Li Bai Poem

Ballads of a Merchant’s Wife

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My forehead covered by my hair cut straight,
I played with flowers pluck’d before the gate.
On a hobbyhorse you came upon the scene,
Around the well we played with mumes still green.
We lived close neighbors on riverside lane.
Carefree and innocent, we children twain.
I was fourteen when I became your bride,
I’d often turn my bashful face aside.
Hanging my head, I’d look towards the wall,
A thousand times I’d not answer your call.
I was fifteen when I composed my brows,
To mix my dust with yours were my dear vows.
Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die.
Who knew I’d live alone in a tower high?
I was sixteen when you went far away,
Passing Three Gorges studded with rocks gray,
Where ships were wrecked when spring flood ran high,
Where gibbons’ wails seemed coming from the sky.
Green moss now overgrows before our door,
Your footprints, hidden, can be seen no more.
Moss can’t be swept away: so thick it grows,
And leaves fall early when the west wind blows.
The yellow butterflies in autumn pass
Two by two o’er our western garden grass.
This sight would break my heart, and I’m afraid,
Sitting alone, my rosy cheeks would fade.
Sooner or later, you’ll leave the western land.
Do not forget to let me know beforehand.
I’ll walk to meet you and not call it far
To go to Long Wind Sands or where you are.


Brought up while young in inner room,
I knew nor wind nor dust that rose.
Since you became my dear bridegroom,
I’ve leaned on Sands from where wind blows.
In the fifth moon south wind is high,
I know you’re sailing the river down;
In the eighth moon west wind comes nigh,
I think you’ll leave the river town.
I’m grieved to see you come and go:
We sever longer than we meet.
When will you come home? Let me know!
To cross the waves my dream is fleet.
Last night a violent wind blew,
Breaking the trees by riverside.
So dark the boundless waters grew!
Where could your roving ship abide?
I’d ride upon a cloud-like steed
To meet you east of River Green
Like two love birds amid the reed
Or kingfishers on silken screen.
I pity my fifteen-odd years,
Like blooming peach my face is warm.
But I’m a merchant’s wife in tears,
Who worries over wind and storm.

On the Western Tower of Jinling
A Love Song


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