Scene5 Spring Excursion
(Enter Eunuch Gao.)
Gao sings to the tune of “Congratulations to Imperial Court” :In inner court I hold the highest place;
Early and late I wait on the Imperial Grace.
In gold and sables, jade belt and embroidered gown,
I follow His Majesty up and down.
I, Gao Lishi, General of the Imperial Guard, control the six palaces and enjoy greater power than any minister. I seize every opportunity to please the emperor and anticipate his wishes, and thanks to my discretion and eagerness to please, I have become a great favorite of His Majesty. Today is the third day of the third moon and the emperor, who is going to visit the River Bend with Lady Yang, has ordered me to instruct the prime minister and the three duchesses to accompany them. I am going now to carry out my instructions.
To tell the lady’s kins I’m on my way;
His Majesty requires their presence today. (Exit.)
(Enter An Lushan in official dress, followed by attendants.)
An sings to the tune of “Congratulations to Imperial Court” :
Since l paid court to man in power,
Imperial favors on me shower.
A prisoner turns to favorite, I
Again may aspire high.
I, An Lushan, have been held in great favor since I regained office through imperial mercy. It is lucky to have a big belly,reaching nearly to my knees. One day when His Majesty noticed it, he asked me what was in it, and I answered, “Only my loyal heart!” The emperor was pleased, and since then he has become fond of me and more convinced of my loyalty,promising I shall soon be made a prince. This is unlooked-for fortune. Attendants, leave me!
(His attendants go out.)
Today is the third day of the third moon, and the emperor and Lady Yang are visiting the River Bend with the three duchesses in their train. Men and women of the capital are going to watch. Why not change into civilian dress and ride there to enjoy the spectacle?
(He changes his dress and mounts his horse.)
Now I have passed the city gate. Behold! The road smells sweet with fragrant dust and carriages and horses run like fleeting clouds. What a brave show!
“The catkins on the road bewilder drunken eye,
And birds call out from flowers to the passers-by.”
(Enter two young lords in magnificent dress.)
Lords sing to the tune of “Night Sailing Boat”:
How enchanting the vernal land!
Amid lovely blossoms the breeze
Blows as if it were fanned.
A screen of willow trees
Stand in array
On the pathway.
We can’t tell if it showers
Red silks or violet flowers.
(They greet each other.)
First Lord: It is the third day of the third moon today. Shall we go to the River Bend to have a good time?
Second Lord: Yes, let’s go. A string of carriages is passing there. It must be the procession of the three duchesses. Let us hurry over to have a look!
Together (walking): See on the way
The splendid carriages with embroidered screen
Blazing with jewels red and green
Vie on display.
The winds compete
In fragrance with the scent of musk and orchid sweet.
The gems adorning brilliant gown
Outshine each other up and down. (Exeunt.)
(The Duchesses of Han, of Guo and of Qin enter, each in a carriage, accompanied by an attendant and a maid.)
Three Duchesses sing together to the tune of “Night Sailing Boat”:Stop here and feast the eye
On silken gowns as bright as cloud!
Ladies in beauty vie
With chignon proud,
Black like cicada’s wing
And eyebrows painted with grace.
It’s pleased His Majesty for us to come in spring
By riverside to follow royal trace.
Han: I am the Duchess of Han.
Guo: I am the Duchess of Guo.
Qin: I am the Duchess of Qin.
Duchesses: By the imperial command we are summoned to the River Bend. Attendants, drive on!
Attendants: As you say, your ladyships. (The carriages move forward.)
Duchesses continue to sing:
On flower-strewn rivershores tread;
With dropping trinkets and slanting hairpins,
Among fallen petals imperial kins
Are honored to ride
Palace robes in a string
Sweep forward to enjoy spring. (Exeunt.)
(An Lushan rides up and gazes after the duchesses.)
An: Ah, what beauties!
(Singing to the tune of “Night Sailing Boat”):
When they cast back their glances,
How their unmatched loveliness entrances!
O let my horse pursue
Their carriages to have a closer view!
On my way to the River Bend, I have caught a glimpse of the three duchesses, each of them a celestial beauty. Ah, Son of Heaven, emperor of Tang! You have not only the beautiful Lady Yang, but her three sisters too. How fortunate you are!
All flowers belong to His Majesty.
How grand an emperor is! See!
Let me spur on to feast my eyes on them.
Scanning the cabs ahead with greed,
Now and again I whip my steed.
(He whips his horse and gallops forward, but the attendants bar his way.)
Attendants: Halt, there! The prime minister is here. How dare you try to charge past?
(Prime Minister Yang rides in.)
Yang: What is all this fuss?
(Yang and An look at each other; then An turns away in haste.)
Attendants: Just now we saw this man galloping wildly for-ward, so we stopped him.
Yang (Laughing): It is An Lushan. But why did he run away from me like that? (Thinking)
Where are the carriages of the three ladies?
Attendants: Just in front.
Yang: So? How dare An Lushan be so impolite?
(Continuing to sing to the same tune):
It’s hateful not to pay
Respect before imperial kinsmen on the way.
How impolite to ride
By fragrant carriages’ side!
How can I keep apart
The sudden anger in my heart!
Attendants, escort the carriages closely and drive away all passers-by!
Yang: Go forward! Clear the road with golden whip!
Let your steeds follow painted carriages on their trip!
Attendatns: Let passers-by
Never come nigh,
Lest you incur the displeasure
Of the prime minister at leisure! (Exeunt.)
(Enter a country woman, a plain lass, a flower girl and a country squire.)
All sing to the tune of “Perfumed Dress of Brocade”:
In clothes new,
With made-up face,
Clumsy in view,
We pretend to grace.
Our robes are green with grass,
Our hair red with flowers, alas!
(They greet each other.)
Woman: Are you going to visit the River Bend?
Others: Yes, the emperor and Lady Yang will be there today. We are going to see royalty.
Lass: It is said that the emperor loves Lady Yang as a precious jewel. I wonder how her looks compare with mine.
(The flower girl laughs, and the squire looks the lass over.)
Why do you look at me like that?
Squire: I find your face has its share of jewels too.
Woman: What jewels?
Squire: Her eyes are cat’s eye stone;
Her wrinkled forehead has the agate’s line;
Her teeth are made of amber-bone,
Her lips of coral fine.
(The country woman laughs, and the lass strikes the squire with her fan.)
Lass: You glib-tongue, don’t you have your share of jewels?
Squire: Try to tell me what they are.
Lass: Your skull looks like a silver mine. How many diggers were buried therein?
Woman: Enough of that. I’ve heard that wherever the three duchesses pass, many things are dropped on the way. Let’s go and see what we can find.
Lass: Then let us hurry up!
(They walk on, the lass teasing the squire.)
All: In the breeze light
Floats the cloud bright.
The ducal carriages bring
To woods and grass fragrance of spring.
Squire: Let’s see if we can find anything left in the grass.
Girl: I will leave you now.
I’ll cry and sell my flowers before
The rich men’s painted door.
(She goes out, crying “Flowers to sell!” The others search in the grass and each picks something up.)
Lass (To the country woman): What have you got there?
Woman: A hairpin.
Lass (Examining it): It is made of gold, with a ruby on it. How lucky you are!
Woman (To the lass): And what have you?
Lass: An embroidered phoenix slipper.
Woman: Well, try to put it on.
Lass (Trying): Confound it! I cannot even get my toe in. I’ll keep the pearl on it though.
(Taking off the pearl, she throws the slipper on the ground.)
Squire: Let me pick it up and put it in my sleeve.
Lass: You know to take advantage of me. Show me what you have got.
Squire: A gold box wrapped in a silk handkerchief.
Woman (Taking the box and opening it): Oh, it is something brown, in thin slices with rather a sweet smell—could it be some love potion?
Squire (Laughing): No, this is scented tea.
Lass: Let me try it. (She and the country woman taste some, but spit it out.)
Pail! It’s bitter. How can people eat this?
Squire (Taking back the box): All right. Let us go on.
(They walk on.)
All: The butterflies are busy with the bees
Flying among the flowers and the willow trees.
Behold! The Dragon Tower high
Reflected in water! River Bend is nigh.
(The country woman and squire walk off.)
Lass: Wait for me! I’ll pass water, but where can I find a water closet?What can I do but make water in the open air?
(Enter the three duchesses with their attendants and maids.) Duchesses sing to the tune of “Song of Juice”:
Our perfume’s mingled with the fragrance of the flowers;
The orioles’ songs are interspersed with laughing words.
See willow catkins fall like snow over duckweed white,
Pairs of bluebirds
Pecking red petals falling in showers.
Gone are two-thirds of season bright.
What a sunny day!
Let our carriages drive on their way!
Attendants: May it please your ladyships, we have arrived at the River Bend.
Duchess of Han: Where is the prime minister?
Attendants: His Grace has gone to the Vernal Palace where His Majesty is now.
(The three duchesses alight from their carriages.)
Duchesses: Behold! It is really beautiful here.
Red blossoms blush
Amid green leaves so lush
That we adore.
At River Bend,
At River Bend
A row of willow trees stretches without an end.
(The eunuch Gao leading a horse enters with attendants.) Gao: By its jade bit I lead
A crimson-colored steed
For one in butterflied,
Gold-sprinkled dress to ride.
(Greeting the three duchesses) By His Majesty’s orders, the Duchesses of Han and Qin shall be feasted in the Second Pavilion,while the Duchess of Guo is to ride to the Vernal Palace to feast with Lady Yang.
Duchesses (Kneeling): Long live His Majesty! (Rising)
Gao (To the Duchess of Guo): Will Your Ladyship be mounted?
Guo (Singing to the tune of “Epilogue”):
The eunuch hastens me
To leave my sisters and enjoy alone with glee
The vernal breeze with His Majesty.
Han ＆ Qin: Be worthy to receive imperial grace
With lightly powdered face!
Qin: See how she flicks her whip and rides off!
Han: Let her go as she pleases.
Maid: Will Your Ladyships come to the pavilion for the feast?
Epilogue of the Scene
Maid: The Vernal Hall’s amid peach blossoms and willow trees.
Qin: Let us enjoy the happy excursion with the same ease.
Han: We would receive imperial favor if we please.
Together: Then we may laugh at her who’s bathed in sunny breeze.