Poems of Bai Juyi
One ship comes to anchor. One sails away.
One wave rolls in to die and then it is reborn.
Here, all is stirred and beaten with never a restful day.
Will these waters ever, ever be at peace?
White waves go on forever, far across the sea.
Flat sand, too, goes on and on, unbounded.
Evening goes and morning comes, the water never rests
Until the Eastern Sea becomes a mulberry orchard.
Spring grass by a blue lake, a million miles away.
Yellow blossoms in the rain as we both walk along.
I'm sad here by this beach where my boat is moored tonight.
Wind beats a rhythm with dark waves against the hull.
Asking if this tidal bore brings up the ocean's water
Is like asking if your feelings now still include my heart.
I'd rather trust the tide than our feelings of regret.
Missing you, I start to think the ocean's not so wide.
Wind blows over ocean depths. Finally, the sun lights
Rocks on stony hills. But who has time for that?
Who would think a young man could leave you behind?
But these boats all sail away. There's no returning time.
Follow billows, chase the waves to a distant shore.
It takes more than one home to bring the exile home alive.
When you get to Heaven and receive your right reward
I ask you please to not forget this wave-beaten shore.
I think this poem is proof that in Bai Juyi's long life there was one woman other than his wife. Possibly it was the singing girl in Chang'an whose shoes he kept until they rotted away in the Sichuan damp. We don't get to choose who comes into our heart or who gets to stay there. Our hearts are at the mercy of external, spiritual forces. I don't know when this was written. But I, and others, seem to think it is a mature poem from later in his life. This is the most beautiful poem I have worked with so far.