Li Bai Poem

Hard Is the Way of the World

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Pure wine in golden cup costs ten thousand coppers, good!
Choice dish in a jade plate is worth as much, nice food!
Pushing aside my cup and chopsticks, I can’t eat;
Drawing my sword and looking round, I stamp my feet.
I can’t cross Yellow River: ice has stopped its flow;
I can’t climb Mount Taihang: the sky is blind with snow.
I can but poise a fishing pole beside a stream
Or set sail for the sun like a sage in a dream.
Hard is the way,
Hard is the way.
Don’t go astray!
Whither today?
A time will come to ride the wind and cleave the waves,
I’ll set my cloud-white sail and cross the sea which raves.


The way is broad like the blue sky,
But no way out before my eye.
I am ashamed to follow those who have no guts,
Gambling on fighting cocks and dogs for pears and nuts.
Feng would go homeward way, having no fish to eat;
Zhou did not think to bow to noblemen was meet.
General Han was mocked in the marketplace;
The brilliant scholar Jia was banished in disgrace.
Have you not heard of King of Yan in days gone by,
Who venerated talents and built Terrace high
On which he offered gold to gifted men
And stooped low and swept the floor to welcome them?
Grateful, Ju Xin and Yue Yi came then
And served him heart and soul, both full of strategem.
The King’s bones were now buried, who would sweep the floor
Of the Gold Terrace any more?
Hard is the way.
Go back without delay!


Don’t wash your ears on hearing something you dislike
Nor die of hunger like famous hermits on the Pike!
Living without high fame among the motley crowd,
Why should one be as lofty as the moon or cloud?
Of ancient talents who failed to retire there’s none
But came to tragic ending after glory’s won.
The head of General Wu was hung o’er city gate;
In the river was drowned the Poet Laureate.
The highly talented scholar wished in vain
To preserve his life to hear the cry of the crane.
Minister Li regretted not to have retired
To hunt with falcon gray as he had long desired.
Have you not heard of Zhang Han who resigned, carefree,
To go home to eat his perch with high glee?
Enjoy a cup of wine while you’re alive!
Do not care if your fame will not survive!

Song of a General after the Break-Through
Hard Is the Road to Shu


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