Translation by Arthur Waley (1889 - 1969)

Our love was pure
Language: English  after the Chinese (中文) 
Our love was pure
As the snow on the mountains:
White as a moon
Between the clouds --
They're telling me
Your thoughts are double
That's why I've come
To break it off.
To-day we'll drink
A cup of wine.
To-morrow we'll part
Beside the Canal:
Walking about
Beside the Canal,
Where its branches divide
East and west.
Alas and alas,
And again alas.
So must a girl
Cry when she's married,
If she find not a man
Of single heart,
Who will not leave her
Till her hair is white.

About the headline (FAQ)

Confirmed with A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, Translated by Arthur Waley, London, Constable and Company Ltd., 1918, pages 50-51.

Note: the poem is preceded by this explanation:

Ssŭ-ma Hsiang-ju was a young poet who had lost his position at court owing to ill-health. One day Cho Wēn-chün, a rich man’s daughter, heard him singing at a feast given by her father. She eloped with him that night, and they set up a wine-shop together. After a time Hsiang-ju became famous as a poet, but his character was marred by love of money. He sold love-poems, which the ladies of the palace sent to the emperor in order to win his favour. Finally, he gave presents to the "ladies of Mo-ling," hoping to secure a concubine. It was this step that induced his mistress, Cho Wēn-chün, to write the following poem.


Based on

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2013-12-02
Line count: 24
Word count: 90