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A song of dagger-dancing to a girl-pupil of Lady Gongsun – Du Fu

There lived years ago the beautiful Gongsun,
Who, dancing with her dagger, drew from all four quarters
An audience like mountains lost among themselves.
Heaven and earth moved back and forth, following her motions,
Which were bright as when the Archer shot the nine suns down the sky
And rapid as angels before the wings of dragons.
She began like a thunderbolt, venting its anger,
And ended like the shining calm of rivers and the sea….
But vanished are those red lips and those pearly sleeves;
And none but this one pupil bears the perfume of her fame,
This beauty from Lingying, at the Town of the White God,
Dancing still and singing in the old blithe way.
And while we reply to each other’s questions,
We sigh together, saddened by changes that have come.
There were eight thousand ladies in the late Emperor’s court,
But none could dance the dagger-dance like Lady Gongsun.
…Fifty years have passed, like the turning of a palm;
Wind and dust, filling the world, obscure the Imperial House.
Instead of the Pear-Garden Players, who have blown by like a mist,
There are one or two girl-musicians now-trying to charm the cold Sun.
There are man-size trees by the Emperor’s Golden Tomb
I seem to hear dead grasses rattling on the cliffs of Qutang.
…The song is done, the slow string and quick pipe have ceased.
At the height of joy, sorrow comes with the eastern moon rising.
And I, a poor old man, not knowing where to go,
Must harden my feet on the lone hills, toward sickness and despair.

观公孙大娘弟子舞剑器行

昔有佳人公孙氏, 一舞剑器动四方。
观者如山色沮丧, 天地为之久低昂。
霍如羿射九日落, 矫如群帝骖龙翔,
来如雷霆收震怒, 罢如江海凝清光。
绛唇珠袖两寂寞, 晚有弟子传芬芳。
临颍美人在白帝, 妙舞此曲神扬扬。
与余问答既有以, 感时抚事增惋伤。
先帝侍女八千人, 公孙剑器初第一。
五十年间似反掌, 风尘澒洞昏王室。
梨园子弟散如烟, 女乐余姿映寒日。
金粟堆前木已拱, 瞿塘石城草萧瑟。
玳筵急管曲复终, 乐极哀来月东出。
老夫不知其所往? 足茧荒山转愁疾。

2016-06-22

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