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陸游 長歌行 translation: Long Ballad, by Lu You


This is a translation and annotation of the poem 長歌行 (Cháng Gēxíng), ‘Long Ballad’, by the Southern Song Dynasty Chinese poet 陸游 (Lù Yóu).

As always, this is only my beginner’s attempt at an annotation. If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments at the end of the page.

November 037 - Nick in China

 

長歌行
Cháng Gēxíng
[long] [song] [ballad]
Long Ballad

 

人生不作安期生,
Rénshēng bùzuò ān qīshēng,
[human] [life] [not] [make] [An] [Qi] [Sheng]
Human life is not about being An Qisheng,

醉入東海騎長鯨。
zuì rù dōnghǎi qí cháng jīng.
[drunk] [enter] [east] [sea] [ride] [long] [whale]
who drunkenly went into the eastern sea and rode a huge whale.

猶當出作李西平,
Yóu dāng chū zuò lǐ xī píng,
[ought] [be] [exit] [make] [Li] [Xi] [Ping]
One ought to go out and be like Li Xiping,

手梟逆賊清舊京。
shǒu xiāo nìzéi qīng jiù jīng.
[personally] [eliminate] [rebel] [traitor] [pure] [old] [capital]
who personally eliminated the rebel traitors and purified the old capital.

金印煌煌未入手,
Jīn yìn huánghuáng wèi rùshǒu,
[gold] [seal] [brilliant] [brilliant] [not yet] [enter] [hand]
The gold seal is dazzling, but has not yet come to one’s hand,
(The gold seal is a token of office.)

白髮種種來無情。
bái fà zhǒngzhǒng lái wúqíng.
[white] [hair] [kind] [kind] [arrive] [not have] [emotion]
white hair of every kind – it comes mercilessly.

成都古寺臥秋晚,
Chéngdū gǔsì wò qiū wǎn,
[Cheng] [Du] [old] [temple] [lie] [autumn] [evening]
In Chengdu’s old temple, one reclines on an autumn evening;

落日偏傍僧窗明。
luòrì piān bàng sēng chuāng míng.
[setting] [sun] [lean] [near] [monk] [window] [clear]
the setting sun spreads near the monk’s window brightly.

豈其馬上破賊手,
Qǐ qí mǎshàng pò zéi shǒu,
[how] [it] [on] [horse] [break] [traitor] [hand]
One is surely not a man who smashes traitors on horseback;

哦詩常作寒螿鳴。
é shī cháng zuò hán jiāng míng.
[chant] [poem] [often] [make] [cold] [cicada] [cry]
one chants this poem, making the sound of cold cicadas.
(Cold cicadas make no noise, i.e., the poet has no audience.)

興來買盡市橋酒,
Xìng lái mǎi jǐn shìqiáo jiǔ,
[excitement] [arrive] [buy] [exhaust] [market] [bridge] [wine]
On an impulse one buys out the market bridge wine -

大車磊落堆長瓶。
dà chē lěiluò duī cháng píng.
[big] [vehicle] [piled] [drop] [pile] [long] [bottle]
on a large cart, stacked piles of them – long bottles.

哀絲豪竹助劇飲,
Āi sī háo zhú zhù jù yǐn,
[grief] [string] [grand] [bamboo] [help] [drama] [drink]
Mournful strings and grand pipes add to the drama and drink,

如巨野受黃河傾。
rú jù yě shòu huánghé qīng.
[like] [huge] [plains] [take] [yellow] [river] [overturn]
like vast plains overrun by the Yellow River’s collapse.

平生一滴不入口,
Píngshēng yīdī bù rùkǒu,
[whole life][] [one] [drop] [not] [enter] [mouth]
One’s whole life, not a drop has entered one’s mouth;

義氣頓使千人驚。
yìqì dùn shǐ qiān rén jīng.
[righteous] [spirit] [sudden] [make] [thousand] [people] [shock]
one’s righteous spirit suddenly shocks a thousand people.

國讎未報壯士老,
Guó chóu wèi bào zhuàngshì lǎo,
[kingdom] [feud] [not yet] [pay back] [warrior][] [old]
Our national vengeance has not yet been paid back, the warriors are ageing;

匣中長劍夜有聲。
xiá zhōng cháng jiàn yè yǒushēng.
[box] [in] [long] [sword] [night] [have] [sound]
a long sword in a box – at night it calls.

何當凱旋宴將士,
Hé dāng kǎixuán yàn jiàngshì,
[what] [correspond] [triumphant] [return] [feast] [officer] [soldier]
Why do we respond to a triumphant return by feasting the officers and soldiers,

三更雪壓飛狐城。
sān gēng xuě yā fēihú chéng.
[three] [watch] [snow] [press down] [fly] [fox] [city]
when in the early hours, snow presses down on Feihu City!

 

If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments below.

Sources and further reading