Recalling Flute Music on the Phoenix Platform 1

Li, Qing-zhao (1084 A.D.-1154 A.D.?)

    The lion-shaped incense burner becomes cold 2. The quilt tosses, turns, and generates red waves 3. When I finally get up, I am too weary to comb my hair. It does not matter whether my cosmetic case is covered with dust or the sun rises up to the curtain hooks. I always fear the pain from separation. There are so many things I want to tell you, but I change my mind all the same. I have become thin, not because I am sick from wine or because I lament the season of autumn.

The sorrow has made me sick. This time when you left, I was unable to keep you even if I had sung the song of farewell a thousand times. I miss my distant man of Wu-ling City 4. A fog fills my attic, keeping me in 5. Only the flowing water in front of the attic understands that I gaze at the distance all day. The place where I gaze continues to give me new sorrow.

1 There is an old legend that the daughter of King Mu of the State of Qin played the flute and attracted a phoenix to land at the former capital city, Xian-Yang. Therefore, King Mu built Phoenix Tower as a place for her to live where she could play her flute and have the phoenix land.

2 An incense burner is ignited in the evening and extinguishes in the morning.

3 When this poem was written, Li's husband was away from home.

4 The man of Wu-ling City refers to Li's husband who is traveling to a distant place.

5 Fog symbolizes sorrow because both of them dim one's sight. "Lou" means attic or tower. "Tai" means platform. In Chinese, the use of "lou" and that of "tai" are interchangeable. In the original poem, Li uses "the attic of Qin" instead of "my attic". "The attic of Qin" refers to Phoenix Platform.