A Song of an Autumn Midnight

A slip of the moon hangs over the capital;
Ten thousand washing-mallets are pounding;
And the autumn wind is blowing my heart
For ever and ever toward the Jade Pass....
Oh, when will the Tartar troops be conquered,
And my husband come back from the long campaign!

Translated by Witter Bynner

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Stanton Hager's picture

Appreciation of this poem benefits from the following note:

Edited Note by Frank Watson: In ancient China, women washed clothes by pounding them with wooden mallets--in this poem washing clothes for their husbands, away waging a border war. Usually, women pounded clothes in the daytime so they could see better. But with husbands gone, women also had to get done the daytime’s farm chores. So, they washed clothes at night under the moon. Li Po reveals that housewives, too, had it hard during war.

Stanton Hager

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