East flows the mighty river,
Sweeping away the heroes of time past;
This ancient rampart on its western shore
Is Zhou Yu's Red Cliff of three Kingdoms' fame;
Here jagged boulders pound the clouds,
Huge waves tear banks apart,
And foam piles up a thousand drifts of snow;
A scene fair as a painting,
Countless the brave men here in time gone by!
I dream of Marshal Zhou Yu in his day
With his new bride, the Lord Qiao's younger daughter,
Dashing and debonair,
Silk-capped, with feather fan,
He laughed and jested
While the dread enemy fleet was burned to ashes!
In fancy through those scenes of old I range.
My heart overflowing, surely a figure of fun.
A man gray before his time.
Ah, this life is a dream,
Let me drink to the moon on the river!
-- Nian Nu Jiao
Translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Taylor
With thanks to Chang Yao, who informs us that this is her favorite of the various translations of the poem she has read. "Yang Xianyi was a Chinese translator who translated many ancient and a few modern Chinese classics into English, including Dream of the Red Chamber (my favorite novel of all time), and he was also the first one to translate The Odyssey into Chinese from the ancient Greek original. Glady Taylor was a British translator, and wife of Yang Xianyi (the couple met at Oxford, where they studied together)."