River On A Spring Night, the “One Poem Above All Of Tang,” certainly enjoyed a famous reputation in Chen Mo’s time. It was lauded Wen Yiduo as the poem of poems, the peak of peaks, its charm clearly visible. “River On A Spring Night” was rich in the character and style of a southern folksong, and it was also relatively successful in utilizing the nearly completed new metric verse that had developed during the hundred years from Liang to Tang. It offered later poets a very good model. This was obviously the pinnacle. The author, Zhang Ruoxu, was much like his name, a seeming illusion his whole life, already unresearchable. The sole long poem he left behind, “River On A Spring Night” startled Heaven and man.
The poem adopted tangled and complicated changes. In terms of structure, most of it used parallel verse, the coupled phrases flowing with one another. It was wonderful up and down its stanzas, the article’s distinct style endless. Not only was its artistic mood in the scenery profound, it even had philosophical reflections. As a result, it was called the One Poem Above All Of Tang.
The Tang Dynasty’s poetry composition already reached the pinnacle of achievement. “Poet Immortal” Li Bai, “Poet Sage” Du Fu, “Poet Buddha” Wang Wei, “Poet Ghost” Li He, and others were all born in that era filled with twinkling stars. To be able to flourish among Tang poetry as the One Poem Above All Of Tang was not an ordinary achievement.
With poetry like this that had endless charm, let alone five years, it would perhaps take five decades or even five centuries for someone to be able to respond.
Hearing such a familiar famous work, Chen Mo was a bit disappointed and frustrated. It was as if he had returned to his old life.
Right now, Crown Prince Tang Feng was already on stage supplementing the poem.
Yu Youwei’s previously mentioned four verses were split into “The spring river surges to sea level, the bright moon rises from the swelling tides. Waves billow over millions of li, the entire river illuminated with moonlight!” At once, Tang Feng knew this was setting the scene, and he was already prepared for a long time. With the topic given, he was full of self-confidence.
He waited a moment, and with the accompaniment of Yu Youwei’s serene tune, he clearly recited: “A skiff as a guest on the Xiangjing, reed flowers across a thousand li wipe out the lone hook. The clear and bright moon floods the clear ripples, this moon has already shone for a thousand years…”
Since the stanza Yu Youwei said before was related to rivers, Tang Feng very naturally thought of skiffs, character, and sentiment. Admittedly, this crown prince had still spent an enormous effort. Some verses were already taking on the first stages of the River On A Spring Night’s meaning, but the difference was still too great.
Perhaps he realized the creative concept, but the thoughts of people were eternally very different. To make a perfect original composition was practically impossible.
Indeed, Chen Mo noticed that when Tang Feng recited that verse about the boat, Yu Youwei’s brow wrinkled ever so slightly, and her red lips tightly pursed. Evidently, she was not very satisfied with Tang Feng’s verse.
After a round.
Everyone wished for it to continue.
“A good poem.”
“Very good, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince’s composition is truly a perfect match with Lady Youwei’s.”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, it would be inexcusable for Lady Youwei to decline this, too.”
“Yes, it’s been five years. Lady Youwei can’t be doing this on purpose, right?”
The whole place was filled with enthusiastic cheers. Chen Mo smirked in amusement. The people who were acting rowdy were very clearly part of the crown prince’s faction. This crown prince had planned to exploit public opinion to pressure Yu Youwei to relent. This guy was actually quite crafty.
“Lady Youwei, this ancient poem has always been untitled, so This Highness shall modestly offer ‘Libation To The Moon On The River.'”
Tang Feng felt good about himself.
Chen Mo could not help but laugh.
Wasn’t Libation To The Moon On The River the name of a famous poem to scold female slaves, this guy really is creative.
Chen Mo’s laugh immediately became the focus of everyone present. The enmity between the two of them earlier was still fresh on their minds. His laugh clearly was an enormous provocation.
“Does Chen Mo feel that This Highness’ Libation To The Moon On The River is unimpressive?” Tang Feng’s brows rose, his tone containing dissatisfaction. Their bet from before was already put them at odds against one another, like fire and water. Now, Tang Feng had no need to put on a tranquil attitude.
“Your Imperial Highness Tang Feng, your poem supplement can be considered very good, but to This One’s ears, it is still a bit at odds with Lady Youwei’s song.”
Tang Feng laughed and snorted: “This Highness has listened to Lady Youwei’s song for five years already. In these five years, This Highness did not dare speak his first, but This Highness nevertheless believes that analysis is second. This Highness recalls that this is your first time back to Chang’an after leaving more than ten years ago, is that not so, Chen Mo?” Saying this, Tang Feng sneered, his intent very obvious. While This Father listened to Youwei’s music, you were hiding somewhere else licking your wounds, you piece of trash. How can a guy who just came to Chang’an have the qualifications to say that his verse did not match with Youwei’s song. This was truly making a fool of himself.
The crown prince’s people showed sneers of mockery.
“The song does not care how long you have listened to it. It looks at comprehension and wit. Tang Feng, your wording is too unbecoming of the imperial family’s etiquette.” Chen Lin coldly said. Indeed, what Tang Feng said could not be refuted. In these five years, Chang’an’s noble young lords were all researching Youwei’s song. Tang Feng was considered one of the most zealous. It was not an exaggeration to describe him as a fanatic, however, Chen Lin could not stand to see someone dare bully his younger brother.
“It seems Chang’an Mansion wishes to seek the limelight everywhere.” Tang Feng sneered: “Fine, then today shall be left to you brothers. Chen Mo, since you dared to say this, how about you bring out your own masterpiece, let us witness what verse the Chang’an Mansion can compose, let Lady Youwei judge.”
“That’s right, what His Imperial Highness said is right.”
“Each of Chang’an’s major characters are here today, how about you compete.”
“His Highness Chen Mo better not say he is unprepared.”
Everyone was in an uproar.
Yu Youwei held her forehead in her hands. She knew that Lord CHang’an and Emperor Tang recently were not on good terms. How was it that these two were involved in everything. Making her be the judge was putting her in a difficult position.
However, Youwei was a bit eager for Chen Mo.
Just what comprehension could this young man who composed the Hanshan Asks Shide classic have towards her ancient song.
“Sure, I just so happened to receive a verse from my dream yesterday. It’s quite compatible with Lady Youwei’s song.” Chen Mo generously took the challenge.
“Fourth Brother, can you do it. Want to let me go instead. I’ve been preparing for this for a very long time.” Chen Lin whispered.1
Chen Mo nodded.
Tang Feng insincerely smiled at Youwei: “Then, Lady Youwei, please listen carefully to what he received from his dream. If only he did not disgrace the serene sound of Lady Youwei’s guzheng.”
“If he composes some nonsense, gibberish poem, then don’t blame us for mocking His Highness Chen Mo.”
“Ha, ha, His Highness Chen Mo wouldn’t overestimate himself like this, right.”
Chen Mo bounded onto the stage with a single step and nodded towards Yu Youwei.
“If you would please, then, Your Highness.” Yu Youwei’s hands stroked the guzheng.
The tune was unhurried, crisp and clear as the moon.
Chen Mo was all too familiar with this poem, River On A Spring Night. Just by closing his eyes, long-forgotten memories resurfaced, and those elegant verses immediately manifested in his mind.
“Your Highness Lin, can His Highness Mo do it?”
Some people asked Chen Lin, worried.
Chen Lin himself was wiping away cold sweat. He only recalled that this Fourth Brother had left Chang’an when he was very small. Perhaps he really did have some mastery from reading the Book of Songs out in the countryside. As for whatever he meant by receiving it in a dream, of course no one believed that.
Tang Feng glanced at Chen Lin, provoking him. Now that he could finally humiliate CHen Mo, he was a bit happy. He entirely did not believe that Chen Mo could have any world-shaking, monster talent capable of matching his Libation To The Moon On The River. He did not write these verses himself either, having sought out many talented poets to collaborate. Having researched extensively into the first four verses of Yu Youwei’s ancient song, it took more than a year to complete.
For someone to surpass him on his very first time back in Chang’an listening to the guzheng, he fundamentally did not realize just how ridiculous he sounded.
Perhaps this Chen Mo was very talented in martial learning, to be able to defeat a Thunder Tribulation cultivator and compose a Zen classic from personal experience, but listening to songs and composing poems were entirely separate matters from the other two. If he truly was able to write something, Tang Feng felt that this guy could be far more than his teacher, he may as well be his father.
“The entire river illuminated with moonlight!”
Following this verse, it came Chen Mo’s turn to supplement.
“The river flows and winds around the grassy fields, the moon refracts off the flowers and forest like powder snow.” When Chen Mo recited the first line of his “original” composition, Yu Youwei, who was in middle of unhurried strumming with complete concentration, abruptly shuddered all over, and the music came to an abrupt stop.
“Huh?” The girl’s eyes widened, and she covered her little mouth in shock.
Everyone was astonished.
For five years, Yu Youwei had played this tune countless times. Who knew how many poems from conceited and contemptuous scholars she listened to, but in these five years, Yu Youwei’s guzheng had always sunk herself into her own world. No one was able to interrupt her, but today, Chen Mo made Yu Youwei forget herself with just one sentence.
Everyone stared at each other, wondering if they were seeing things.
“Is Lady Youwei somehow dissatisfied?” Chen Mo calmly asked.
The maids Lü’er and Qiao’er were very perplexed as to why today’s young miss would forget herself so much like this. Normally, no one could make her like this. Could it be that this poem was truly promising?
“Apologies. Youwei recalled some worries just now. I was rude to everyone.” Yu Youwei apologized.
“So that’s how it is. Like I said, how could His Highness Chen Mo’s verse be able to interrupt Lady Youwei’s guzheng.”
“But this verse really is very extraordinary. It’s wonderful.”
“Heh, heh, we’d better listen to the next stanza.”
Yu Youwei closed her eyes and took a deep breath. After she opened them, she regained her composure, but everyone heard that the guzheng seemed to have become a bit different from usual, as if there was an unprecedented brightness. This feeling was just like…Just like…
“Just like meeting an intimate friend.”
The girl sighed.
Right, an intimate friend!
Could it be…
At this moment, even a fool could sense that the verse that Chen Mo composed stood out from the rest. It already made Yu Youwei’s heartstrings show a ripple that had never appeared in the last five years.
The next few phrases that Chen Mo recited –
Flowing frost imperceptibly flies through the air, the white sands on the bank cannot be seen.
The river and sky are untainted by dust, clear and bright in the sky is the lonely moon.
Who on the riverbank was the first to behold the moon? When did the moon over the river first shine on people?2
Yu Youwei’s guzheng strings were like her heart, the moving melody the most spry it had ever been, as if finally meeting someone that had been longed for. In this scene of moonlight upon a river, a man and woman seemed to appear. This woman was Yu Youwei herself, and the man naturally was Chen Mo. The two of them reunited upon the moonlit riverbank, exchanging tender feelings. Thus, the originally beautiful night now had an additional poignance, becoming even more vivid.
This guy’s verse was abnormal.
People who were a bit mindful could feel something different. They could not help but turn both sympathetic and mocking gazes to the biggest joke – His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Tang Feng.
As of this moment.
The Great Chong Dynasty’s crown prince had only one thought.
He wanted to kill someone!
- Imagine that, an actual supportive older brother in a CN WN involving court intrigue, albeit not as a main focus. ↩
- As with all poems I tl, I try to use established English ones. I had to adapt this from several other sources while making some changes of my own. Sorry that I didn’t cite properly this time. 🙁 ↩