I Miss My Home Country

Li, Yu 1 (937 A.D.-978 A.D.)


    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 5. The 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.

1 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.

2 In Chinese, the characters representing “hook” and “remind (me of the past)” have the same pronunciation although they have different meanings.

3 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.

4 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 tower.

5 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.

6 A river of Spring water carries the fallen petals, which symbolize sweet memory. However, the river continues to flow forward and will not return.