Lovers seldom come to this deep alley,
Their spirits have to linger on in dreams.
Whose fragrance of damask is this?
From which tower does this breeze blow the song?
Sounds of drums in the street,
Disturb my morning sleep.
Magpies chirping in the courtyard,
Confuse my spring sorrows.
How can I care
For things of this world?
Ten thousand miles, my life,
Like a boat unmoored.
The Late Spring (暮春即事) by Yu Xuanji (魚玄機). Tang dynasty.
Concubine, nun, and courtesan Yu Xuanji was a Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty distinguished for her direct, autobiographical poetic style. Yu lived a short life abounding with scandal and strife; she had an affair with renowned lyricist Wen Tingyun (温庭筠), lived promiscuously, and allegedly beat her maid to death, for which she was executed. Stories of Yu’s sexual adventures have lead some to credit her as the first well-known openly bisexual woman in China.
Yu’s work was published in a collection entitled Fragments of a Northern Dreamland, which has since been lost. The forty-nine surviving poems were published in a “freak anthology” in the Song dynasty alongside poems attributed to foreigners and ghosts. Yu’s vivid and deeply emotional poetry is reminiscent of the post-Romantic cult of personal expression popular in western poetry.