The Jewel Stairs' Grievance

One of the things that got me interested in Chinese way back when was Ezra Pound, whose translations of classical Chinese poetry I always found really beautiful and deep. (And appealingly bite-sized, as my interest in a given poem seems to decline exponentially with each additional line.)

I recently stumbled upon the original Chinese for one of the poems that I remember well from those heady days of, um, reading Ezra Pound while ignoring my AI lectures (WTF?). It’s Li Bai’s “Jewel Stairs’ Grievance” :

玉階怨
玉階生白露
夜久侵羅襪
卻下水晶帘
玲瓏望秋月

And here’s Pound’s translation:
The jewelled steps are already quite white with dew,
It is so late that the dew soaks my gauze stockings,
And I let down the crystal curtain
And watch the moon through the clear autumn.
Note: Jewel stairs, therefore a palace. Grievance, therefore there is something to complain of. Gauze stockings, therefore a court lady, not a servant who complains. Clear autumn, therefore he has no excuse on account of the weather. Also she has come early, for the dew has not merely whitened the stairs, but has soaked her stockings. The poem is especially prized because she utters no direct reproach.