The Blue-Green Stream

Translated by Florence Ayscough and Amy Lowell

Every time I have started for the Yellow Flower River,
I have gone down the Blue-Green Stream, 
Following the hills, making ten thousand turnings,
We go along rapidly, but advance scarcely one hundred li.
We are in the midst of a noise of water,
Of the confused and mingled sounds of water broken by stones,
And in the deep darkness of pine trees.
Rocked, rocked,
Moving on and on, 
We float past water-chestnuts
Into a still clearness reflecting reeds and rushes.
My heart is clean and white as silk; it has already achieved Peace;
It is smooth as the placid river.
I love to stay here, curled up on the rocks, 
Dropping my fish-line forever.

Farewell to Yang, Who's Leaving for Kuo-chou

Those canyons are too narrow to travel.
How will you make your way there, when

it's a mere bird-path—a thousand miles
and gibbons howling all day and night?

We offer travel-spirits wine, then you're
gone: Nü-lang Shrine, mountain forests

and beyond. But we still share a radiant
moon. And do you hear a nightjar there?

Related Poems



Winter?   Spring?   Who knows?
     White buds from the plumtrees wing
And mingle with the snows.
No blue skies these flowers bring,
Yet their fragrance augurs Spring.


Oh, were the white waves,
     Far on the glimmering sea
That the moonshine laves,
Dream flowers drifting to me,—
I would cull them, love, for thee.


Moon, somnolent, white,
     Mirrored in a waveless sea,
What fickle mood of night
Urged thee from heaven to flee
And live in the dawnlit sea?


Like mist on the leas,
     Fall gently, oh rain of Spring
On the orange trees
That to Ume’s casement cling—
Perchance, she’ll hear the love-bird sing.


Though love has grown cold
     The woods are bright with flowers,
Why not as of old
Go to the wildwood bowers
And dream of—bygone hours!


Tell, what name beseems
     These vain and wandering days!
Like the bark of dreams
That from souls at daybreak strays
They are lost on trackless ways.


Oh, climb to my lips,
     Frail muse of the amber wine!
Joy to him who sips
Cups of fragrant sake wine
Flowing from some fount divine.


If pleasures be mine
     As aeons and aeons roll by,
Why should I repine
That under some future sky
I may life as butterfly?


Were we able to tell
     When old age would come our way,
We would muffle the bell,
Lock the door and go away—
Let him call some other day.


Come to the river’s side, my love,
     My light canoe is by the shore,—
We’ll float upon the tide my love,
     And thou shalt hold the dripping oar.

Methinks thy hand could guide so well
     The tiny vessel on its course;
The waves would smooth their crests to thee
     As I have done my spirit’s force.

How calmly will we glide my love,
     Through moonlight floating on the deep,
Or, loving yet the safer shore,
     Beneath the fringing willows weep.

Again, like some wild duck, we’ll skim,
     And scarcely touch the water’s face,
While silver streaks our way shall mark,
     And circling lines of beauty trace!

And then the stars shall shine above
     In harmony with those below,
And gazing up, and looking down,
     Give glance for glance, and glow for glow!

And then their light shall be our own,
      Commingled with our souls!—and sweet
As those bright stars of Heaven shall be
     Our hearts, which then shall melting meet.

At last we’ll reach yon silent isle,
     So calm and green amidst the waves;
So peaceful too, it does not spurn
     The friendly tide its shore that laves.

We’ll draw our vessel on the sand,
     And seek the shadow of those trees,
Where all alone, and undisturbed,
     We’ll talk and love as we may please!

And then thy voice shall be so soft,
     ’Twill match the whisper of the leaves,
And then thy breast shall yield its sigh
     So like the wavelet as it heaves!

And oh that eye, so dark and free,
     So like a spirit in itself!
And then that hand so white and small
     It would not shame the loveliest elf!

The world might perish all, for me,
     So that it left that little isle!
The human race might pass away
     If thou wert left me with thy smile!

Then, to the river’s side, my love,
     My boat is waiting on its oar—
We’ll float upon the tide, my love,
     And gaily reach that islet’s shore.

Desert Pools

I love too much; I am a river
   Surging with spring that seeks the sea,
I am too generous a giver,
   Love will not stoop to drink of me.

His feet will turn to desert places
   Shadowless, reft of rain and dew,
Where stars stare down with sharpened faces
   From heavens pitilessly blue.

And there at midnight sick with faring
   He will stoop down in his desire
To slake the thirst grown past all bearing
   In stagnant water keen as fire.