Returning at Night to Riverbank
- to the tune “The Celestial Man by the River”
written by Su Dongpo（11th century）
translated by Gordon Osing and Julia Min (1991)
revised by Julia Min (2022)
I drank and woke up at Dongpo, and drank again;
And went home, vaguely aware it was midnight.
My houseboy snored as thunder. I knocked in vain.
Leaning on my stick, I listened to the River rhymes…
I have my body but not my life; Please tell me why.
When can I forget the hustle-bustle of the times?
The River so quiet, I’d drift from the town’s quay,
and live what’s left of my days on rivers and seas.
This is another of his drinking poems written by Su Shi in Huangzhou, Hubei in 1082. He was in the third year here as a banished political convict. An old legend says that when the town’s people found the poet’s clothing hanging on a tree next morning and his boat out of sight, they feared he had drifted in his little boat down the Yangtze River. They rushed to his home only to find him sleeping off a hang-over. Being Su Dongpo, he’d find his way back from a distressful moment in no time. Afterall, he’s more a man of the world than a Daoist in solitude, as much as he appreciated Daoism.
1. Riverbank: a pavilion house located on the south bank of the Yangtze River in the town of Huangzhou, Hubei China. It was part of the Monastery Dinghui, often used as a temporary home for civil servants banished by the Royal Court.
2. Dongpo: meaning ‘the East Hillside’, a piece of deserted land Su Shi was granted for farming to help his family through this difficult period. He built the Snow Hall with a few rooms in it where he did some teachings, and socialize with his friends visiting him from far and near. First time in his life he had to lay hands on soil for food as a farmer, a big stumble in his high official career. A strong self-mocking sensation is felt as he gave himself the social name “Dongpo”, a desire to drift away from the fame-driven world.
1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min and Huang Haipeng，published by the People's Publication House Henan Province in 1991 (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵，闵晓红，黄海鹏) (Returning at Night to Ningao - to the tune of Linjiangxian --- I drank and woke up at Red Cliff, drank and woke up again/And went home only vaguely aware it was midnight./I could hear the house-boys snoring as thunder/Nobody answered my knock; I leaned on my stick, hearing the river.//I always end-up disdaining this body; it is hardly mine./Will I ever forget fame and wearying hustling all the time?/It's so late and the breeze is quiet and smooth as silk;/I could wish my little boat disappeared from the town's quary,/And I lived what's left of my days far out in the river, out at sea.) 2. picture from baike.baidu.com（百度百科）