Untitled Poem by T’ao Ch’ien

Days and months never take their time.
The four seasons keep bustling each other

away. Cold winds churn lifeless branches.
Fallen leaves cover long paths. We’re frail,

crumbling more with each turning year.
Our temples turn white early, and once

your hair flaunts that bleached streamer,
the road ahead starts closing steadily in.

This house is an inn awaiting travelers,
and I yet another guest leaving. All this

leaving and leaving—where will I ever
end up? My old home’s on South Mountain.

translated by David Hinton

The Boat-Pullers by Mei Yao-ch’en

Leg broken on the sandy shore, a goose
hobbles along like a man, wings splayed:

what will it do when evening rains come
and the cold wind starts ripping through?

Sodden feathers mud-strained, arched neck
shrinking back—it doesn’t utter a sound.

That’s their life exactly. Guess it’s better
than lugging weapons around some war.

translated by David Hinton

Thoughts as I Lie Alone by Wang An-shih

Alone, a noon dove calling in spring
shade, I lie in a valley of forest quiet.

Scraps of cloud pass, scattering rain,
and I listen, late in life, to its clatter.

Eyes full of red and green confusion,
our sad times unraveling my legacy,

there’s no word near these thoughts
still as Bell Mountain in its slumber.

translated by David Hinton

Drinking Alone in a Small Garden by Li Shang-yin

Who could have knit the willow’s belts?
The flower buds are unwilling to open yet.
Only a pair of dancing butterflies are left;
Not a single person has come here.
I half unfold the dragon-whisker mat,
And lightly pour into the horse-brain cup.
Every year the arrival of spring is uncertain;
I have been deceived by the early blooming plum!

translated by James J.Y. Liu