Hard is the Way of the World III
- Poetry of Li Bai (Li Po)


- Last updated: 2024-03-20 14:14:38

Hard is the Way of the World III by Li Bai (Li Po)

有耳莫洗潁川水, 有口莫食首陽蕨。

含光混世貴無名, 何用孤高比雲月?

吾觀自古賢達人, 功成不退皆殞身。

子胥既棄吳江上, 屈原終投湘水濱。

陸機雄才豈自保? 李斯稅駕苦不早。

華亭鶴唳詎可聞? 上蔡蒼鷹何足道。

君不見, 吳中張翰稱達生,


且樂生前一杯酒, 何須身後千載名?

English Translation

Don't wash your ears on hearing something you dislike

Nor die of hunger like famous hermits on the Pike!

Living without a fame among the motley crowd,

Why should one be as lofty as the moon or cloud?

Of ancient talents who failed to retire, there's none

But came to tragic ending after glory's won.

The head of General Wu was hung o'er city gate;

In the river was drowned the poet laureate.

The highly talented scholar wished in vain

To preserve his life to hear the cry of the crane.

Minister Li regretted not to have retired

To hunt with falcon gray as he had long desired.

Have you not heard of Zhang Han who resigned, carefree,

To go home to eat his perch with high glee?

Enjoy a cup of wine while you're alive!

Do not care if your fame will not survive!


Why Chinese poems is so special?
The most distinctive features of Chinese poetry are: concision- many poems are only four lines, and few are much longer than eight; ambiguity- number, tense and parts of speech are often undetermined, creating particularly rich interpretative possibilities; and structure- most poems follow quite strict formal patterns which have beauty in themselves as well as highlighting meaningful contrasts.
How to read a Chinese poem?
Like an English poem, but more so. Everything is there for a reason, so try to find that reason. Think about all the possible connotations, and be aware of the different possibilities of number and tense. Look for contrasts: within lines, between the lines of each couplet and between successive couplets. Above all, don't worry about what the poet meant- find your meaning.

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