To live as pure a life as yours

To live as pure a life as yours

Li Shangyin
Pure of heart and therefore hungry,
All night long you have sung in vain —
Oh, this final broken indrawn breath
Among the green indifferent trees!
Yes, I have gone like a piece of driftwood,
I have let my garden fill with weeds….
I bless you for your true advice
To live as pure a life as yours.

Li Shangyin
I ponder on the poem of The Precious Dagger.
My road has wound through many years.
…Now yellow leaves are shaken with a gale;
Yet piping and fiddling keep the Blue Houses merry.
On the surface, I seem to be glad of new people;
But doomed to leave old friends behind me,
I cry out from my heart for Xinfeng wine
To melt away my thousand woes.

Li Shangyin
Gone is the guest from the Chamber of Rank,
And petals, confused in my little garden,
Zigzagging down my crooked path,
Escort like dancers the setting sun.
Oh, how can I bear to sweep them away?
To a sad-eyed watcher they never return.
Heart’s fragrance is spent with the ending of spring
And nothing left but a tear-stained robe.

Li Shangyin
You are gone. The river is high at my door.
Cicadas are mute on dew-laden boughs.
This is a moment when thoughts enter deep.
I stand alone for a long while.
…The North Star is nearer to me now than spring,
And couriers from your southland never arrive —
Yet I doubt my dream on the far horizon
That you have found another friend.

Li Shangyin
Where the sun has entered the western hills,
I look for a monk in his little straw hut;
But only the fallen leaves are at home,
And I turn through chilling levels of cloud
I hear a stone gong in the dusk,
I lean full-weight on my slender staff
How within this world, within this grain of dust,
Can there be any room for the passions of men?

Wen Tingyun
The old fort brims with yellow leaves….
You insist upon forsaking this place where you have lived.
A high wind blows at Hanyang Ferry
And sunrise lights the summit of Yingmen….
Who will be left for me along the upper Yangzi
After your solitary skiff has entered the end of the sky?
I ask you over and over when we shall meet again,
While we soften with winecups this ache of farewell.


An audience like mountains lost among themselves.

Du Fu



On the 19th of the Tenth-month in the second year of Dali, I saw, in the house of the Kueifu official Yuante, a girl named Li from Lingying dancing with a dagger. I admired her skill and asked who was her teacher. She named Lady Gongsun. I remembered that in the third year of Kaiyuan at Yancheng, when I was a little boy, I saw Lady Gongsun dance. She was the only one in the Imperial Theatre who could dance with this weapon. Now she is aged and unknown, and even her pupil has passed the heyday of beauty. I wrote this poem to express my wistfulness. The work of Zhang Xu of the Wu district, that great master of grassy writing, was improved by his having been present when Lady Gongsun danced in the Yeh district. From this may be judged the art of Gongsun.

There lived years ago the beautiful Gongsun,

Who, dancing with her dagger, drew from all four quarters

An audience like mountains lost among themselves.

Heaven and earth moved back and forth, following her motions,

Which were bright as when the Archer shot the nine suns down the sky

And rapid as angels before the wings of dragons.

She began like a thunderbolt, venting its anger,

And ended like the shining calm of rivers and the sea….

But vanished are those red lips and those pearly sleeves;

And none but this one pupil bears the perfume of her fame,

This beauty from Lingying, at the Town of the White God,

Dancing still and singing in the old blithe way.

And while we reply to each other’s questions,

We sigh together, saddened by changes that have come.

There were eight thousand ladies in the late Emperor’s court,

But none could dance the dagger-dance like Lady Gongsun.

…Fifty years have passed, like the turning of a palm;

Wind and dust, filling the world, obscure the Imperial House.

Instead of the Pear-Garden Players, who have blown by like a mist,

There are one or two girl-musicians now-trying to charm the cold Sun.

There are man-size trees by the Emperor’s Golden Tomb

I seem to hear dead grasses rattling on the cliffs of Qutang.

…The song is done, the slow string and quick pipe have ceased.

At the height of joy, sorrow comes with the eastern moon rising.

And I, a poor old man, not knowing where to go,

Must harden my feet on the lone hills, toward sickness and despair.

Where, west of the Hill of Gold, the Tartar chieftain has halted

Cen Can



On Wheel Tower parapets night-bugles are blowing,

Though the flag at the northern end hangs limp.

Scouts, in the darkness, are passing Quli,

Where, west of the Hill of Gold, the Tartar chieftain has halted

We can see, from the look-out, the dust and black smoke

Where Chinese troops are camping, north of Wheel Tower.

…Our flags now beckon the General farther west-

With bugles in the dawn he rouses his Grand Army;

Drums like a tempest pound on four sides

And the Yin Mountains shake with the shouts of ten thousand;

Clouds and the war-wind whirl up in a point

Over fields where grass-roots will tighten around white bones;

In the Dagger River mist, through a biting wind,

Horseshoes, at the Sand Mouth line, break on icy boulders.

…Our General endures every pain, every hardship,

Commanded to settle the dust along the border.

We have read, in the Green Books, tales of old days-

But here we behold a living man, mightier than the dead.

Cen Can




The north wind rolls the white grasses and breaks them;

And the Eighth-month snow across the Tartar sky

Is like a spring gale, come up in the night,

Blowing open the petals of ten thousand peartrees.

It enters the pearl blinds, it wets the silk curtains;

A fur coat feels cold, a cotton mat flimsy;

Bows become rigid, can hardly be drawn

And the metal of armour congeals on the men;

The sand-sea deepens with fathomless ice,

And darkness masses its endless clouds;

But we drink to our guest bound home from camp,

And play him barbarian lutes, guitars, harps;

Till at dusk, when the drifts are crushing our tents

And our frozen red flags cannot flutter in the wind,

We watch him through Wheel-Tower Gate going eastward.

Into the snow-mounds of Heaven-Peak Road….

And then he disappears at the turn of the pass,

Leaving behind him only hoof-prints.

And I could sleep soundly and late in the morning

Yuan Jie




In the year Kuimao the bandits from Xiyuan entered Daozhou, set fire, raided, killed, and looted. The whole district was almost ruined. The next year the bandits came again and, attacking the neighbouring prefecture, Yong, passed this one by. It was not because we were strong enough to defend ourselves, but, probably, because they pitied us. And how now can these commissioners bear to impose extra taxes? I have written this poem for the collectors’ information.

I still remember those days of peace —

Twenty years among mountains and forests,

The pure stream running past my yard,

The caves and valleys at my door.

Taxes were light and regular then,

And I could sleep soundly and late in the morning-

Till suddenly came a sorry change.

…For years now I have been serving in the army.

When I began here as an official,

The mountain bandits were rising again;

But the town was so small it was spared by the thieves,

And the people so poor and so pitiable

That all other districts were looted

And this one this time let alone.

…Do you imperial commissioners

Mean to be less kind than bandits?

The people you force to pay the poll

Are like creatures frying over a fire.

And how can you sacrifice human lives,

Just to be known as able collectors? —

…Oh, let me fling down my official seal,

Let me be a lone fisherman in a small boat

And support my family on fish and wheat

And content my old age with rivers and lakes!

Wei Yingwu




Outside are insignia, shown in state;

But here are sweet incense-clouds, quietly ours.

Wind and rain, coming in from sea,

Have cooled this pavilion above the lake

And driven the feverish heat away

From where my eminent guests are gathered.

…Ashamed though I am of my high position

While people lead unhappy lives,

Let us reasonably banish care

And just be friends, enjoying nature.

Though we have to go without fish and meat,

There are fruits and vegetables aplenty.

…We bow, we take our cups of wine,

We give our attention to beautiful poems.

When the mind is exalted, the body is lightened

And feels as if it could float in the wind

…Suzhou is famed as a centre of letters;

And all you writers, coming here,

Prove that the name of a great land

Is made by better things than wealth.



Wang Wei

In a happy reign there should be no hermits;
The wise and able should consult together….
So youa man of the eastern mountains

Gave up your life of picking herbs
And came all the way to the Gate of Gold —
But you found your devotion unavailing.
…To spend the Day of No Fire on one of the southern rivers

You have mended your spring clothes here in these northern cities.
I pour you the farewell wine as you set out from the capital —
Soon I shall be left behind here by my bosomfriend.
In your sail-boat of sweet cinnamon-wood
You will float again toward your own thatch door

Led along by distant trees
To a sunset shining on a far-away town.
…What though your purpose happened to fail

Doubt not that some of us can hear high music.

Wang Wei

I dismount from my horse and I offer you wine

And I ask you where you are going and why.
And you answer: “I am discontent
And would rest at the foot of the southern mountain.
So give me leave and ask me no questions.
White clouds pass there without end.”


Wang Wei

I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers

Borne by the channel of a green stream

Rounding ten thousand turns through the mountains
On a journey of less than thirty miles….
Rapids hum over heaped rocks;
But where light grows dim in the thick pines

The surface of an inlet sways with nut-horns
And weeds are lush along the banks.
…Down in my heart I have always been as pure
As this limpid water is….
Ohto remain on a broad flat rock

And to cast a fishing-line forever!

Wang Wei

In the slant of the sun on the country-side

Cattle and sheep trail home along the lane;
And a rugged old man in a thatch door
Leans on a staff and thinks of his sonthe herdboy.

There are whirring pheasants? full wheat-ears

Silk-worms asleeppared mulberry-leaves.

And the farmersreturning with hoes on their shoulders

Hail one another familiarly.
…No wonder I long for the simple life
And am sighing the old songOhto go Back Again!

Brexit: May urges EU leaders to consider ‘serious’ UK plans

Theresa May has urged EU leaders to focus their minds on getting a Brexit deal in the next two months, saying negotiations will not be extended.

At a dinner in Salzburg, she told her 27 counterparts her priorities are maintaining economic ties and ensuring promises to Northern Ireland are kept.

There are suggestions the UK will put forward new ideas for regulatory checks to address the current Irish deadlock.

It comes as the PM insisted the EU must also rethink its stance on the border.

In her speech, Mrs May stressed her “serious” proposals for future co-operation between the UK and EU would ensure a “shared close relationship”.

The informal gathering of EU leaders in the Austrian city was the first opportunity the prime minister has had to make the case for her Chequers blueprint to other leaders collectively.

In Mrs May’s absence on Thursday, the 27 other EU leaders will discuss issues including the UK’s future relationship with the EU and how to resolve the problems around the Irish border.

Kuenssberg: The sound of “no, no, no”
EU must ‘evolve’ Irish plans, insists May
At-a-glance: The UK’s four Brexit options
Brexit will have ‘worse economic impact on UK than EU’

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, two EU leaders said they hoped the UK would hold another referendum on Brexit, in the hope of reversing the 2016 result.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said most of his counterparts would like the “almost impossible” to happen.

Andrej Babis, the Czech Republic‘s prime minister, added he hoped the British people might change their minds.

Campaign group People’s Vote is also calling for another referendum, arguing there should be a choice for voters between leaving with, or without, a deal or staying on current terms.

Negotiations over the terms of the UK’s exit and future relations are at a critical stage, with about six months to go before the UK is scheduled to leave on 29 March 2019.

‘Brexit cliff-edge’
Mrs May’s proposal for the UK to sign up to a common rule book for trade in goods and a combined customs territory is unpopular with many in her own party, who believe it will erode British sovereignty and is not what people voted for when they backed Brexit in the 2016 poll.

In a further sign of how difficult it might be for her to persuade the UK parliament to back the plans, former minister Sir Mike Penning, who worked under Mrs May at the Home Office and backed her for Conservative leader, told the Daily Telegraph they were “as dead as a dodo” and that he could not back them.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Mrs May must delay Brexit beyond next March if there is not a detailed agreement on future trading arrangements.

Ms Sturgeon told the BBC that it would be completely reckless to leave the EU without establishing a future relationship.

She said that taking the UK off the “Brexit cliff edge” without an agreement “would be the most irresponsible thing any PM has done in a very, very long time”.

What did May tell EU leaders?