Hidden Fragrance

Jiang, Kui (1152 A.D.-1220 A.D.)

Prologue. This winter I had an audience with Shi-hu 1 on a snowy day. After I stayed at his house for a month. I learned some ancient songs from him, invented new tunes, and then composed two scores. Shi-hu enjoyed them endlessly. He ordered two courtesans to rehearse them. The tune was gentle and harmonious. We named the two poems "Hidden Fragrance" and "Sparse Shadows".

    The moonlight is still the same as before. It always accompanies me when I play flute beside a plum tree. My music awakens the beauty. I desire to pluck the plum blossoms even though they are high and I am short 2. Xun He 3 is becoming old. He can no longer write poetry like spring wind. I can only blame the fact that the blossoms outside the bamboo fence become sparse. Cold fragrance comes to my colorful bed mat.

    The riverside is quiet. I want to write you, but it would take a long time to for a message to arrive at such a great distance. Consequently, I sigh. The night snow starts to pile up. The green wine cup easily causes me to weep. The plum blossoms are silent. Their beauty will remain in my heart forever. I often recall the place where we walked hand-in-hand: the Western Lake surrounded by an oppressing density of trees was cold and green. Now plum blossoms are falling, petal by petal. Soon all the flowers will be gone. When will we meet again?

1 "Shi-hu" means "stone lake". It is located southwest of Su City and connects to Lake Tai. Cheng-da Fan lived here and called himself a "Resident of the Area near Shi-hu". Therefore, Shi-hu was a short name for Cheng-da Fan.

2 "The plum blossoms" refers to the beauty which can also mean a beautiful woman. "I am short" refers to his poverty and his low social status.

3 Xun He was a native of Yan City in Dong-hai (eastern sea) County during the Southern Liang dynasty. He was able to write poetry by the age of eight. His essays were as famous as those of Xiao-zhao Liu. He was once the judge of Yang City. He had a plum tree by his mansion and often recited poetry beneath it. Later, he moved to Luo City and missed his plum tree. Therefore, he frequently visited his old house and walked back and forth under the tree all day. Fu Du wrote, "The plum blossoms by the east tower inspire poetry for me as they did for Xun He in Yang City." "Xun He" in this sentence of Jiang's poem refers to Jiang himself.