Li Yu, Alone I ascended . . .

The following is a brief bio of Li Yu and a poem he wrote. This was translated by my friend Bo Jiang and myself from the Chinese. It was originally published in an anthology called Literature of Asia, Africa and Latin America (Prentice Hall 1999).

Li Yu [937-978] was the sixth son of Li Jing. He was enthroned in 961 at the age of twenty-four and was emperor of South Tang for fifteen years. In 975 his country was invaded by the Sung and conquered, leaving him in the position of a mere titular noble. On July 7, 978 the emperor Shong Tai Chong compelled him to take poison and he died at the age of forty-two. Most of his famous poetry was written in the period after his fall from power when he was forced to sit idly by and watch his country ruled by another.

A poem:


Alone I ascended West Tiered Manor in silence,

While the moon appeared like a hook.

The cool fall was locked in this maple garden, calm and quiet;


This thing cannot be cut,

It gets more messy trying to straighten out.

A melancholy departure,

And a raw feeling in my heart.


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