Smooth and gently sloping, a level plain:
Southward gallops to Green Kola and Swollen Sea,
Northward races to Purple Pass and Goose Gate.
With the Transport Canal in tow,
And Kun Ridge as its axle,
It is a nook of doubling rivers and enfolding passes,
A hub where four highways converge, where five intersect.
In the past ,
During its age of consummate splendor,
Chariots rubbed axle-hub to axle-hub,
Men bumped shoulder to shoulder,
Settlements and ward gates covered the land,
Singing and piping pierced the sky.
It multiplied wealth with its salt fields,
Dug profits from the copper hills.
In talent and man power it was strong and rich;
Warriors and steeds were well-trained and well-footed.
Thus, it was able
To exceed the laws of Ch'in
Surpass the institutes of Zhou,
And carve lofty fortresses,
Dredge deep moats,
Planning for long reigns and a propitious mandate.
Rammed earth walls and parapets, grandly constructed,
Well-curb lookouts and beacon towers, meticulously crafted,
In measure higher than the Five Peaks,
In breadth wider than the Three Divisions,
Jutted up like sheer cliffs,
Abruptly rose like long clouds.
They built lodestones to resist assault,
Daubed carmine loam to make soaring designs.
Beholding the solidity and defense of its foundation walls,
Couldn't a single lord's house hold them for ten thousand years?
Yet, as three dynasties have entered and exited,
And over five hundred years have passed,
It has been carved like a melon, split like beans.
March moss clings to the wells,
Wild kudzu vines tangle the paths;
The halls are filled with snakes and beetles,
By stairs contend deer and flying squirrels.
Wood sprites and mountain demons,
Field rats, wall foxes,
Howling in the wind, shrieking in the rain,
Appear at night, take flight at dawn.
Hungry hawks sharpen their beaks,
Cold kites hoot at young birds
Crouching felines, lurking tigers,
Suckle blood, sup on flesh.
Fallen thickest blocking the road,
Grow dense and dark on the ancient highway.
White poplars early shed their leaves;
Wall grasses prematurely wither.
Bitter and biting is the frosty air;
Roaring and raging, the wind's might.
A lone tumbleweed bestirs itself;
Startled sand flies without cause.
Brushy scrub darkly stretches without end;
Clustered copses wildly intertwine.
The surrounding moat has already been leveled;
The lofty turrets too have fallen.
Looking straight ahead for a thousand miles and beyond,
One only sees rising yellow dust.
Focus one's thoughts, quietly listen:
The heart is pained and broken.
Carved gates, embroidered curtains,
Sites of singing halls and dance pavilions;
Carnelian pools, prase tree,
Lodges of fowling groves and fishing isles;
The music of Wu, Cai, Ch'i, and Ch'in.
Amusements of the dragon-fish, ostrich, and horse:
All have vanished in smoke, have been reduced to ashes,
Their brilliance engulfed, their sounds silenced.
Exquisite consorts from the Eastern Capital,
Beauties from southern states,
With hearts of meliot, complexions of white silk,
Jade features, scarlet lips:
There is none whose soul rest unburied in somber stones,
Whose bones lie unscattered in bleak dust.
Can you recall the joyful pleasures of sharing the carriage,
Or the painful misery of the sequestered palace?
Heaven's way, how is it
That so many swallow grief?
I grasp my zither and name a tune;
I play "The Song of the Ruined City."
The song goes:
Border winds are fierce,
Above the wall it is cold.
Wells and paths have vanished,
Hillocks and mounds are destroyed.
A thousand, ten thousand ages,
Everyone is gone -- what can one say?