Songs to the Peonies Sung to the Air: “Peaceful Brightness”

translated from the Chinese by Florence Wheelock Ayscough


The many-coloured clouds make me think of her upper garments, of her lower garments; 
Flowers make me think of her face. 
The Spring wind brushes the blossoms against the balustrade, 
In the heavy dew they are bright and tinted diversely. 
If it were not on the Heaped Jade Mountain that I saw her,
I must have met her at the Green Jasper Terrace, or encountered her by accident in the moon. 


A branch of opulent, beautiful flowers, sweet-scented under frozen dew. 
No love-night like that on the Sorceress Mountain for these; 
Their bowels ache in vain. 
Pray may I ask who, in the Palace of Han, is her equal?
Even the “Flying Swallow” is to be pitied, since she must rely upon ever new adornments. 


The renowned flower, and she of a loveliness to overthrow Kingdoms——both give happiness. 
Each receives a smile from the Prince when he looks at them. 
The Spring wind alone can understand and explain the boundless jealousy of the flower, 
Leaning over the railing of the balcony at the North side of the aloe-wood pavilion.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 11, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.