Spring Rain

Li, Shang Yin   (812? CE-858 CE)

This spring morning I lie sad on my bed in white insulated clothes.
The white door 1 is barren and I am sorrowful. 2
I feel cold as I watch the red tower 3 through the rain.
When I went home last night after sending you off,
The rain fell like a pearl curtain and street lamps seemed to drift in the air.
During your long journey, you should lament the sunset as I do.
Early in the morning I remembered that we met in my dream.
How can I send you my love letter and the jade earrings?
Even if I could find such a kind goose 4,
How can it pierce through a thousand mile of dense clouds 5?

1 Here the white door refers in general to lovers' secret rendezvous. It comes from a folk song of the South dynasty, "Yang, the Traitorous Daughter": "I step out the white door for a while/ And hide behind the willow trees./ I would love to be the fragrance submerged in water./ And you would be the huge furnace in the mountain."

2 The first two lines hint that Li hardly slept during the night.

3 The red tower was the place where Liís lover used to live.

4 This refers to a legend from the time of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). In 100 B.C., after a period of peace between Hungary and the Han dynasty of China, the King of Hungary detained Ambassador Wu Su of China. This started a war (99 B.C) which lasted 18 years. When they agreed to a truce, the Emperor of China sent an envoy to inquire about Wu Su. The King of Hungary first denied any knowledge of the affair. The envoy made up a story by saying, "The Emperor of China received a letter that Wu had tied to the leg of a wild goose." The King of Hungary then admitted to his fault and released Wu Su. Later, in their fiction, Chinese writers often used a wild goose as a means of delivering letters.

5 Here dense clouds refer to the obstacle of traditional taboos.