Bai Juyi: Junior Officer Li and His Ancient Sword


Junior Officer Li and His Ancient Sword

李 都 尉 古 剑
古 剑 寒 黯 黯
铸 来 几 千 秋。
白 光 纳 日 月
紫 气 排 斗 牛。
有 客 借 一 观
爱 之 不 敢 求。
湛 然 玉 匣 中
秋 水 澄 不 流。
至 宝 有 本 性
精 刚 无 与 俦。
可 使 寸 寸 折
不 能 绕 指 柔。
原 快 直 士 心
将 断 佞 臣 头。
不 愿 报 小 怨
夜 半 剌 私 仇。
劝 君 慎 所 用
无 作 神 兵 羞。
Li Dou Wei Gu Jian

Gu jian han an an
Zhu lai ji qian qiu.
Bai guan no ri yue
Zi qi pai dou niu.

You ge jie yi guan
Ai zhi bu gan qiu.
Zhan ran yu xia zhong
Qiu shui deng bu liu.

Zhi bao you ben xing
Jing gang wu yu chou.
Ke shi cun cun she
Bu neng rao zhi rou.

Yuan kuai zhen shi xin
Jiang duan ning chen tou.
Bu yuan bao xiao yuan
Ye ban la si chou.
Quan jun shen suo yong
Wu zuo shen bing xiu.


Junior Officer Li and His Ancient Sword

This ancient sword appears dark and cold
Probably cast and crafted several thousand autumns ago.
Received white light from all of those suns and moons
It was buried under an ancient prison, below the two stars of Dou and Niu.

Visitors to Li want to borrow one glance and look at his sword
I so cherished it, was not brave enough to hold it.
Coming out of it’s jade-like case, it was thoroughly profound
It shone like a still and transparent autumn river.

The most treasured aspect was it’s innate nature
Metal so refined and strong, nothing like it exists.
During use, only very small specks can be dislodged
Cannot be bent like soft coiled fingers.

Hope the genuine scholar heart-mind can be like it
Used to break the heads of those officials who flatter.
Not respond to the small people who blame and resent
And those perverse and hateful people who operate in the shadows.
I advise Mr. Li to be careful and prudent when using this sword
Do not feel shame if the soldier deities arise to help you.



Stars of Dou and Niu:  Named by the Jin Dynasty astronomer Zhang Hua. Areas down on earth were associated with the stars above. These were places with special powers. These two winter stars were a part of the Black Tortoise of the North, inside the Twenty-Eight Mansions constellation. The Niu (Ox) star corresponds to the tail of Capricorn in the western star maps.



Reminds one a bit of The Excalibur of Arthurian Legend.


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