bright candlelight and
the subtle fragrance add depth to the picturesque tower 4. My
thoughts are outrageously full. I hardly notice that my beard has become covered
with fresh frost and lingering snow.
When will Spring flowers and the autumn moon come to an end? How much do I
know of the past? The eastern wind visited my attic again last night. It is
unbearable to remember my old country under this bright moon
engraved banisters with jade steps should still be there. Only their red color
changes. May I ask you how much sorrow you can bear? It is just like a river of
Spring water flowing eastward 6.
Yu Li, a.k.a. Chong-guang, was the sixth son of King Jing of the Southern
Tang dynasty. He inherited the throne at Jin-ling City and reigned over his
country for fifteen years. His country was conquered by Emperor Kuang-yin Zhao
of the Song dynasty. Li surrendered and became a captive. His poetry became more
elaborate during his captivity. He is the best of those poets (ci-ists) who
wrote poems in ci (prose-poem) form.
In Chinese, the characters representing “hook” and “remind (me of the
past)” have the same pronunciation although they have different meanings.
This sentence can be interpreted as follows: My memory is frozen like the
ice of the pool because it will cause too much pain. As the music and wine ease
the pain, my memory emerges more smoothly.
When it is dark, one cannot see much. When one smells a fragrance, he wants
to find its source. Therefore, the light and the fragrance add depth to the
After Li read this poem to his old officials, they all cried. When Emperor
Tai heard this episode, he sent people to get Li’s poem. After he read this
sentence, he decided to kill Li by poisoning his meal.
A river of Spring water carries the fallen petals, which symbolize sweet
memory. However, the river continues to flow forward and will not return.