Li Bai Poem

The Marriage of a Court Woman

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A bitter ballad

In Chang’an I saw a palace woman taken out to be mar-
ried, and I felt compelled to write this bitter ballad for her.

At fifteen I entered the royal palace,
a flower smiling in the blush of spring.
A prince chose my jade-white beauty,
we made our bed behind a golden screen.
I coaxed him to the pillow as the moon rose,
we tugged off our clothes in love’s spring wind.

Hadn’t I heard how Flying Swallow
once stole an Emperor’s favor, leaving others endless pain?
Deep sorrow can ruin a woman,
turning thick black hair to tangled frost.
One day I wasn’t pleasing,
and now my life means nothing.

I’d pawn my down-lined furs for good wine,
the embroidered dragons have flown from my dancing
I can’t bear to speak this icy pain,
so I’ll sing a song for you.
When the strings go silent, my heart breaks,
a pulse of pain throughout the night.

On the Ship of Spice-Wood
A Rhapsody Lamenting Last Remnants ofthe Spring


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