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I am the North Pole - Tzu Yeh, 3rd-4th century.
I cannot sleep
for the blaze of the full moon.
I thought I heard here and there
a voice calling, hopelessly I answer 'Yes'
to the empty air.
It is night again.
I let down my silken hair
over my shoulders
and open my thighs
over my lover.
'Tell me, is there any part of me
that is not lovable?'
I had not fastened my sash over my gown
when you asked me to look out the window.
If my skirt fluttered open,
blame the spring wind.
The bare branches tremble in the sudden breeze.
The twilight deepens.
My lover loves me,
and I am proud of my young beauty.
I am the North Pole
steady for a thousand years.
Your sun-like heart
goes east in the morning
and west in the evening.
I will swallow my tears - T'ang Wan, 12th century.
The world's love runs thin.
Human love turns evil.
Rain strips, in the yellow twilight,
the flowers from the branches.
The dawn wind will dry my tear stains.
I try to write down the trouble of my heart.
I can only speak obliquely, exhausted.
It is hard, hard.
We are each of us all alone.
Today is not yesterday.
My troubled mind sways
like the rope of a swing.
A horn sounds in the cold depth of the night.
Afraid of people's questions
I will swallow my tears
and pretend to be happy.
Deceit. Deceit. Deceit.
I saw your sigh – Anon. Yuan dynasty.
I hold you tight in my jade white arms.
You loosen my dress and my cloud dark hair.
The tips of our tongues are cold with passion
and sweet in each other's mouths.
You whisper my name.
I whisper yours.
Frantically we kiss each other
again and again, here and there.
It is hard loving this way.
We don't dare play with each other.
All we can do is steal a few words
when nobody notices.
When there are people around
we exchange sidelong glances.
I saw your long heavy sigh.
It delighted my eyes.
But it tore my heart.
Commissioned by Bryan James (for his daughter, soprano Ana James' 21st birthday)
'I am the North Pole' - poem by Tzu Yeh, 3rd-4th century 'I will swallow my tears' - poem by T'ang Wan, 12th century 'I saw your sigh' - Anon., Yuan Dynasty
Text from English translations of a poem by Tzu Yeh, 3th-4th century, T'ang Wan, 12th century, and an anonymous author in the Yuan Dynasty
04 May 2006: Performed by Pepe Becker (soprano) and Emma Sayers (piano); Adam Concert Room, Wellington