River Flute by Po Chu-i

Downriver, someone plays
a bamboo flute at midnight.

Note by note, I’m transported
back into my youth at home.

Listening, I feel my thin hair
quickly turning white:

still growing old, still
sleepless, still alone.

translated by Sam Hamill

Grass on the Ancient Plain by Po Chu-i

So tender, so tender, the grasses on the plain,
in one year, to wither, then flourish.
Wildfire cannot burn them away.
Spring breezes’ breath, they spring again,
their distant fragrance on the ancient way,
their sunlit emerald greens the ruined walls.
Seeing you off again, dear friend,
sighing, sighing, full of parting’s pain.

translated by J.P. Seaton

Idle Song by Po Chü-i

In moonlight, I envied vistas of clarity,
and in pine sleep adorned green shadow.

I wrote grief-torn poems when young,
plumbed the depths of feeling when old.

Now I sit up all night practicing ch’an,
and autumn can still bring a sudden sigh,

but that’s it. Two last ties. Beyond them,
nothing anywhere holds this mind back.

translated by David Hinton