At dawn the waters white I left behind;
My steed stayed by the portals of the wind;
Yet, gazing back, a bitter grief I felt
That in the lofty crag no damsel dwelt.
I wandered eastward to the palace green,
As gift should go to grace the loveliest maid.
The lord of clouds I then bade mount the sky
To seek the steam where once the nymph did lie;
My councilor appointed go-between.
Fleeting and wilful like capricious cloud,
Her obstinacy swift no change allowed.
At dusk retired she to the crag withdrawn,
Her hair beside the stream she washed at dawn.
Exulting in her beauty and her pride,
Pleasure she worshipped, and no whim denied;
So fair of form, so careless of all grace,
I turned to take another in her place.
To earth's extremities I sought my bride,
And urged my train through all the heaven wide.
Upon a lofty crag of jasper green
The beauteous princess of the west was seen.
The falcon then I bade entreat the maid,
But he, demurring, would my course dissuade;
The turtle-dove cooed soft and off did fly,
But I mistrusted his frivolity.
Like whelp in doubt, like timid fox in fear,
I wished to go, but wandered ever near.
With nuptial gifts the phoenix swiftly went;
I feared the prince had won her ere I sent.
I longed to travel far, yet with no bourn,
I could but wander aimless and forlorn.
Before the young king was in marriage bound,
The royal sisters twain might still be found;
My plea was weak, my mission was but frail;
I knew that my demand could not avail.
The world is dark, and envious of my grace;
They veil my virtue and the evil praise.
Thy chamber dark lies in recesses deep,
Sagacious prince, risest thou not from sleep?
My zeal unknown the prince would not descry;
How could I bear this harsh eternity?
With mistletoe and herbs of magic worth,
I urged the witch the future to show forth.
"If two attain perfection they must meet,
But who is there that would thy virtue greet?
Far the nine continents their realm display;
Why here to seek thy bride doth thou delay?
If beauty' s sought, there' s none hath with thee vied.
What place is there where orchids flower not fair?
Why is thy native land thy single care?
"Now darkly lies the world in twilight' s glow,
Who doth your defects and your virtue know?
Evil and good herein are reconciled;
The crowd alone hath nought but is defiled.
With stinking mugwort girt upon their waist,
They curse the others for their orchids chaste;
Ignorant thus in choice of fragrance rare,
Rich ornaments how could they fitly wear?
Cursing the pepper sweet, they brawl and brag."
Although the witches counsel I held good,
In foxlike indecision still I stood.
At night the wizard great made his descent,
And meeting him spiced rice I did present.
The angels came, shading with wings the sky;
From mountains wild the deities drew nigh.
And thus the wizard spake with omens bright:
"Take office high or low as days afford,
If one there be that could with thee accord;
Like ancient kings austere who sought their mate,
Finding the one who should fulfill their fate.
Now if thy heart doth cherish grace within,
What need is there to choose a go-between?
A convict toiled on rocks to expiate
His crime; his sovereign gave him great estate.
A butcher with his knife made roundelay;
His king chanced there and happy proved the day.
A prince who heard a cowherd chanting late
Raised him to be a councilor of state.
Before old age o' ertake thee on thy way,
Life still is young; to profit turn thy day.
Spring is but brief, when cuckoos start to sing,
And flowers will fade that once did spread and spring."
Hid by the crowd with leaves that thickly teemed;
Untiring they relentless means employed;
I feared it would through envy be destroyed.
This gaudy age so fickle proved its will,
That to what purpose did I linger still?
E'en orchids changed, their fragrance quickly lost,
And midst the weeds angelicas were tossed.
How could these herbs, so fair in former day,
Their hue have changed, and turned to mugworts grey?
The reason for their fall, not far to seek,
I thought upon the orchids I might lean;
No flowers appeared, but long bare leaves were seen;
Their grace abandoned, vulgar taste to please,
Content with lesser flowers to dwell at ease.
To boasts and flattery the pepper turned;
Thus only upon higher stations bent,
How could they long retain their former scent?
Since they pursued the fashion of the time,
Small wonder they decayed e' en in their prime.
Viewing the orchids' and the peppers' plight
Why blame the rumex and selinea white?
To leave, and to this depth then sank defiled.
It blossomed still and never ceased to grow;
Like water did its lovely fragrance flow:
Pleasure I took to wear this bough in sport,
As roaming wild the damsel fair I sought.
Thus in my prime, with ornaments bedecked,
I roved the earth and heaven to inspect.
With omens bright the seer revealed the way,
I then appointed an auspicious day.
As victuals rare some jasper twigs I bore,
And some prepared, provision rich to store;
Then winged horses to my chariot brought
My carriage bright with jade and ivory wrought.
How might tow hearts at variance accord?
I roamed till peace be to my mind restored.
The pillar of the earth I stayed beside;
The way was long, and winding far and wide.
In twilight glowed the clouds with wondrous sheen,
And chirping flew the birds of jasper green.
I went at dawn high heaven' s ford to leave;
To earth' s extremity I came at eve.
On phoenix wings the dragon pennons lay;
With plumage bright they flew to lead the way.
I crossed the quicksand with its treach' rous flood,
Beside the burning river, red as blood;
To bridge the stream my dragons huge I bade,
Invoked the emperor of the west to aid.
The way was long, precipitous in view;
I bade my train a different path pursue.
There where the heaven fell we turned a space,
And marked the western sea as meeting-place.
A thousand chariots gathered in my train,
With axles full abreast we drove amain;
Eight horses drew the carriages behind;
The pennons shook like serpents in the wind.
I lowered flags, and from my whip refrained;
My train of towering chariots I restrained.
I sang the odes. I trod a sacred dance,
In revels wild my last hour to enhance.
On native earth for the last time we gazed;
My slaves were sad, my steeds all neighed in grief,
And, gazing back, the earth they would not leave.
Since in that kingdom all my virtue spurn,
Why should I for the royal city yearn?
Wide though the world, no wisdom can be found.
I'll seek the stream where once the sage was drowned.