Farewell to Uncle Yun 1 at Xie-tiao Tower in
Xuan-zhou City 2 (753 CE)
Li, Bai (701-62 CE)
That which has abandoned me is the irrevocable past;
That which troubles my mind is the sorrowful present 3.
Long winds escort the autumn geese for a thousand miles 4.
This scene invites us to drink at this tall tower.
Your essays are as broad and profound as those in the classics collected at
Peng-lai Mountain 5
And they are as vigorous and powerful as the Jian-an style of writing
My poetry is elegant, graceful and unrestrained like that of Tiao Xie.
We are both in a creative mood that inspires our imaginations to fly high
As if we were ascending the blue sky to pluck the bright moon.
I draw a sword and cut the flowing water,
But it only flows more violently 7.
I hold the wine cup to banish my sorrows
But only become more upset.
There is no hope to realize my dreams during my lifetime.
It is better to let my hair loose and float in a flat boat 8.
Yun Li, Bai Li's uncle, was an editor at the Bureau of Archives.
Xie-tiao Tower was built by poet and mayor Tiao Xie of Xuan-zhou City in
the Kingdom of Southern Qi around 500 CE. A person's name in China is pronounced
last name first, the first name second. Xuan-zhou City is now called
Xuan-cheng-xian City and is located in Anhui Province.
Bai Li was banished from the emperor's court by corrupt influential officials
in 744 CE. This poem expressed his pent-up emotions. He had the talent to save
the corrupt government, but he had no opportunity to use it.
3 "That which troubles my mind" refers to the conflict between his ambitions
and his frustrations rather than sorrow due to his separation from his uncle.
This line not only refers to the fact that Bai Li saw his uncle off, but
also naturally and elegantly suggests that his passion escorts his lofty
aspirations. As one sees one's guest off, one usually escorts the guest for a
It was said that Peng-lai Mountain was a heavenly mountain where gods
collected secret records and classical books. Chinese scholars often referred to
the library in the Eastern Palace as Peng-lai Mountain. The people of the Tang
dynasty frequently used Peng-lai Mountain to represent the Bureau of Archives.
6 "The Jian-an style of writing" refers to the writing style established and
promoted by Prime Minister Cao Cao, his sons, and the Seven Great Writers during
the Jian-an Period (196-219 CE).
This line and the previous one say that he cannot separate himself from the
frustrations pursuing him.
At first glance, this line seems to say that Li tried to avoid reality by
living in seclusion. In fact, it is intended to convey that Li protested the
corruption that emerged after state power fell to crafty sycophants.