Clouds Above

By Liu Yong (987-1053), Translated by Frank Watson
Clouds above the mountain top,
About the river of night and day;
Looking out at the meadow crop,
Her face arrayed in the misty spray.
A thousand autumns pass,
Leaving my eyes in a frozen state;
Looking to go home, at last,
I feel our life’s divided fate.
I gaze, but letters no longer console—
Their perfumed scent has faded;
I fly alone, without a soul,
A wild goose, unaided.
Landing on an islet, exposed
By autumn’s sinking tides—
My thoughts compose
Of the days I laid by her side.
Our plans were all but hollow
As those happy times together
Would leave us naught to follow,
Adrift like wind-torn feathers.
Rain runs wild among the clouds
And I worry about this trip
Beyond the mountains shrouds,
Far past a thousand river slips.
The fields have vanished
In the dark, on a day
In which I cannot speak. I’m banished
Inside this tower, to stay.
Original Chinese

曲玉管 曲玉管 qū yù guǎn
隴首雲飛, 陇首云飞, lǒng shǒu yún fēi ,
江邊日晚, 江边日晚, jiāng biān rì wǎn ,
煙波滿目憑闌久。 烟波满目凭阑久。 yān bō mǎn mù píng lán jiǔ 。
立望關河蕭索, 立望关河萧索, lì wàng guān hé xiāo suǒ ,
千裏清秋。 千里清秋。 qiān lǐ qīng qiū 。
忍凝眸。 忍凝眸。 rěn níng móu 。
杳杳神京, 杳杳神京, yǎo yǎo shén jīng ,
盈盈仙子, 盈盈仙子, yíng yíng xiān zǐ ,
別來錦字終難偶。 别来锦字终难偶。 bié lái jǐn zì zhōng nán ǒu 。
斷雁無憑, 断雁无凭, duàn yàn wú píng ,
冉冉飛下汀洲。 冉冉飞下汀洲。 rǎn rǎn fēi xià tīng zhōu 。
思悠悠。 思悠悠。 sī yōu yōu 。
暗想當初, 暗想当初, àn xiǎng dāng chū ,
有多少, 有多少, yǒu duō shǎo ,
幽歡佳會, 幽欢佳会, yōu huān jiā huì ,
豈知聚散難期, 岂知聚散难期, qǐ zhī jù sàn nán qī ,
翻成雨恨雲愁。 翻成雨恨云愁。 fān chéng yǔ hèn yún chóu 。
阻追遊。 阻追游。 zǔ zhuī yóu 。
每登山臨水, 每登山临水, měi dēng shān lín shuǐ ,
惹起平生心事, 惹起平生心事, rě qǐ píng shēng xīn shì ,
一場消黯, 一场消黯, yī cháng xiāo àn ,
永日無言, 永日无言, yǒng rì wú yán ,
卻下層樓。 却下层楼。 què xià céng lóu 。

Translation Notes

曲玉管 Tune jade pipe
[a type of tune that governs the words, rhyme, meter, etc.]
隴首雲飛, Mountain head clouds fly
江邊日晚, River edge sun night
煙波滿目憑闌久。 Fog waves fill eye lean-on hand-rail grow-late
[Fog mixing with water, the spaciousness and quiet of the water]
立望關河蕭索, Stand look-at frontier-pass river sighing-of-wind isolated
[Standing a long time, looking at the mountains and rivers, bleak and chilly]
千裏清秋。 Thousand within clear autumn
忍凝眸。 Suffer freeze eye
[Can hardly bear to look for a long time]
杳杳神京, Dark dark spirit capital-city
[Far, far away—Bianjing, capital city of the Northern Song Dynasty]
盈盈仙子, Fill fill immortal child
[Light and slender fairy maiden (the woman he misses)]
別來錦字終難偶。 Do-not come brocade letter finally difficult accidentally
[Since the time we parted her brocade letters are hard to receive]
斷雁無憑, Sever wild-goose have-no depend-on
[Wild goose, alone, having to fly south, away from his woman]
冉冉飛下汀洲。 Gradually gradually fly down sandbar islet
[Small island in water appearing because of the low waters of autumn]
思悠悠。 Missing long long
暗想當初, Dark consider undertake beginning
[Think to oneself about the good old days]
有多少, Have much less
幽歡佳會, Tranquil happy good assemble
[Romantic and happy times they met together]
豈知聚散難期, How know assemble scatter difficult period-of-time
[How could we know it would be hard to meet and part over time]
翻成雨恨雲愁。 Flip-over finished rain hate clouds anxiety
阻追遊。 Impede pursue wander
每登山臨水, Every climb mountain approach river
[Travel and stand by river]
惹起平生心事, Incite rise flat life heart matter
一場消黯, One field vanish dark
永日無言, Eternal sun no words
[All through the day]
卻下層樓。 Retreat beneath storied building
[Walk down high pavilion]

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