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李白 長干行 translation: Ballad of Changgan, by Li Bai

This is a very rough annotation / translation of the poem 長干行 (Chánggān Xíng), ‘Ballad of Changgan’, 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.

Autumn

長干行 Chánggān Xíng [Chang] [Gan] [Ballad] Ballad of Changgan

妾髮初覆額, Qiè fà chū fù é, [I] [hair] [at first] [cover] [forehead] My hair, when I was young, covered my forehead;

折花門前劇。 zhé huā ménqián jù. [break] [flower] [door] [front] [play] one picked flowers, playing in front of the door.

郎騎竹馬來, Láng qí zhúmǎ lái, [you] [ride] [bamboo] [horse] [come] You came riding a bamboo horse;

遶床弄青梅。 rào chuáng nòng qīngméi. [encircle] [bench] [play with] [blue] [plum] encircling benches, playing with blue plums.

同居長干里, Tóngjū Chánggān lǐ, [together] [live] [Chang] [Gan] [in] We lived together in Changgan,

兩小無嫌猜。 liǎng xiǎo wú xián cāi. [two] [small] [not have] [dislike] [suspicion] two youngsters without dislike or suspicion.

十四為君婦, Shísì wèi jūn fù, [ten] [four] [be] [sir] [wife] At fourteen I became your wife,

羞顏未嘗開。 xiū yán wèicháng kāi. [shy] [face] [not yet] [try] [open] my shy face never trying a smile.

低頭向暗壁, Dītóu xiàng àn bì, [lower] [head] [to] [dark] [wall] I lowered my head to the gloomy wall;

千喚不一回。 qiān huàn bù yī huí. [thousand] [call] [not] [one] [return] of your thousand calls, I did not respond to one.

十五始展眉, Shíwǔ shǐ zhǎnméi, [ten] [five] [begin] [exhibit] [eyebrow] At fifteen my brows began to ease; (→ “I began to beam with smiles.”)

願同塵與灰。 yuàn tóng chén yǔ huī. [willing] [same] [dust] [together] [ashes] willing for our dust and ashes to be together.

常存抱柱信, Cháng cún bào zhù xìn, [forever] [exist] [embrace] [pillar] [trust] Forever keeping the holding-the-pillar trust; (This is a reference to an old story about a man who arranged to meet his lover at a pillar, and clung to the pillar even as flood waters came and drowned him.)

豈上望夫臺。 qǐ shàng wàng fu tái. [how] [on] [look out] [husband] [platform] why do I climb the platform to look out for you?

十六君遠行, Shíliù jūn yuǎn xíng, [ten] [six] [sir] [far] [travel] At sixteen, you travelled far away,

瞿塘灩澦堆。 Qútáng Yànyù duī. [Qu] [Tang] [swirling] [Yu] [pile] through Qutang Gorge and the swirling rapids rocks of Yu.

五月不可觸, Wǔ yuè bùkě chù, [five] [month] [not] [can] [contact] For five months we were not in contact;

猿聲天上哀。 yuán shēng tiānshàng āi. [ape] [sound] [sky] [on] [grief] the sound of apes in the sky is mournful.

門前遲行跡, Ménqián chí xíngjì, [door] [front] [slow] [travel] [footprint] In front of the door are the hesitant footprints of your departure -

一一生綠苔。 yīyī shēng lǜ tái. [one] [one] [grow] [green] [moss] one by one they grow green moss.

苔深不能掃, Tái shēn bùnéng sǎo, [moss] [deep] [not] [can] [sweep] The moss is so thick it cannot be swept away;

落葉秋風早。 luòyè qiūfēng zǎo. [fall] [leaf] [autumn] [wind] [early] the leaves fall as the autumn winds come early.

八月蝴蝶黃, Bā yuè húdié huáng, [eight] [month] [butterfly][] [yellow] In august the butterflies turn yellow;

雙飛西園草。 shuāngfēi xī yuán cǎo. [pair] [fly] [west] [garden] [grasses] in pairs they fly to the West garden's grasses.

感此傷妾心, Gǎn cǐ shāng qiè xīn, [feel] [this] [wound] [I] [hurt] Feeling this, it injures my heart;

坐愁紅顏老。 zuò chóu hóngyán lǎo. [sit] [worry] [red] [face] [old] one sits and worries, one's beautiful face ageing. (literally “one’s red cheeks ageing”.)

早晚下三巴, Zǎowǎn xià Sānbā, [early] [late] [down] [San] [Ba] Sooner or later you will descend through Sanba -

預將書報家。 yù jiāng shū bào jiā. [beforehand] [will] [letter] [report] [home] write a letter to report home beforehand.

相迎不道遠, Xiāng yíng bù dào yuǎn, [each other] [welcome] [not] [say] [far] I will come to receive you, not speaking of the distance -

直至長風沙。 zhízhì Chángfēngshā. [up to] [arrive] [long] [wind] [sand] all the way to Changfengsha.

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

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