Tune: everlasting longing
by Li Yu
translated from the Chinese by Qihui Gong with David Lehman
Distant mountains lie, row after row,
Between the high sky and the far away hills.
The cold river water flows.
The chill mist is still.
My longing for you has turned the maple leaves red.
The chrysanthemums of autumn soon wither.
The high flying geese return.
Yet you do not return from the border.
Clear moonlight and gentle breeze
do their best to console me;
in vain: my loneliness goes on and on.
Qihui Gong, a senior at Tsinghua University, who has chosen Eileen as her Western name, served as my interpreter on a recent Friday morning in Beijing. She writes:
"I love Chinese traditional poems, especially the 'Tune' in Song dynasty. And I've tried to put several into English last winter holiday." Li Yu, whose "everlasting longing" is among her favorites, was an emperor during the Song dynasty.