Reply to Bai Juyi Whom I Meet for the First Time at a Banquet in Yangzhou by Liu Yuxf 酬乐天扬州初逢席上见赠 (刘禹锡)

O Western mountains and Southern streams desolate,

Where l, an exile, lived for twenty years and three;

To mourn for my departed friends I come too late;

In native land I look but like human debris.

A thousand sails pass by the side of sunken ship;

A myriad flowers bloom ahead of injured tree.

Today I hear you chant the praises of friendship;

I wish this cup of wine might well inspirit me.

巴山楚水凄凉地,

二十三年弃置身。

怀旧空吟闻笛赋,

到乡翻似烂柯人。

沉舟侧畔千帆过,

病树前头万木春。

今日听君歌一曲,

暂凭杯酒长精神。

This poem was in response to a poem by Bai Juyi. The first two lines give a Oil brief introduction to the poet’s 23 years’ hard life in a desolate and remote area to which he was demoted as a result of f the failure of Wang Shuwen’s political reform group in which he was deeply involved. With two allusions, the third and fourth lines describe his mixed feelings after experiencing the hardships. The third line conveys his deep longing for his friends, implying his detestation over the evil forces which suppressed the reform movement. The fourth line uses a literary allusion to express his regret at the passage of the golden time. He sighed a great sorrow over the rights and wrongs and the inconstancy of human relationships. After reading the poem, , there is no one who does not show his deep sympathy for the poet’s hard experience. However, the poet didn’t immerse himself in grief and sorrow, instead he changed his tone by writing with an unexpectedly open-a vivid and lively figure of speech revealing a profound philosophic theory of the replacement of the old by the new, and the continuous development of things. Passing by and thousands of saplings have shot up to present a vast scene of vigour and vitality. Compared with the boundless universe full of vitality, personal setbacks and hardships are nothing to us. The high spirit of the poet after so many reverses showed his noble sentiment, lofty aspirations and sharp vision that could see clearly the law of the development of things. This is where his great nobility Iied. The last two lines explain that although he himself was already the “sunken ship” and the “withered tree”, he still wished to bestir himself and be active with his friends’ encouragement and support. He also encouraged his friends to be optimistic.

Written in a perfect style, the poem is full of true feelings and appropriate metaphors. The fifth and sixth lines are especially vivid and thought-provoking and have become a well-known epigram for ages. They not only encourage people to look forward to the future and be optimistic, but also refer to the inevitable death of the decadent force and the undefeatablity of the new rising force.

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