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BAI, Ju-Yi

The Song of Everlasting Regret

The Emperor of China longed for a beauty able to topple the empire.

Despite many years of reign he could not fulfill his desire.

Meanwhile, a lass in the Yang family had reached puberty.

As she was raised deep in her boudoir, no one knew her beauty.

Her heavenly glamour could not be concealed forever.

One day she was chosen to entertain the Emperor.

When she turned and smiled, the coquetry created was tremendous,

Rendering all concubines of the six palaces lusterless.

She was privileged to bathe in Hua-Qing Spa on a cold day of spring,

Washing her creamy skin with slippery water of the warm spring.

As she was languorous, a maid helped her out of the spa.

This was when they first mated, the beginning of a saga.

Her cloud-like hair was held by a gold hairpin, her face flowery.

They spent the night under the warmth of a hibiscus canopy.

They rose with the sun up high, complaining of the night too short.

From this day on the Emperor missed each and every morning court.

Between revels and banquets the Emperor was fully occupied.

Every spring day they toured and by night they copulated.

All three thousand concubines in the rear palaces were ignored.

On only one person was the royal affection concentrated.

In her Gold Chamber she dressed up and entertained the Emperor,

Indulging in inebriety and coition after every feast at Jade Tower.

All her sisters and brothers had royal demesnes granted.

Imperial but pitiful glory on the Yang family was bestowed.

On the mindset of all parents her success was a strong influence.

Baby girls instead of baby boys became the popular preference.

Li Palace rose upright, high into the atmosphere.

Devine music carried by the wind was heard everywhere.

Strings and pipes accompanied soft songs and slow dances.

Day after day the Emperor could not get enough of these.

One day the war drums from Yuyang came and shook the ground,

Interrupting the tune of the Rainbow Dress and Feather Gown.

From inside the nine-tier imperial walls dust clouds originated.

Thousands of wagons moved southwest as the monarch retreated.

When they paraded, the imperial banner waved and led the way.

Suddenly the troops halted west of the capital just thirty miles away.

All six regiments refused to march, rendering the Emperor powerless.

Her execution in front of the steeds was torturous and hopeless.

The scatter of her precious jewelry on the ground added to the sorrow.

Among them was a green jade comb with a decorative gold sparrow.

Refrained from saving her, the Emperor covered his face.

Tears dropped like her blood shed as he turned to gaze.

The chilly wind facilitated the yellow dust to propagate.

Via torturous trails in the cloud they crossed the Sword Gate.

Beneath Mount Emei travelers were hardly seen.

The imperial banner lost its gleam in the sunset scene.

But Shu rivers remained blue and Shu mountains green.

Day in and day out His Majesty’s eternal love grew keen.

Viewing the moon in the temporary palace escalated sadness.

Hearing wind charms in rainy nights deepened brokenheartedness.

Finally the rebellion was suppressed and the monarchy reinstated.

As they returned to the very spot, the Emperor hesitated.

Under the Mawei Slope he searched in the mud,

But failed to find any trace where she shed her blood.

The Emperor and his ministers all wept in a gloomy state.

Their horses took them eastwards, back to the capital gate.

Upon return, the ponds and gardens seemed like old days,

Hibiscus by Lake Taiye and willows by Weiyang Palace.

Her face resembled a hibiscus, her eyebrows willow leaves.

Viewing these, how could he stop the tears down his face?

When vernal breeze blew, peach trees blossomed all around.

When autumn rain came, plane tree leaves fell on the ground.

Autumn weeds grew tall in the West and South Palaces.

No one swept those stairs covered by the red leaves.

The hairs of the royal opera players looked whiter.

The pretty maids of the Empress’ Palace grew older.

Fireflies flew over the hall as he meditated in twilight.

The lamp wick burned out as he stayed awake all night.

The hourly bell and drum always seemed late in the long night.

The Milky Way projected its glow to bring out the twilight.

Heavy frost made the cold ceramic tiles on the roof seem bright.

Under the cold green comfort, with whom could he spend the night?

Many years had gone by since the life and death separation.

Yet not even in his dream did he meet her incarnation.

A Taoist from Lingqiong was in the capital for a visitation,

Capable of summoning spirits with his eldritch concentration.

The Taoist was deeply moved by Emperor's constant yearning.

To find her incarnation, he engaged an exhaustive searching.

He moved through ether, traveled as fast as lightning.

Nowhere in the air or on the earth was he not seeking.

Up in heaven and down to hell he went.

Both places were hazy, failing his intent.

Then he heard an enchanted mountain at sea,

Floating in the mist that no one could see.

Adorned towers rose above five-colored clouds,

Where many beautiful fairies gathered in crowds.

Among them was the one named Taizhen.

Same flowery face and silky skin were reborn again.

Under the gold gate of West Hall he knocked on the jade door.

From Xiaoyu to Shuangcheng the call was sent to her floor.

A messenger from the Emperor waiting was Taizhen told,

As she was wakened in the flowery canopy, quite startled.

She put on her gown, pushed away the pillow, and wandered around.

Then, through the pearl shade and silver screen she came down.

As she just woke up, her cloud-like hair was still pushed aside.

She entered the anteroom with her flowery crown hanging awry.

With sleeves waving in the wind, she was like a goddess at a glance,

As if she were in the Rainbow Dress and Feather Gown dance.

Loneliness appeared on her pretty face with tear stain,

Like a blossom on a pear tree after a spring rain.

With affection in her eyes she thanked for Emperor’s indulgence.

Ever since they’re parted, she missed his voice and appearance.

Their passion in Zhaoyang Palace was long ended.

Her solitary life in Penglai Temple had just started.

She turned and looked down toward the mortal world,

Not a glimpse of the capital, just dust and cloud.

She took out some old gifts, showing her nostalgic feeling,

A gold hairpin and an inlaid case to renew the pledging.

She kept one branch of the hairpin and one side of the box,

As she split the hairpin and broke in half the box.

“Let our pledge be as strong as the inlaid and the gold.”

“We will reunite, if not in heaven, in the mortal world.”

She asked the messenger to bring back a verse with a clue.

There was a vow in the verse only the two of them knew.

On a Valentine’s Day in Longevity Hall away from the crowd,

At midnight when no one else was around, they vowed.

“Let’s be two birds in the sky flying side by side.”

“Let’s be two branches on the earth inseparably tied.”

The sky and the earth will not be eternal, however.

Only this regret remains and lasts for ever and ever.