Category Archives: Du Fu

Poems of the Tang Dynasty, Part 7 (or so)

I think this brings me just about right up to the 350-400 poems I said I would post.

Anyway, it’s close enough. It is getting harder for me to be sure I’m not re-posting ones I’ve already done. So, this’ll be it. Unless I decide to do a few more sometime, which could happen.

Before that happens, though, I’ll be working on putting all the previous postings in this category and making a Word .doc file out of them, all in one place. Not today, though, not today.

Without further ado (always click images for full size):

tanghorses

Meng Jiao

A SONG OF A PURE-HEARTED GIRL


Lakka-trees ripen two by two
And mandarin-ducks die side by side.
If a true-hearted girl will love only her husband,
In a life as faithfully lived as theirs,
What troubling wave can arrive to vex
A spirit like water in a timeless well?

Meng Jiao

A TRAVELLER’S SONG


The thread in the hands of a fond-hearted mother
Makes clothes for the body of her wayward boy;
Carefully she sews and thoroughly she mends,
Dreading the delays that will keep him late from home.
But how much love has the inch-long grass
For three spring months of the light of the sun?

Chen Ziang

ON A GATE-TOWER AT YUZHOU


Where, before me, are the ages that have gone?
And where, behind me, are the coming generations?
I think of heaven and earth, without limit, without end,
And I am all alone and my tears fall down.

Li Qi

AN OLD AIR


There once was a man, sent on military missions,
A wanderer, from youth, on the You and Yan frontiers.
Under the horses’ hoofs he would meet his foes
And, recklessly risking his seven-foot body,
Would slay whoever dared confront
Those moustaches that bristled like porcupinequills.
…There were dark clouds below the hills, there were white clouds above them,
But before a man has served full time, how can he go back?
In eastern Liao a girl was waiting, a girl of fifteen years,
Deft with a guitar, expert in dance and song.
…She seems to be fluting, even now, a reed-song of home,
Filling every soldier’s eyes with homesick tears.

Li Qi

A FAREWELL TO MY FRIEND CHEN ZHANGFU


In the Fourth-month the south wind blows plains of yellow barley,
Date-flowers have not faded yet and lakka-leaves are long.
The green peak that we left at dawn we still can see at evening,
While our horses whinny on the road, eager to turn homeward.
…Chen, my friend, you have always been a great and good man,
With your dragon’s moustache, tiger’s eyebrows and your massive forehead.
In your bosom you have shelved away ten thousand volumes.
You have held your head high, never bowed it in the dust.
…After buying us wine and pledging us, here at the eastern gate,
And taking things as lightly as a wildgoose feather,
Flat you lie, tipsy, forgetting the white sun;
But now and then you open your eyes and gaze at a high lone cloud.
…The tide-head of the lone river joins the darkening sky.
The ferryman beaches his boat. It has grown too late to sail.
And people on their way from Cheng cannot go home,
And people from Loyang sigh with disappointment.
…I have heard about the many friends around your wood land dwelling.
Yesterday you were dismissed. Are they your friends today?

Li Qi

A LUTE SONG


Our host, providing abundant wine to make the night mellow,
Asks his guest from Yangzhou to play for us on the lute.
Toward the moon that whitens the city-wall, black crows are flying,
Frost is on ten thousand trees, and the wind blows through our clothes;
But a copper stove has added its light to that of flowery candles,
And the lute plays The Green Water, and then The Queen of Chu.
Once it has begun to play, there is no other sound:
A spell is on the banquet, while the stars grow thin….
But three hundred miles from here, in Huai, official duties await him,
And so it’s farewell, and the road again, under cloudy mountains.

Li Qi

ON HEARING DONG PLAY THE FLAGEOLET
A POEM TO PALACE-ATTENDANT FANG


When this melody for the flageolet was made by Lady Cai,
When long ago one by one she sang its eighteen stanzas,
Even the Tartars were shedding tears into the border grasses,
And the envoy of China was heart-broken, turning back home with his escort.
…Cold fires now of old battles are grey on ancient forts,
And the wilderness is shadowed with white new-flying snow.
…When the player first brushes the Shang string and the Jue and then the Yu,
Autumn-leaves in all four quarters are shaken with a murmur.
Dong, the master,
Must have been taught in heaven.
Demons come from the deep pine-wood and stealthily listen
To music slow, then quick, following his hand,
Now far away, now near again, according to his heart.
A hundred birds from an empty mountain scatter and return;
Three thousand miles of floating clouds darken and lighten;
A wildgoose fledgling, left behind, cries for its flock,
And a Tartar child for the mother he loves.
Then river waves are calmed
And birds are mute that were singing,
And Wuzu tribes are homesick for their distant land,
And out of the dust of Siberian steppes rises a plaintive sorrow.
…Suddenly the low sound leaps to a freer tune,
Like a long wind swaying a forest, a downpour breaking tiles,
A cascade through the air, flying over tree-tops.
…A wild deer calls to his fellows. He is running among the mansions
In the corner of the capital by the Eastern Palace wall….
Phoenix Lake lies opposite the Gate of Green Jade;
But how can fame and profit concern a man of genius?
Day and night I long for him to bring his lute again.

Li Qi

ON HEARING AN WANSHAN PLAY THE REED-PIPE


Bamboo from the southern hills was used to make this pipe.
And its music, that was introduced from Persia first of all,
Has taken on new magic through later use in China.
And now the Tartar from Liangzhou, blowing it for me,
Drawing a sigh from whosoever hears it,
Is bringing to a wanderer’s eyes homesick tears….
Many like to listen; but few understand.
To and fro at will there’s a long wind flying,
Dry mulberry-trees, old cypresses, trembling in its chill.
There are nine baby phoenixes, outcrying one another;
A dragon and a tiger spring up at the same moment;
Then in a hundred waterfalls ten thousand songs of autumn
Are suddenly changing to The Yuyang Lament;
And when yellow clouds grow thin and the white sun darkens,
They are changing still again to Spring in the Willow Trees.
Like Imperial Garden flowers, brightening the eye with beauty,
Are the high-hall candles we have lighted this cold night,
And with every cup of wine goes another round of music.

Meng Haoran

RETURNING AT NIGHT TO LUMEN MOUNTAIN


A bell in the mountain-temple sounds the coming of night.
I hear people at the fishing-town stumble aboard the ferry,
While others follow the sand-bank to their homes along the river.
…I also take a boat and am bound for Lumen Mountain —
And soon the Lumen moonlight is piercing misty trees.
I have come, before I know it, upon an ancient hermitage,
The thatch door, the piney path, the solitude, the quiet,
Where a hermit lives and moves, never needing a companion.


Li Bai

A SONG OF LU MOUNTAIN TO CENSOR LU XUZHOU


I am the madman of the Chu country
Who sang a mad song disputing Confucius.
…Holding in my hand a staff of green jade,
I have crossed, since morning at the Yellow Crane Terrace,
All five Holy Mountains, without a thought of distance,
According to the one constant habit of my life.
Lu Mountain stands beside the Southern Dipper
In clouds reaching silken like a nine-panelled screen,
With its shadows in a crystal lake deepening the green water.
The Golden Gate opens into two mountain-ranges.
A silver stream is hanging down to three stone bridges
Within sight of the mighty Tripod Falls.
Ledges of cliff and winding trails lead to blue sky
And a flush of cloud in the morning sun,
Whence no flight of birds could be blown into Wu.
…I climb to the top. I survey the whole world.
I see the long river that runs beyond return,
Yellow clouds that winds have driven hundreds of miles
And a snow-peak whitely circled by the swirl of a ninefold stream.
And so I am singing a song of Lu Mountain,
A song that is born of the breath of Lu Mountain.
…Where the Stone Mirror makes the heart’s purity purer
And green moss has buried the footsteps of Xie,
I have eaten the immortal pellet and, rid of the world’s troubles,
Before the lute’s third playing have achieved my element.
Far away I watch the angels riding coloured clouds
Toward heaven’s Jade City, with hibiscus in their hands.
And so, when I have traversed the nine sections of the world,
I will follow Saint Luao up the Great Purity.

Li Bai

TIANMU MOUNTAIN ASCENDED IN A DREAM


A seafaring visitor will talk about Japan,
Which waters and mists conceal beyond approach;
But Yueh people talk about Heavenly Mother Mountain,
Still seen through its varying deeps of cloud.
In a straight line to heaven, its summit enters heaven,
Tops the five Holy Peaks, and casts a shadow through China
With the hundred-mile length of the Heavenly Terrace Range,
Which, just at this point, begins turning southeast.
…My heart and my dreams are in Wu and Yueh
And they cross Mirror Lake all night in the moon.
And the moon lights my shadow
And me to Yan River —
With the hermitage of Xie still there
And the monkeys calling clearly over ripples of green water.
I wear his pegged boots
Up a ladder of blue cloud,
Sunny ocean half-way,
Holy cock-crow in space,
Myriad peaks and more valleys and nowhere a road.
Flowers lure me, rocks ease me. Day suddenly ends.
Bears, dragons, tempestuous on mountain and river,
Startle the forest and make the heights tremble.
Clouds darken with darkness of rain,
Streams pale with pallor of mist.
The Gods of Thunder and Lightning
Shatter the whole range.
The stone gate breaks asunder
Venting in the pit of heaven,
An impenetrable shadow.
…But now the sun and moon illumine a gold and silver terrace,
And, clad in rainbow garments, riding on the wind,
Come the queens of all the clouds, descending one by one,
With tigers for their lute-players and phoenixes for dancers.
Row upon row, like fields of hemp, range the fairy figures.
I move, my soul goes flying,
I wake with a long sigh,
My pillow and my matting
Are the lost clouds I was in.
…And this is the way it always is with human joy:
Ten thousand things run for ever like water toward the east.
And so I take my leave of you, not knowing for how long.
…But let me, on my green slope, raise a white deer
And ride to you, great mountain, when I have need of you.
Oh, how can I gravely bow and scrape to men of high rank and men of high office
Who never will suffer being shown an honest-hearted face!

Li Bai

PARTING AT A WINE-SHOP IN NANJING


A wind, bringing willow-cotton, sweetens the shop,
And a girl from Wu, pouring wine, urges me to share it
With my comrades of the city who are here to see me off;
And as each of them drains his cup, I say to him in parting,
Oh, go and ask this river running to the east
If it can travel farther than a friend’s love!

Li Bai

A FAREWELL TO SECRETARY SHUYUN
AT THE XIETIAO VILLA IN XUANZHOU


Since yesterday had to throw me and bolt,
Today has hurt my heart even more.
The autumn wildgeese have a long wind for escort
As I face them from this villa, drinking my wine.
The bones of great writers are your brushes, in the School of Heaven,
And I am a Lesser Xie growing up by your side.
We both are exalted to distant thought,
Aspiring to the sky and the bright moon.
But since water still flows, though we cut it with our swords,
And sorrows return, though we drown them with wine,
Since the world can in no way answer our craving,
I will loosen my hair tomorrow and take to a fishingboat.

Cen Can

A SONG OF RUNNING-HORSE RIVER IN FAREWELL
TO GENERAL FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION


Look how swift to the snowy sea races Running-Horse River! —
And sand, up from the desert, flies yellow into heaven.
This Ninth-month night is blowing cold at Wheel Tower,
And valleys, like peck measures, fill with the broken boulders
That downward, headlong, follow the wind.
…In spite of grey grasses, Tartar horses are plump;
West of the Hill of Gold, smoke and dust gather.
O General of the Chinese troops, start your campaign!
Keep your iron armour on all night long,
Send your soldiers forward with a clattering of weapons!
…While the sharp wind’s point cuts the face like a knife,
And snowy sweat steams on the horses’ backs,
Freezing a pattern of five-flower coins,
Your challenge from camp, from an inkstand of ice,
Has chilled the barbarian chieftain’s heart.
You will have no more need of an actual battle! —
We await the news of victory, here at the western pass!

Cen Can

A SONG OF WHEEL TOWER IN FAREWELL TO GENERAL
FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION


On Wheel Tower parapets night-bugles are blowing,
Though the flag at the northern end hangs limp.
Scouts, in the darkness, are passing Quli,
Where, west of the Hill of Gold, the Tartar chieftain has halted
We can see, from the look-out, the dust and black smoke
Where Chinese troops are camping, north of Wheel Tower.
…Our flags now beckon the General farther west-
With bugles in the dawn he rouses his Grand Army;
Drums like a tempest pound on four sides
And the Yin Mountains shake with the shouts of ten thousand;
Clouds and the war-wind whirl up in a point
Over fields where grass-roots will tighten around white bones;
In the Dagger River mist, through a biting wind,
Horseshoes, at the Sand Mouth line, break on icy boulders.
…Our General endures every pain, every hardship,
Commanded to settle the dust along the border.
We have read, in the Green Books, tales of old days-
But here we behold a living man, mightier than the dead.

undertree

Cen Can

A SONG OF WHITE SNOW IN FAREWELL
TO FIELD-CLERK WU GOING HOME


The north wind rolls the white grasses and breaks them;
And the Eighth-month snow across the Tartar sky
Is like a spring gale, come up in the night,
Blowing open the petals of ten thousand peartrees.
It enters the pearl blinds, it wets the silk curtains;
A fur coat feels cold, a cotton mat flimsy;
Bows become rigid, can hardly be drawn
And the metal of armour congeals on the men;
The sand-sea deepens with fathomless ice,
And darkness masses its endless clouds;
But we drink to our guest bound home from camp,
And play him barbarian lutes, guitars, harps;
Till at dusk, when the drifts are crushing our tents
And our frozen red flags cannot flutter in the wind,
We watch him through Wheel-Tower Gate going eastward.
Into the snow-mounds of Heaven-Peak Road….
And then he disappears at the turn of the pass,
Leaving behind him only hoof-prints.

yangzi

Du Fu

A DRAWING OF A HORSE BY GENERAL CAO
AT SECRETARY WEI FENG’S HOUSE


Throughout this dynasty no one had painted horses
Like the master-spirit, Prince Jiangdu —
And then to General Cao through his thirty years of fame
The world’s gaze turned, for royal steeds.
He painted the late Emperor’s luminous white horse.
For ten days the thunder flew over Dragon Lake,
And a pink-agate plate was sent him from the palace-
The talk of the court-ladies, the marvel of all eyes.
The General danced, receiving it in his honoured home
After this rare gift, followed rapidly fine silks
From many of the nobles, requesting that his art
Lend a new lustre to their screens.
…First came the curly-maned horse of Emperor Taizong,
Then, for the Guos, a lion-spotted horse….
But now in this painting I see two horses,
A sobering sight for whosoever knew them.
They are war- horses. Either could face ten thousand.
They make the white silk stretch away into a vast desert.
And the seven others with them are almost as noble
Mist and snow are moving across a cold sky,
And hoofs are cleaving snow-drifts under great trees-
With here a group of officers and there a group of servants.
See how these nine horses all vie with one another-
The high clear glance, the deep firm breath.
…Who understands distinction? Who really cares for art?
You, Wei Feng, have followed Cao; Zhidun preceded him.
…I remember when the late Emperor came toward his Summer Palace,
The procession, in green-feathered rows, swept from the eastern sky —
Thirty thousand horses, prancing, galloping,
Fashioned, every one of them, like the horses in this picture….
But now the Imperial Ghost receives secret jade from the River God,
For the Emperor hunts crocodiles no longer by the streams.
Where you see his Great Gold Tomb, you may hear among the pines
A bird grieving in the wind that the Emperor’s horses are gone.

Du Fu

A SONG OF A PAINTING TO GENERAL CAO


O General, descended from Wei’s Emperor Wu,
You are nobler now than when a noble….
Conquerors and their velour perish,
But masters of beauty live forever.
…With your brush-work learned from Lady Wei
And second only to Wang Xizhi’s,
Faithful to your art, you know no age,
Letting wealth and fame drift by like clouds.
…In the years of Kaiyuan you were much with the Emperor,
Accompanied him often to the Court of the South Wind.
When the spirit left great statesmen, on walls of the Hall of Fame
The point of your brush preserved their living faces.
You crowned all the premiers with coronets of office;
You fitted all commanders with arrows at their girdles;
You made the founders of this dynasty, with every hair alive,
Seem to be just back from the fierceness of a battle.
…The late Emperor had a horse, known as Jade Flower,
Whom artists had copied in various poses.
They led him one day to the red marble stairs
With his eyes toward the palace in the deepening air.
Then, General, commanded to proceed with your work,
You centred all your being on a piece of silk.
And later, when your dragon-horse, born of the sky,
Had banished earthly horses for ten thousand generations,
There was one Jade Flower standing on the dais
And another by the steps, and they marvelled at each other….
The Emperor rewarded you with smiles and with gifts,
While officers and men of the stud hung about and stared.
…Han Gan, your follower, has likewise grown proficient
At representing horses in all their attitudes;
But picturing the flesh, he fails to draw the bone-
So that even the finest are deprived of their spirit.
You, beyond the mere skill, used your art divinely-
And expressed, not only horses, but the life of a good man….
Yet here you are, wandering in a world of disorder
And sketching from time to time some petty passerby
People note your case with the whites of their eyes.
There’s nobody purer, there’s nobody poorer.
…Read in the records, from earliest times,
How hard it is to be a great artist.

Liu Zongyuan

AN OLD FISHERMAN


An old fisherman spent the night here, under the western cliff;
He dipped up water from the pure Hsiang and made a bamboo fire;
And then, at sunrise, he went his way through the cloven mist,
With only the creak of his paddle left, in the greenness of mountain and river.
…I turn and see the waves moving as from heaven,
And clouds above the cliffs coming idly, one by one.


Bai Juyi

A SONG OF UNENDING SORROW


China’s Emperor, craving beauty that might shake an empire,
Was on the throne for many years, searching, never finding,
Till a little child of the Yang clan, hardly even grown,
Bred in an inner chamber, with no one knowing her,
But with graces granted by heaven and not to be concealed,
At last one day was chosen for the imperial household.
If she but turned her head and smiled, there were cast a hundred spells,
And the powder and paint of the Six Palaces faded into nothing.
…It was early spring. They bathed her in the FlowerPure Pool,
Which warmed and smoothed the creamy-tinted crystal of her skin,
And, because of her languor, a maid was lifting her
When first the Emperor noticed her and chose her for his bride.
The cloud of her hair, petal of her cheek, gold ripples of her crown when she moved,
Were sheltered on spring evenings by warm hibiscus curtains;
But nights of spring were short and the sun arose too soon,
And the Emperor, from that time forth, forsook his early hearings
And lavished all his time on her with feasts and revelry,
His mistress of the spring, his despot of the night.
There were other ladies in his court, three thousand of rare beauty,
But his favours to three thousand were concentered in one body.
By the time she was dressed in her Golden Chamber, it would be almost evening;
And when tables were cleared in the Tower of Jade, she would loiter, slow with wine.
Her sisters and her brothers all were given titles;
And, because she so illumined and glorified her clan,
She brought to every father, every mother through the empire,
Happiness when a girl was born rather than a boy.
…High rose Li Palace, entering blue clouds,
And far and wide the breezes carried magical notes
Of soft song and slow dance, of string and bamboo music.
The Emperor’s eyes could never gaze on her enough-
Till war-drums, booming from Yuyang, shocked the whole earth
And broke the tunes of The Rainbow Skirt and the Feathered Coat.
The Forbidden City, the nine-tiered palace, loomed in the dust
From thousands of horses and chariots headed southwest.
The imperial flag opened the way, now moving and now pausing- –
But thirty miles from the capital, beyond the western gate,
The men of the army stopped, not one of them would stir
Till under their horses’ hoofs they might trample those moth- eyebrows….
Flowery hairpins fell to the ground, no one picked them up,
And a green and white jade hair-tassel and a yellowgold hair- bird.
The Emperor could not save her, he could only cover his face.
And later when he turned to look, the place of blood and tears
Was hidden in a yellow dust blown by a cold wind.
… At the cleft of the Dagger-Tower Trail they crisscrossed through a cloud-line
Under Omei Mountain. The last few came.
Flags and banners lost their colour in the fading sunlight….
But as waters of Shu are always green and its mountains always blue,
So changeless was His Majesty’s love and deeper than the days.
He stared at the desolate moon from his temporary palace.
He heard bell-notes in the evening rain, cutting at his breast.
And when heaven and earth resumed their round and the dragon car faced home,
The Emperor clung to the spot and would not turn away
From the soil along the Mawei slope, under which was buried
That memory, that anguish. Where was her jade-white face?
Ruler and lords, when eyes would meet, wept upon their coats
As they rode, with loose rein, slowly eastward, back to the capital.
…The pools, the gardens, the palace, all were just as before,
The Lake Taiye hibiscus, the Weiyang Palace willows;
But a petal was like her face and a willow-leaf her eyebrow —
And what could he do but cry whenever he looked at them?
…Peach-trees and plum-trees blossomed, in the winds of spring;
Wutong-foliage fell to the ground, after autumn rains;
The Western and Southern Palaces were littered with late grasses,
And the steps were mounded with red leaves that no one swept away.
Her Pear-Garden Players became white-haired
And the eunuchs thin-eyebrowed in her Court of PepperTrees;
Over the throne flew fire-flies, while he brooded in the twilight.
He would lengthen the lamp-wick to its end and still could never sleep.
Bell and drum would slowly toll the dragging nighthours
And the River of Stars grow sharp in the sky, just before dawn,
And the porcelain mandarin-ducks on the roof grow thick with morning frost
And his covers of kingfisher-blue feel lonelier and colder
With the distance between life and death year after year;
And yet no beloved spirit ever visited his dreams.
…At Lingqiong lived a Taoist priest who was a guest of heaven,
Able to summon spirits by his concentrated mind.
And people were so moved by the Emperor’s constant brooding
That they besought the Taoist priest to see if he could find her.
He opened his way in space and clove the ether like lightning,
Up to heaven, under the earth, looking everywhere.
Above, he searched the Green Void, below, the Yellow Spring;
But he failed, in either place, to find the one he looked for.
And then he heard accounts of an enchanted isle at sea,
A part of the intangible and incorporeal world,
With pavilions and fine towers in the five-coloured air,
And of exquisite immortals moving to and fro,
And of one among them-whom they called The Ever True-
With a face of snow and flowers resembling hers he sought.
So he went to the West Hall’s gate of gold and knocked at the jasper door
And asked a girl, called Morsel-of-Jade, to tell The Doubly- Perfect.
And the lady, at news of an envoy from the Emperor of China,
Was startled out of dreams in her nine-flowered, canopy.
She pushed aside her pillow, dressed, shook away sleep,
And opened the pearly shade and then the silver screen.
Her cloudy hair-dress hung on one side because of her great haste,
And her flower-cap was loose when she came along the terrace,
While a light wind filled her cloak and fluttered with her motion
As though she danced The Rainbow Skirt and the Feathered Coat.
And the tear-drops drifting down her sad white face
Were like a rain in spring on the blossom of the pear.
But love glowed deep within her eyes when she bade him thank her liege,
Whose form and voice had been strange to her ever since their parting —
Since happiness had ended at the Court of the Bright Sun,
And moons and dawns had become long in Fairy-Mountain Palace.
But when she turned her face and looked down toward the earth
And tried to see the capital, there were only fog and dust.
So she took out, with emotion, the pledges he had given
And, through his envoy, sent him back a shell box and gold hairpin,
But kept one branch of the hairpin and one side of the box,
Breaking the gold of the hairpin, breaking the shell of the box;
“Our souls belong together,” she said, ” like this gold and this shell —
Somewhere, sometime, on earth or in heaven, we shall surely
And she sent him, by his messenger, a sentence reminding him
Of vows which had been known only to their two hearts:
“On the seventh day of the Seventh-month, in the Palace of Long Life,
We told each other secretly in the quiet midnight world
That we wished to fly in heaven, two birds with the wings of one,
And to grow together on the earth, two branches of one tree.”
Earth endures, heaven endures; some time both shall end,
While this unending sorrow goes on and on for ever.


Bai Chuyi

THE SONG OF A GUITAR


In the tenth year of Yuanhe I was banished and demoted to be assistant official in Jiujiang. In the summer of the next year I was seeing a friend leave Penpu and heard in the midnight from a neighbouring boat a guitar played in the manner of the capital. Upon inquiry, I found that the player had formerly been a dancing-girl there and in her maturity had been married to a merchant. I invited her to my boat to have her play for us. She told me her story, heyday and then unhappiness. Since my departure from the capital I had not felt sad; but that night, after I left her, I began to realize my banishment. And I wrote this long poem — six hundred and twelve characters.


I was bidding a guest farewell, at night on the Xunyang River,
Where maple-leaves and full-grown rushes rustled in the autumn.
I, the host, had dismounted, my guest had boarded his boat,
And we raised our cups and wished to drink-but, alas, there was no music.
For all we had drunk we felt no joy and were parting from each other,
When the river widened mysteriously toward the full moon —
We had heard a sudden sound, a guitar across the water.
Host forgot to turn back home, and guest to go his way.
We followed where the melody led and asked the player’s name.
The sound broke off…then reluctantly she answered.
We moved our boat near hers, invited her to join us,
Summoned more wine and lanterns to recommence our banquet.
Yet we called and urged a thousand times before she started toward us,
Still hiding half her face from us behind her guitar.
…She turned the tuning-pegs and tested several strings;
We could feel what she was feeling, even before she played:
Each string a meditation, each note a deep thought,
As if she were telling us the ache of her whole life.
She knit her brows, flexed her fingers, then began her music,
Little by little letting her heart share everything with ours.
She brushed the strings, twisted them slow, swept them, plucked them —
First the air of The Rainbow Skirt, then The Six Little Ones.
The large strings hummed like rain,
The small strings whispered like a secret,
Hummed, whispered-and then were intermingled
Like a pouring of large and small pearls into a plate of jade.
We heard an oriole, liquid, hidden among flowers.
We heard a brook bitterly sob along a bank of sand…
By the checking of its cold touch, the very string seemed broken
As though it could not pass; and the notes, dying away
Into a depth of sorrow and concealment of lament,
Told even more in silence than they had told in sound….
A silver vase abruptly broke with a gush of water,
And out leapt armored horses and weapons that clashed and smote —
And, before she laid her pick down, she ended with one stroke,
And all four strings made one sound, as of rending silk
There was quiet in the east boat and quiet in the west,
And we saw the white autumnal moon enter the river’s heart.
…When she had slowly placed the pick back among the strings,
She rose and smoothed her clothing and, formal, courteous,
Told us how she had spent her girlhood at the capital,
Living in her parents’ house under the Mount of Toads,
And had mastered the guitar at the age of thirteen,
With her name recorded first in the class-roll of musicians,
Her art the admiration even of experts,
Her beauty the envy of all the leading dancers,
How noble youths of Wuling had lavishly competed
And numberless red rolls of silk been given for one song,
And silver combs with shell inlay been snapped by her rhythms,
And skirts the colour of blood been spoiled with stains of wine….
Season after season, joy had followed joy,
Autumn moons and spring winds had passed without her heeding,
Till first her brother left for the war, and then her aunt died,
And evenings went and evenings came, and her beauty faded —
With ever fewer chariots and horses at her door;
So that finally she gave herself as wife to a merchant
Who, prizing money first, careless how he left her,
Had gone, a month before, to Fuliang to buy tea.
And she had been tending an empty boat at the river’s mouth,
No company but the bright moon and the cold water.
And sometimes in the deep of night she would dream of her triumphs
And be wakened from her dreams by the scalding of her tears.
Her very first guitar-note had started me sighing;
Now, having heard her story, I was sadder still.
“We are both unhappy — to the sky’s end.
We meet. We understand. What does acquaintance matter?
I came, a year ago, away from the capital
And am now a sick exile here in Jiujiang —
And so remote is Jiujiang that I have heard no music,
Neither string nor bamboo, for a whole year.
My quarters, near the River Town, are low and damp,
With bitter reeds and yellowed rushes all about the house.
And what is to be heard here, morning and evening? —
The bleeding cry of cuckoos, the whimpering of apes.
On flowery spring mornings and moonlit autumn nights
I have often taken wine up and drunk it all alone,
Of course there are the mountain songs and the village pipes,
But they are crude and-strident, and grate on my ears.
And tonight, when I heard you playing your guitar,
I felt as if my hearing were bright with fairymusic.
Do not leave us. Come, sit down. Play for us again.
And I will write a long song concerning a guitar.”
…Moved by what I said, she stood there for a moment,
Then sat again to her strings-and they sounded even sadder,
Although the tunes were different from those she had played before….
The feasters, all listening, covered their faces.
But who of them all was crying the most?
This Jiujiang official. My blue sleeve was wet.

Li Shangyin

THE HAN MONUMENT


The Son of Heaven in Yuanhe times was martial as a god
And might be likened only to the Emperors Xuan and Xi.
He took an oath to reassert the glory of the empire,
And tribute was brought to his palace from all four quarters.
Western Huai for fifty years had been a bandit country,
Wolves becoming lynxes, lynxes becoming bears.
They assailed the mountains and rivers, rising from the plains,
With their long spears and sharp lances aimed at the Sun.
But the Emperor had a wise premier, by the name of Du,
Who, guarded by spirits against assassination,
Hong at his girdle the seal of state, and accepted chief command,
While these savage winds were harrying the flags of the Ruler of Heaven.
Generals Suo, Wu, Gu, and Tong became his paws and claws;
Civil and military experts brought their writingbrushes,
And his recording adviser was wise and resolute.
A hundred and forty thousand soldiers, fighting like lions and tigers,
Captured the bandit chieftains for the Imperial Temple.
So complete a victory was a supreme event;
And the Emperor said: “To you, Du, should go the highest honour,
And your secretary, Yu, should write a record of it.”
When Yu had bowed his head, he leapt and danced, saying:
“Historical writings on stone and metal are my especial art;
And, since I know the finest brush-work of the old masters,
My duty in this instance is more than merely official,
And I should be at fault if I modestly declined.”
The Emperor, on hearing this, nodded many times.
And Yu retired and fasted and, in a narrow workroom,
His great brush thick with ink as with drops of rain,
Chose characters like those in the Canons of Yao and Xun,
And a style as in the ancient poems Qingmiao and Shengmin.
And soon the description was ready, on a sheet of paper.
In the morning he laid it, with a bow, on the purple stairs.
He memorialized the throne: “I, unworthy,
Have dared to record this exploit, for a monument.”
The tablet was thirty feet high, the characters large as dippers;
It was set on a sacred tortoise, its columns flanked with ragons….
The phrases were strange with deep words that few could understand;
And jealousy entered and malice and reached the Emperor —
So that a rope a hundred feet long pulled the tablet down
And coarse sand and small stones ground away its face.
But literature endures, like the universal spirit,
And its breath becomes a part of the vitals of all men.
The Tang plate, the Confucian tripod, are eternal things,
Not because of their forms, but because of their inscriptions….
Sagacious is our sovereign and wise his minister,
And high their successes and prosperous their reign;
But unless it be recorded by a writing such as this,
How may they hope to rival the three and five good rulers?
I wish I could write ten thousand copies to read ten thousand times,
Till spittle ran from my lips and calluses hardened my fingers,
And still could hand them down, through seventy-two generations,
As corner-stones for Rooms of Great Deeds on the Sacred Mountains.

Gao Shi

A SONG OF THE YAN COUNTRY


In the sixth year of Kaiyuan, a friend returned from the border and showed me the Yan Song. Moved by what he told me of the expedition, I have written this poem to the same rhymes.


The northeastern border of China was dark with smoke and dust.
To repel the savage invaders, our generals, leaving their families,
Strode forth together, looking as heroes should look;
And having received from the Emperor his most gracious favour,
They marched to the beat of gong and drum through the Elm Pass.
They circled the Stone Tablet with a line of waving flags,
Till their captains over the Sea of Sand were twanging feathered orders.
The Tartar chieftain’s hunting-fires glimmered along Wolf Mountain,
And heights and rivers were cold and bleak there at the outer border;
But soon the barbarians’ horses were plunging through wind and rain.
Half of our men at the front were killed, but the other half are living,
And still at the camp beautiful girls dance for them and sing.
…As autumn ends in the grey sand, with the grasses all withered,
The few surviving watchers by the lonely wall at sunset,
Serving in a good cause, hold life and the foeman lightly.
And yet, for all that they have done, Elm Pass is still unsafe.
Still at the front, iron armour is worn and battered thin,
And here at home food-sticks are made of jade tears.
Still in this southern city young wives’ hearts are breaking,
While soldiers at the northern border vainly look toward home.
The fury of the wind cuts our men’s advance
In a place of death and blue void, with nothingness ahead.
Three times a day a cloud of slaughter rises over the camp;
And all night long the hour-drums shake their chilly booming,
Until white swords can be seen again, spattered with red blood.
…When death becomes a duty, who stops to think of fame?
Yet in speaking of the rigours of warfare on the desert
We name to this day Li, the great General, who lived long ago.

Li Qi

AN OLD WAR-SONG


Through the bright day up the mountain, we scan the sky for a war-torch;
At yellow dusk we water our horses in the boundaryriver;
And when the throb of watch-drums hangs in the sandy wind,
We hear the guitar of the Chinese Princess telling her endless woe….
Three thousand miles without a town, nothing but camps,
Till the heavy sky joins the wide desert in snow.
With their plaintive calls, barbarian wildgeese fly from night to night,
And children of the Tartars have many tears to shed;
But we hear that the Jade Pass is still under siege,
And soon we stake our lives upon our light warchariots.
Each year we bury in the desert bones unnumbered,
Yet we only watch for grape-vines coming into China.


Wang Wei

A SONG OF A GIRL FROM LOYANG


There’s a girl from Loyang in the door across the street,
She looks fifteen, she may be a little older.
…While her master rides his rapid horse with jade bit an bridle,
Her handmaid brings her cod-fish in a golden plate.
On her painted pavilions, facing red towers,
Cornices are pink and green with peach-bloom and with willow,
Canopies of silk awn her seven-scented chair,
And rare fans shade her, home to her nine-flowered curtains.
Her lord, with rank and wealth and in the bud of life,
Exceeds in munificence the richest men of old.
He favours this girl of lowly birth, he has her taught to dance;
And he gives away his coral-trees to almost anyone.
The wind of dawn just stirs when his nine soft lights go out,
Those nine soft lights like petals in a flying chain of flowers.
Between dances she has barely time for singing over the songs;
No sooner is she dressed again than incense burns before her.
Those she knows in town are only the rich and the lavish,
And day and night she is visiting the hosts of the gayest mansions.
…Who notices the girl from Yue with a face of white jade,
Humble, poor, alone, by the river, washing silk?

Wang Wei

SONG OF AN OLD GENERAL


When he was a youth of fifteen or twenty,
He chased a wild horse, he caught him and rode him,
He shot the white-browed mountain tiger,
He defied the yellow-bristled Horseman of Ye.
Fighting single- handed for a thousand miles,
With his naked dagger he could hold a multitude.
…Granted that the troops of China were as swift as heaven’s thunder
And that Tartar soldiers perished in pitfalls fanged with iron,
General Wei Qing’s victory was only a thing of chance.
And General Li Guang’s thwarted effort was his fate, not his fault.
Since this man’s retirement he is looking old and worn:
Experience of the world has hastened his white hairs.
Though once his quick dart never missed the right eye of a bird,
Now knotted veins and tendons make his left arm like an osier.
He is sometimes at the road-side selling melons from his garden,
He is sometimes planting willows round his hermitage.
His lonely lane is shut away by a dense grove,
His vacant window looks upon the far cold mountains
But, if he prayed, the waters would come gushing for his men
And never would he wanton his cause away with wine.
…War-clouds are spreading, under the Helan Range;
Back and forth, day and night, go feathered messages;
In the three River Provinces, the governors call young men —
And five imperial edicts have summoned the old general.
So he dusts his iron coat and shines it like snow-
Waves his dagger from its jade hilt in a dance of starry steel.
He is ready with his strong northern bow to smite the Tartar chieftain —
That never a foreign war-dress may affront the Emperor.
…There once was an aged Prefect, forgotten and far away,
Who still could manage triumph with a single stroke.

Wang Wei

A SONG OF PEACH-BLOSSOM RIVER


A fisherman is drifting, enjoying the spring mountains,
And the peach-trees on both banks lead him to an ancient source.
Watching the fresh-coloured trees, he never thinks of distance
Till he comes to the end of the blue stream and suddenly- strange men!
It’s a cave-with a mouth so narrow that he has to crawl through;
But then it opens wide again on a broad and level path —
And far beyond he faces clouds crowning a reach of trees,
And thousands of houses shadowed round with flowers and bamboos….
Woodsmen tell him their names in the ancient speech of Han;
And clothes of the Qin Dynasty are worn by all these people
Living on the uplands, above the Wuling River,
On farms and in gardens that are like a world apart,
Their dwellings at peace under pines in the clear moon,
Until sunrise fills the low sky with crowing and barking.
…At news of a stranger the people all assemble,
And each of them invites him home and asks him where he was born.
Alleys and paths are cleared for him of petals in the morning,
And fishermen and farmers bring him their loads at dusk….
They had left the world long ago, they had come here seeking refuge;
They have lived like angels ever since, blessedly far away,
No one in the cave knowing anything outside,
Outsiders viewing only empty mountains and thick clouds.
…The fisherman, unaware of his great good fortune,
Begins to think of country, of home, of worldly ties,
Finds his way out of the cave again, past mountains and past rivers,
Intending some time to return, when he has told his kin.
He studies every step he takes, fixes it well in mind,
And forgets that cliffs and peaks may vary their appearance.
…It is certain that to enter through the deepness of the mountain,
A green river leads you, into a misty wood.
But now, with spring-floods everywhere and floating peachpetals —
Which is the way to go, to find that hidden source?

Meng Haoran

A MESSAGE FROM LAKE DONGTIN
TO PREMIER ZHANG


Here in the Eighth-month the waters of the lake
Are of a single air with heaven,
And a mist from the Yun and Meng valleys
Has beleaguered the city of Youzhou.
I should like to cross, but I can find no boat.
…How ashamed I am to be idler than you statesmen,
As I sit here and watch a fisherman casting
And emptily envy him his catch.


Meng Haoran

ON CLIMBING YAN MOUNTAIN WITH FRIENDS


While worldly matters take their turn,
Ancient, modern, to and fro,
Rivers and mountains are changeless in their glory
And still to be witnessed from this trail.
Where a fisher-boat dips by a waterfall,
Where the air grows colder, deep in the valley,
The monument of Yang remains;
And we have wept, reading the words.

tangbirds

Meng Haoran

AT A BANQUET IN THE HOUSE
OF THE TAOIST PRIEST MEI


In my bed among the woods, grieving that spring must end,
I lifted up the curtain on a pathway of flowers,
And a flashing bluebird bade me come
To the dwelling-place of the Red Pine Genie.
…What a flame for his golden crucible —
Peach-trees magical with buds ! —
And for holding boyhood in his face,
The rosy-flowing wine of clouds!

Meng Haoran

ON RETURNING AT THE YEAR’S END TO
ZHONGNAN MOUNTAIN


I petition no more at the north palace-gate.
…To this tumble-down hut on Zhongnan Mountain
I was banished for my blunders, by a wise ruler.
I have been sick so long I see none of my friends.
My white hairs hasten my decline,
Like pale beams ending the old year.
Therefore I lie awake and ponder
On the pine-shadowed moonlight in my empty window.

Meng Haoran

STOPPING AT A FRIEND’S FARM-HOUSE


Preparing me chicken and rice, old friend,
You entertain me at your farm.
We watch the green trees that circle your village
And the pale blue of outlying mountains.
We open your window over garden and field,
To talk mulberry and hemp with our cups in our hands.
…Wait till the Mountain Holiday —
I am coming again in chrysanthemum time.

Meng Haoran

FROM QIN COUNTRY TO THE BUDDHIST PRIEST YUAN


How gladly I would seek a mountain
If I had enough means to live as a recluse!
For I turn at last from serving the State
To the Eastern Woods Temple and to you, my master.
…Like ashes of gold in a cinnamon-flame,
My youthful desires have been burnt with the years-
And tonight in the chilling sunset-wind
A cicada, singing, weighs on my heart.

Meng Haoran

FROM A MOORING ON THE TONGLU
TO A FRIEND IN YANGZHOU


With monkeys whimpering on the shadowy mountain,
And the river rushing through the night,
And a wind in the leaves along both banks,
And the moon athwart my solitary sail,
I, a stranger in this inland district,
Homesick for my Yangzhou friends,
Send eastward two long streams of tears
To find the nearest touch of the sea.

Meng Haoran

TAKING LEAVE OF WANG WEI


Slow and reluctant, I have waited
Day after day, till now I must go.
How sweet the road-side flowers might be
If they did not mean good-bye, old friend.
The Lords of the Realm are harsh to us
And men of affairs are not our kind.
I will turn back home, I will say no more,
I will close the gate of my old garden.

Meng Haoran

MEMORIES IN EARLY WINTER


South go the wildgesse, for leaves are now falling,
And the water is cold with a wind from the north.
I remember my home; but the Xiang River’s curves
Are walled by the clouds of this southern country.
I go forward. I weep till my tears are spent.
I see a sail in the far sky.
Where is the ferry? Will somebody tell me?
It’s growing rough. It’s growing dark.

Liu Changqing

CLIMBING IN AUTUMN FOR A VIEW FROM THE TEMPLE
ON THE TERRACE OF GENERAL WU


So autumn breaks my homesick heart….
Few pilgrims venture climbing to a temple so wild,
Up from the lake, in the mountain clouds.
…Sunset clings in the old defences,
A stone gong shivers through the empty woods.
…Of the Southern Dynasty, what remains?
Nothing but the great River.


Li Shangyin

TO THE MOON GODDESS


Now that a candle-shadow stands on the screen of carven marble
And the River of Heaven slants and the morning stars are low,
Are you sorry for having stolen the potion that has set you
Over purple seas and blue skies, to brood through the long nights?

Li Shangyin

JIASHENG


When the Emperor sought guidance from wise men, from exiles,
He found no calmer wisdom than that of young Jia
And assigned him the foremost council-seat at midnight,
Yet asked him about gods, instead of about people.

Wen Tingyun

SHE SIGHS ON HER JADE LUTE


A cool-matted silvery bed; but no dreams….
An evening sky as green as water, shadowed with tender clouds;
But far off over the southern rivers the calling of a wildgoose,
And here a twelve-story building, lonely under the moon.

Zheng Tian

ON MAWEI SLOPE


When the Emperor came back from his ride they had murdered Lady Yang —
That passion unforgettable through all the suns and moons
They had led him to forsake her by reminding him
Of an emperor slain with his lady once, in a well at Jingyang Palace.

china-tang-large

Han Wu

COOLER WEATHER


Her jade-green alcove curtained thick with silk,
Her vermilion screen with its pattern of flowers,
Her eight- foot dragon-beard mat and her quilt brocaded in squares
Are ready now for nights that are neither warm nor cold.

Seven-character-quatrain

Wei Zhuang

A NANJING LANDSCAPE


Though a shower bends the river-grass, a bird is singing,
While ghosts of the Six Dynasties pass like a dream
Around the Forbidden City, under weeping willows
Which loom still for three miles along the misty moat.


Chen Tao

TURKESTAN


Thinking only of their vow that they would crush the Tartars- –
On the desert, clad in sable and silk, five thousand of them fell….
But arisen from their crumbling bones on the banks of the river at the border,
Dreams of them enter, like men alive, into rooms where their loves lie sleeping.

Zhang Bi

A MESSAGE


I go in a dream to the house of Xie
Through a zigzag porch with arching rails
To a court where the spring moon lights for ever
Phantom flowers and a single figure.

Wumingshi

THE DAY OF NO FIRE


As the holiday approaches, and grasses are bright after rain,
And the causeway gleams with willows, and wheatfields wave in the wind,
We are thinking of our kinsfolk, far away from us.
O cuckoo, why do you follow us, why do you call us home?

horse

Wang Wei

A SONG AT WEICHENG


A morning-rain has settled the dust in Weicheng;
Willows are green again in the tavern dooryard….
Wait till we empty one more cup —
West of Yang Gate there’ll be no old friends.


Wang Wei

A SONG OF AN AUTUMN NIGHT


Under the crescent moon a light autumn dew
Has chilled the robe she will not change —
And she touches a silver lute all night,
Afraid to go back to her empty room.

Wang Changling

A SIGH IN THE COURT OF PERPETUAL FAITH


She brings a broom at dawn to the Golden Palace doorway
And dusts the hall from end to end with her round fan,
And, for all her jade-whiteness, she envies a crow
Whose cold wings are kindled in the Court of the Bright Sun.

Wang Changling

OVER THE BORDER


The moon goes back to the time of Qin, the wall to the time of Han,
And the road our troops are travelling goes back three hundred miles….
Oh, for the Winged General at the Dragon City —
That never a Tartar horseman might cross the Yin Mountains!

Wang Zhihuan

BEYOND THE BORDER


Where a yellow river climbs to the white clouds,
Near the one city-wall among ten-thousand-foot mountains,
A Tartar under the willows is lamenting on his flute
That spring never blows to him through the Jade Pass

Li Bai

A SONG OF PURE HAPPINESS I


Her robe is a cloud, her face a flower;
Her balcony, glimmering with the bright spring dew,
Is either the tip of earth’s Jade Mountain
Or a moon- edged roof of paradise.

Li Bai

A SONG OF PURE HAPPINESS II


There’s a perfume stealing moist from a shaft of red blossom,
And a mist, through the heart, from the magical Hill of Wu- –
The palaces of China have never known such beauty-
Not even Flying Swallow with all her glittering garments.

Li Bai

A SONG OF PURE HAPPINESS III


Lovely now together, his lady and his flowers
Lighten for ever the Emperor’s eye,
As he listens to the sighing of the far spring wind
Where she leans on a railing in the Aloe Pavilion.

Du Qiuniang

THE GOLD-THREADED ROBE


Covet not a gold-threaded robe,
Cherish only your young days!
If a bud open, gather it —
Lest you but wait for an empty bough.

Li Shangyin

TO ONE UNNAMED V


There are many curtains in your care-free house,
Where rapture lasts the whole night long.
…What are the lives of angels but dreams
If they take no lovers into their rooms?
…Storms are ravishing the nut-horns,
Moon- dew sweetening cinnamon-leaves
I know well enough naught can come of this union,
Yet how it serves to ease my heart!

Wen Tingyun

NEAR THE LIZHOU FERRY


The sun has set in the water’s clear void,
And little blue islands are one with the sky.
On the bank a horse neighs. A boat goes by.
People gather at a willow- clump and wait for the ferry.
Down by the sand-bushes sea-gulls are circling,
Over the wide river-lands flies an egret.
…Can you guess why I sail, like an ancient wise lover,
Through the misty Five Lakes, forgetting words?

Wen Tingyun

THE TEMPLE OF SU WU


Though our envoy, Su Wu, is gone, body and soul,
This temple survives, these trees endure….
Wildgeese through the clouds are still calling to the moon there
And hill-sheep unshepherded graze along the border.
…Returning, he found his country changed
Since with youthful cap and sword he had left it.
His bitter adventures had won him no title….
Autumn-waves endlessly sob in the river.

Xue Feng

A PALACE POEM


In twelve chambers the ladies, decked for the day,
Peer afar for their lord from their Fairy-View Lodge;
The golden toad guards the lock on the door-chain,
And the bronze-dragon water-clock drips through the morning
Till one of them, tilting a mirror, combs her cloud of hair
And chooses new scent and a change of silk raiment;
For she sees, between screen-panels, deep in the palace,
Eunuchs in court-dress preparing a bed.

Qin Taoyu

A POOR GIRL


Living under a thatch roof, never wearing fragrant silk,
She longs to arrange a marriage, but how could she dare?
Who would know her simple face the loveliest of them all
When we choose for worldliness, not for worth?
Her fingers embroider beyond compare,
But she cannot vie with painted brows;
And year after year she has sewn gold thread
On bridal robes for other girls.

Shen Quanqi

BEYOND SEEING


A girl of the Lu clan who lives in Golden-Wood Hall,
Where swallows perch in pairs on beams of tortoiseshell,
Hears the washing-mallets’ cold beat shake the leaves down.
…The Liaoyang expedition will be gone ten years,
And messages are lost in the White Wolf River.
…Here in the City of the Red Phoenix autumn nights are long,
Where one who is heart-sick to see beyond seeing,
Sees only moonlight on the yellow-silk wave of her loom.

Wang Wei

DEER-PARK HERMITAGE


There seems to be no one on the empty mountain….
And yet I think I hear a voice,
Where sunlight, entering a grove,
Shines back to me from the green moss.

Wang Wei

IN A RETREAT AMONG BAMBOOS


Leaning alone in the close bamboos,
I am playing my lute and humming a song
Too softly for anyone to hear —
Except my comrade, the bright moon.

Wang Wei

A PARTING


Friend, I have watched you down the mountain
Till now in the dark I close my thatch door….
Grasses return again green in the spring,
But O my Prince of Friends, do you?

Wang Wei

ONE-HEARTED


When those red berries come in springtime,
Flushing on your southland branches,
Take home an armful, for my sake,
As a symbol of our love.


He Zhizhang

COMING HOME


I left home young. I return old;
Speaking as then, but with hair grown thin;
And my children, meeting me, do not know me.
They smile and say: “Stranger, where do you come from?”

from-the-painting-e2809cbanquets-at-a-frontier-fortresse2809d-the-painting-is-currently-housed-in-beijing-forbidden-city-museum

Zhang Xu

PEACH-BLOSSOM RIVER


A bridge flies away through a wild mist,
Yet here are the rocks and the fisherman’s boat.
Oh, if only this river of floating peach-petals
Might lead me at last to the mythical cave!

Wang Wei

ON THE MOUNTAIN HOLIDAY
THINKING OF MY BROTHERS IN SHANDONG


All alone in a foreign land,
I am twice as homesick on this day
When brothers carry dogwood up the mountain,
Each of them a branch-and my branch missing.

Wang Changling

AT HIBISCUS INN
PARTING WITH XIN JIAN


With this cold night-rain hiding the river, you have come into Wu.
In the level dawn, all alone, you will be starting for the mountains of Chu.
Answer, if they ask of me at Loyang:
“One-hearted as ice in a crystal vase.”

Wang Changling

IN HER QUIET WINDOW


Too young to have learned what sorrow means,
Attired for spring, she climbs to her high chamber….
The new green of the street-willows is wounding her heart —
Just for a title she sent him to war.

Wang Changling

A SONG OF THE SPRING PALACE


Last night, while a gust blew peach-petals open
And the moon shone high on the Palace Beyond Time,
The Emperor gave Pingyang, for her dancing,
Brocades against the cold spring-wind.

greatwall

Wang Han

A SONG OF LIANGZHOU


They sing, they drain their cups of jade,
They strum on horseback their guitars.
…Why laugh when they fall asleep drunk on the sand ? —
How many soldiers ever come home?

Li Bai

A FAREWELL TO MENG HAORAN
ON HIS WAY TO YANGZHOU


You have left me behind, old friend, at the Yellow Crane Terrace,
On your way to visit Yangzhou in the misty month of flowers;
Your sail, a single shadow, becomes one with the blue sky,
Till now I see only the river, on its way to heaven.

Li Bai

THROUGH THE YANGZI GORGES


From the walls of Baidi high in the coloured dawn
To Jiangling by night-fall is three hundred miles,
Yet monkeys are still calling on both banks behind me
To my boat these ten thousand mountains away.

Cen Can

ON MEETING A MESSENGER TO THE CAPITAL


It’s a long way home, a long way east.
I am old and my sleeve is wet with tears.
We meet on horseback. I have no means of writing.
Tell them three words: “He is safe.”

Du Fu

ON MEETING LI GUINIAN DOWN THE RIVER


I met you often when you were visiting princes
And when you were playing in noblemen’s halls.
…Spring passes…. Far down the river now,
I find you alone under falling petals.

Wei Yingwu

AT CHUZHOU ON THE WESTERN STREAM


Where tender grasses rim the stream
And deep boughs trill with mango-birds,
On the spring flood of last night’s rain
The ferry-boat moves as though someone were poling.

Zhang Ji

A NIGHT-MOORING NEAR MAPLE BRIDGE


While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;
Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;
And I hear, from beyond Suzhou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,
Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.

Han Hong

AFTER THE DAY OF NO FIRE


Petals of spring fly all through the city
From the wind in the willows of the Imperial River.
And at dusk, from the palace, candles are given out
To light first the mansions of the Five Great Lords.

Liu Fangping

A MOONLIGHT NIGHT


When the moon has coloured half the house,
With the North Star at its height and the South Star setting,
I can fed the first motions of the warm air of spring
In the singing of an insect at my green-silk window.

Liu Fangping

SPRING HEART-BREAK


With twilight passing her silken window,
She weeps alone in her chamber of gold
For spring is departing from a desolate garden,
And a drift of pear-petals is closing a door.

Liu Zhongyong

A TROOPER’S BURDEN


For years, to guard the Jade Pass and the River of Gold,
With our hands on our horse-whips and our swordhilts,
We have watched the green graves change to snow
And the Yellow Stream ring the Black Mountain forever.

Gu Kuang

A PALACE POEM


High above, from a jade chamber, songs float half-way to heaven,
The palace-girls’ gay voices are mingled with the wind —
But now they are still, and you hear a water-clock drip in the Court of the Moon….
They have opened the curtain wide, they are facing the River of Stars.

chinese-painting-in-the-forbidden-city-of-beijing

Li Yi

ON HEARING A FLUTE AT NIGHT
FROM THE WALL OF SHOUXIANG


The sand below the border-mountain lies like snow,
And the moon like frost beyond the city-wall,
And someone somewhere, playing a flute,
Has made the soldiers homesick all night long.

Liu Yuxi

BLACKTAIL ROW


Grass has run wild now by the Bridge of Red-Birds;
And swallows’ wings, at sunset, in Blacktail Row
Where once they visited great homes,
Dip among doorways of the poor.

Liu Yuxi

A SPRING SONG


In gala robes she comes down from her chamber
Into her courtyard, enclosure of spring….
When she tries from the centre to count the flowers,
On her hairpin of jade a dragon-fly poises.

Bai Juyi

A SONG OF THE PALACE


Her tears are spent, but no dreams come.
She can hear the others singing through the night.
She has lost his love. Alone with her beauty,
She leans till dawn on her incense-pillow.

Zhang Hu

OF ONE IN THE FORBIDDEN CITY


When the moonlight, reaching a tree by the gate,
Shows her a quiet bird on its nest,
She removes her jade hairpins and sits in the shadow
And puts out a flame where a moth was flying.

Forbidden City Painting

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Filed under Chinese poetry, Du Fu, Li Bai, pictures, poetry, Wang Wei

T’ang Poetry- Chapter 5?

I’m losing track of how many of these I’ve done. I just know that these are not included in the previous posts.

china_landscape

Li Bai
HARD ROADS IN SHU

Oh, but it is high and very dangerous!
Such travelling is harder than scaling the blue sky.
…Until two rulers of this region
Pushed their way through in the misty ages,
Forty-eight thousand years had passed
With nobody arriving across the Qin border.
And the Great White Mountain, westward, still has only a bird’s path
Up to the summit of Emei Peak —
Which was broken once by an earthquake and there were brave men lost,
Just finishing the stone rungs of their ladder toward heaven.
…High, as on a tall flag, six dragons drive the sun,
While the river, far below, lashes its twisted course.
Such height would be hard going for even a yellow crane,
So pity the poor monkeys who have only paws to use.
The Mountain of Green Clay is formed of many circles-
Each hundred steps, we have to turn nine turns among its mound —
Panting, we brush Orion and pass the Well Star,
Then, holding our chests with our hands and sinking to the ground with a groan,
We wonder if this westward trail will never have an end.
The formidable path ahead grows darker, darker still,
With nothing heard but the call of birds hemmed in by the ancient forest,
Male birds smoothly wheeling, following the females;
And there come to us the melancholy voices of the cuckoos
Out on the empty mountain, under the lonely moon….
Such travelling is harder than scaling the blue sky.
Even to hear of it turns the cheek pale,
With the highest crag barely a foot below heaven.
Dry pines hang, head down, from the face of the cliffs,
And a thousand plunging cataracts outroar one another
And send through ten thousand valleys a thunder of spinning stones.
With all this danger upon danger,
Why do people come here who live at a safe distance?
…Though Dagger-Tower Pass be firm and grim,
And while one man guards it
Ten thousand cannot force it,
What if he be not loyal,
But a wolf toward his fellows?
…There are ravenous tigers to fear in the day
And venomous reptiles in the night
With their teeth and their fangs ready
To cut people down like hemp.
Though the City of Silk be delectable, I would rather turn home quickly.
Such travelling is harder than scaling the blue sky….
But I still face westward with a dreary moan.

Li Bai
ENDLESS YEARNING I

“I am endlessly yearning
To be in Changan.
…Insects hum of autumn by the gold brim of the well;
A thin frost glistens like little mirrors on my cold mat;
The high lantern flickers; and. deeper grows my longing.
I lift the shade and, with many a sigh, gaze upon the moon,
Single as a flower, centred from the clouds.
Above, I see the blueness and deepness of sky.
Below, I see the greenness and the restlessness of water….
Heaven is high, earth wide; bitter between them flies my sorrow.
Can I dream through the gateway, over the mountain?
Endless longing
Breaks my heart.”

Li Bai
ENDLESS YEARNING II

“The sun has set, and a mist is in the flowers;
And the moon grows very white and people sad and sleepless.
A Zhao harp has just been laid mute on its phoenix holder,
And a Shu lute begins to sound its mandarin-duck strings….
Since nobody can bear to you the burden of my song,
Would that it might follow the spring wind to Yanran Mountain.
I think of you far away, beyond the blue sky,
And my eyes that once were sparkling
Are now a well of tears.
…Oh, if ever you should doubt this aching of my heart,
Here in my bright mirror come back and look at me!”

Li Bai
THE HARD ROAD

Pure wine costs, for the golden cup, ten thousand coppers a flagon,
And a jade plate of dainty food calls for a million coins.
I fling aside my food-sticks and cup, I cannot eat nor drink….
I pull out my dagger, I peer four ways in vain.
I would cross the Yellow River, but ice chokes the ferry;
I would climb the Taihang Mountains, but the sky is blind with snow….
I would sit and poise a fishing-pole, lazy by a brook —
But I suddenly dream of riding a boat, sailing for the sun….
Journeying is hard,
Journeying is hard.
There are many turnings —
Which am I to follow?….
I will mount a long wind some day and break the heavy waves
And set my cloudy sail straight and bridge the deep, deep sea.

Li Bai
HARD IS THE WAY OF THE WORLD II

The way is broad like the blue sky,
But no way out before my eye.
I am ashamed to follow those who have no guts,
Gambling on fighting cocks and dogs for pears and nuts.
Feng would go homeward way, having no fish to eat;
Zhou did not think to bow to noblemen was meet.
General Han was mocked in the market-place;
The brilliant scholar Jia was banished in disgrace.
Have you not heard of King of Yan in days gone by,
Who venerated talents and built Terrace high
On which he offered gold to gifted men
And stooped low and swept the floor to welcome them?
Grateful, Ju Xin and Yue Yi came then
And served him heart and soul, both full of stratagem.
The King’s bones were now buried,
who would sweep the floor of the Gold Terrace any more?
Hard is the way.
Go back without delay!

Li Bai
HARD IS THE WAY OF THE WORLD III

Don’t wash your ears on hearing something you dislike
Nor die of hunger like famous hermits on the Pike!
Living without a fame among the motley crowd,
Why should one be as lofty as the moon or cloud?
Of ancient talents who failed to retire, there’s none
But came to tragic ending after glory’s won.
The head of General Wu was hung o’er city gate;
In the river was drowned the poet laureate.
The highly talented scholar wished in vain
To preserve his life to hear the cry of the crane.
Minister Li regretted not to have retired
To hunt with falcon gray as he had long desired.
Have you not heard of Zhang Han who resigned, carefree,
To go home to eat his perch with high glee?
Enjoy a cup of wine while you’re alive!
Do not care if your fame will not survive!

Li Bai
BRINGING IN THE WINE

See how the Yellow River’s waters move out of heaven.
Entering the ocean, never to return.
See how lovely locks in bright mirrors in high chambers,
Though silken-black at morning, have changed by night to snow.
…Oh, let a man of spirit venture where he pleases
And never tip his golden cup empty toward the moon!
Since heaven gave the talent, let it be employed!
Spin a thousand pieces of silver, all of them come back!
Cook a sheep, kill a cow, whet the appetite,
And make me, of three hundred bowls, one long drink!
…To the old master, Cen,
And the young scholar, Danqiu,
Bring in the wine!
Let your cups never rest!
Let me sing you a song!
Let your ears attend!
What are bell and drum, rare dishes and treasure?
Let me be forever drunk and never come to reason!
Sober men of olden days and sages are forgotten,
And only the great drinkers are famous for all time.
…Prince Chen paid at a banquet in the Palace of Perfection
Ten thousand coins for a cask of wine, with many a laugh and quip.
Why say, my host, that your money is gone?
Go and buy wine and we’ll drink it together!
My flower-dappled horse,
My furs worth a thousand,
Hand them to the boy to exchange for good wine,
And we’ll drown away the woes of ten thousand generations!

Du Fu
A SONG OF WAR-CHARIOTS

The war-chariots rattle,
The war-horses whinny.
Each man of you has a bow and a quiver at his belt.
Father, mother, son, wife, stare at you going,
Till dust shall have buried the bridge beyond Changan.
They run with you, crying, they tug at your sleeves,
And the sound of their sorrow goes up to the clouds;
And every time a bystander asks you a question,
You can only say to him that you have to go.
…We remember others at fifteen sent north to guard the river
And at forty sent west to cultivate the campfarms.
The mayor wound their turbans for them when they started out.
With their turbaned hair white now, they are still at the border,
At the border where the blood of men spills like the sea —
And still the heart of Emperor Wu is beating for war.
…Do you know that, east of China’s mountains, in two hundred districts
And in thousands of villages, nothing grows but weeds,
And though strong women have bent to the ploughing,
East and west the furrows all are broken down?
…Men of China are able to face the stiffest battle,
But their officers drive them like chickens and dogs.
Whatever is asked of them,
Dare they complain?
For example, this winter
Held west of the gate,
Challenged for taxes,
How could they pay?
…We have learned that to have a son is bad luck-
It is very much better to have a daughter
Who can marry and live in the house of a neighbour,
While under the sod we bury our boys.
…Go to the Blue Sea, look along the shore
At all the old white bones forsaken —
New ghosts are wailing there now with the old,
Loudest in the dark sky of a stormy day.

Du Fu
A SONG OF FAIR WOMEN

On the third day of the Third-month in the freshening weather
Many beauties take the air by the Changan waterfront,
Receptive, aloof, sweet-mannered, sincere,
With soft fine skin and well-balanced bone.
Their embroidered silk robes in the spring sun are gleaming —
With a mass of golden peacocks and silver unicorns.
And hanging far down from their temples
Are blue leaves of delicate kingfisher feathers.
And following behind them
Is a pearl-laden train, rhythmic with bearers.
Some of them are kindred to the Royal House —
The titled Princesses Guo and Qin.
Red camel-humps are brought them from jade broilers,
And sweet fish is ordered them on crystal trays.
Though their food-sticks of unicorn-horn are lifted languidly
And the finely wrought phoenix carving-knife is very little used,
Fleet horses from the Yellow Gate, stirring no dust,
Bring precious dishes constantly from the imperial kitchen.
…While a solemn sound of flutes and drums invokes gods and spirits,
Guests and courtiers gather, all of high rank;
And finally, riding slow, a dignified horseman
Dismounts at the pavilion on an embroidered rug.
In a snow of flying willow-cotton whitening the duckweed,
Bluebirds find their way with vermilion handkerchiefs —
But power can be as hot as flame and burn people’s fingers.
Be wary of the Premier, watch for his frown.

Du Fu
A SONG OF SOBBING BY THE RIVER

I am only an old woodsman, whispering a sob,
As I steal like a spring-shadow down the Winding River.
…Since the palaces ashore are sealed by a thousand gates —
Fine willows, new rushes, for whom are you so green?
…I remember a cloud of flags that came from the South Garden,
And ten thousand colours, heightening one another,
And the Kingdom’s first Lady, from the Palace of the Bright Sun,
Attendant on the Emperor in his royal chariot,
And the horsemen before them, each with bow and arrows,
And the snowy horses, champing at bits of yellow gold,
And an archer, breast skyward, shooting through the clouds
And felling with one dart a pair of flying birds.
…Where are those perfect eyes, where are those pearly teeth?
A blood-stained spirit has no home, has nowhere to return.
And clear Wei waters running east, through the cleft on Dagger- Tower Trail,
Carry neither there nor here any news of her.
People, compassionate, are wishing with tears
That she were as eternal as the river and the flowers.
…Mounted Tartars, in the yellow twilight, cloud the town with dust.
I am fleeing south, but I linger-gazing northward toward the throne.

Du Fu
A SONG OF A PRINCE DEPOSED

Along the wall of the Capital a white-headed crow
Flies to the Gate where Autumn Enters and screams there in the night,
Then turns again and pecks among the roofs of a tall mansion
Whose lord, a mighty mandarin, has fled before the Tartars,
With his golden whip now broken, his nine war-horses dead
And his own flesh and bone scattered to the winds….
There’s a rare ring of green coral underneath the vest
Of a Prince at a street-corner, bitterly sobbing,
Who has to give a false name to anyone who asks him-
Just a poor fellow, hoping for employment.
A hundred days’ hiding in grasses and thorns
Show on his body from head to foot.
But, since their first Emperor, all with hooknoses,
These Dragons look different from ordinary men.
Wolves are in the palace now and Dragons are lost in the desert —
O Prince, be very careful of your most sacred person!
I dare not address you long, here by the open road,
Nor even to stand beside you for more than these few moments.
Last night with the spring-wind there came a smell of blood;
The old Capital is full of camels from the east.
Our northern warriors are sound enough of body and of hand —
Oh, why so brave in olden times and so craven now?
Our Emperor, we hear, has given his son the throne
And the southern border-chieftains are loyally inclined
And the Huamen and Limian tribes are gathering to avenge us.
But still be careful-keep yourself well hidden from the dagger.
Unhappy Prince, I beg you, be constantly on guard —
Till power blow to your aid from the Five Imperial Tombs.
090
Tang Xunzong
I PASS THROUGH THE LU DUKEDOM
WITH A SIGH AND A SACRIFICE FOR CONFUCIUS

O Master, how did the world repay
Your life of long solicitude? —
The Lords of Zou have misprized your land,
And your home has been used as the palace of Lu….
You foretold that when phoenixes vanished, your fortunes too would end,
You knew that the captured unicorn would be a sign of the dose of your teaching….
Can this sacrifice I watch, here between two temple pillars,
Be the selfsame omen of death you dreamed of long ago?

chinese_map-1418

Zhang Jiuling
LOOKING AT THE MOON
AND THINKING OF ONE FAR AWAY

The moon, grown full now over the sea,
Brightening the whole of heaven,
Brings to separated hearts
The long thoughtfulness of night….
It is no darker though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer though I put on my coat.
So I leave my message with the moon
And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams.

Wang Bo
FAREWELL TO VICE-PREFECT DU
SETTING OUT FOR HIS OFFICIAL POST IN SHU

By this wall that surrounds the three Qin districts,
Through a mist that makes five rivers one,
We bid each other a sad farewell,
We two officials going opposite ways….
And yet, while China holds our friendship,
And heaven remains our neighbourhood,
Why should you linger at the fork of the road,
Wiping your eyes like a heart-broken child?

Lo Bingwang
A POLITICAL PRISONER LISTENING TO A CICADA

While the year sinks westward, I hear a cicada
Bid me to be resolute here in my cell,
Yet it needed the song of those black wings
To break a white-haired prisoner’s heart….
His flight is heavy through the fog,
His pure voice drowns in the windy world.
Who knows if he be singing still? – –
Who listens any more to me?

china_hills

Du Shenyan
ON A WALK IN THE EARLY SPRING
HARMONIZING A POEM BY MY FRIEND LU
STATIONED AT CHANGZHOU

Only to wanderers can come
Ever new the shock of beauty,
Of white cloud and red cloud dawning from the sea,
Of spring in the wild-plum and river-willow….
I watch a yellow oriole dart in the warm air,
And a green water- plant reflected by the sun.
Suddenly an old song fills
My heart with home, my eyes with tears.

Shen Quanqi
LINES

Against the City of the Yellow Dragon
Our troops were sent long years ago,
And girls here watch the same melancholy moon
That lights our Chinese warriors —
And young wives dream a dream of spring,
That last night their heroic husbands,
In a great attack, with flags and drums,
Captured the City of the Yellow Dragon.

Song Zhiwen
INSCRIBED ON THE WALL OF AN INN
NORTH OF DAYU MOUNTAIN

They say that wildgeese, flying southward,
Here turn back, this very month….
Shall my own southward journey
Ever be retraced, I wonder?
…The river is pausing at ebb-tide,
And the woods are thick with clinging mist —
But tomorrow morning, over the mountain,
Dawn will be white with the plum-trees of home.

Wang Wan
A MOORING UNDER NORTH FORT HILL

Under blue mountains we wound our way,
My boat and 1, along green water;
Until the banks at low tide widened,
With no wind stirring my lone sail.
…Night now yields to a sea of sun,
And the old year melts in freshets.
At last I can send my messengers —
Wildgeese, homing to Loyang.

Chang Jian
A BUDDHIST RETREAT BEHIND BROKEN-MOUNTAIN TEMPLE

In the pure morning, near the old temple,
Where early sunlight points the tree-tops,
My path has wound, through a sheltered hollow
Of boughs and flowers, to a Buddhist retreat.
Here birds are alive with mountain-light,
And the mind of man touches peace in a pool,
And a thousand sounds are quieted
By the breathing of a temple-bell.

Cen Can
A MESSAGE TO CENSOR Du Fu
AT HIS OFFICE IN THE LEFT COURT

Together we officials climbed vermilion steps,
To be parted by the purple walls….
Our procession, which entered the palace at dawn,
Leaves fragrant now at dusk with imperial incense.
…Grey heads may grieve for a fallen flower,
Or blue clouds envy a lilting bird;
But this reign is of heaven, nothing goes wrong,
There have been almost no petitions.

Li Bai
A MESSAGE TO MENG HAORAN

Master, I hail you from my heart,
And your fame arisen to the skies….
Renouncing in ruddy youth the importance of hat and chariot,
You chose pine-trees and clouds; and now, whitehaired,
Drunk with the moon, a sage of dreams,
Flower- bewitched, you are deaf to the Emperor….
High mountain, how I long to reach you,
Breathing your sweetness even here!

china_snow_leopards

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Filed under Chinese poetry, Du Fu, Li Bai, poetry

Poetry of the T’ang Dynasty, Part 6

Latest installment

Poems of the T’ang Dynasty, Part 6

Qiu Wei

AFTER MISSING THE RECLUSE
ON THE WESTERN MOUNTAIN


To your hermitage here on the top of the mountain
I have climbed, without stopping, these ten miles.
I have knocked at your door, and no one answered;
I have peeped into your room, at your seat beside the table.
Perhaps you are out riding in your canopied chair,
Or fishing, more likely, in some autumn pool.
Sorry though I am to be missing you,
You have become my meditation —
The beauty of your grasses, fresh with rain,
And close beside your window the music of your pines.
I take into my being all that I see and hear,
Soothing my senses, quieting my heart;
And though there be neither host nor guest,
Have I not reasoned a visit complete?
…After enough, I have gone down the mountain.
Why should I wait for you any longer?

Qiwu Qian

A BOAT IN SPRING ON RUOYA LAKE


Thoughtful elation has no end:
Onward I bear it to whatever come.
And my boat and I, before the evening breeze
Passing flowers, entering the lake,
Turn at nightfall toward the western valley,
Where I watch the south star over the mountain
And a mist that rises, hovering soft,
And the low moon slanting through the trees;
And I choose to put away from me every worldly matter
And only to be an old man with a fishing-pole.

tang-culture-b

Chang Jian

AT WANG CHANGLIN’ S RETREAT


Here, beside a clear deep lake,
You live accompanied by clouds;
Or soft through the pine the moon arrives
To be your own pure-hearted friend.
You rest under thatch in the shadow of your flowers,
Your dewy herbs flourish in their bed of moss.
Let me leave the world. Let me alight, like you,
On your western mountain with phoenixes and cranes.

tang_pottery

Cen Can

ASCENDING THE PAGODA AT THE TEMPLE OF KIND
FAVOUR WITH GAO SHI AND XUE JU


The pagoda, rising abruptly from earth,
Reaches to the very Palace of Heaven….
Climbing, we seem to have left the world behind us,
With the steps we look down on hung from space.
It overtops a holy land
And can only have been built by toil of the spirit.
Its four sides darken the bright sun,
Its seven stories cut the grey clouds;
Birds fly down beyond our sight,
And the rapid wind below our hearing;
Mountain-ranges, toward the east,
Appear to be curving and flowing like rivers;
Far green locust-trees line broad roads
Toward clustered palaces and mansions;
Colours of autumn, out of the west,
Enter advancing through the city;
And northward there lie, in five graveyards,
Calm forever under dewy green grass,
Those who know life’s final meaning
Which all humankind must learn.
…Henceforth I put my official hat aside.
To find the Eternal Way is the only happiness.


Yuan Jie

TO THE TAX-COLLECTORS
AFTER THE BANDITS RETREAT


In the year Kuimao the bandits from Xiyuan entered Daozhou, set fire, raided, killed, and looted. The whole district was almost ruined. The next year the bandits came again and, attacking the neighbouring prefecture, Yong, passed this one by. It was not because we were strong enough to defend ourselves, but, probably, because they pitied us. And how now can these commissioners bear to impose extra taxes? I have written this poem for the collectors’ information.


I still remember those days of peace —
Twenty years among mountains and forests,
The pure stream running past my yard,
The caves and valleys at my door.
Taxes were light and regular then,
And I could sleep soundly and late in the morning-
Till suddenly came a sorry change.
…For years now I have been serving in the army.
When I began here as an official,
The mountain bandits were rising again;
But the town was so small it was spared by the thieves,
And the people so poor and so pitiable
That all other districts were looted
And this one this time let alone.
…Do you imperial commissioners
Mean to be less kind than bandits?
The people you force to pay the poll
Are like creatures frying over a fire.
And how can you sacrifice human lives,
Just to be known as able collectors? —
…Oh, let me fling down my official seal,
Let me be a lone fisherman in a small boat
And support my family on fish and wheat
And content my old age with rivers and lakes!

Liu Zongyuan

READING BUDDHIST CLASSICS WITH ZHAO
AT HIS TEMPLE IN THE EARLY MORNING


I clean my teeth in water drawn from a cold well;
And while I brush my clothes, I purify my mind;
Then, slowly turning pages in the Tree-Leaf Book,
I recite, along the path to the eastern shelter.
…The world has forgotten the true fountain of this teaching
And people enslave themselves to miracles and fables.
Under the given words I want the essential meaning,
I look for the simplest way to sow and reap my nature.
Here in the quiet of the priest’s templecourtyard,
Mosses add their climbing colour to the thick bamboo;
And now comes the sun, out of mist and fog,
And pines that seem to be new-bathed;
And everything is gone from me, speech goes, and reading,
Leaving the single unison.

Liu Zongyuan

DWELLING BY A STREAM


I had so long been troubled by official hat and robe
That I am glad to be an exile here in this wild southland.
I am a neighbour now of planters and reapers.
I am a guest of the mountains and woods.
I plough in the morning, turning dewy grasses,
And at evening tie my fisher-boat, breaking the quiet stream.
Back and forth I go, scarcely meeting anyone,
And sing a long poem and gaze at the blue sky.

china_landscape

Wang Changling

AT A BORDER-FORTRESS


Cicadas complain of thin mulberry-trees
In the Eighth-month chill at the frontier pass.
Through the gate and back again, all along the road,
There is nothing anywhere but yellow reeds and grasses
And the bones of soldiers from You and from Bing
Who have buried their lives in the dusty sand.
…Let never a cavalier stir you to envy
With boasts of his horse and his horsemanship

Wang Changling

UNDER A BORDER-FORTRESS


Drink, my horse, while we cross the autumn water!-
The stream is cold and the wind like a sword,
As we watch against the sunset on the sandy plain,
Far, far away, shadowy Lingtao.
Old battles, waged by those long walls,
Once were proud on all men’s tongues.
But antiquity now is a yellow dust,
Confusing in the grasses its ruins and white bones.

dufuzan1

Du Fu

A LETTER TO CENSOR HAN


I am sad. My thoughts are in Youzhou.
I would hurry there-but I am sick in bed.
…Beauty would be facing me across the autumn waters.
Oh, to wash my feet in Lake Dongting and see at its eight corners
Wildgeese flying high, sun and moon both white,
Green maples changing to red in the frosty sky,
Angels bound for the Capital of Heaven, near the North Star,
Riding, some of them phrenixes, and others unicorns,
With banners of hibiscus and with melodies of mist,
Their shadows dancing upside-down in the southern rivers,
Till the Queen of the Stars, drowsy with her nectar,
Would forget the winged men on either side of her!
…From the Wizard of the Red Pine this word has come for me:
That after his earlier follower he has now a new disciple
Who, formerly at the capital as Emperor Liu’s adviser,
In spite of great successes, never could be happy.
…What are a country’s rise and fall?
Can flesh-pots be as fragrant as mountain fruit?….
I grieve that he is lost far away in the south.
May the star of long life accord him its blessing!
…O purity, to seize you from beyond the autumn waters
And to place you as an offering in the Court of Imperial Jade.

Du Fu

A SONG OF AN OLD CYPRESS


Beside the Temple of the Great Premier stands an ancient cypress
With a trunk of green bronze and a root of stone.
The girth of its white bark would be the reach of forty men
And its tip of kingfish-blue is two thousand feet in heaven.
Dating from the days of a great ruler’s great statesman,
Their very tree is loved now and honoured by the people.
Clouds come to it from far away, from the Wu cliffs,
And the cold moon glistens on its peak of snow.
…East of the Silk Pavilion yesterday I found
The ancient ruler and wise statesman both worshipped in one temple,
Whose tree, with curious branches, ages the whole landscape
In spite of the fresh colours of the windows and the doors.
And so firm is the deep root, so established underground,
That its lone lofty boughs can dare the weight of winds,
Its only protection the Heavenly Power,
Its only endurance the art of its Creator.
Though oxen sway ten thousand heads, they cannot move a mountain.
…When beams are required to restore a great house,
Though a tree writes no memorial, yet people understand
That not unless they fell it can use be made of it….
Its bitter heart may be tenanted now by black and white ants,
But its odorous leaves were once the nest of phoenixes and pheasants.
…Let wise and hopeful men harbour no complaint.
The greater the timber, the tougher it is to use.

Du Fu

A SONG OF DAGGER-DANCING TO A GIRL-PUPIL
OF LADY GONGSUN


On the 19th of the Tenth-month in the second year of Dali, I saw, in the house of the Kueifu official Yuante, a girl named Li from Lingying dancing with a dagger. I admired her skill and asked who was her teacher. She named Lady Gongsun. I remembered that in the third year of Kaiyuan at Yancheng, when I was a little boy, I saw Lady Gongsun dance. She was the only one in the Imperial Theatre who could dance with this weapon. Now she is aged and unknown, and even her pupil has passed the heyday of beauty. I wrote this poem to express my wistfulness. The work of Zhang Xu of the Wu district, that great master of grassy writing, was improved by his having been present when Lady Gongsun danced in the Yeh district. From this may be judged the art of Gongsun.


There lived years ago the beautiful Gongsun,
Who, dancing with her dagger, drew from all four quarters
An audience like mountains lost among themselves.
Heaven and earth moved back and forth, following her motions,
Which were bright as when the Archer shot the nine suns down the sky
And rapid as angels before the wings of dragons.
She began like a thunderbolt, venting its anger,
And ended like the shining calm of rivers and the sea….
But vanished are those red lips and those pearly sleeves;
And none but this one pupil bears the perfume of her fame,
This beauty from Lingying, at the Town of the White God,
Dancing still and singing in the old blithe way.
And while we reply to each other’s questions,
We sigh together, saddened by changes that have come.
There were eight thousand ladies in the late Emperor’s court,
But none could dance the dagger-dance like Lady Gongsun.
…Fifty years have passed, like the turning of a palm;
Wind and dust, filling the world, obscure the Imperial House.
Instead of the Pear-Garden Players, who have blown by like a mist,
There are one or two girl-musicians now-trying to charm the cold Sun.
There are man-size trees by the Emperor’s Golden Tomb
I seem to hear dead grasses rattling on the cliffs of Qutang.
…The song is done, the slow string and quick pipe have ceased.
At the height of joy, sorrow comes with the eastern moon rising.
And I, a poor old man, not knowing where to go,
Must harden my feet on the lone hills, toward sickness and despair.

china_hills

Yuan Jie

A DRINKING SONG AT STONE-FISH LAKE


I have used grain from the public fields, for distilling wine. After my office hours I have the wine loaded on a boat and then I seat my friends on the bank of the lake. The little wine-boats come to each of us and supply us with wine. We seem to be drinking on Pa Islet in Lake Dongting. And I write this poem.


Stone-Fish Lake is like Lake Dongting —
When the top of Zun is green and the summer tide is rising.
…With the mountain for a table, and the lake a fount of wine,
The tipplers all are settled along the sandy shore.
Though a stiff wind for days has roughened the water,
Wine-boats constantly arrive….
I have a long-necked gourd and, happy on Ba Island,
I am pouring a drink in every direction doing away with care.

Han Yu

MOUNTAIN-STONES


Rough were the mountain-stones, and the path very narrow;
And when I reached the temple, bats were in the dusk.
I climbed to the hall, sat on the steps, and drank the rain- washed air
Among the round gardenia-pods and huge bananaleaves.
On the old wall, said the priest, were Buddhas finely painted,
And he brought a light and showed me, and I called them wonderful
He spread the bed, dusted the mats, and made my supper ready,
And, though the food was coarse, it satisfied my hunger.
At midnight, while I lay there not hearing even an insect,
The mountain moon with her pure light entered my door….
At dawn I left the mountain and, alone, lost my way:
In and out, up and down, while a heavy mist
Made brook and mountain green and purple, brightening everything.
I am passing sometimes pines and oaks, which ten men could not girdle,
I am treading pebbles barefoot in swift-running water —
Its ripples purify my ear, while a soft wind blows my garments….
These are the things which, in themselves, make life happy.
Why should we be hemmed about and hampered with people?
O chosen pupils, far behind me in my own country,
What if I spent my old age here and never went back home?

Han Yu

ON THE FESTIVAL OF THE MOON
TO SUB-OFFICIAL ZHANG


The fine clouds have opened and the River of Stars is gone,
A clear wind blows across the sky, and the moon widens its wave,
The sand is smooth, the water still, no sound and no shadow,
As I offer you a cup of wine, asking you to sing.
But so sad is this song of yours and so bitter your voice
That before I finish listening my tears have become a rain:
“Where Lake Dongting is joined to the sky by the lofty Nine-Doubt Mountain,
Dragons, crocodiles, rise and sink, apes, flying foxes, whimper….
At a ten to one risk of death, I have reached my official post,
Where lonely I live and hushed, as though I were in hiding.
I leave my bed, afraid of snakes; I eat, fearing poisons;
The air of the lake is putrid, breathing its evil odours….
Yesterday, by the district office, the great drum was announcing
The crowning of an emperor, a change in the realm.
The edict granting pardons runs three hundred miles a day,
All those who were to die have had their sentences commuted,
The unseated are promoted and exiles are recalled,
Corruptions are abolished, clean officers appointed.
My superior sent my name in but the governor would not listen
And has only transferred me to this barbaric place.
My rank is very low and useless to refer to;
They might punish me with lashes in the dust of the street.
Most of my fellow exiles are now returning home —
A journey which, to me, is a heaven beyond climbing.”
…Stop your song, I beg you, and listen to mine,
A song that is utterly different from yours:
“Tonight is the loveliest moon of the year.
All else is with fate, not ours to control;
But, refusing this wine, may we choose more tomorrow?”

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Han Yu

STOPPING AT A TEMPLE ON HENG MOUNTAIN I
INSCRIBE THIS POEM IN THE GATE-TOWER


The five Holy Mountains have the rank of the Three Dukes.
The other four make a ring, with the Song Mountain midmost.
To this one, in the fire-ruled south, where evil signs are rife,
Heaven gave divine power, ordaining it a peer.
All the clouds and hazes are hidden in its girdle;
And its forehead is beholden only by a few.
…I came here in autumn, during the rainy season,
When the sky was overcast and the clear wind gone.
I quieted my mind and prayed, hoping for an answer;
For assuredly righteous thinking reaches to high heaven.
And soon all the mountain-peaks were showing me their faces;
I looked up at a pinnacle that held the clean blue sky:
The wide Purple-Canopy joined the Celestial Column;
The Stone Granary leapt, while the Fire God stood still.
Moved by this token, I dismounted to offer thanks.
A long path of pine and cypress led to the temple.
Its white walls and purple pillars shone, and the vivid colour
Of gods and devils filled the place with patterns of red and blue.
I climbed the steps and, bending down to sacrifice, besought
That my pure heart might be welcome, in spite of my humble offering.
The old priest professed to know the judgment of the God:
He was polite and reverent, making many bows.
He handed me divinity-cups, he showed me how to use them
And told me that my fortune was the very best of all.
Though exiled to a barbarous land, mine is a happy life.
Plain food and plain clothes are all I ever wanted.
To be prince, duke, premier, general, was never my desire;
And if the God would bless me, what better could he grant than this ? —
At night I lie down to sleep in the top of a high tower;
While moon and stars glimmer through the darkness of the clouds….
Apes call, a bell sounds. And ready for dawn
I see arise, far in the east the cold bright sun.


Han Yu

A POEM ON THE STONE DRUMS


Chang handed me this tracing, from the stone drums,
Beseeching me to write a poem on the stone drums.
Du Fu has gone. Li Bai is dead.
What can my poor talent do for the stone drums?
…When the Zhou power waned and China was bubbling,
Emperor Xuan, up in wrath, waved his holy spear:
And opened his Great Audience, receiving all the tributes
Of kings and lords who came to him with a tune of clanging weapons.
They held a hunt in Qiyang and proved their marksmanship:
Fallen birds and animals were strewn three thousand miles.
And the exploit was recorded, to inform new generations….
Cut out of jutting cliffs, these drums made of stone-
On which poets and artisans, all of the first order,
Had indited and chiselled-were set in the deep mountains
To be washed by rain, baked by sun, burned by wildfire,
Eyed by evil spirits; and protected by the gods.
…Where can he have found the tracing on this paper? —
True to the original, not altered by a hair,
The meaning deep, the phrases cryptic, difficult to read.
And the style of the characters neither square nor tadpole.
Time has not yet vanquished the beauty of these letters —
Looking like sharp daggers that pierce live crocodiles,
Like phoenix-mates dancing, like angels hovering down,
Like trees of jade and coral with interlocking branches,
Like golden cord and iron chain tied together tight,
Like incense-tripods flung in the sea, like dragons mounting heaven.
Historians, gathering ancient poems, forgot to gather these,
To make the two Books of Musical Song more colourful and striking;
Confucius journeyed in the west, but not to the Qin Kingdom,
He chose our planet and our stars but missed the sun and moon
I who am fond of antiquity, was born too late
And, thinking of these wonderful things, cannot hold back my tears….
I remember, when I was awarded my highest degree,
During the first year of Yuanho,
How a friend of mine, then at the western camp,
Offered to assist me in removing these old relics.
I bathed and changed, then made my plea to the college president
And urged on him the rareness of these most precious things.
They could be wrapped in rugs, be packed and sent in boxes
And carried on only a few camels: ten stone drums
To grace the Imperial Temple like the Incense-Pot of Gao —
Or their lustre and their value would increase a hundredfold,
If the monarch would present them to the university,
Where students could study them and doubtless decipher them,
And multitudes, attracted to the capital of culture
Prom all corners of the Empire, would be quick to gather.
We could scour the moss, pick out the dirt, restore the original surface,
And lodge them in a fitting and secure place for ever,
Covered by a massive building with wide eaves
Where nothing more might happen to them as it had before.
…But government officials grow fixed in their ways
And never will initiate beyond old precedent;
So herd- boys strike the drums for fire, cows polish horns on them,
With no one to handle them reverentially.
Still ageing and decaying, soon they may be effaced.
Six years I have sighed for them, chanting toward the west….
The familiar script of Wang Xizhi, beautiful though it was,
Could be had, several pages, just for a few white geese,
But now, eight dynasties after the Zhou, and all the wars over,
Why should there be nobody caring for these drums?
The Empire is at peace, the government free.
Poets again are honoured and Confucians and Mencians….
Oh, how may this petition be carried to the throne?
It needs indeed an eloquent flow, like a cataract-
But, alas, my voice has broken, in my song of the stone drums,
To a sound of supplication choked with its own tears.

li_bai_du_fu_images_22

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Part 2, Poems of the Tang Dynasty

For introduction see Part 1. What? No illustrations. Maybe next time. I’ll throw in some unrelated pictures at the end for your consolation prize.

These are some of my favorites.

Li Bai

BIDDING A FRIEND FAREWELL AT JINGMEN FERRY


Sailing far off from Jingmen Ferry,
Soon you will be with people in the south,
Where the mountains end and the plains begin
And the river winds through wilderness….
The moon is lifted like a mirror,
Sea-clouds gleam like palaces,
And the water has brought you a touch of home
To draw your boat three hundred miles.

Li Bai

A FAREWELL TO A FRIEND


With a blue line of mountains north of the wall,
And east of the city a white curve of water,
Here you must leave me and drift away
Like a loosened water-plant hundreds of miles….
I shall think of you in a floating cloud;
So in the sunset think of me.
…We wave our hands to say good-bye,
And my horse is neighing again and again.

Li Bai

ON HEARING JUN THE BUDDHIST MONK
FROM SHU PLAY HIS LUTE


The monk from Shu with his green silk lute-case,
Walking west down Omei Mountain,
Has brought me by one touch of the strings
The breath of pines in a thousand valleys.
I hear him in the cleansing brook,
I hear him in the icy bells;
And I feel no change though the mountain darken
And cloudy autumn heaps the sky.

Li Bai

THOUGHTS OF OLD TIME FROM A NIGHT-MOORING
UNDER MOUNT NIU-ZHU


This night to the west of the river-brim
There is not one cloud in the whole blue sky,
As I watch from my deck the autumn moon,
Vainly remembering old General Xie….
I have poems; I can read;
He heard others, but not mine.
…Tomorrow I shall hoist my sail,
With fallen maple-leaves behind me.

Du Fu

ON A MOONLIGHT NIGHT


Far off in Fuzhou she is watching the moonlight,
Watching it alone from the window of her chamber-
For our boy and girl, poor little babes,
Are too young to know where the Capital is.
Her cloudy hair is sweet with mist,
Her jade-white shoulder is cold in the moon.
…When shall we lie again, with no more tears,
Watching this bright light on our screen?

Du Fu

A SPRING VIEW


Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
…After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
…I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

Du Fu

A NIGHT-VIGIL IN THE LEFT COURT OF THE PALACE


Flowers are shadowed, the palace darkens,
Birds twitter by for a place to perch;
Heaven’s ten thousand windows are twinkling,
And nine cloud-terraces are gleaming in the moonlight.
…While I wait for the golden lock to turn,
I hear jade pendants tinkling in the wind….
I have a petition to present in the morning,
All night I ask what time it is.

Du Fu

TAKING LEAVE OF FRIENDS ON MY WAY TO HUAZHOU


In the second year of Zhide, I escaped from the capital through the Gate of Golden Light and went to Fengxiang. In the first year of Qianyuan, I was appointed as official to Huazhou from my former post of Censor. Friends and relatives gathered and saw me leave by the same gate. And I wrote this poem.


This is the road by which I fled,
When the rebels had reached the west end of the city;
And terror, ever since, has clutched at my vitals
Lest some of my soul should never return.
…The court has come back now, filling the capital;
But the Emperor sends me away again.
Useless and old, I rein in my horse
For one last look at the thousand gates.

Du Fu

REMEMBERING MY BROTHERS ON A MOONLIGHT NIGHT


A wanderer hears drums portending battle.
By the first call of autumn from a wildgoose at the border,
He knows that the dews tonight will be frost.
…How much brighter the moonlight is at home!
O my brothers, lost and scattered,
What is life to me without you?
Yet if missives in time of peace go wrong —
What can I hope for during war?

Du Fu

TO LI BAI AT THE SKY SEND


A cold wind blows from the far sky….
What are you thinking of, old friend?
The wildgeese never answer me.
Rivers and lakes are flooded with rain.
…A poet should beware of prosperity,
Yet demons can haunt a wanderer.
Ask an unhappy ghost, throw poems to him
Where he drowned himself in the Milo River.

Du Fu

A FAREWELL AT FENGJI STATION TO GENERAL YAN


This is where your comrade must leave you,
Turning at the foot of these purple mountains….
When shall we lift our cups again, I wonder,
As we did last night and walk in the moon?
The region is murmuring farewell
To one who was honoured through three reigns;
And back I go now to my river-village,
Into the final solitude.

Du Fu

ON LEAVING THE TOMB OF PREMIER FANG


Having to travel back now from this far place,
I dismount beside your lonely tomb.
The ground where I stand is wet with my tears;
The sky is dark with broken clouds….
I who played chess with the great Premier
Am bringing to my lord the dagger he desired.
But I find only petals falling down,
I hear only linnets answering.

Du Fu

A NIGHT ABROAD


A light wind is rippling at the grassy shore….
Through the night, to my motionless tall mast,
The stars lean down from open space,
And the moon comes running up the river.
…If only my art might bring me fame
And free my sick old age from office! —
Flitting, flitting, what am I like
But a sand-snipe in the wide, wide world!

Du Fu

ON THE GATE-TOWER AT YOUZHOU


I had always heard of Lake Dongting —
And now at last I have climbed to this tower.
With Wu country to the east of me and Chu to the south,
I can see heaven and earth endlessly floating.
…But no word has reached me from kin or friends.
I am old and sick and alone with my boat.
North of this wall there are wars and mountains —
And here by the rail how can I help crying?

Wang Wei

A MESSAGE FROM MY LODGE AT WANGCHUAN
TO PEI DI


The mountains are cold and blue now
And the autumn waters have run all day.
By my thatch door, leaning on my staff,
I listen to cicadas in the evening wind.
Sunset lingers at the ferry,
Supper-smoke floats up from the houses.
…Oh, when shall I pledge the great Hermit again
And sing a wild poem at Five Willows?

Wang Wei

AN AUTUMN EVENING IN THE MOUNTAINS


After rain the empty mountain
Stands autumnal in the evening,
Moonlight in its groves of pine,
Stones of crystal in its brooks.
Bamboos whisper of washer-girls bound home,
Lotus-leaves yield before a fisher-boat —
And what does it matter that springtime has gone,
While you are here, O Prince of Friends?

Wang Wei

BOUND HOME TO MOUNT SONG


The limpid river, past its bushes
Running slowly as my chariot,
Becomes a fellow voyager
Returning home with the evening birds.
A ruined city-wall overtops an old ferry,
Autumn sunset floods the peaks.
…Far away, beside Mount Song,
I shall close my door and be at peace.

Wang Wei

MOUNT ZHONGNAN


Its massive height near the City of Heaven
Joins a thousand mountains to the corner of the sea.
Clouds, when I look back, close behind me,
Mists, when I enter them, are gone.
A central peak divides the wilds
And weather into many valleys.
…Needing a place to spend the night,
I call to a wood-cutter over the river.

Wang Wei

ANSWERING VICE-PREFECT ZHANG


As the years go by, give me but peace,
Freedom from ten thousand matters.
I ask myself and always answer:
What can be better than coming home?
A wind from the pine-trees blows my sash,
And my lute is bright with the mountain moon.
You ask me about good and evil fortune?….
Hark, on the lake there’s a fisherman singing!

Wang Wei

TOWARD THE TEMPLE OF HEAPED FRAGRANCE


Not knowing the way to the Temple of Heaped Fragrance,
Under miles of mountain-cloud I have wandered
Through ancient woods without a human track;
But now on the height I hear a bell.
A rillet sings over winding rocks,
The sun is tempered by green pines….
And at twilight, close to an emptying pool,
Thought can conquer the Passion-Dragon.

Wang Wei

A MESSAGE TO COMMISSIONER LI AT ZIZHOU


From ten thousand valleys the trees touch heaven;
On a thousand peaks cuckoos are calling;
And, after a night of mountain rain,
From each summit come hundreds of silken cascades.
…If girls are asked in tribute the fibre they weave,
Or farmers quarrel over taro fields,
Preside as wisely as Wenweng did….
Is fame to be only for the ancients?

Wang Wei

A VIEW OF THE HAN RIVER


With its three southern branches reaching the Chu border,
And its nine streams touching the gateway of Jing,
This river runs beyond heaven and earth,
Where the colour of mountains both is and is not.
The dwellings of men seem floating along
On ripples of the distant sky —
These beautiful days here in Xiangyang
Make drunken my old mountain heart!

Wang Wei

MY RETREAT AT MOUNT ZHONGNAN


My heart in middle age found the Way.
And I came to dwell at the foot of this mountain.
When the spirit moves, I wander alone
Amid beauty that is all for me….
I will walk till the water checks my path,
Then sit and watch the rising clouds —
And some day meet an old wood-cutter
And talk and laugh and never return.

Unrelated pictures, as promised- click for full size or animation when appropriate.

mt-st-helens

cell-it-just-makes-sense

1910-cowgirl

cunning

ani-bad-day

justin_pillowdeath

eskimoburglar

tao_of_kitties

dodo

us-to-break-up

ferret-bath

poor_foke

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