The Lament of a Jade-decorated Harp 1

Wen, Ting-yun (812 A.D.-870 A.D.)

I did not dream on the icy mat 2 on the silver bed 3.
The navy sky looked like a sea
And the night clouds were light.
The sound of wild geese traveled beyond the Xiao and Xiang Rivers.
The moon still shone brightly in the Twelve Jade Towers 4.

1 The chapter "Etiquette" in The Book of Poetry says, "The harmony between a husband and a wife is like the music of a harp." Here the title "The Lament of a Jade-decorated Harp" refers to discord between a lady of rank and her husband. In this poem, Wen compares himself to such a lady who laments that her husband was far away.

2 The icy mat refers to a fine colored bamboo mat used to cool the bed during the summer.

3 One interpretation is that the bed is made of silver. Another is that the bed shines in the moonlight.

4 The Biography of Gods says, "There are twelve jade towers in the Park of Heavenly Wind on Kunlun Mountain where gods live. There are nine balconies in each tower. The Pool of Fairyland is on the left and the Green River is on the right. There are nine moats surrounding the towers. People cannot enter this paradise." Here the phrase "twelve jade towers" refers to the tower in which the lady lives. The moon refers to the lights in her room.