1] Translated from Li Po, the Chinese poet (701-62). A secondversion appears as "105. Two Letters from Chang-Kan -- I (A river-merchant's wife writes)" in The Works of Li-Po, trans. Shigeyoshi Obata (London: J. M. Dent, 1923): 151-52 (PL 2671 A1 1923 Robarts Library):
I would play, plucking flowers by the gate;For other translations, see Kai-chee Wong, Pung Ho, and Shu-leung Dang, A Research Guide to English Translation of Chinese Verse (Chinese University Press, 1977), p. 59, no. 897.
My hair scarcely covered my forehead, then.
You would come, riding on your bamboo horse,
And loiter about the bench with green plums for toys.
So we both dwelt in Chang-kan town,
We were two children, suspecting nothing.
At fourteen I became your wife,
And so bashful that I could never bare my face,
But hung my head, and turned to the dark wall;
You would call me a thousand times,
But I could not look back even once.
At fifteen I was able to compose my eyebrows,
And beg you to love me till we were dust and ashes.
You always kept the faith of Wei-sheng,
Who waited under the bridge, unafraid of death,
I never knew I was to climb the Hill of Wang-fu
And watch for you these many days.
I was sixteen when you went on a long journey,
Traveling beyond the Keu-Tang Gorge,
Where the giant rocks heap up the swift river,
And the rapids are not passable in May.
Did you hear the monkeys wailing
Up on the skyey height of the crags?
Do you know your foot-marks by our gate are old,
And each and every one is filled up with green moss?
The mosses are too deep for me to sweep away;
And already in the autumn wind the leaves are falling.
The yellow butterflies of October
Flutter in pairs over the grass of the west garden.
My heart aches at seeing them ...
I sit sorrowing alone, and alas!
The vermilion of my face is fading.
Some day when you return down the river,
If you will write me a letter beforehand,
I will come to meet you -- the way is not long --
I will come as far as the Long Wind Beach instantly.
5] A suburb of Nanking.
30] "The Long Wind Beach, of Chang-feng Sha, is in Anhwei, several hundred miles up the river, from Nanking. It is really a long way. But by making the wife say that the way is not long, Li Po brings out the girlishness of the speaker" (The Works of Li-Po, p. 152). Pound uses the Japanese form of the place name.
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: Ezra Pound, "CATHAY for the most part from the Chinese of Rihaku, from the notes of the late Ernest Fenollosa, and the decipherings of the professors Mori and Ariga," Lustra (London: Elkin Mathews, 1916): 73-74. PS 3531 O82L8 1916 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1915
Publication date note: See Gallup A9
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/4/15
Form: Free Verse
Other poems by Ezra Loomis Pound