This is a very rough translation and annotation of the poem 遠別離 (Yuǎn Biélí), ‘Distant Parting’, by the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet 李白 (Lǐ Bái).
If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page. Note that the goal here is to make the original text more accessible, not to provide a conversion into English.
[distant] [part] [leave]
Yuǎn biélí, gǔ yǒu Huáng Yīng zhī èr nǚ,
[distant] [part] [leave], [old] [have] [Huang] [Ying] [‘s] [two] [female]
Distant parting; in ancient times were the women Huang and Ying;
(Huang and Ying were the daughter and concubine of the legendary emperor Shun. They both drowned in the River Xiang.)
nǎi zài Dòngtíng zhī nán,
[thus] [at] [Dong] [Ting] [‘s] [south]
to the south of Dongting,
xiāoxiāng zhī pǔ.
[Xiao] [Xiang] [‘s] [river bank]
on the banks of the River Xiang.
Hǎishuǐ zhíxià wànlǐ shēn,
[sea] [water] [vertical] [down] [ten thousand] [li] [deep]
The ocean waters ten thousand li deep, straight down –
shéi rén bù yán cǐ lí kǔ.
[who] [person] [not] [say] [this] [parting] [bitter]
who would not say that this parting was just as painful?
Rì cǎn cǎn xī yún míng míng,
[sun] [miserable] [miserable] [oh] [cloud] [dark] [dark]
The sun so miserable, oh, the clouds so dark;
xīngxīng tí yān xī guǐ xiào yǔ.
[orangutan] [hoot] [mist] [oh] [ghost] [hiss] [rain]
an orangutan hollers in mist, oh, a ghost hisses in rain.
Wǒ zòng yán zhī jiàng hé bǔ,
[I] [even if] [say] [it] [use] [what] [benefit]
Even if I speak of it, what benefit is there? –
huáng qióng qiè kǒng bù zhào yú zhī zhōngchéng.
[emperor] [dome] [I] [fear] [not] [perceive] [I] [‘s] [loyal] [sincere]
Heaven, I fear, will not perceive my loyalty.
Yún píngpíng xī yù hǒu nù,
[cloud] [majestic] [oh] [want] [howl] [anger]
The clouds so majestic, oh, they want to howl with rage;
Yáo Shùn dāng zhī yì shàn yǔ.
[Yao] [Shun] [then] [it] [also] [abdicate] [Yu]
from Yao to Shun, then he too abdicated to Yu.
Jūn shī chén xī lóng wéi yú,
[lord] [lose] [minister] [oh] [dragon] [become] [fish]
A lord loses his minister, oh, a dragon becomes a fish;
quán guī chén xī shǔ biàn hǔ.
[power] [return] [minister] [oh] [mouse] [become] [tiger]
power returns to the minister, oh, a mouse becomes a tiger.
Huò yán Yáo yōuqiú,
[some] [say] [Yao] [remote] [prisoner]
Some speak of Yao’s imprisonment,
Shùn yě sǐ.
[Shun] [wild] [die]
and of Shun’s death in the wild.
Jiǔ yí liánmián jiē xiāngsì,
[Jiu] [Yi] [join] [continuous] [all] [each other] [resemble]
Mt. Cangwu’s peaks are endless, all alike;
(九疑 is another name for 苍梧山 – Mt. Cangwu.)
zhòngtóng gū fén jìng hé shì.
[important] [eye] [alone] [tomb] [in the end] [what] [is]
the emperor’s lonely tomb – where was it in the end?
(重瞳 refers to the emperor’s eyes.)
Dì zǐ qì xī lǜ yúnjiān,
[emperor] [child] [sob] [oh] [green] [cloud] [between]
Huang and Ying sob, oh, amongst green clouds;
suí fēng bō xī qù wú huán.
[follow] [wind] [wave] [oh] [leave] [not have] [return]
borne on wind and waves, oh, they left without return.
Tòngkū xī yuǎnwàng,
[grief] [weep] [oh] [far] [look]
Weeping in grief, oh, they gazed afar,
jiàn Cāngwú zhī shēnshān.
[see] [Cang] [Wu] [‘s] [deep] [mountain]
to Cangwu’s innermost peaks.
Cāngwú shān bēng Xiāng shuǐ jué,
[Cang] [Wu] [mountain] [collapse] [Xiang] [water] [cut off]
The peaks of Cangwu collapsed, the River Xiang was cut off,
zhú shàng zhī lèi nǎi kě miè.
[bamboo] [on] [‘s] [tear] [thus] [can] [extinguish]
the tear-stains on the bamboo were lost.
If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments below.