Sunday, April 10, 2011

National Poetry Month: A Song

A Song
by Cao Cao

Wine before us, sing a song.
How long does life last?
It is like the morning dew;
Sad so many days have past.

Sing hey, sing ho!
Deep within my heart I pine.
Nothing can dispel my woe,
Save Du Kang, the god of wine.

Blue, blue the scholar's robe;
Long, long for him I ache.
Preoccupied with you, my lord.
Heavy thoughts for your sake.

To each other cry the deer,
Nibbling grass upon the plain.
When a good friend visits me,
We'll play the lyre once again.

In the sky, the moon is bright;
Yet I can reach it never.
In my heart such sorrow dwells;
Remaining with me ever.

In the fields, our paths crossed;
Your visit was so kind.
Together after our long parting,
Your favours come to mind.

Clear the moon, few the stars;
The crows in southward flight.
Circling three times round the tree,
No branch where to alight.

What if the mountain is high,
Or how deep the sea?
When the Duke of Zhou greeted a guest,
In his service all wished to be.

Cao Cao lived from 155-200 AD and was the warlord who set up the Wei Dynasty of China's Three Kingdoms period. Despite the tenderness of his poetry, he was known for his ruthlessness and his name is used in Mandarin idiom for an equivalent of "talk of the devil."

The poem and biographical details come from Poetry and Prose of the Han, Wei and Six Dynasties edited and translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang.

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