The Pipa Tune ( 琵琶行) was written in 816 AD by Bai Ju-Yi (白 居易). At the time he served as the Commander of Jiangzhou ( 江州司馬), stationed in Xunyang (潯 陽). Two years earlier he was demoted and left the capital city. Like The Song of Everlasting Regret (長恨歌), The Pipa Tune (琵琶行) has been extremely popular over the years. The poem contains a total of 88 verses. This translation is a more liberal and rhyming one. If you have any suggestion or comment about my translation, please email me. -Ying Sun. Dec. 3, 2008. Return to main page. Copyright © 2008 Ying Sun
| 琵琶行 (白居易)
||The Pipa Tune (Bai Ju-Yi, 772-846 AD, China) Ying Sun © 2008|
night, by the Xunyang River to a guest we bid farewell.
With autumn chills, maple leaves and reed flowers fell.
On the boat was the guest, on a horse arrived the host.
Alas there was no music; still we raised cups for a toast,
Drunk without joy; in sadness we had to say goodbye.
The river was misty then, reflecting the moon up high.
Suddenly across the water came the sound of pipa.
The host forgot to leave and the guest didn't depart.
the sound in the darkness we inquired about the player.
The playing stopped, but the player hesitated to answer.
To ask the musician to join us, we moved our boat closer.
Adding wine and brightening lamps, we resumed the dinner.
Only after many pleas did she come out of her place,
Still holding the pipa that shadowed half of her face.
She plucked the strings and turned the pegs to tune.
Even before the music started, we already felt boon.
notes were restrained but full of sentiment,
As if she was voicing her lifelong disappointment.
She lowered her head, continued to play at will,
Telling endless stories that her heart could not fulfill.
Strings were picked and plucked, bent with vibrato.
First was Rainbow Dress, then Minor Sixth to follow.
The bass strings rumbled like thunderstorms pelting.
The treble strings rustled like lovers whispering.
and rustling interwove at a fast rate,
Like large and small pearls falling on a jade plate.
A warbling canary glided underneath a blossom.
An underground brook trickled out of a rock bottom.
The brook became frozen, as the strings diminished.
Decrescendo continued until all sounds perished.
Yet a dark and gloomy meditation had grown.
At this moment, silence eclipsed any tone.
a silver vase burst, splashing water everywhere.
Armored knights charged out, swords clashing here and there.
To end the piece she drew the pick to strum a chord
Like tearing silk, four strings resonated in concord.
Neighboring boats east and west made a silent night scene.
Reflected by the river, only the autumn moon was seen.
She inserted the pick between strings contemplatively,
Straightened her clothes, and stood up gracefully.
said that the capital was originally her home.
She lived in the neighborhood of the Xiama Tomb.
An accomplished pipa player at the age of thirteen,
She was with the music school and on the elite team.
Her playing was highly praised by the pipa masters.
Her looks were the envy of pretty paramours.
Wealthy young men vied to pay her patronage:
Countless silk rolls just for one appearance on stage.
keep the beats she broke her silver trinket.
Spilt wine stained her laced silk skirt scarlet.
Over years she indulged herself in pleasure and feast.
Autumn moon and spring breeze were noticed the least.
Then her brother enlisted and her aunt was deceased.
As time went on, her beauty gradually decreased.
Fewer and fewer carriages stopped by her door.
Finally she married a merchant when a youth no more.
merchant was profit-minded, always on the road.
He went to Fuliang to buy tea two months ago.
In his absence she waited by the empty boat,
Surrounded by cold water keeping the moon afloat.
She suddenly dreamed of her youthhood late at night.
The tears streaked her makeup as she cried.
The music of her pipa already caused me to sigh.
Hearing her pensive story now almost makes me cry.
this uncaring world we are two wretched drifters,
Treasuring this encounter even though we're strangers.
Just last year I quit and left the capital hill.
Being demoted to Xunyang, I am stranded and ill.
Where music is concerned, Xunyang is barbaric.
Throughout the year I hear no wind or string music.
I live by the Peng River where it is low and damp.
Yellow reeds and bamboos grow all around the camp.
sound do I hear from dawn till evenfall?
Cuckoos' wails and gibbons' screams - that's all.
On a blossom day in spring or a full moon night in fall,
I often pour wine by myself and drink it all.
How about the rustic song and the homemade reed?
Screeching and shrieking, hard to listen to indeed.
I listened as your pipa played just now.
It was magic sent as only a fairy knows how.
don't refuse – play us one more tune.
I'll compose a poem for you called the Pipa Tune.
Moved by my words, she stands there for a while,
Then sits down and starts to play a presto style.
The profound sadness in the music, unlike previous sound,
Brings tears to the eyes of all who sit around.
Of all the people in the audience, who weeps the most?
The Commander of Jiangzhou, his coat is soaked almost. Ying Sun © 2008