The Lost Love

Zhou, Bang-yan 1 (1056 A.D.-1121 A.D.)
    On the Zhang-tai Road 2, I can still see faded blossoms remaining on the top of the plum trees. The peach trees are starting to bloom. The swallows, building their nests in this quiet neighborhood, return to their old homes. Buried in melancholy, I have stood quietly for a long time. I remember a modest girl peeking suddenly from behind her door. She had applied light rouge to her face at the early dawn. The sunshine illuminated her sleeves which she used to shield her face from the wind. Her delicate laugh and voice can still be heard indistinctly. Upon Mr. Liu's return 3, he went all over the village to search for her. Among the geisha girls who used to sing and dance with her, only Qiu-niang 4 remains popular. Whenever I try to write poems, I remember the line about Yan-tai 5. I wonder who will be my companion when I sip my wine outdoors in a scenic park and stroll around the eastern town. My love has gone with the lonely wild goose 6. I search for Spring only to become saddened by our separation. The willow trees lower their branches hanging down like gold ropes. My horse returns late. Thin flying rain falls on the pond. As I gaze outward from behind the bamboo-blind, the willow seeds dance with the wind and the yard looks desolate.

1 Mei-cheng was Bang-yan Zhou's other first name. He was a native of Qian-tang City (present day Hangzhou City). Around 1080 A.D., he wrote a poem, “Ode to the Capital” and presented it to Emperor Shen. Soon Zhou was appointed to be a teacher at the Royal University.

2 Yao-zuo Xu of the Tang dynasty wrote a book titled The Geisha Girls of Zhang-tai. Consequently, later generations considered Zhang-tai an area where geisha girls lived.

3 Yu-xi Liu was summoned to the capital from his exile in Lang City. On his way back, he revisited Xuan-du Temple. When he saw anemones and wild oats waving in the Spring wind, he wrote a poem. It said, “I wonder where the monk who planted the peach trees is./ Now Mr. Liu who visited here before comes alone.” Mr. Liu in Liu’s poem refers to Yu-xi Liu, while Mr. Liu in Zhou’s poem refers to Bang-yan Zhou.

4 Qiu-niang was a famous geisha girl during the Tang dynasty. Mu Du wrote a poem for her. Here “Qiu-niang” refers to the most popular geisha girl in that region.

5 "Yan-tai" means "a platform on Yan Mountain". The poem "Sending Willow Branches as a Gift", written by Shang-yin Li, says, "After I delve into the line about descending Yan-tai,/ Only the fragrance of flowers remains in my clothing."

6 Mu Du's poem says, "My sorrows are as many as Spring grass./ The past events pursue the lonely goose and will not return."