Poems of Bai Juyi
Night Comes to Qutang Gorge
This gorge is Heaven's most dangerous.
Night falls and the peril is worse.
Walls like great, close painted screens.
Sky like silk stretched overhead.
Headwinds and great waves rise up.
Obstacles lurch out of the darkness.
If you wish to know how bad it is
Imagine a navigator's worst nightmare.
Towering cliffs like really, really big painted screens? The sky at nightfall like fluttering silk overhead? Is this a first-hand description of a dangerous river-run? Did Bai Juyi even get wet? Yawn. Bai Juyi is no Gary Snyder. Do not confuse Tang poets' love of beauty with a more modern love of the natural world. In an earlier poem, a pine tree was an example of human virtue. This terribly dangerous gorge is an example of Bai Juyi writing poetry on the slightest excuse when, maybe, he should have just been watching the moon instead and giving his brain a rest.
As a side note, the character nie4 (菍), on line 6, should be nian4, the same character with the cao3 (艹) replaced by zhu2 (竹). Nian4 is a simple boat, perhaps raft-like, constructed with bamboo withes. Its character, being rare, does not exist in the utf-8 font set.