ALARM AT FIRST ENTERING THE YANG-TZE GORGES
Written in 818, when he was being towed up the rapids to Chung-chou.
Above, a mountain ten thousand feet high :
Below, a river a thousand fathoms deep.
A strip of sky, walled by cliffs of stone:
Wide enough for the passage of a single reed.
At Chü-t'ang a straight cleft yawns:
At Yen-yü islands block the stream.
Long before night the walls are black with dusk;
Without wind white waves rise.
The big rocks are like a flat sword :
The little rocks resemble ivory tusks.
We are stuck fast and cannot move a step.
How much the less, three hundred miles? '
Frail and slender, the twisted-bamboo rope :
Weak, the dangerous hold of the towers' feet.
A single slip — the whole convoy lost :
And my life hangs on this thread !
I have heard a saying " He that has an upright heart
Shall walk scathless through the lands of Man and Mo." ''
How can I believe that since the world began
In every shipwreck none have drowned but rogues?
And how can I, born in evil days'
And fresh from failure," ask a kindness of Fate?
Often I fear that these un-talented limbs
Will be laid at last in an un-named grave !
1 The distance to Chung-chou, ' Dangerous savages
* Of civil war. * Alluding to his renewed banishment. .