Wind and Rain

Li, Shang Yin   (812? A.D.-858 A.D.)

My "Ancient Sword" 1 is desolate.
I have wandered from place to place throughout my best years.
Now I shrivel like a yellow leaf which still endures the devastating wind and rain.
In contrast, the rich in their penthouses continue their singing and dancing.
My new friends suffer the reproach of the shallow and mean world.
My bad luck has separated my old friends from me.
I want to drink the wine from Xin-Feng City 2 to drown my sorrows.
I do not care how much it will cost.

1 When the government failed to recognize his talent, Yuan-Zhen Guo wrote a poem, "An Ancient Sword". It says, "Although the sword is not in use and is buried in the dust,/ It is still able to shoot its spirit into the sky every night." After Empress Wu of the Zhou dynasty (624 A.D.-705 A.D.) read this poem, she appreciated Guo's talent and offered him a high-ranking position. Here Li compares himself to the Ancient Sword because the government fails to recognize his talent. He wishes he could have Guo's luck.

2 The wine from Xin-Feng City was a very expensive brand of wine at that time. When Zhou Ma of the early-Tang dynasty was in dire straits and on his way to the capital, he spent a night at a hotel in Xin-Feng City. The reception desk gave him a cold shoulder. Consequently, he drank alone and showed an unusually noble expression. Later, the emperor recognized his talent and offered him a high-ranking position. In this poem, Li laments that he had Ma's misfortune, but not his luck.