The First Ode for the Red Cliff
In the autumn of the year Renxu(1082 A. D.), during the 16th of July on the lunar calendar, I - Su Shi, went boating with my guests under the Red Cliff. The fresh breeze blew gently and the waves were quite quiet. Raising my goblet, I tried to persuade my guests to drink, reciting the first stanza of "The Moon rises" from "The Book of Songs". Soon after the moon rose from behind the eastern mountain and lingered between the Dipper Mansion and the Ox Mansion. White mist veiled the whole river and the shimmering water appeared connected to the sky. We allowed our boat to drift freely on all this vast river. Moved forward, as if we used the fair wind in the heavens and did not know where to stop, feeling as though we cast aside worldly cares, lived independently and became winged immortal.
At that time we drank wine and cheered up, so we sang loudly, beating time by tapping on the side of the boat. This was the song: "Oh! The paddles made of osmanthus and magnolia trees, launch the counter attack to the transparent waves of reflection of the moon in water, going against the gleaming stream. But my heart feeling is far away, longing for that person who is on the other side of the world." One of my guests, who was a good player on the vertical bamboo flute, started to accompany this song according to the rhythm. And the sound was sad: as if complaining and admiring, and as if weeping and narrating. The residual sound was lingering, as if it was an infinite thin thread. It was able for the flood dragon that was hidden under the deep-water to dance and for the widow on a lonely boat to weep.
I also became serious, put in order clothes and solemnly sat down to ask the guest: "Why your music is so sad?" The guest replied: " 'when the moon is bright, the stars are rare and the black magpies fly to the south.' Isn’t this the verse of Cao Cao? Here to the west I could see Xiakou, in the east I have seen Wuchang. The mountains and rivers adjoining infinitely, are wrapped up in dark green. Isn't this the place where Cao Cao was besieged by Zhou Yu? When Cao Cao conquered Jingzhou, took Jiangling, he led the fleet of connected warships, extending up to one thousand li along the Yangtze River downstream to the east, and all the banners and flags closed over the sky. Then in front of the river he drank wine and composed poetry, holding a long spear across. He was really the hero of his time, but where is he now? Moreover, we're catching fish and chopping down wood on the sandbar of the river, keeping company with fish and shrimp and on friendly terms with elk. We row a boat on the river and toast each other. You and I, keep as mayflies between heaven and earth, as a small grain in the extensive sea. I regret the brevity of our life and envy immensity of the Yangtze River. I want to accompany the flying immortal, to wander about in heaven and to embrace the bright moon through eternity. I know that they can't be achieved after all. Therefore, I can only put my regret into the music and entrust it to the sad autumn wind now. "
I asked: "Do you know the water and the moon? Water passing as it, actually doesn't disappear; the moon is subject to change in order to be full and insufficient, eventually it doesn't increase or decrease. Thus, if viewed from the side of change, apparently, between heaven and earth there is no moment which doesn't change, but on the same side of constancy, apparently, all things with their lives are infinite. Should we envy? Moreover, between heaven and earth, all things have their own ascription. If a thing does not belong to me, even the slightest amount I cann’t take. Only the bracing wind on the river and the bright moon in the mountains, which make in our ears a pleasant sound and in our eyes dreamy color, will be never spent, and may be freely used. They - the immeasurable treasure, given to us by our Creator, which you can enjoy with me."