Poems of Mi Fu
A Touch of Red Lips
(Showing my son the humanity and wisdom of magistrates.)
Wild medicine is very scarce and
Wei River's lonely banks overflow and fill my heart.
The work before us is piled too deeply and
the laziness we see is piled more deeply yet.
My children, do not be alarmed
that my hair has turned completely white or
that my fame and fortune have yet to arrive.
This river cloud is still carefree.
See, only the relay station has been flooded out.
The character 绛 in the title not only means a dark red but was also the capital of the Jin kingdom during the Spring and Autumn period. So it is also, in Mi Fu's mind, a reference to the Jurchen Jin who are subjugating the Song. Mi Fu's sarcasm is back. The audience of this poem is "my children." He is looking down on you, parentally, as you read it. "My children" have too much work to do but are too lazy to do their work. In line eight, 水 (river) modifies 云 (cloud) and clouds are the symbol of wanderers. Mi Fi only wanders symbolically in his lifetime. Relay stations are where officials change horses on journeys. And so, speaking with cynicism, there is no way for the official journey in the poem to proceed. Or maybe it wasn't cynicism because things turned out as Mi Fu foresaw them. You are only cynical if you are wrong.