The Goddess of the Luo
In the third year of the Huangchu era, I attended court at the capital and then crossed theLuo River to begin my journey home. Men in olden times used to say that the goddess ofthe river is named Fufei. Inspired by the example of Song Yu, who described a goddess to theking of Chu, I eventually composed a fu which read:
Leaving the capital
To return to my fief in the east,
Yi Barrier at my back,
Up over Huanyuan,
Passing through Tong Valley,
Crossing Mount Jing;
The sun had already dipped in the west,
The carriage unsteady, the horses fatigued,
And so I halted my rig in the spikenard marshes,
Grazed my team of our at Lichen Fields ,
Idling a while by Willow Wood ,
Letting my eyes wander over the Luo.
Then my mood seemed to change, my spirit grew restless;
Suddenly my thoughts had scattered.
I looked down, hardly noticing what was there,
Looked up to see a different sight,
To spy a lovely lady by the slopes of the riverbank.
I took hold of the coachman's arm and asked: “Can you see her? Who could she be – a womanso beautiful!”
The coachmen replied: “I have heard of the goddess of the River Luo, Whose name is Fufei.What you see, my prince — is it not she? But what does she look like? I beg you to tell me!”
And I answered:
Her body soars lightly like a startled swan,
Gracefully, like a dragon in flight,
In splendor brighter than the autumn chrysanthemum,
In bloom more flourishing than the pine in spring;
Dim as the moon mantled in filmy clouds,
Restless as snow whirled by the driving wind.
Gaze far off from a distance;
She sparkles like the sun rising from morning mists;
Press closer to examine:
She flames like the lotus flower topping the green wave.
In her a balance is struck between plump and frail.
A measured accord between diminutive and tall,
With shoulders shaped as if by carving,
Waist narrow as though bound with white cords;
At her slim throat and curving neck
The pale flesh lies open to view,
No scented ointments overlaying it,
No coat of leaden powder applied.
Cloud-bank coiffure rising steeply,
Long eyebrows delicately arched,
Red lips that shed their light abroad,
White teeth gleaming within,
Bright eyes skilled at glances,
A dimple to round off the base of the cheek —
Her rare form wonderfully enchanting,
Her manner quiet, her pose demure.
Gentle hearted, broad of mind ,
She entrances with every word she speaks;
Her robes are of a strangeness seldom seen,
Her face and figure live up to her paintings.
Wrapped in the soft rustle of a silken garments,
She decks herself with flowery earrings of jasper and jade,
Gold and kingfisher hairpins adorning her head,
Strings of bright pearls to make her body shine.
She treads in figured slippers fashioned for distant wandering,
Airy trains of mistlike gauze in tow,
Dimmed by the odorous haze of unseen orchids,
Pacing uncertainly beside the corner of the hill.
Then suddenly she puts on a freer air,
Ready for rambling, for pleasant diversion.
To the left planting her colored pennants,
To the right spreading the shade of cassia flags,
She dips pale wrists into the holy river's brink,
Plucks dark iris from the rippling shallows.
My fancy is charmed by her modest beauty,
But my heart, uneasy, stirs with distress:
Without a skilled go-between to join us in bliss,
I must trust these little waves to bear my message.
Desiring that my sincerity first of all be known,
I undo a girdle-jade to offer as pledge.
Ah, the pure trust of that lovely lady,
Trained in ritual, acquainted with Odes ;
She holds up a garnet stone to match my gift,
Pointing down into the depths to show where we should meet.
Clinging to a lover's passionate faith,
Yet I fear that this spirit may deceive me;
Warned by tales of how Jiaofu was abandoned,
I pause, uncertain and despairing;
Then, stilling such thoughts, I turn a gentler face toward her,
Signaling that for my part I abide by the rules of ritual.