I Was on Duty on a Spring Night 1

Du, Fu (712 A.D.-770 A.D.)

At sunset the palace wall cast a shadow over the flowers.
As the birds returned to their nests,
I could hear their chirps outside my office.
The thousands of doors appeared to move as they flashed with the reflections of the stars.
The top of the palace tower caught the most moonlight.
I could not fall asleep because I imagined that I heard the palace door unlocking
And because I mistook the sound of wind chimes for bridle bells 2.
Tomorrow morning I will hand a letter of advice to the emperor 3.
Since I was worried that I might miss him,
I kept asking my secretary to check the time.

1 Du was one of the emperorís advisors. Once a month he had to be on duty to deal with emergencies in the palace. At these times he could sleep on a bed, but had to stay in his office all night.

2 The bells were on the bridles of the horses that the officials would ride to attend the morning court meeting.

3 For major matters, an advisor would speak to the emperor face to face. However, for minor matters, he would enclose his advice in an envelope and hand it to the emperor.