Poems of Li Ye
Sending Red Blossoms
(Written in the dawn.)
I gaze down at the lake as I try to climb this mountain
And the mountain seems as high as the lake is wide.
I miss you in a night that never ends.
I think of you through every day I live.
So fragrant these blossoms on the mountain trees
And the fields of wildflowers go on and on.
After we parted, I was overwhelmed.
So now I persuade myself that soon we'll meet again.
Okay, this would be a love poem. Unlike Consort Xu Hui, Li Ye may well be alone on this mountain. I have an intuition that she is an independent woman who, perhaps, feels she has something to prove and wouldn't hesitate to head up the mountain on her own at dawn. The poem makes you wonder who she's missing. But then, that has never been anyone's business but theirs. Finally, I am too ignorant to know what red blossoms signify to a lover in Tang China.
Some people translate this poem's title as "Sent to Zhu Fang." Zhu Fang was a contemporary of Li Ye and lived at one time Yuezhou which was not too distant from Huzhou, where Li Ye was supposed to have lived, for them to have met. Zhu Fang was a minor official but was said to have lived like a hermit. Unless his hermitage was a poet's romantic grass hut like Bai Juyi's, he might have been serious about his seclusion. And given that officials couldn't leave their area of assignment without taking leave, he probably wasn't wandering the countryside having affairs with Daoist nuns. Or maybe she slept with every poet who came her way ... doubtful.
On the timeline front, more news. More can be said of when she was born. Kind of. Because she calls one of her friends, Li Shu (731-792), an elder brother, she must be born after 731. So we have that much right. The person who noticed this, Jia Jinhua of the University of Macao, then uses some contemporary descriptions of Li Ye when older, which are flattering but not really definitive, to place her birth between 732 and 735, making her 37-40 when self-described as middle-aged. I'm sticking with the 737 for two reasons. That Ms. Jia's data by no means dates Li Ye in any real way is reason number one. Number two is that China has always venerated age. The older we make Li Ye in 784, the less likely Dezong is to whack her up into little bits. In grey hair and Daoist robes, looking all grandmotherly, it's better for Dezong to exile her off to somewhere barbaric or malarial. So I like her as sentenced to death at 47 and born in 737. But who knows...