Part 2 of “The River Merchant’s Wife” by Li Po & the Li River

Li River

Almost everyone has read Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife,” which is shown on my November 24 “Tartu, Rust, Pound” page. It is a reinvention of “The Ballad of Ch’ang – Kan” by Li Po. Few people know that Pound’s is only the first half of the poem. The second part goes like this:

I remember, in my maiden days
I did not know the world and its ways:
until I wed a man of Ch’ang-kan:
Now, on the sands, I wait for the winds …

When in June the sound winds are fair
I think: Pa-ling, it’s soon you’ll be there;
September now, and west winds risen,
I wish you’ll leave your Yangtse haven.

But, come or go, it’s always sorrow
for when we meet, you part tomorrow.
You’ll make Hsiang-tan in how many days?
I dreamed I crossed the winds and waves

only last night, when the wind went mad
and torn down trees on the waterside
and water raced where the dark wind ran,
(oh where then was my traveling man)

that we both rode dappled cloudy steeds
eastward to bliss in Isles of Orchids:
a drake and a duck among the green reeds
just as you see on painted screens.

Pity me now – when I was fifteen
my face was pink as a peach skin –
why did I wed a traveling man?
Water is my grief, my grief in the wind.

Li Po (translated by Arthur Cooper)

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