New Year’s Eve: Spending the Night Outside Ch’ang-chou City by Su Tung-p’o

From the traveler, singing; from the field, weeping–both spur sorrow.
Fires in the distance, dipping stars move slowly toward extinction.
Am I waiting up for New Year’s Eve? Aching eyes won’t close.
No one here speaks my dialect: I long for home.
A double quilt and my feet still cold–the frost must be heavy;
my head feels light–I washed it and the hair is getting thin.
I thank the flickering torch that doesn’t refuse
to keep me company on a lonely boat through the night.

translated by Burton Watson

Seven Thousand Miles Away by Su Tung-p’o

Seven thousand miles away, a gray-haired man;
eighteen rapids, one little boat:
hills recall Hsi-huan–thoughts roam far away;
“fearful” they call this place–it makes me want to cry.
A long wind follows us, bellying the sail;
rain-fed current bears the boat through rippled shallows.
With my experience, they ought to make me official boatman–
I know more of rivers than merely where the ferries cross.

translated by Burton Watson

Letter Home by Li Shang-yin

You ask when I’ll be back–
I wish I knew!

night rain on Pa Mountain
overflows the autumn ponds

when will we trim the candle wick
under our own west window?

I’ll be telling you this story
night rain will be falling.

translated by David Young

untitled Chinese poem 1 by anonymous poet

Going on always on and on
alive, but parted from you
gone ten thousand miles and more
each to a far edge of the sky

the road is hard and long
with nothing sure about meeting again
Tartar horses lean to the northern wind
Viet birds nest on southern boughs

days advance, the parting grows long
days advance, the sash grows loose
floating clouds hide the bright sun
the wanderer can think of no return

loving you I became old
suddenly the time is late–
enough I speak no more
try hard to stay well

translated by Charles Hartman

Tune: “Jade Butterflies” by Liu Yung

where I gaze
the rain is ending and the clouds break up
as I lean at the rail in anxious silence
seeing off the last of autumn’s glow
the evening scene is lonely
enough to chill Sung Yü to sadness
though touch of wind and rain is light
the duckweed gradually grows older
in moon’s frost cold
the wu-t’ung leaves whirl yellow
giving love is taking pain
where are you now?
the misty waters vast, and vague.

it’s hard to forget
writing or drinking
how many nights alone beneath a clouded moon
again the changes, stars and frost
the seas are broad, the heavens far
and no way home.
the swallows pair
and I depend on letters
I point into the evening sky
to sight in vain the returning boat
at dusk we’ll gaze toward one another
in the sound of the swan’s cry
standing till the slanting sun is set.

translated by Jerome P. Seaton