For the Beach Gulls by Po Chü-I

The crush of age is turning my hair white
and I’m stuck with purple robes of office,

but if my body’s tangled in these fetters,
my heart abides where nothing’s begun.

Happening on wine, I’m drunk in no time,
and loving those mountains, I return late.

They don’t know who I am. Seeing official
falcon-banners flutter, beach gulls scatter.

translated by David Hinton

from Madly Singing in the Mountains by Bai Juyi (Po Chü-I)

And often, when I have finished a new poem,
Alone I climb the road to the Eastern Rock.
I lean my body on the banks of white Stone;
I pull down with my hands a green cassia branch.
My mad singing startles the valleys and hills;
The apes and birds all come to peep,
Fearing to become a laughingstock to the world,
I choose a place that is unfrequented by men.

translated by Tony Barnstone & Chou Ping

After Lunch by Po Chü-i

After eating lunch, I feel so sleepy.
Waking later, I sip two bowls of tea,

then notice shadows aslant, the sun
already low in the southwest again.

Joyful people resent fleeting days.
Sad ones can’t bear the slow years.

It’s those with no joy and no sorrow—
they trust whatever this life brings.

translated by David Hinton

Early Autumn by Po Chü-i

Two grey hairs appear in the lit mirror,
a single leaf tumbling into the courtyard.

Old age slips away, nothing to do with me,
and when grief comes, who does it find?

Idle months and years emptying away,
loved ones from long ago lost to sight.

I’ll play with my girl here, my little girl:
we keep coaxing smiles from each other.

translated by David Hinton