Hsiang-yang Travels: Thinking of Meng Hao-jan by Po Chü-i

Emerald Ch’u mountain peaks and cliffs,
emerald Han River flowing full and fast:

Meng’s writing survives here, its elegant
ch’i now facets of changing landscape.

But today, chanting the poems he left us
and thinking of him, I find his village

clear wind, all memory of him vanished.
Dusk light fading, Hsiang-yang empty,

I look south to Deer-Gate Mountain, haze
lavish, as if some fragrance remained,

but his old mountain home is lost there:
mist thick and forests all silvered azure.

translated by David Hinton

In the Mountains, Asking the Moon by Po Chü-i

It’s the same Ch’ang-an moon when I ask
which doctrine remains with us always.

It flew with me when I fled those streets,
and now shines clear in these mountains,

carrying me through autumn desolations,
waiting as I sleep away long slow nights.

If I return to my old homeland one day,
it will welcome me like family. And here,

it’s a friend for strolling beneath pines
or sitting together on canyon ridgetops.

A thousand cliffs, ten thousand canyons–
it’s with me everywhere, abiding always.

translated by David Hinton

Po Chü-I on Lao-tzü

“Those who speak know nothing;
Those who know are silent.”
These words, as I am told,
Were spoken by Lao-tzü.
If we are to believe that Lao-tzü
Was himself one who knew,
How comes it that he wrote a book
of five thousand words?

translated by Arthur Waley

Last Poem by Po Chü-I

They have put my bed beside the unpainted screen;
They have shifted my stove in front of the blue curtain.
I listen to my grandchildren, reading me a book;
I watch the servants, heating up my soup.
With rapid pencil I answer the poems of friends;
I feel in my pockets and pull out medicine-money.
When this superintendence of trifling affairs is done,
I lie back on my pillow and sleep with my face to the South.

translated by Arthur Waley

Pruning Trees by Po Chü-I

Trees growing–right in front of my window;
The trees are high and the leaves thick.
Sad alas! the distant mountain view
Obscured by this, dimly shows through.
One morning I took knife and axe;
With my own hand I lopped the branches off.
Ten thousand leaves fall about my head;
A thousand hills come before my eyes.
Suddenly, as when clouds or mists break
And straight through, the blue sky appears;
Again, like the face of a friend one has loved
Seen at last after an age of parting.
First there came a gentle wind blowing;
One by one the birds flew back to the tree.
To ease my mind I gazed to the South East;
As my eyes wandered, my thoughts went far away.
Of men there is none that has not some preference;
Of things there is none but mixes good with ill.
It was not that I did not love the tender branches;
But better still,–to see the green hills!

translated by Arthur Waley