If death parts us, the tears will dry one day,
But separation in life feeds endless pain.
Since you were exiled far away from your home
I’ve heard no news from pestilent Jiangnan—
After you came to visit my dreams last night
I know how much I miss the friend who’s gone.
Caught like a bird in the net of the law,
How did you free your wings to soar at dawn?
Oh, but I fear it was no living soul
That flew through passes, over boundless plain.
Your soul first crossed when maple woods were green;
Passes grow dark as you head back again.
The sinking moon illumines my bedroom rafters—
Is that your face I see by light of the moon?
Rivers are deep, the waves run high and wide,
And water dragons lurk to catch the crane!
All day I’ve watched the floating clouds in motion;
The restless wanderer still has not arrived.
Three nights running you’ve visited my dreams—
Affectionate concern, my friend, so kind!
Each time you said goodbye you seemed on edge,
Ruefully said, “It isn’t easy to find
My way down turbulent rivers, over the lakes;
My oars may break, my boat capsize in the wind!”
You’d leave my door scratching your white-haired head
As if your life’s ambitions were undermined.
Dullards in caps of office swarm the city—
The best of men alone remains deprived.
Who says no one escapes the net of heaven?
This man grows old—at best has just survived!
Immortal fame, hard to enjoy in the tomb,
Will not replace joys that were never lived!