To XuJunyou on the Double Nineth Festival at Hanhui Tower
- to the tune of Nanxiangzi
Written by: Su Shi ( 11th AC)
English trans. by: Gordon Osing and Julia Min
By Frost’s descent, the water level falls to shallows,
glittering over the crystal waves, disclosing sand belt.
The wine’s power slowly leaves the mind to a breeze
rustling my old hat, full of tenderness for the old me.
How am I going to honour such a special festival?
I’ve nothing, just the wine to toast Autumn farewell.
Everything in this world will turn back into thin air;
The chrysanths also, will fall in butterflies’ despair.
It was September 9, 1082 when Su Shi, on his way to 50 years of age, wrote this as a detainee under the watch of Xu Junyou, the governor of Huangzhou, Hubei who, actually, had been a good friend helping the disfavoured civil servant through four years of hard time in Huangzhou after the well-known “Crows Platform Poem Case”(乌台诗案). The poet was invited to enjoy the festival at Hanhui Tower, and in return, he came up with the poem for the governor right there and then.
To see Autumn off with a toast and a sigh that life is but a dream pins the bittersweet ironic tone here, expressing his regret that his prime years waisted for nothing. His ambition of serving the Song near the Throne is losing the chemistry level, beginning to accept his fate at the desolate town Huangzhou.
1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min and Huang Haipeng (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵，闵晓红，黄海鹏) 2. picture from https://www.sohu.com/a/349362465_727694