The Goddess of the Luo

In the third year of the Huang-chu era, I attended court at the capital and then crossed the Luo River to begin my journey home Men in olden times used to say that the goddess of the river is named Fufei. Inspired by the example of Song Yu, who described a goddess to the king of Chu, I eventually composed a rhapsody 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 four 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 woman so beautiful!” The coachman 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
She strikes a balance between plump and frail;
The tall and short of her are justly proportioned,
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 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 the Songs;
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
The spirit of the Luo, moved by my action,
Paces to and fro uncertainly,
The holy light deserting her, then reappearing,
Now darkening, now shining again;
She lifts her light body in the posture of a crane,
As though about to fly but not yet taking wing.
She walks the heady perfume of pepper-scented roads,
Strides through clumps of spikenard, scattering their fragrance.
Wailing distractedly, a sign of endless longing,
Her voice, sharp with sorrow, growing more prolonged.
Then a swarm of milling spirits appears,
Calling companions, whistling to their mates,
Some sporting in the clear current,
Some hovering over sacred isles,
Some searching for bright pearls,
Some collecting kingfisher plumes.
The goddess attends the two queens of Xiang in the south,
Joins hands with Wandering Girl from the banks of the Han,
Sighs that the Gourd Star has no spouse,
Laments that the Herdboy must live alone.
Lifting the rare fabric of her thin jacket,
She makes a shield of her long sleeve, pausing in hesitation,
Body nimbler than a winging duck,
Swift, as befits the spirit she is;
Traversing the waves in tiny steps,
Her gauze slippers seem to stir a dust
Her movements have no constant pattern,
Now unsteady, now sedate;
Hard to predict are her starts and hesitations,
Now advancing, now turning back.
Her roving glance flashes fire;
A radiant warmth shines from her jadelike face
Her words, held back, remain unvoiced,
Her breath scented as though with hidden orchids;
Her fair face all loveliness—
She makes me forget my hunger!
Then the god Bingyi calls in his winds,
The River Lord stills the waves,
While Pingyi beats a drum,
And Nu Wa offers simple songs
Speckled fish are sent aloft to clear the way for her carriage,
Jade bells are jangled for accompaniment;
Six dragon-steeds, solemn, pulling neck to neck,
She rides the swift passage of her cloudy chariot.
Whales dance at the hubs on either side,
Water birds flying in front to be her guard.
And when she has gone beyond the northern sandbars,
When she has crossed the southern ridges,
She bends her white neck,
Clear eyes cast down,
Moves her red lips,
Speaking slowly;
Discussing the great principles that govern friendship,
She complains that men and gods must follow separate ways,
Voices anger that we cannot fulfill the hopes of youth,
Holding up her gauze sleeve to hide her weeping,
Torrents of teardrops drowning her lapels
She laments that our happy meeting must end forever,
Grieves that, once separated, we go to different lands
 “No way to express my unworthy love,
 I give you this bright earring from south of the Yangtze.
 Though I dwell in the Great Shadow down under the waters,
 My heart will forever belong to you, my prince!”
Then suddenly I could not tell where she had gone;
To my sorrow the spirit vanished in darkness, veiling her light.
With this I turned my back on the lowland, climbed the height;
My feet went forward but my soul remained behind
Thoughts taken up with the memory of her image,
I turned to look back, a heart full of despair.
Hoping that the spirit form might show itself again,
I embarked in a small boat to journey upstream,
Drifting over the long river, forgetting to return,
Wrapped in endless remembrances that made my longing greater
Night found me fretful, unable to sleep;
Heavy frosts soaked me until the break of day
I ordered the groom to ready the carriage,
Thinking to return to my eastern road,
But though I seized the reins and lifted up my whip,
I stayed lost in hesitation and could not break away.
Author of original: 
Ts'ao Chih
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