Category Archives: Wang Wei

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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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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Poems of the Tang Dynasty, Part 1 of 10

I’ve set a little project for myself- I want to post a compilation of some of the best poems/ poets of the Chinese classical period. The Tang Dynasty produced many if not most of the greatest poets in all of Chinese literature. My interest in classical Chinese poetry goes wayyy back. My Bachelors degree (1977) was in Arts and letters with my primary coursework in Chinese poetry, Chinese language (so I could learn to read the poems in their original form) and the history of Chinese literature.

I’ve already drafted a list of the poems I want to include. The number will be between 275 and 350, depending on when I get tired of it. It is unfortunate that I’m ending up including only a few  each from some of my favorite poets. This is hard because some individuals wrote hundreds of poems that have survived and almost all of them are really good. But my purpose here is to present a collection that shows the depth and variety of poetry of that period. Maybe someday I will do a comprehensive collection of just Li Bai or Wang Wei or Du Fu.

When I’m done with Part 10 I will post a download of the entire collection in MS doc format. (Always click pictures for full size or animation when applicable.)

tang_pottery

First, Background, from Wikipedia, the source of many good things:

The Tang Dynasty (Chinese: 唐朝; pinyin: Táng Cháo; Middle Chinese: dhɑng)[1] (June 18, 618 – June 4, 907) was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li () family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire. The dynasty was interrupted briefly by the Second Zhou Dynasty (October 16, 690 – March 3, 705) when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne, becoming the first and only Chinese empress regnant, ruling in her own right.

The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), the most populous city in the world at the time, is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization—equal to or surpassing that of the earlier Han Dynasty—as well as a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and rivaled that of the later Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. The enormous Grand Canal of China, built during the previous Sui Dynasty, facilitated the rise of new urban settlements along its route as well as increased trade between mainland Chinese markets. The canal is to this day the longest in the world. In two censuses of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Tang records stated that the population (by number of registered households) was about 50 million people.[2][3][4]a[›] However, even when the central government was breaking down and unable to compile an accurate census of the population in the 9th century, it is estimated that the population in that century had grown to the size of about 80 million people.[5][6] With its large population base, the dynasty was able to raise professional and conscripted armies of hundreds of thousands of troops to contend with nomadic powers in dominating Inner Asia and the lucrative trade routes along the Silk Road. Various kingdoms and states paid tribute to the Tang court, while the Tang also conquered or subdued several regions which it indirectly controlled through a protectorate system. Besides political hegemony, the Tang also exerted a powerful cultural influence over neighboring states such as those in Korea and Japan.

In Chinese history, the Tang Dynasty was largely a period of progress and stability, except during the An Shi Rebellion and the decline of central authority in the latter half of the dynasty. Like the previous Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty maintained a civil service system by drafting officials through standardized examinations and recommendations to office. This civil order was undermined by the rise of regional military governors known as jiedushi during the 9th century. Chinese culture flourished and further matured during the Tang era; it is considered the greatest age for Chinese poetry.[7] Two of China’s most famous historical poets, Du Fu and Li Bai, belonged to this age, as well as the poets Meng Haoran, Du Mu, and Bai Juyi. Many famous visual artists lived during this era, such as the renowned painters Han Gan, Zhang Xuan, and Zhou Fang. There was a rich variety of historical literature compiled by scholars, as well as encyclopedias and books on geography. There were many notable innovations during the Tang, including the development of woodblock printing, the escapement mechanism in horology, the government compilations of materia medicas, improvements in cartography and the application of hydraulics to power air conditioning fans. The religious and philosophical ideology of Buddhism became a major aspect of Chinese culture, with native Chinese sects becoming the most prominent. However, Buddhism would eventually be persecuted by the state and would decline in influence. Although the dynasty and central government were in decline by the 9th century, art and culture continued to flourish. The weakened central government largely withdrew from managing the economy, but the country’s mercantile affairs stayed intact and commercial trade continued to thrive regardless.

The Tang period was a golden age of Chinese literature and art. There are over 48,900 poems penned by some 2,200 Tang authors that have survived until modern times.[183][184] Perfecting one’s skills in the composition of poetry became a required study for those wishing to pass imperial examinations,[185] while poetry was also heavily competitive; poetry contests amongst esteemed guests at banquets and courtiers of elite social gatherings was common in the Tang period.[186] Poetry styles that were popular in the Tang included gushi and jintishi, with the renowned Tang poet Li Bai (701–762) famous for the former style, and Tang poets like Wang Wei (701–761) and Cui Hao (704–754) famous for their use of the latter. Jintishi poetry, or regulated verse, is in the form of eight-line stanzas or seven characters per line with a fixed pattern of tones that required the second and third couplets to be antithetical (although the antithesis is often lost in translation to other languages).[187] Tang poems in particular remain the most popular out of every historical era of China. This great emulation of Tang era poetry began in the Song Dynasty period, as it was Yan Yu (active 1194–1245) who asserted that he was the first to designate the poetry of the High Tang (c. 713–766) era as the orthodox material with “canonical status within the classical poetic tradition.”[188] At the pinnacle of all the Tang poets, Yan Yu had reserved the position of highest esteem for that of Du Fu (712–770),[188] a man who would not be viewed as such in his own era of poetic competitors, and branded by his peers as an anti-traditional rebel.[189] Below is an example of Du Fu’s poetry, To My Retired Friend Wei (Chinese: 贈衛八處士). Like many other poems in the Tang it featured the theme of a long parting between friends, which was often due to officials being frequently transferred to the provinces:[183]

Written calligraphy of Emperor Taizong on a Tang stele

人生不相見, It is almost as hard for friends to meet

動如參與商。 As for the morning and evening stars.

今夕復何夕, Tonight then is a rare event,

共此燈燭光。 Joining, in the candlelight,

少壯能幾時, Two men who were young not long ago

鬢髮各已蒼。 But now are turning grey at the temples.

訪舊半為鬼, To find that half our friends are dead

驚呼熱中腸。 Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.

焉知二十載, We little guessed it would be twenty years

重上君子堂。 Before I could visit you again.

昔別君未婚, When I went away, you were still unmarried;

兒女忽成行。 But now these boys and girls in a row

怡然敬父執, Are very kind to their father’s old friend.

問我來何方。 They ask me where I have been on my journey;

問答乃未已, And then, when we have talked awhile,

兒女羅酒漿。 They bring and show me wines and dishes,

夜雨翦春韭, Spring chives cut in the night-rain

新炊間黃粱。 And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.

主稱會面難, My host proclaims it a festival,

一舉累十觴。 He urges me to drink ten cups –

十觴亦不醉, But what ten cups could make me as drunk

感子故意長。 As I always am with your love in my heart?

明日隔山嶽, Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;

世事兩茫茫。 After tomorrow – who can say?

Du Fu[190]


Zhang Jiuling

THOUGHTS I


A lonely swan from the sea flies,
To alight on puddles it does not deign.
Nesting in the poplar of pearls
It spies and questions green birds twain:
“Don’t you fear the threat of slings,
Perched on top of branches so high?
Nice clothes invite pointing fingers,
High climbers god’s good will defy.
Bird-hunters will crave me in vain,
For I roam the limitless sky.”

Zhang Jiuling

ORCHID AND ORANGE I


Tender orchid-leaves in spring
And cinnamon- blossoms bright in autumn
Are as self- contained as life is,
Which conforms them to the seasons.
Yet why will you think that a forest-hermit,
Allured by sweet winds and contented with beauty,
Would no more ask to-be transplanted
THan Would any other natural flower?

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Zhang Jiuling

THOUGHTS III


The hermit in his lone abode
Nurses his thoughts cleansed of care,
Them he projects to the wild goose
For it to his distant Sovereign to bear.
Who will be moved by the sincerity
Of my vain day-and-night prayer?
What comfort is for my loyalty
When fliers and sinkers can compare?

Zhang Jiuling

ORCHID AND ORANGE II


Here, south of the Yangzi, grows a red orangetree.
All winter long its leaves are green,
Not because of a warmer soil,
But because its’ nature is used to the cold.
Though it might serve your honourable guests,
You leave it here, far below mountain and river.
Circumstance governs destiny.
Cause and effect are an infinite cycle.
You plant your peach-trees and your plums,
You forget the shade from this other tree.

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Li Bai

DOWN ZHONGNAN MOUNTAIN
TO THE KIND PILLOW AND BOWL OF HUSI


Down the blue mountain in the evening,
Moonlight was my homeward escort.
Looking back, I saw my path
Lie in levels of deep shadow….
I was passing the farm-house of a friend,
When his children called from a gate of thorn
And led me twining through jade bamboos
Where green vines caught and held my clothes.
And I was glad of a chance to rest
And glad of a chance to drink with my friend….
We sang to the tune of the wind in the pines;
And we finished our songs as the stars went down,
When, I being drunk and my friend more than happy,
Between us we forgot the world.

Li Bai

DRINKING ALONE WITH THE MOON


From a pot of wine among the flowers
I drank alone. There was no one with me —
Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon
To bring me my shadow and make us three.
Alas, the moon was unable to drink
And my shadow tagged me vacantly;
But still for a while I had these friends
To cheer me through the end of spring….
I sang. The moon encouraged me.
I danced. My shadow tumbled after.
As long as I knew, we were boon companions.
And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.
…Shall goodwill ever be secure?
I watch the long road of the River of Stars.

 

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Li Bai

IN SPRING


Your grasses up north are as blue as jade,
Our mulberries here curve green-threaded branches;
And at last you think of returning home,
Now when my heart is almost broken….
O breeze of the spring, since I dare not know you,
Why part the silk curtains by my bed?

 


 

 

Du Fu

A VIEW OF TAISHAN


What shall I say of the Great Peak? —
The ancient dukedoms are everywhere green,
Inspired and stirred by the breath of creation,
With the Twin Forces balancing day and night.
…I bare my breast toward opening clouds,
I strain my sight after birds flying home.
When shall I reach the top and hold
All mountains in a single glance?

 

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Du Fu

TO MY RETIRED FRIEND WEI


It is almost as hard for friends to meet
As for the morning and evening stars.
Tonight then is a rare event,
Joining, in the candlelight,
Two men who were young not long ago
But now are turning grey at the temples.
…To find that half our friends are dead
Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.
We little guessed it would be twenty years
Before I could visit you again.
When I went away, you were still unmarried;
But now these boys and girls in a row
Are very kind to their father’s old friend.
They ask me where I have been on my journey;
And then, when we have talked awhile,
They bring and show me wines and dishes,
Spring chives cut in the night-rain
And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.
…My host proclaims it a festival,
He urges me to drink ten cups —
But what ten cups could make me as drunk
As I always am with your love in my heart?
…Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;
After tomorrow-who can say?

Du Fu

ALONE IN HER BEAUTY


Who is lovelier than she?
Yet she lives alone in an empty valley.
She tells me she came from a good family
Which is humbled now into the dust.
…When trouble arose in the Kuan district,
Her brothers and close kin were killed.
What use were their high offices,
Not even shielding their own lives? —
The world has but scorn for adversity;
Hope goes out, like the light of a candle.
Her husband, with a vagrant heart,
Seeks a new face like a new piece of jade;
And when morning-glories furl at night
And mandarin-ducks lie side by side,
All he can see is the smile of the new love,
While the old love weeps unheard.
The brook was pure in its mountain source,
But away from the mountain its waters darken.
…Waiting for her maid to come from selling pearls
For straw to cover the roof again,
She picks a few flowers, no longer for her hair,
And lets pine-needles fall through her fingers,
And, forgetting her thin silk sleeve and the cold,
She leans in the sunset by a tall bamboo.

li_bai_du_fu_images_22

Du Fu

SEEING Li Bai IN A DREAM I


There are sobs when death is the cause of parting;
But life has its partings again and again.
…From the poisonous damps of the southern river
You had sent me not one sign from your exile —
Till you came to me last night in a dream,
Because I am always thinking of you.
I wondered if it were really you,
Venturing so long a journey.
You came to me through the green of a forest,
You disappeared by a shadowy fortress….
Yet out of the midmost mesh of your snare,
How could you lift your wings and use them?
…I woke, and the low moon’s glimmer on a rafter
Seemed to be your face, still floating in the air.
…There were waters to cross, they were wild and tossing;
If you fell, there were dragons and rivermonsters.

dufu

Du Fu

SEEING Li Bai IN A DREAM II


This cloud, that has drifted all day through the sky,
May, like a wanderer, never come back….
Three nights now I have dreamed of you —
As tender, intimate and real as though I were awake.
And then, abruptly rising to go,
You told me the perils of adventure
By river and lake-the storms, the wrecks,
The fears that are borne on a little boat;
And, here in my doorway, you rubbed your white head
As if there were something puzzling you.
…Our capital teems with officious people,
While you are alone and helpless and poor.
Who says that the heavenly net never fails?
It has brought you ill fortune, old as you are.
…A thousand years’ fame, ten thousand years’ fame-
What good, when you are dead and gone.


(This next poem, one of my favorites, I once spent a week in seclusion, writing it in the original form onto a delicate pressed leaf and gave it to a friend as a gift- he was leaving the state and I didn’t expect to see him again.)

Wang Wei

AT PARTING

247797071-395x400I dismount from my horse and I offer you wine,
And I ask you where you are going and why.
And you answer: “I am discontent
And would rest at the foot of the southern mountain.
So give me leave and ask me no questions.
White clouds pass there without end.”

 

Wang Wei

TO QIWU QIAN BOUND HOME
AFTER FAILING IN AN EXAMINATION


In a happy reign there should be no hermits;
The wise and able should consult together….
So you, a man of the eastern mountains,
Gave up your life of picking herbs
And came all the way to the Gate of Gold —
But you found your devotion unavailing.
…To spend the Day of No Fire on one of the southern rivers,
You have mended your spring clothes here in these northern cities.
I pour you the farewell wine as you set out from the capital —
Soon I shall be left behind here by my bosomfriend.
In your sail-boat of sweet cinnamon-wood
You will float again toward your own thatch door,
Led along by distant trees
To a sunset shining on a far-away town.
…What though your purpose happened to fail,
Doubt not that some of us can hear high music.

 

spring_villagesm_fsWang Wei

A GREEN STREAM


I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers,
Borne by the channel of a green stream,
Rounding ten thousand turns through the mountains
On a journey of less than thirty miles….
Rapids hum over heaped rocks;
But where light grows dim in the thick pines,
The surface of an inlet sways with nut-horns
And weeds are lush along the banks.
…Down in my heart I have always been as pure
As this limpid water is….
Oh, to remain on a broad flat rock
And to cast a fishing-line forever!

Wang Wei

A FARM-HOUSE ON THE WEI RIVER


In the slant of the sun on the country-side,
Cattle and sheep trail home along the lane;
And a rugged old man in a thatch door
Leans on a staff and thinks of his son, the herdboy.
There are whirring pheasants? full wheat-ears,
Silk-worms asleep, pared mulberry-leaves.
And the farmers, returning with hoes on their shoulders,
Hail one another familiarly.
…No wonder I long for the simple life
And am sighing the old song, Oh, to go Back Again!

bamboo_grove_fsWang Wei

THE BEAUTIFUL XI SHI


Since beauty is honoured all over the Empire,
How could Xi Shi remain humbly at home? —
Washing clothes at dawn by a southern lake —
And that evening a great lady in a palace of the north:
Lowly one day, no different from the others,
The next day exalted, everyone praising her.
No more would her own hands powder her face
Or arrange on her shoulders a silken robe.
And the more the King loved her, the lovelier she looked,
Blinding him away from wisdom.
…Girls who had once washed silk beside her
Were kept at a distance from her chariot.
And none of the girls in her neighbours’ houses
By pursing their brows could copy her beauty.


Meng Haoran

ON CLIMBING ORCHID MOUNTAIN
IN THE AUTUMN TO ZHANG


On a northern peak among white clouds
You have found your hermitage of peace;
And now, as I climb this mountain to see you,
High with the wildgeese flies my heart.
The quiet dusk might seem a little sad
If this autumn weather were not so brisk and clear;
I look down at the river bank, with homeward-bound villagers
Resting on the sand till the ferry returns;
There are trees at the horizon like a row of grasses
And against the river’s rim an island like the moon
I hope that you will come and meet me, bringing a basket of wine —
And we’ll celebrate together the Mountain Holiday.

180px-meng_haoranMeng Haoran

IN SUMMER AT THE SOUTH PAVILION
THINKING OF XING

The mountain-light suddenly fails in the west,
In the east from the lake the slow moon rises.
I loosen my hair to enjoy the evening coolness
And open my window and lie down in peace.
The wind brings me odours of lotuses,
And bamboo-leaves drip with a music of dew….
I would take up my lute and I would play,
But, alas, who here would understand?
And so I think of you, old friend,
O troubler of my midnight dreams !

Meng Haoran

AT THE MOUNTAIN-LODGE

OF THE BUDDHIST PRIEST YE
WAITING IN VAIN FOR MY FRIEND DING


Now that the sun has set beyond the western range,
Valley after valley is shadowy and dim….
And now through pine-trees come the moon and the chill of evening,
And my ears feel pure with the sound of wind and water
Nearly all the woodsmen have reached home,
Birds have settled on their perches in the quiet mist….
And still — because you promised — I am waiting for you, waiting,
Playing lute under a wayside vine.

bz_0004

Wang Changling

WITH MY BROTHER AT THE SOUTH STUDY
THINKING IN THE MOONLIGHT OF VICE-PREFECT
CUI IN SHANYIN


Lying on a high seat in the south study,
We have lifted the curtain-and we see the rising moon
Brighten with pure light the water and the grove
And flow like a wave on our window and our door.
It will move through the cycle, full moon and then crescent again,
Calmly, beyond our wisdom, altering new to old.
…Our chosen one, our friend, is now by a limpid river —
Singing, perhaps, a plaintive eastern song.
He is far, far away from us, three hundred miles away.
And yet a breath of orchids comes along the wind.

That’s it for this installment. I will post the other 9 at a rate of at least 1 per month. Check in- I may be faster sometimes.

Happy 2009! May it not suck so very badly!

2008tc3train7_elhassan

New Year’s Gifts for You- Mississippi John Hurt

candy-man

coffee-blues

goodnight-irene

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Filed under Chinese poetry, Free Music, Li Po, mp3, Music, pictures, poetry, Wang Wei

Wang Wei

One of my top 3 favorite classical Chinese poets, Wang Wei lived in the Tang Dynasty, 8th century (701–761). He is sometimes referred to as the “Poet Buddha”.

Born to the upper class, from along line of bureaucrats, he passed the civil service entrance examination in 721 and had a successful civil service career, rising to become Chancellor in 758. During the An Lushan Rebellion he avoided actively serving the insurgents during the capital’s occupation by pretending to be deaf.

He spent ten years studying with Chán master Daoguang. After his wife’s death in 730, he did not remarry and established a monastery on part of his estate.

He was also an accomplished artist and his original work was often published along with his paintings related to the poetry. Few if any of these illustrations has survived. A few of his poems are rendered below.

Study

Light cloud pavilion light rain
Dark yard day weary open
Sit look green moss colour
About to on person clothes come
There’s light cloud, and drizzle round the pavilion,
In the dark yard, I wearily open a gate.
I sit and look at the colour of green moss,
Ready for people’s clothing to pick up.

Farewell


Down horse drink gentleman alcohol
Ask gentleman what place go
Gentleman say not achieve wish
Return lie south mountain near
Still go nothing more ask
White cloud not exhaust time
Dismounting, I offer my friend a cup of wine,
I ask what place he is headed to.
He says he has not achieved his aims,
Is retiring to the southern hills.
Now go, and ask me nothing more,
White clouds will drift on for all time.

(The above poem is special to me- I used to practice drawing Chinese characters writing the poems of Wang Wei. This particular poem I spent a week on the Oregon Coast in October writing and re-writing on leaves I had found. When I was finally satisfied, I put it in a frame and gave it to a friend who was going to another city to live. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. Fifteen years later he came to visit. He still had the poem in the frame I gave him.)

Replying to Subprefect Zhang

Old age think good quiet
Everything not concern heart
Self attend without great plan
Empty know return old forest
Pine wind blow undo belt
Hill moon light pluck qin
Gentleman ask end open reason
Fisherman song enter riverbank deep
Now in old age, I know the value of silence,
The world’s affairs no longer stir my heart.
Turning to myself, I have no greater plan,
All I can do is return to the forest of old.
Wind from the pine trees blows my sash undone,
The moon shines through the hills; I pluck the qin.
You ask me why the world must rise and fall,
Fishermen sing on the steep banks of the river.

Returning to Songshan Mountain

Clear river belt long thin
Cart horse go idle idle
Flow water like have desire
Dusk birds another with return
Desolate town face old ferry
Set sun whole autumn hills
Far successively Song high down
Return come for now close shut
The limpid river runs between the bushes,
The horse and cart are moving idly on.
The water flows as if with a mind of its own,
At dusk, the birds return to perch together.
The desolate town is faced by an ancient ferry,
The setting sun now fills the autumn hills.
And far below high Songshan’s tumbling ridges,
Returning home, I close the door for now.

Temple Tree Path

Narrow path sunless temple locust tree
Deep dark much green moss
Should gate except meet sweep
In case have hill monk come
A narrow, sunless path to the temple tree,
Deep and dark; abundant green moss.
Wait by the gate when finished sweeping the yard,
In case a monk should come down from the hill.

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Filed under Chinese poetry, pictures, Wang Wei