Scene6 The Secret Vow
(Enter the Celestial Weaving Maid followed by two fairies.)
Weaving Maid (Singing to the tune of “Sand-Sifting Stream”):
Weaving With cloud-adorned shuttle of jade,
I’m busy all the year until silk-cloth is made.
No one should be lovesick in heaven.
Now comes the Day of Double Seven.
How can I forget
Last time when we met?
(Singing to the tune of “Magpie Bridge”)
Clouds weave a work of art;
Shooting stars bring word to the heart.
Across the Silver River my Cowherd meets his Maid.
When Autumn’s golden breeze embraces Dew of Jade,
All the love scenes on earth, however many, fade.
Our tender love flows like a stream;
Our happy date seems but a dream.
Before us lies each homeward way.
If love between us can last for aye.
Why need we stay together night and day?
I am the Celestial Weaving Maid. By order of the Celestial Emperor, I am married to the Celestial Cowherd, and we are allowed to meet once a year across the River of Silver Stars on the Double Seventh Day. It is the seventh day of the seventh moon on earth now. Behold! The Silver River is calm and the magpies are busy building a celestial bridge. I should stop weaving, dress up and get ready for the crossing.
(Musicians playing the role of magpies flying around stop at the two ends of the bridge.)
Fairies: The magpies have built the bridge. Will it please Your Ladyship to cross the Silver River?
(Mounting the bridge)
The bridge casts its shadow on the stream,
Where I see ripples gleam.
I like the crescent new
Still bathed in dew.
The magpies circle in the air,
Never before is autumn sky so fair.
(Crossing the bridge)
Fairies: Here we are on the other side of the bridge.
Weaving Maid: Below the Silver River I see smoke rise.
From where has it come to my eyes?
Fairies: It is Lady Yang of the Tang Dynasty praying for bless-ing and skill of weaving.
Weaving Maid: So pious she looks that I would like to go down with my Cowherd to see her.
All: We meet in heaven from year to year.
How transient does love in human world appear! (Exeunt.)
(Two eunuchs holding lanterns usher in the emperor.)
Emperor (Singing to the tune of “The Young God”):
Tranquil is autumn light;
Mist melts in the sky with twilight.
After a shower the plane trees shiver;
Light clouds adorn the twin stars by the Silver River.
(Laughter is heard and the emperor listens.)
A light breeze carries the sound of happy laughter
Through the shade of flowers and trees.
Attendants, who is laughing and talking there?
Eunuchs: His Majesty asks who is laughing and talking there.
Voice off: Lady Yang is praying for blessing and art of weaving in the Long-life Hall.
Eunuchs: Lady Yang is praying for blessing and art of weaving. So they talk and laugh.
Emperor: Do not announce me, attendants. I will go there quietly. Without the lanterns red,
To Long-life Hall I’ll go ahead.（Exeunt.）
(Lady Yang comes in, followed by Ever Fresh and Mind-ful Maid and two other maids, holding a box of incense, a round fan, a vase of flowers and a golden basin.)
Lady Yang (Singing to the tune of “The Young God”):
Smoke rises in the hall from golden censer bright, With gleaming candlelight.
See the webs spiders spin,
And budding peas drowned in the golden basin.
How flowers wave with grace
In silver vase!
Ever Fresh: Here we are at the Long-life Hall. The offering is ready. Will it please Your Ladyship to offer incense?
(The maids place the vase of flowers and the golden basin on the table. Ever Fresh takes the box of incense and gives it to Lady Yang who picks out three sticks of incense.)
Lady Yang: Piously I offer incense to the twin stars above and pray for blessing from heaven.
May our love pledged by hairpin last for long!
May I not be like the fan chilled by an autumn song!
Emperor (Coming in quietly and watching her pray):
With how much grace
She kneels on marble steps and prays!
Maids (Seeing the emperor): Ah, His Majesty is here.
(Lady Yang turns hastily to bow to the emperor, who helps her up.)
Emperor: What are you doing here, my dear?
Lady Yang: On the eve of the Double Seventh Day, I offer melon and fruit to heaven and pray for blessings, grace and skill.
Emperor (Laughing): You are so graceful and skilful. What more is there to pray for?
Lady Yang: I am afraid I do not deserve your royal praise.
(They take their seats. The maids withdraw.)
Emperor: Look, my dear! The Cowherd Star and the Celestial Weaving Maid, separated by the Siver River, could meet only once a year. How much they must long for each other?
(Singing to the tune of “Gathering of Talents”)
The autumn night is still
And the blue sky is chill.
The time has come for the twin stars to meet,
But how short is their time so sweet!
The cock’s crow will soon reach their ear.
In cold clouds and chilly dew clear
They must be lonely in waiting a long year.
Lady Yang: You speak of their grief at parting which grieves me.
What do we know about things in heaven? On enquiry, we may be told that they are lovesick too.
(Wiping tears away)
Emperor: Why are you, my dear, shedding tears?
Lady Yang: Though the Cowherd Star and the Celestial Weav-ing Maid meet only once a year, yet their love will last forever,while ours, I am afraid, may not last as long.
Emperor: Why should you say that, my dear?
(Singing to the tune of “Golden Oriole”)
Though the immortals may live long,
Yet can their love as ours be strong?
Who in a hundred years knows more of love’s delight
Than we on such a scene and such a night?
Why should you complain on your part,
And weep and sigh to break your heart?
(Moving closer to her and whispering to her ear):
Ask Weaving Maid and Cowherd Star,
Could they be lovers day and night as we are?
Lady Yang: It is true that Your Majesty has lavished favor on me,but, if I am allowed, I still have something to say.
Emperor: You are allowed to say what you will.
Lady Yang (Sobbing): Though I have received more imperial favor than any other lady of the palace, yet I am afraid I might lose your favor when age wrinkles my face.
(Singing to the tune of “Golden Oriole”):
To think of this would break my heart.
Of humble birth, I’ve played an unrivaled part
To serve at Your Majesty’s side.
I am more honored than any royal bride.
But I’m afraid,
Imperial favor might fade.
Flowers will fall one day
When spring has passed away.
How can I on imperial favor rely?
(Clinging to the imperial robe and weeping)
If our love can last long, I’d be content to die.
How many sovereigns love dance and song!
Why could not royal love last long?
When left lonely at the palace gate,
The disfavored could only weep her fate
With a broken heart, desolate!
Emperor (Wiping away her tears with his sleeves): Do not be grieved,my dear! How could common love compare with ours?
(Singing to the tune of “Royal Forest”)
Do not be worried nor shed tears!
Fear not our love will change with years. (Taking her hand)
As honey sticks to cake,
I cannot leave you, asleep or awake.
Together as flowers bathed in moonbeams,
We can’t be parted in light or shade, even in dreams.
Lady Yang: Since your love is so dear, Sire, may I beg you to vow under the twin stars that our love will last as long as our life?
Emperor: Let us offer incense and make a vow together.
(They walk together.)
Together (Singing to the tune of “Arbor Song”):
We go down the marble steps hand in hand.
The Silver River brightens all our land.
Lady Yang: My silken dress feels night grow chill.
Emperor: It is so still
That I may whisper to your ear
Our vow so dear that seas and mountains would hear.
(The emperor offers incense. They both bow to the stars.)
Both: May the twin stars be our witness. We, Li Longji and Yang Yuhuan, love each other so dearly that we would be husband and wife from life to life, and will never be parted. May the twin stars witness our vow.
Emperor (Bowing):On high we’d be two love-birds flying wing to wing.
Lady Yang (Bowing): On earth two branches twined from spring to spring.
Together: The boundless sky and earth may have an end.
Our hearts in love will ever blend.
Lady Yang (Curtseying): Thank Your Majesty for your love. I’ll be true to this vow in life and in death.
Emperor (Taking her arm): We have made a secret vow in Long-life Hall.Lady Yang: May I ask who the witnesses are?
Emperor (Pointing overhead): The Celestial Weaving Maid and the Cowherd Star.
Beside the Silver River in the fall. (Exeunt.)
(Enter the Cowherd crowned with cloud in fairy garment and the Weaving Maid with other fairies.)
Together: They have prayed and made a vow never to part,Pure with one heart.
Cowherd: See, my dear, how deep in love the Tang Emperor and Lady Yang are!
Shoulder to shouler they stand
And hand in hand.
We lovers in heaven who should take care of lovers on earth are requested to witness their secret vow, so we should help them to be Two love-birds flying wing to wing
And two branches entwined from spring to spring,
And make them the arbiters of love in the world below.
Weaving Maid: But a sad fate awaits them and they will be separated by death. If they remain true to the vow, we should bring them together again.
Cowherd: You are right. Let us go back to heaven.
(Walking forward together)
Together: From year to year in heaven shall we meet,
And laugh how transient human love is, though sweet.
Epilogue of the Scene
From year to year we’re hastened, why?
See across the bridge magpies fly!
Say not it’s hard to meet on high.
Who can on earth say no goodbye?