Poems of Bai Juyi
Gazing into the Distance from River Tower, We Made a Strange Noise as a Joke and Someone Reported It to Old Zhang on the Water Board
Calm mist and scattered rain amid the slanting sunlight.
River's color strangely bright. Cool wind off the lake.
A monster's shout within the clouds cleaves the River Tower.
And a rainbow rises on the water to illumine Broken Bridge.
Wind rouses lake whitecaps, a thousand petals fly.
Geese in the blue spring sky fly off in a vee.
It would make a perfect picture for an artist to choose.
I write this poem and send it to the Water Board.
It is 823. Bai Juyi is fifty-one years old and making strange noises on River Tower that are so loud ... well, you read the poem. Was he up there with Yuan Zhen, who was egging him on? Or with his wife, who was laughing and embarrassed? I wish he'd said who it was.
The long title is probably intended as a preface. They didn't clearly distinguish between the two. And many a poem with a long preface-title has been given a shorter title by later copyists and other meddlers.