Eighteen Refrains on Tartar Pipes 13,14,15 Cai Yan [Cai Wenji] (ca. 177-?)
Tr. YK Chan 陈耀国译
This late in life my successful repatriation is not expected,
My blouse’s wetted by tears as my Tartar sons are hugged tight.
With the Han emissary and a four-horse-drawn carriage standing by,
Wildly I wail but who cares even when my wailing voices die?
In life-death departure, grieving for my boys the sun shines no more; return them not to me before they grow up?
A step farther away from them my feet cannot move,
Though their images are disappearing, my love for them is not remov’d.
At thirteenth refrain the tempo accelerates and melody turns grave,
No one but me know that I fall apart into an abysmal cave.
Repatriated without my sons for upbringing,
My heart forever starves of all my longings.
Everything thrives or dies according to the seasons,
But my sorrow and bitterness never waive with reasons.
In this whole wide world we’ll ne’er meet again,
Late at night in my dream you two come to me again.
Dreaming of holding your hands I’m split between joy and grief,
Awake my heart pangs never stop to offer me relief.
By fourteenth refrain my sobs and tears mingle,
Like a stream flowing east my thoughts tingle.
The tempo accelerates at fifteenth refrain,
Who’d recognize sulking and anger sound like twain?
Staying in Tartar camp at odds with their custom,
Heaven grants my wish of returning home I fathom.
Repatriating to Han I’m gladly satisfied,
But sadness in my heart is intensified.
The sun and moon shine all over but not on me,
For I can’t bear being separated my sons from me
Under the same sky yet we can ne’er meet,
About each other’s well being where to seek?