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While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead

I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.

You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,

You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.

And we went on living in the village of Chokan:

Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with yours

Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the lookout?

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-to-yen, by the river of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.

By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me. I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was one of America’s most influential and problematic 20th-century poets. A leading figure of the modernist movement, he left Paris for Italy in 1924 and became a zealous follower of Mussolini, broadcasting numerous pro-Fascist propaganda speeches over Italian radio during the Second World War. Captured after the war and returned to the United States, Pound was judged unfit to stand trial and was, instead, committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. After being released in 1958, Pound returned to Italy, where he spent the remainder of his life. This poem, surely among Pound’s finest, is a translation from the great Tang Dynasty Chinese poet Li Po (Li Bai in its current transliteration), a poet whose name in Japanese is Rihaku. Li Bai (701–762) is considered one of the greatest of Chinese poets.

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