Home Page Button Syllabus / Policies Button Composition Button Grammar Button Rhetoric Button Rhetoric Button Literature button poetry button classical button medieval button Renaissance Button Vocabulary Button
 
The following poem was written by Li He in the ninth century CE.

"Song of the Bronze Statue "


Gone that emperor of Maoling,

Rider through the autumn wind,

Whose horse neighs at night

And has passed without trace by dawn.

The fragrance of autumn lingers still

On those cassia trees by painted galleries,

But on every palace hall the green moss grows.

As Wei's envoy sets out to drive a thousand li 1

The keen wind at the East Gate stings the statue's eyes. . . .

From the ruined palace he brings nothing forth

But the moonshaped disk of Han, 2

True to his lord, he sheds leaden tears, 3

And withered orchids by the Xianyang Road

See the traveler on his way.

Ah, if Heaven had a feeling heart, it, too, must grow old! 4

He bears the disk off alone

By the light of the desolate moon,

The town far behind him, muted its lapping waves.


1. The word li refers to a unit of measurement. At the time this poem was written, a li was roughly equivalent to about a kilometer, but different Emperors in different centuries lengthened or shortened the measurement as they saw fit.

2. The Han ruled from 206 BCE to 26 BCE. They lost power for a few decades, then reclaimed reclaimed their authority and continued to rule until 220 CE. The symbol of the Han family was the crescent moon. At the time the poet writes about Maoling palace, the building has been in ruins for nearly 700 years.

3. The statue, made of bronzework molded together with lead, has been melted by the fire that destroyed the palace, and the lead (which melts at a lower temperature than bronze) has run out from its eyes, giving it the appearance of crying.

4. The word translated here as "Heaven" is tian in Mandarin Chinese. The written symbol for tian literally means "The highest," and can refer to both "the sky" and "the gods." The written ideograph shows an inverted V shape with two horizontal lines crossing the top, the highest of which holds blank space, indicating that there is nothing above this highest point.

 

 

 

     

To Home Page
Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2017. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated January 5, 2017. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.