The Pa River by Po Chü-i

Below the city, where the Pa River’s water flows,
spring comes like yeast-powder spiriting wine:

beaches feel soft as the Wei’s meandering shores,
and cliffs bring memories of T’ien-chin Bridge,

but fresh yellow willows dip their shadows here,
and tiny white duckweed blossoms scent the air.

Sitting beside swelling water, I scratch my head:
all this grief and sorrow, and whose is it anyway?

translated by David Hinton

from T’ao Ch’ien

But my soul is not fashioned like other men’s.
To drive in their rut I might perhaps learn:
To be untrue to myself could only lead to muddle.
Let us drink and enjoy together the wine you have brought:
For my course is set and cannot now be altered.

translated by Arthur Waley

Lamenting Revenue Manager Liu Fen by Li Shang-yin

Dwelling apart, the star-signs changed,
hope lost, the living divided from the dead.
The last cinnamon dries in the apple jug,
old rue grows cold on the bookslips.
River winds keen, blowing wild geese,
mountain trees’ sunset glow, bearing cicades.
I shout once, my head turns a thousand times,
but Heaven is high and will not hear me.

translatedby Stephen Owen

Winter Night by Jia Dao

I pass through winter again in travels,
the ladle empty, the pot empty as well.
Tears stream upon a cold pillow,
my tracks are gone in my former hills.
Ice forms in waters with drifting duckweed,
snow blends with the wind in ruined willows.
The cock does not announce dawn’s light,
but a few wild geese are screeching.

translated by Stephen Owen

The Inn at Niyang by Jia Dao

Why do sorrows of travel all rise together?—
at twilight I send my old friends back.
Autumn fireflies emerge from the abandoned inn,
cold rains come to the deserted city.
Evening sunlight tosses white dew in wind,
the shadows of trees sweep green moss.
I sit alone, the brooding look of someone apart
the solitary lamp does not dispel with its light.

translated by Stephen Owen

Seeing the Year Out by Su Tung-p’o

Want to know what the passing year is like?
A snake slithering down a hole.
Half his long scales already hidden,
how to stop him from getting away?
Grab his tail and pull, you say?
Pull all you like–it does no good.
The children try hard not to doze,
chatter back and forth to stay awake,
but I say let dawn cocks keep still!
I fear the noise of watch drums pounding.
We’ve sat so long the lamp’s burned out.
I get up and look at the slanting Dipper.
How could I hope next year won’t come?
My mind shrinks from the failures it may bring.
I work to hold on to the night
while I can still brag I’m young.

translated by Burton Watson

from To the Tune of “The Court Fills with Fragrance” Part III by Su Dong-po

“Return to where I belong”
Where do I belong
Home near Min and Emei thousands of miles away
My hundred years nearly half gone
The coming days won’t be many
Suddenly I’ve seen another leap year at Huangzhou
All of my children
speak and sing in the local dialect
Friends from these mountains
with chicken and pork and festival wine
urge me to grow old at East Hill

What can I say
as I leave here
the events of our lives
come and go like a shuttle
I’ll soon be watching the autumn wind
stir crystal waves of the Luo
Lucky for these slender willows by my house
Thinking of me
no one will lop their tender branches
Pass the word
to elders along the Yangtze
sun my fishing cape now and then

translated by Yun Wang


;

Tune: “The Beautiful Lady Yu” by Li Yü

When will the last flower fall, the last moon fade?
So many sorrows lie behind.
Again last night the east wind filled my room—
O gaze not on the lost kingdom under the bright moon.

Still in her light my palace gleams as jade
(Only from bright cheeks beauty dies).
To know the sum of human suffering
Look at this river rolling eastward in the spring.

translated by Cyril Birch