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.
[long] [song] [ballad]
Rénshēng bùzuò ān qīshēng,
[human] [life] [not] [make] [An] [Qi] [Sheng]
Human life is not about being An Qisheng,
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.
Yóu dāng chū zuò lǐ xī píng,
[ought] [be] [exit] [make] [Li] [Xi] [Ping]
One ought to go out and be like Li Xiping,
shǒu xiāo nìzéi qīng jiù jīng.
[personally] [eliminate] [rebel] [traitor] [pure] [old] [capital]
who personally eliminated the rebel traitors and purified the old capital.
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.)
bái fà zhǒngzhǒng lái wúqíng.
[white] [hair] [kind] [kind] [arrive] [not have] [emotion]
white hair of every kind – it comes mercilessly.
Chéngdū gǔsì wò qiū wǎn,
[Cheng] [Du] [old] [temple] [lie] [autumn] [evening]
In Chengdu’s old temple, one reclines on an autumn evening;
luòrì piān bàng sēng chuāng míng.
[setting] [sun] [lean] [near] [monk] [window] [clear]
the setting sun spreads near the monk’s window brightly.
Qǐ qí mǎshàng pò zéi shǒu,
[how] [it] [on] [horse] [break] [traitor] [hand]
One is surely not a man who smashes traitors on horseback;
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.)
Xìng lái mǎi jǐn shìqiáo jiǔ,
[excitement] [arrive] [buy] [exhaust] [market] [bridge] [wine]
On an impulse one buys out the market bridge wine –
dà chē lěiluò duī cháng píng.
[big] [vehicle] [piled] [drop] [pile] [long] [bottle]
on a large cart, stacked piles of them – long bottles.
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,
rú jù yě shòu huánghé qīng.
[like] [huge] [plains] [take] [yellow] [river] [overturn]
like vast plains overrun by the Yellow River’s collapse.
Píngshēng yīdī bù rùkǒu,
[whole life] [one] [drop] [not] [enter] [mouth]
One’s whole life, not a drop has entered one’s mouth;
yìqì dùn shǐ qiān rén jīng.
[righteous] [spirit] [sudden] [make] [thousand] [people] [shock]
one’s righteous spirit suddenly shocks a thousand people.
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;
xiá zhōng cháng jiàn yè yǒushēng.
[box] [in] [long] [sword] [night] [have] [sound]
a long sword in a box – at night it calls.
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,
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
- 长歌行 – 百度百科
- An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911
- Southern Song Dynasty Poetry and the Problem of Literary History