To the Tune of "The Ravens Cawed at Night" 1

Li, Yu (937-978 CE)


It was windy and rainy last night.
The soughing wind and rain lashed curtains and bamboo blinds.
I tossed and turned against my pillow
Until the candle extinguished and the water clock stopped dripping 2.
Even though I rose,
My sorrow could not be calmed.

Everything has aimlessly gone with the flowing water.
Life is like a dream for me.
The road to the village of intoxication is comfortable.
I should visit there more often.
Other roads are unbearable to travel.


I remain silent as I ascend the west tower alone 3.
The moon resembles a hook 4.
The vast yard with lonesome phoenix trees locks 5 in the chilly autumn.

Great shears cannot cut away my sorrow from leaving my kingdom 6.
The harder I try to tidy up my tangled thoughts,
The more chaotic they become.
The sorrow is quite a different experience for me.


The red color of the blossoms in the woods fades.
Spring has gone with exceeding haste.
I can only resign myself to the constant strong wind and chilly rain 7.

Your tears mingled with rouge intoxicate my heart.
When will we meet again?
Human life always suffers just as rivers always flow eastward 8.


1 After reading the above three poems, one may desire to view the following two videos:
The title of the first video is "The Ravens Cawed at Night". The second video entitled "Ascending the West Tower Alone" shows how the second of the above poems is sung. The third video entitled "Tears Mingled with Rouge" shows how the third of the above poems is sung.

2 This line says that the water in the water clock was used up at dawn. It implies that Yu Li could not fall asleep until daybreak.

3 This sentence shows Li’s strength and perseverance.

4 In Chinese, the characters representing "hook" and "remind (one of one's past)" have the same pronunciation although they have different meanings.

5 "Lock" implies that Li lost his freedom.

6 Yu Li was the last king of the Kingdom of Southern Tang. His kingdom was conquered by the Song Dynasty. Yu Li became a captive and was forced to leave his kingdom.

7 "Wind and rain" in this line refers to the freezing irony and burning satire to which Yu Li was constantly subjected by the officials in Emperor Tai-zu's court.

8 Notes and Comments on Ci Poetry written by Guo-wei Wang says, "Li's poems contain a dignified tone stemming from his having bravely shouldered the burden of human sins like Buddha or Christ."